Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why Telling Your Kid He's Smart May Ruin Him & Other New Thoughts On Parenting

I picked up NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman shortly after Nate was born. It's fascinating reading for anyone interested in child psychology and development. I love it and had to share.


NurtureShock explores ten areas of child development and parenting with chapters on the power of praise, attitudes toward race, speech development and teen rebellion. Each chapter is interesting and sometimes shocking (as the title suggests), though my reading has focused on those areas that pertain to Nate right now.

Much of the research questions the wisdom of current parenting trends, particularly the first chapter - The Inverse Power of Praise: Sure, he's special. But new research suggests if you tell him that, you'll ruin him. It's a neurobiological fact. It comes naturally to most parents to want to heap the praise onto their progeny. "You're so smart, you're so great, good job." While praise can be extremely beneficial when done in the right way, new research shows that praise can actually be damaging if it's done in the wrong way.

While at first blush it seems counter intuitive that telling your child he's smart could hurt him, it suddenly makes a ton of sense when you read the experiments done to test the effects of praise. In one experiment, children are given a test. After the test, half - at random - are praised on their effort and the other half praised for their intelligence. They were then all given a harder test - designed to make them fail - but were told they had the option of a more difficult test or an easier one. Those praised for effort willingly tried a harder test in the second round, and actually score higher in a third round test. The kids praised for their smarts preferred to opt out of the harder test and chose an easier one for the second round. Their scores tended to dip in the third round test.

It seems that those kids labeled smart want to hold onto that label at all costs. They're more risk adverse since they don't want to fail and lose that label. However, those acknowledged for their effort felt that their abilities were more within their control and were therefore more likely to try new challenges. Their perseverance often resulted in higher scores.

It makes sense, doesn't it? There is so much more in this book, I can't recommend it enough!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Baby Sign of the Week: BOOK

I've been using sign language with Nate since he was four months old (which is NOT necessary for teaching your baby sign language. You can start much later - see here.) Nate started signing back to us when he was about nine and half months old, but lately things have really taken off. 

Now that he's older he learns signs much faster. It seems like he's picking up new signs (and words) constantly. He now uses twenty signs regularly! I love love love being able to have simple conversations with him. It's wonderful to have him tell me he's hungry, instead of realizing he's hungry only after a temper tantrum or other sign of crankiness. Less wonderful to have him request to visit the vacuum cleaner and washing machine every twenty minutes...

A lot Nate's signs are starting to look alike. Nate's just started signing BOOK, which looks a lot like his version of ALLIGATOR (and that looks an awful lot like one or two claps). You can view the correct ASL sign for BOOK here. I use the sign for BOOK to mean both "book" and "read." Here's Nate's version of BOOK (and BIRD):


mingle mondays buttonHappy Monday! Make sure to leave me a comment and I'll follow you back!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Other Kid's Toys

...are always so much more fun than your own.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

First Words

Mama, Dada, Hi, Dog, Cat - these are all normal first words for a baby to speak, right? Well Nate has added to his first word "Dada" and now also says dog and duck regularly. (Although they are sometimes hard to distinguish between. Must use context clues!) He's also said cat and down a few times. All pretty typical. But his other regular words? Ironing. And iron. Who says "ironing" as one of their first words?! Nathaniel, that's who.

His fascination with the iron, washing machine and vacuum have left us wondering whether he'll have a future in some sort of cleaning business. A dry cleaner's perhaps? A laundromat? Maybe one of those companies that go in and clean up after those crazy hoarder people that are so en vogue nowadays. The sky is the limit, kid.

Smart and Trendy MomsHappy Friday. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Baby Sign Language Tip: Babies May Make Their Own "Home" Signs

I cracked the code! Nate has been making a gesture for days that was clearly a sign...I just didn't know what it meant. He would repeat and repeat it and I would sit there dumbly. Ugh. The exchange would go like this:

He would lift his arm and rotate his shoulder in an exaggerated way while staring directly into my eyes. Imploring me to understand.

"Washing machine?" I would guess. He looked at me in confusion. Of course he didn't mean WASHING MACHINE. Then he repeated his sign, this time moving  s-l-o-w-l-y so that maybe his incompetent mother would understand.

"Vacuum?" Now he looked at me in disgust. Then repeated the sign faster...like he was yelling at a deaf person. 

