3 - 6, 6 - 12, Favorite Books, On Parenting, Siblings, Sleep, Social and Emotional Learning

BOTW: Good-Night Yoga

good night yogaOn a recent date night at a local bookstore (exciting, I know), my husband came across Good-Night Yoga: A Pose-By-Pose Bedtime Story.  Neither of us practice yoga, but we’d been trying to find activities we can do as a family in the evenings that will engage both a three-year-old and a seven-year-old AND that will help us transition peacefully into the bedtime routine.

We’ve been reading and yoga-ing with this book a couple of evenings a week for the past month, and it’s become on of our favorite evening activities!  The kids love the illustrations and poses, and my husband and I love that it’s fun but not over-stimulating.  The kids have a great time watching their dad wobble through the balance poses, and I can see their body awareness improving with consistent practice.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly way to wind down after a busy day, then I encourage you to find a place on your bookshelf for Good-Night Yoga!

(This post contains an affiliate link.  Purchasing through this link helps support the quality information you enjoy, at no cost to you. Thanks!)

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Floor Bed Confidential

It seems like there are two major complaints when it comes to using a floor bed: the baby rolls off while sleeping and/or the baby crawls off to explore the room instead of staying put and falling asleep.  I’ve experienced both situations, and I hope that I can provide some encouragement and realistic expectations for parents going through the same scenarios.  Because the truth is, when used correctly, the floor bed is an amazing tool for supporting your child’s development, both mental and physical.

Before we get to the solutions, let’s discuss the main purposes of the floor bed: encouraging independence, allowing the development of the child’s will, and supporting their need for movement.  A child on a floor bed can get in and out on her own as soon as she can slither, thereby reducing her dependence on adults and increasing her sense of self-reliance.  This experience supports the development of the will, wherein the child formulates a goal, tries different strategies, accomplishes her mission, and feels successful.  And all the while, her need for free movement is being supported, because she can use each skill (focusing her eyes, rolling, slithering, crawling) as soon as she develops it.

Like any other Montessori developmental aid (including mobiles, weaning table & chair, and every single Montessori material), it is important to introduce the floor bed at the right time.  Failure to do so can result in reduced effectiveness and increased frustration for both parent and child.

The best time to introduce the floor bed is a few weeks after birth.  At first, the newborn should sleep in a bassinet that allows unobstructed views of her surroundings.  However, around the time that recognizable sleep patterns are established and before the child is rolling, she should transition to the floor bed.  Each child and each family is different; you can read about how I transitioned my son from the bassinet in our room to the floor bed in his room here.

Transitioning your child at the right time doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter challenges.  Once your baby starts rolling, chances are she’ll probably roll off the floor bed at some point.  This seems like a bad thing, but consider it from your child’s viewpoint: she’s free to move and practice her new skill; she’s developing an awareness of borders (which will come in handy when she navigates stairs and transitions to a “big kid bed”); and she’s experiencing the consequences of moving past those borders.  sleep1

Many families find that a soft rug or blanket placed just next to the floor bed is all that’s needed to cushion the baby’s “fall” (which in reality is not more than a few inches).  Some parents find that they can gently move their baby back to the bed without waking them, while others (like me) prefer to let the baby snooze on the floor.  If your child is particularly active while sleeping (like mine is), and she’s at the stage where she’s able to slither on and off her mattress at will, you can also try placing a rolled towel at the edge of the bed under the fitted sheet, or investing in the wonderful IKEA Kura loft bed (minus the slats, so the mattress rests on the floor).  This set-up won’t hinder a child’s independence as long as you show her how to get in and out, and will provide the support they need to stay on the mattress. Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.16.38 PM

The more stressful challenge to parents is when the child starts slithering and decides to move off the bed to explore her room, instead of staying in bed and falling asleep.  While frustrating to adults, we must remember that this is exactly what the floor bed is designed to do – encourage independence and develop the will.  You can read here about what happened when we decided to follow our child’s lead.

