Let them play!

Do you ever stand back and watch your child play? It can be hysterical listening to them role play or watching them jump off steps and run around the garden. Whether it’s by themselves or with others, toddlers can learn a lot from playing without you.

Most of the activities that I set up for my toddler are left up in her playroom so that she can play with it in her own time. Don’t get me wrong I also love playing with her but I have recently learnt to also play alongside her and take a step back to encourage her own imagination to develop. I often let her lead the activity as I’ve realised the benefits she can gain from this.

When trying a new activity I always show her how I intended it to used but the majority of the time she starts off copying me but then discovers her own way of doing things and she gets so much more from this type of play.

What does independent play encourage?

  1. Develops their imagination. They often try things that even you could never have dreamed up. Whether it is dinosaurs stomping through a fairy garden or using a bowl as a hat; toddlers are free to try anything. These skills will be very handy as they grow and start problem solving at school.
  2. Allows them to be comfortable without you. You can’t be with your toddler all the time. You have jobs to do and once they can play by themselves it means you can do these jobs quicker; it also means that you don’t have to try to achieve everything while they sleep. In the long term it will also help them to be get ready for school or nursery as they have to start thinking for themselves and they will learn to play with other children.
  3. Helps to create calm. When toddlers are engrossed in their own imaginations they actually relax and an atmosphere of calm surrounds them. This doesn’t happen every time as my toddler can still run around wanting to play chase but she is developing the skills to play calmly.

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Which weaning method is right for me and my baby?

Here we are, my baby boy is only 3 months old and I am already starting the think about weaning but the truth is that I have to because there are so many conflicting bits of advice out there. Luckily I’ve already researched once before for my daughter.

When I had my first child I was fascinated by the style of weaning that most of my friends were following, ‘baby led’. At first this freaked me out and I was very nervous about my child choking but after intensive research I realised that this wasn’t some fad and actually many mothers had already been following this method without even realising.

There was incredible pressure around me to start feeding my daughter at 4 months old, especially as she wasn’t sleeping well and people kept telling me that it would help her sleep. I decided not to though as it didn’t feel right to me, that doesn’t mean that it is wrong, I know people who did it and their children are fine. I was just nervous about the whole thing and realised that as a first time mother I knew nothing. So I hit the books and the Internet once more and researched three styles of weaning. Baby Led, Spoon fed and Spoon Led.

What is Baby Led Weaning?

Baby Led Weaning is simply allowing your child to feed themselves. They start at around 6 months old once they can sit up unaided.

Your child sits at the dinner table with you and your family and joins in. They eat what you eat (as long as it has no added salt, sugar and is unprocessed). When your child is ready, you simply start handing them suitable sized pieces of food and off they go.

What surprises most people is that BLW has actually been around for years and is not a brand new concept, most parents follow it without even realising. This mostly happens with a second or third child as their baby grabs food from other sibling’s plates and enjoys copying everyone sat around the table.

What is Spoon-FED Weaning?

Spoon-fed weaning is where the baby begins by eating pureed food that the parent feeds them with a spoon. They then gradually eat mashed/chopped up and lumpy food and finally progress to finger foods around 7-8 months.

Babies who start weaning on puree can begin as early as 4 months. But the NHS advise to wait til 6 months when your babies digestive system is more developed.

What is Spoon-LED Weaning?

This is a new term that some parents are using to describe the method where they use a mix of both BLW and Spoon fed.

They introduce purees around 6 months but also offer finger foods and allow their child to use their spoon once the parent has pre-loaded it with food.

So which is for you?

STILL UNSURE OF WHICH METHOD IS FOR YOU THEN CHECK OUT THESE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES:

BLW ADVANTAGES

For your baby:

It’s fun and stress free as playing with the food is part of the process to improve and develop your child’s motor skills. As a parent you are also not worrying about making a different meal for your baby as they eat what you eat.

Baby is less likely to be a fussy eater as they are able to learn about the smell, texture and taste of individual foods rather than a spoonful of mush. Your child recognises food and in turn picks out their favourite tastes rather than refusing to eat a whole bowl of blended food.

Improves their motor skills as they are figuring out how to grasp, squash or even throw different shapes and textures.

Encourages good table manners as they sit with you at meal times and experience dinner conversation, sharing and family relationships.

They learn the enjoyment of food as they are being involved in the meal process. It will make them more adventurous with their food choices and not fear mealtimes.

Encourages good long term health as their milk feedings are reduced gradually over a year rather than ending abruptly at 6 months.

Learns to chew safely as each time they bite off a piece of food they play with it in their mouths and subsequently soon learn whether the food is the right size. Many parent’s are worried about their children choking and you can read the research I discovered by clicking here.

For you:

Makes meal times less complicated as you are not spending hours pureeing food. Also your dinner is not getting cold while you are spending time spoon feeding your baby.

No mealtime battles as there is no pressure for your baby to eat if they are not hungry as you know they are still getting the required nutrients from their milk feedings.

Eating out is less stressful as you do not need to take any pre-prepared meals with you. They simply eat from your plate.

It saves you money as they are sharing your food rather than you going out and buying them specially prepared food.

BLW DISADVANTAGES

For your baby:

Frustration. There can be times when your child will struggle to manipulate the food and will get frustrated, especially if they are hungry.

For you:

The Mess! There will be food everywhere; up the walls, all over babies face and clothes, all over the table and high chair and you will find bits of food all over yourself. This may be embarrassing for parents if you are eating out or at a friend’s house.

Waste. Because there is a lot of playing with the food that means a lot of it ends up on the floor rather than in your child.
You can’t tell how much they have eaten.

There is a worry of choking. For more information on this see below.