This went on over the course of several days until finally he made the sign outside today. And I heard it - A LAWN MOWER. "Lawn mower? You hear the lawn mower?" YES, he nodded enthusiastically. Relief in his eyes. Finally, the idiot mommy understands! I made my super realistic lawn mower sound to confirm. YES, a bigger, even more enthusiastic nod.

I've heard anecdotal tales that babies can make up their own signs. And now Nate is doing it. He has been turning the gestures we naturally make while speaking into his own "signs" lately. He points to his ear to say "HEAR," mimics brushing his teeth to say "BRUSH TEETH" and mimics brushing his hair to say "BRUSH HAIR." It turns out this was just another example. He has probably heard lawnmowers running every day this summer. And when he would look at me with interest, I would explain what it was and act like I was pushing a mower. He turned this into a one armed gesture. Ta da! Lawn mower.

Made-up signs are known as "home signs." They are fine to use as part of the baby sign language repertoire. Like the ASL signs, they help Nate to understand the meaning of the word and to increase his vocabulary. I'll just have to remember that it's a home sign and not an official ASL sign when I go around asking all the local deaf teenagers to mow my lawn. Who knows what Nate's sign really means.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Morning: Bear Cub on the Loose

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What We're Reading: Planes

Planes Board Book (Byron Board Books)I've found that a great way to incorporate baby sign language into our daily lives is by signing while we read to Nate. Since Nate loves planes, I found the perfect book for signing AIRPLANE: Planes by Byron Barton. Nate asks to read this book all of the time. The pictures are simple and colorful (just like the cover) and provide lots of opportunities for making Nate's favorite sign. There are also pictures of trucks, trees and even a helicopter (Nate's newest regular sign). There's not much of a story, but I would highly recommend it for any little aviation buffs out there.

Monday, August 23, 2010

REPOST (Back from the Dead) - Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby: The Basics

My internet connection was down for most of the day. That's my excuse for resurrecting this post from earlier this year...even though I was totally already planning on participating in Zombie Monday at Real Life With Kids. Who wants to think on a Monday?!

I knew I wanted to use American Sign Language (ASL) with my baby before I was even pregnant. I don't know where I first heard of using it with babies, but something about sign language has always appealed to me. It may have to do with all of the fantastic work that's done with primates (I was an anthropology major in undergrad) or the fact that my girlfriend and I would pretend we were deaf at clubs in college to get ugly guys to leave us alone (our interpreter would explain that we danced by feeling the bass). So when Nate came along, I jumped at the chance to find out more about signing.

My primary goal in using sign language with Nate is to enable him to be able to communicate with us before he's able to speak. Not only is it cool, but it's supposed to minimize frustration and promote bonding. That's enough for me, but I also discovered that there are a ton of other benefits. Hearing babies who sign tend to have much bigger vocabularies, higher IQs, develop both sides of their brain at a higher rate and do better at reading and spelling.

How do you sign with your baby? Well, basically, it's a way of incorporating signs into your conversations with your baby. You can use just a few signs (or hundreds) and if you are consistent your baby will eventually be able to communicate with you by signing back to you before they are able to speak. Make sure you always say the word while you are signing it, because you want your baby to connect the spoken word to the sign and the meaning. Here are some examples  - you can sign MILK (squeeze your first like you're milking a cow) as you're nursing or giving him a bottle and say "don't you like your milk?"; sign MORE (tap your finger tips together) after you've given her some food and ask her if she would like some more; when he looks up at that ceiling fan you can say "yes that's a FAN" while making the sign (point your finger up and move it in a circle). Here's a picture of Nate signing FAN:

There are tons of books, websites and classes devoted to teaching you how to sign with your baby. I started with Nate when he was four months, (but you can start much later and still get all the benefits) using Baby Signing 1-2-3: The Easy-to-Use Illustrated Guide for Every Stage and Every Age. I also went to the free classes at the library. 

Once your baby starts signing back, it is absolutely amazing. As I mentioned in an earlier post (here), Nate made his first sign MORE at 10 months. He can now tell me when he wants more of something, but he also uses it as a general "I want  that" statement. It is much more preferable to grunting and pointing (although there is plenty of that too). Shortly after, he started signing FAN, which was not surprising since he has been obsessed with the ceiling fans all of his life. He has now added WASHING MACHINE (click here for the sign) of all things to his regular repertoire and HAT (pat your head twice). Occasionally he'll sign other things when he sees me do it, but they haven't made it as regulars yet.