The best piece of advice I can give parents who are going through this phase is to keep their child’s room as sparse as possible.  On the shelves the child can reach, place only a few carefully selected items for her to explore and leave them there, always in the same order.  Don’t make the bedroom her activity or play area or feature lots of new and interesting objects at her eye-level, because this will encourage her to get out of bed and go see what’s new.  She will certainly crawl out when she first develops the ability to do so, but once the novelty fades, if there’s nothing new for her to explore in her room she’ll be more interested in resting (because all that slithering and crawling is exhausting!).

Many parents make the transition from crib to a floor bed after the child is slithering or crawling, expect them to just stay put and fall asleep, and feel frustrated when this doesn’t happen.  When a young child is given freedom, she’ll use it to further her development.  She can’t not.  It’s an evolutionary mandate.  If you’ve chosen to give your child the freedom to move, then you can’t be angry at them when they take full advantage of it!  Be patient, provide a predictable routine and clear expectations, and gently re-direct back to the bed as many times as necessary each evening.  I assure you that with consistency and realistic expectations will come success, and your child will reap the long-term benefits of the floor bed!

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Floor Bed Round-Up

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Zachary on his floor bed at 5 months of age.

I’ve been getting a few questions about floor beds, so I thought I’d do a quick round-up of what I’ve written so far and share my experiences… Hope someone finds it helpful!

Floor bed and infant development:

http://www.voilamontessori.com/en/guest-post-the-floor-bed/

With a floor bed, the child calls (some of) the shots:

http://www.voilamontessori.com/en/guest-post-the-floor-bed-part-2/

Quick overview of sleep arrangements from infancy through toddlerhood:

http://www.voilamontessori.com/en/eat-poop-sleep-part-iv-sleeping-by-pilar-bewley/

Transitioning your infant from your room to their own (and from bassinet to floor bed):

https://thefullmontessori.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/bedroom-transition-29/

Modifications for a toddler who loves to roll:

https://thefullmontessori.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/how-to-montessori-your-home/ 

If baby rolls off the floor bed:

https://thefullmontessori.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/dog-days-of-summer/

and…

https://thefullmontessori.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/things-that-go-thump-in-the-night/

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The Realities of a Floor Bed (i.e. You don’t always get to call the shots with a Montessori child)

This week, Zach came to the exciting realization that he could transport himself across a room.  Using a combination of army crawling, slithering, and rolling, he covers the span of his bedroom in mere seconds.  His new-found ability has made me appreciate the genius of the floor bed even more, but it has also reminded me that nature is in charge here, not me.

Yesterday we had to go to L.A. for the first half of the day, so poor Zach basically spent 5 hours in a car seat (mostly asleep).  Needless to say, by his 7pm bedtime he was just not tired.  I tried to put him to bed as usual to see if he would get sleepy, but instead he threw a fit.  After I tried to calm him down a couple of times, my husband decided to go hang out with him.  He didn’t really interact with him or even turn on the light in his room; he just laid down by Zach’s bed and observed him.  This calmed Zach and he decided that he wanted to go exploring for a while.  He wriggled off his bed and made his way across the room; for almost an hour he babbled to himself while happily trashing his room investigating the contents of his cubbies.

I observed all this from the hallway and when I saw that he began to show indications of being tired (rubbing his eyes and yawning), we told him it was time to sleep, put him back on his floor bed, and left the room.  He didn’t utter a peep and slept through the night.

Today, he went to the pool with my husband and came back an hour after the “official” start of his nap time (he’s usually up for two hours before needing a nap).  I fed him lunch and put him in bed, but since he was over-tired he became hyperactive and didn’t want to sleep.  I heard him rolling around in his room and pulling out his toys.  He played for about 30 minutes on his own, and then another 10 with me when I went into his room to see if he was getting tired.  I eventually noticed signs of sleepiness, so I changed his diaper and put him back onto his bed.  He again fell asleep without a single complaint.