What other people think. It may bother you what your family, friends and other relatives think and everyone seems to have an opinion on Baby Led Weaning, whether it be positive or negative. People may have strong opinions on how you should wean your baby.

SPOON-FED ADVANTAGES

For your baby:

Has an iron rich diet. Because the food can be pureed they can eat red meat and green leaves that would normally be difficult to chew at the start of weaning.

Can start eating early. If your child needs to start weaning before 6 months (you should only do this if advised by a professional for health reasons) then you can with purees. You should never start BLW early.

For you:

There are no worries about gagging or choking as your child progresses slowly from pureed to lumpy food, they are less likely to choke.

Less messy as you do most of the feeding.

You can tell how much they have eaten.

Less waste.

SPOON-FED DISADVANTAGES

For your baby:

They learn to swallow before they chew. This means that when they do begin on proper foods they could gag or choke.

Some babies are very independent and hate being fed.

For you:

Hours spent blending food. It will take time to make the food, blend it and freeze it into ice cube trays.

You rarely eat all together. It is difficult to feed your baby if you are also trying to eat.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

A mother’s instinct

Whether you choose to follow Baby Led Weaning completely, or whether you choose to mix pureeing and BLW, or even if your instinct is telling you that you should exclusively spoon feed and then give finger foods when your child is older, you need to follow what feels right for you and your baby. Remember that weaning should be fun, if you’re feeling stressed then try something different.

Check out some of my other pages that may help you:

1. Getting Started

2. Is BLW messy? 

3. What if my child chokes?

 

 

Why I need play dates more than my daughter

Since having children it has been harder and harder to see my friends, especially the ones without kids.

When I had my first child I became a bit of a recluse. I was obsessed with my many schedules, feeding and sleeping times, creating stimulating play, getting enough fresh air for the baby and if I did go out, it wasn’t for long as I had to be home for the evening routine or the next nap. I was stressed and exhausted.

It took a long while before I began to realise the importance of needing other mothers. Not only did they help me to realise I wasn’t the only one coping with colic but also they didn’t think I was rediculous or boring for asking strange questions about my baby’s poop or my engorged breasts. Thank you Mummy friends.

My first mother friend was a neighbour, who is a childminder. She is an incredible women who not only has three of her own kids but she manages to take care of other people’s children as well. She made me go to toddler groups. It’s down to her that I got out of the house actually. Honestly, I thought my daughter was much too young to be playing with other children but I soon discovered the need for these groups. Not only did it break up my day but it was a great place to get stimulation for my daughter, even at the young age of three months. I never even realised there were groups for newborn babies.

It wasn’t long before I had found a wonderful group of like minded mothers who I loved spending time with. They were always there to listen and most importantly they never judged me. We exchanged numbers quite early on and the next thing I knew we were organising play dates at each other’s houses.

I always thought that I went to these groups so that my first born could learn to share but since having my second child I’ve realised that; yes it’s great for her to experience playing with other children but I go to these groups and meet up with my mummy friends because I need them. I need to moan about my lack of sleep, I need to be able to scream at someone about my toddler’s bad behaviour, I need to ask questions like ‘how on earth do you start to potty train?’ and I need to know that everything that’s happening is normal; I’m not the only one dealing with screaming kids at 2am. No they haven’t been possessed by a demon they are just going through a phase and it will eventually end.

If I didn’t have these amazing women in my life I would have gone stark crazy a long time ago. So thank you to all my wonderful, yummy mummy friends, you have made me a better mummy and it’s down to you that I am raising two amazing kiddies.

 

 

Embrace the curse of the plastic toy!

If I went back to my extremely organised 30 year old self and explained that one day my house would be bursting at the seams with childrens’ plastic toys, I would never have believed myself.

My pre-kids self always said, ‘I’m not going to be one of those parents who has hideously, plastic toys cluttering up the living room.’ Ha! I now say, ’embrace it.’ It doesn’t matter how hard you try but your toddler would rather play with the plastic Peppa Pig boat than the wonderfully crafted wooden shape sorter. Also, when you see their little faces light up at the sight of these toys your heart will melt.

I have spent a small fortune on toys but you can never predict which ones your toddler will want to play with. In our home it all began with a hot pink, giant, plastic car that she got when she was only six months old; the car I nearly threw up at the sight of but now love. ‘That’s never going in our house,’ I explained, ‘it doesn’t work with my decor’. Ha! It now (1 1/2 years later) has pride of place in our lounge and children fight over who gets to play with it first, even the cat loves to curl up inside the damn thing.

In every corner of my house there is a toy; there are plastic animals in my handbag, in the lounge the bookcase is covered with jigsaws and musical instruments, my daughter rides her skuttlebug in the kitchen and there is always a stuffed animal or book lurking beneath my duvet.

My daughter’s toys are not confined to her bedroom like I always thought they would. The world, where I truly believed, we would have adult areas that she wouldn’t get to play in does not exist. She has so many toys now that I can even rotate them; I hide some away so that when I bring them back out it’s like having a new toy all over again.

But the strange part is that the current me doesn’t mind. I could enforce a strict rule where the lounge is toy free but actually I enjoy pulling out a jigsaw she hasn’t seen for a few weeks or a book that used to be her favourite.

So how many is too many? The truth is that they will always have too many toys and sadly most of ours are plastic. Even when my second child was born, people would buy my first born gifts so that she would not feel left out. Yes she has too many, my house looks more like a nursery than a home but I love it. I even love her plastic, pink car and watching her pretend to drive to Grandma and Grandad’s house. I have embraced the plastic because I see its potential.

My tip is just make sure that you have a lovely mix of toys that help your toddler develop all their motor skills and embrace the plastic, it will be everywhere.