The drawbacks? Well contrary to popular belief, it won't take your baby longer to talk (as long as you always speak while signing). You may, however, have to explain 50 to 60 times a day that yes, the washing machine is over there, but no, Mommy is not doing any laundry today.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baby Sign of the Week: LIGHT

Like many babies, Nate has always loved lamps and lights. His new favorite "toy" is a small flashlight. He loves shining it at the wall, our faces and his food as he eats. We've also discovered it makes a great weapon when we're all cuddling in bed first thing in the morning. Sorry, Dave. 

He loves it so much the batteries ran out in one day. I'm scared to find out what kind of plastic it's made from. Maybe I'll just remain ignorant...at least for a day or two. With Nate's new toy comes the addition of a new sign: LIGHT. Here's Nate's version:

Here's the ASL "adult" version of LIGHT.  We use the top version to mean most lights, but with only one hand.

Cherry on Top Award

I've been given my first blog award from the awesome Hanan at Lilac City Momma! Check her out.

The rules for accepting this award are:

1. Thank the person who gave this award to you.
Thank you, Hanan! I love reading about your life with your two little ones - you're down to earth, warm and funny. AND you have great giveaways too.

2. Copy the award and put it on your blog.

3. List three things which you love about yourself.
I love my sense of humor.
I love my commitment to those I love.
I love my choice in husbands. Especially my most recent selection.

4. Post a picture you love:

5. Tag five people you wish to pass this award on to

Jennifer is the stay at home mom of a toddler with another little one on the way. I love reading her humorous take on all things pregnancy - from vomit to poop and everything in between. And she's Canadian - very exotic.

Lawyer, nutritionist and mom-to-be Jamie scours the web for the best tidbits and articles related to healthy living. She also adds some of her own wisdom to the wide range of topics she covers including eating, happiness and success.

Keyuri, certified professional parenting coach, provides insightful parenting advice on everything from potty training to movie watching. Her thoughtful articles are definitely worth a read.

Super knowledgeable mom, Tiffany,  provides how-to advice and articles on just about every aspect of "going green." She covers everything from beauty to shopping to health.

It's great fun to read the adventures of Laura, lawyer and super crafter extraordinaire, as she explores her creative cooking side. I love following her efforts to cook ALL of the fabulous produce in her weekly CSA box.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Battle of the BPA-Free Suction Bowls: Sassy v. Boon

Now that Nate is getting older and almost a toddler, he's been showing signs that he wants to exert his independence. He doesn't eat much pureed baby food anymore, but when he does I can't get two spoonfuls in without him grabbing the spoon away, sending the food flying. (We really need a splat mat.) And lately, no matter what he's eating, he wants to get his hands on the dish it's coming from. Again, the food goes flying.

So it was time to get some suction bowls. I tried the Boon Catch Bowl  and the Sassy On The Go Snack Bowl Set. Both are BPA-free.

Bowl made by Boon. Non-toxic, BPA free plastic. Suction cup base keeps bowl securely in place. Ages 9 months and up.The Boon Catch Bowl has a pretty powerful suction. And the lip that extends from the bowl is a nice feature; it has already caught some runaway peas and brought them home.

The Sassy  set comes with three bowls (in different sizes), with three lids and one suction base that fits on all three bowls. The suction base takes a minute to get on the Sassy On The Go Snack Bowl Set, Colors May Varybowls. At first it was annoying, but after several practice rounds, I finally have it down. The suction isn't as strong as the Boon bowl, Nate definitely pulls it up more easily. It does help if you put a little water on the base before slamming it down. What's convenient about these bowls is that you can pop on the lid and take it with you.

Although we haven't tested them at a restaurant yet, I'd recommend both - the Boon for at home and the Sassy for when you're out.

Smart and Trendy Moms Happy Friday! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today a Year Ago

When you have a newborn "they" recommend you keep a log of all feedings and diaper changes. So I did.  I can look at my log and know that one year ago today, we changed nine poopy diapers and I nursed eight day old Nathaniel nine times. 

Most people stop logging the ...um, logs...within a few months. But I couldn't stop. Yes, I'm anal - but I like having a little diary entry for every day. Even if it's just about Nate's poop. My family laughed at me and took bets about how long I would continue to write down these little milestones (their predictions ranged from five months to college).