On a floor bed, the baby decides when he’s good and ready to take a nap, but this might not be on the parents’ schedule.  The floor bed allows the baby to satisfy his need for independence, freedom of movement, and the development of the will – three essential pillars of the Montessori philosophy.  Let’s see what Dr. Montessori has to say on these topics in The Absorbent Mind (note how all three concepts inter-relate and consider how they apply to the floor bed) :

She points out why it’s essential to respect the child’s quest for independence:

“In nature’s language, the word ‘create‘ does not just mean, ‘make something‘; it means that what has been made must also be allowed to function. It follows that the child can only develop fully by means of experience on his environment. The child who has extended his independence by acquiring new powers, can only develop normally if left free to exert those powers.  The child develops by the exercise of that independence which he has gained. If, therefore, what we mean by education is to help the child’s developing life, we can only rejoice each time he shows us that he has reached a new level of independence.  So, the first thing his education demands is the provision of an environment in which he can develop the powers given to him by nature.  His impulses are so energetic that our usual response is to check them.  But, in doing this, we are not really checking the child but nature herself, for the child’s will is in tune with hers, and he is obeying her laws one by one.” 

She goes on to discuss the role of movement in mental development:

“One of the greatest mistakes of our day is to think of movement by itself, as something apart from the higher functions.  When mental development is under discussion, there are many who say, ‘How does movement come into it?  We are talking about the mind.’  And when we think of intellectual activity, we always imagine people sitting still, motionless.  But mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it.  Movement has great importance in mental development itself, provided that the action which occurs is connected with the mental activity going on.  Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes about through his movements.  The muscles directed by the brain are called voluntary muscles, meaning that they are under the control of the will, and will power is one of the highest expressions of the mind.”

She then addresses the concept of the will:

“In the little child’s life, as soon as he makes an action deliberately, of his own accord, [the evolutionary force of life] has begun to enter into his consciousness.  What we call his will has begun to develop, and this process continues henceforward, but only as a result of experience.  Hence, we are beginning to think of the will not as something inborn, but as something which has to be developed and, because it is a part of nature, this development can only occur in obedience to natural laws.  Under proper conditions, the will is a force that impels activities beneficial to life.  Nature imposes on the child the task of growing up, and his will leads him to make progress and to develop his powers.  Conscious will is a power which develops with use and activity.  Its development is a slow process that evolves through a continuous activity in relationship with the environment.”

In a nutshell, the floor bed helps the child independently move at will.

Isn’t it amazing to think that a simple mattress on the floor can be such a POWERFUL tool for supporting a child’s development?

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Things That Go Thump in the Night

In the past few weeks Zach has become an expert roller.  Leave him alone for five minutes and he will end up halfway across the room.  It’s great fun to see him rolling around, ambitiously exploring our house.  One of my favorite moment of the day is when he wakes up from his naps and I hear him babbling happily in his room.  I’ll peek in and he’ll be on his tummy, far from his bed, having a conversation with the leg of the nursing chair.

As fun as his rolling is during the day, it is highly irritating at night.  He sleeps on a floor bed, and at night he’ll roll off the bed while asleep.  We hear a “thump“, followed by silence.  Sometimes he’ll sleep on the floor for a while, so we leave him there as long as he seems comfortable (it’s been so hot that I think he actually enjoys sleeping on the cool wood floor).

For the most part, though, after the thump comes some muttering, and then a plaintive wail for help.  He doesn’t cry, but lets out a very distinct “aaaaaaaahhhh!” that clearly means “Come put me back in my bed!”  This happens two or three times a night… It’s no fun having a baby who “sleeps through the night” if you have to wake up three times a night to plop him back on his mattress!

A resourceful friend to whom this was also occurring came up with the idea of sliding a rolled towel under the long edge of the bed that’s not up against the wall.  We tried it last night and, wouldn’t you know it, Zach slept through the night (and so did we!!).  The beauty of this solution is that he can still roll out of bed when he’s awake, which is one of the main reasons for using the floor bed.  Our son can still enjoy his independence during the day, but has just the right amount of support to prevent night rolling.