Well, it's been over a year and I am still writing it all down. Well, not ALL down. I've added some things (sleep) and dropped others (pee diapers). And I love having this record to look back upon.

Thursday Blog Hops

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

HABA Toys: Always Fun, Not Always Non-Toxic

The first "non-toxic" toys I bought for Nate were wooden HABA toys.  I was looking for BPA, PVC and phthalate-free toys, since those seem to be the big baddies of the toxic toy world.  As those toxins are primarily found in plastics, I looked to wooden toys.  Here is Nate playing with his HABA Triangle (one of his favorites) at six months old:

I've recently discovered Good Guide, which ranks a huge database of products based on a number of factors, including health. I've been checking Good Guide for toxin information for toys that I want to get Nate as well as toys that we already own. Many times, I'm relieved to find that plastic toys I thought might give Nate a third arm  are actually non-toxic. But other times, I find that toys that I thought were safe actually have toxins in them. 

Moby Clutching Toy
When I checked out HABA, I was relieved to find that many of their toys score a ten out of ten for health, like another one of Nate's favorites - Moby Clutching Toy. But I was bummed to see that some of their toys contain low levels of bromine and arsenic, like the HABA Rolling Turtles I had my eye on. Even if it's low levels, I can't stomach watching Nate put an arsenic laden toy in his mouth. If he's going to ingest poison, it will be to help his teething symptoms, not for FUN.

Boo, HABA!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What We're Reading: A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You

My mom can't deal with the research involved in finding non-toxic toys for Nate. So for his birthday she got him the best BPA, PVC, phthalate-free gift: the most thoughtful collection of books. I think books make the perfect gift. Unlike most toys, good books will last and last & can be enjoyed for generations.  First printed in 1958, A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund is just such a book.

My mother kept her small hardcover copy throughout her childhood and I was able to enjoy it when I was a little girl. It was one of mom's special books and I had to treat the petite volume, which was kept separate from the rest of our books, with care. Reading it felt like a treat and the book was always very special to me.  I hadn't seen the story in years and had almost forgotten about it until my mom gave Nate the anniversary edition. So, shockingly, I cried.

A Friend Is Someone Who Likes YouThe story is simple and sweet: everybody has a friend, even if you aren't aware of it. The illustrations are (I hate to use this word, but it is the most appropriate) precious.

"A friend is someone who likes you.
It can be a boy . . .
It can be a girl . . .
Or a cat . . .
Or a dog . . .
Or even a white mouse."

I can't wait to share this with Nate when he's old enough to appreciate it. In the meantime, I'll just keep it safe for him beside my bed. Thanks, Mom.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sweet Karolina

My dear friend and her husband just welcomed a baby girl into the world today. Congratulations Mom & Dad and Welcome Karolina!

Eat, Play, Love

Dear Nathaniel,

You're twelve months old! ONE YEAR! I thought that I would be a bit sad with you leaving your itty bitty babyhood behind. But I'm not. I'm just excited for all of the fun that is ahead. You have the best smile and your dad and I live to make you laugh. I can already tell that you are an awesome human being. We are very lucky indeed. Your dad and I literally say at least ten times a day, "look how adorable he is now!" or some variation on that theme.

Well, it looks like you're a picky eater. No surprise there, considering who your parents are. Your diet consists mainly of avocados, sweet potatoes, beans, cheese and bread. You'll eat other fruit and veggies and an occasional pasta dish when it suits you, but you'll always eat those five things. And to wash them down? Water. You love your water. And the things you don't like to eat? Well, they promptly get thrown overboard. Ava (our dog) appreciates this. A lot. 

You've received a ton of new toys and books for your birthday, but you'd much rather play with one of the remote controls or our dirty shoes. You'll play by yourself on occasion, sometimes fitting nesting cups together or looking through a book. You've had a bout of clinginess with your most recent round of teething, so you've been less apt to play on your own. Your favorite games involve pulling lots of objects out of containers and throwing them on the floor. So a basket of freshly cleaned laundry can really keep you busy. I've noticed that when you feel well and are well rested you are much more likely to spend some alone time entertaining yourself. I love playing with you, but I do relish those breaks.

You LOVE exploring...or really, more accurately - you love going where you aren't supposed to go. If there is an off-limits zone, that is the first place on your itinerary. You also enjoy taking a wooden post from one of your stacking toys (or your wooden hammer) with you on these excursions. Other loves include dogs, birds, the vacuum, washing machine, hats and of course - Mommy & Daddy. And we love you, buddy. More than tongue can tell.

PhotobucketI've been invited to participate in Follow Us Monday Morning - what fun!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tickled With Himself

At first Nate wouldn't leave the safety of the blanket we laid out in the park. But that didn't last long. Within minutes he was playing at the edges and soon he was crawling away with glee. There is always a special sort of devilish delight in his laugh when he thinks he's going somewhere that is forbidden. What are we in for when he starts walking?!
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Baby Sign of the Week: MORE

We've been using sign language with Nathaniel since he was four months old. Dave and I use sign language during our everyday conversations with Nate so that he can learn the signs and use them to communicate before he has the ability to speak.  Using sign language with babies has a number of benefits including improving vocabulary and lessening the frustration that comes with not being understood.

As I've mentioned here, his first sign back to us was MORE at about nine and a half months old.  You sign MORE by tapping your finger tips together. Here is Nate signing MORE at dinner when he wanted more cheese.

He's just starting to sign CHEESE as well, but I wasn't able to catch that on video. I tried to explain to him that he was my circus monkey and should perform, but the boy has a mind of his own.

Nate doesn't always sign MORE "correctly" - he makes several approximations for MORE including tapping one finger to the other palm, or one finger on one hand to several fingers on the other. In the beginning he would sometimes clap when he meant more as well.  From what I hear these are pretty common variations.  Just as you would do when speaking to a child, I acknowledge his attempts at communication whether the signs are "correct" or not and simply repeat the sign correctly.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Four Eco-Friendly Toys for Toddlers

Admittedly, my main motivation for seeking out non-toxic toys is the health of my son. I would love to proclaim that I'm "green mom of the year" but I'm so not.  Sure, I'm trying. I want to be a good role model for Nate. But, it's a huge thing if I actually remember to bring my reusable shopping bags to the store (at least I have some!). So it's always icing on the cake when I purchase something from a company that makes an effort to be environmentally conscious. It makes me feel good to know that our hard earned dollars are going to companies that care about the future of our planet.  So here's a sampling of some great non-toxic toys made by environmentally friendly companies.

Organic Sapling Stacker Toy by Little Sapling Toys
Nate received this as a gift from an incredibly thoughtful relative. His favorite part? The post that the rings go on. He could chew it and bang things with it all day long. I hadn't heard of Little Sapling Toys before and now I'm hooked. Their toys are simple and beautiful. I want everything on their website. Check out all of the ways in which they are a green company here. They even plant a tree for every toy sold. And every toy is made in Idaho. I'm always happier to support products made in the USA.

Green Toys My First Blocks Back in March, when I saw at ZRecs that Green Toys had developed new toys for toddlers, I went online and pre-ordered the entire line. He was about eight or nine months when we got the blocks, the tug boat and the stacker. He liked them all, but not nearly as much as he does now, at twelve months. The toys are made from recycled milk jugs and are BPA, PVC and phthalate-free. You get a lot for your money with the blocks - they're pretty large, with 18 blocks in five different styles. Oh, and they're made in the USA too!

Wonderworld Peek-a-boo BallI also got this after reading about it over at ZRecs. We got it when Nate was around eight months and I was so disappointed. It was tiny and Nate didn't look at it twice. But now? He is OBSESSED with it. The age recommendation is for 12 months and up, and I should have listened. He absolutely loves rolling it, crawling with it in his hand, banging it against some other wood balls he has - and of course, putting it in his mouth. All of the Wonderworld toys are made from rubber wood - a replenishable source.

Plan Toys Dancing AlligatorI LOVE Plan Toys. Their toys are wooden and range from the simple to the imaginative. All of the Plan Toys products we have were a hit with Nate. We got him this alligator pull toy for his birthday, even though he can't walk yet. He thinks the click clack noise is quite funny and loves pulling it toward him while he's sitting. I imagine that once he's walking, it will be even more of a hit. Read all about Plan Toys here. Their commitment to social responsibility is incredibly impressive.

BUY: Find more eco-friendly toys at Nubius Organics.

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