Once he’s able to crawl, we’ll remove the rolled-up towel.  Then we’ll let him roll out of the bed and encourage him to crawl back on if he wants to.

What challenges have you encountered while using the floor bed?  How have you modified the environment to support your child’s needs?

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How Low Can You Go?

Curious about the Montessori floor bed?  Want to know if it can work for your baby?  Take a moment to read my recent guest post at Voila Montessori to learn more!

http://www.voilamontessori.com/en/guest-post-the-floor-bed/

Zachary, fast asleep on his floor bed, with Wolf keeping him company.
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Bedroom Transition

I am writing this post at the request of a very dear friend and fellow Montessorian who is expecting her first child.  This was our personal experience with our child, but every parent has to choose what works best for them and their child.  As with everything in a child’s life, it’s important to make decisions based on THE CHILD’S development, and not on the adult’s needs or emotional attachments.  Just sayin’…

During the first four weeks of his life, Zachary slept in a travel bassinet on the floor next to our bed (our bed is very low to the ground so this worked well for us).  It was comfortable for him to have his own space in which to move and stretch out (yes, newborns move) and yet it was next to our bed so I could nurse him as soon as he requested it and he could hear our breathing.  Our mattress is a “full”, we’re tall people, and we’re on a budget, so bed-sharing was out of the question.

I would bring him into our bed around 5am and he’d nurse and doze, but he was never really comfortable there and would not sleep for long periods of time.  I think it just felt too big for him, since he couldn’t touch the perimeter!  He was always in my arms or in the Moby wrap when he was awake, and as a newborn I would wait until he fell asleep before transferring him to the bassinet.

I made a special pad for the bassinet (a lot thicker than the one with which it came) and also used the topponcino on top of that mattress, so Zach was pretty high up and could get a good view of his surroundings.  The sides of the bassinet were mesh, so it helped him to not feel caged in.  In “Understanding the Human Being”, Dr. Montanaro notes that it’s important for babies to have “sufficient space for unhindered vision and movement”, so our bassinet fit the bill.

Zach, as a newborn, in his bassinet (this was before I started using the topponcino and laying him down on his side).

Zach had a strong startle reflex, and he would wake himself up often.  I don’t believe in traditional tight swaddling, so what I did was use a blanket to wrap Zach and the topponcino into a loose “burrito”, tucking the blanket under the bassinet pad.  He had freedom to move arms and legs, but he felt snuggly and secure and would sleep well like this.

When Zach was 4 weeks old, I moved his bassinet to his own bedroom (which is next to ours) and put it on top of his floor bed.  This is where he started napping during the day.  At night I would move the bassinet back to our bedroom.  I did this for about one week to get Zach used to the new noises, smells, and lighting of his own room.  Since he was sleeping well, I moved the bassinet there permanently and he started sleeping in his own room at night.  Whenever he would wake up (about every 3 hours) I would go to his room, nurse him there, and put him back down in the bassinet.  Yes, it was rough at first to be completely awakened, but in the long run it will help him understand that he has his own bedroom, and it will avoid the drama of him wanting to sleep in our bed and us wanting him to go back to his.

After three or so weeks, I took out the pad that I had made for the bassinet and placed it on his floor bed.  By this point he had grown almost too big for the bassinet!  I started laying him down on the pad (still using the topponcino), wrapping the whole thing in the blanket, burrito-style.  This went on for about 4 more weeks.  At one point I tried removing the pad and laying him down on the floor bed mattress, but since he sleeps on his side he still needed the additional support of the pad (he would roll over onto his back and wake himself up).  After a few weeks he became stronger, was able to remain in a side-lying position at will, and was then able to sleep on his mattress without the pad or the topponcino (good thing, too, since he was getting too big for the pad!!).  His startle reflex dissipated around that time, too, so that helped a lot.

The floor bed has been wonderful… He has lots of freedom of movement; sometimes we’ll find him lying sideways on the mattress or he’ll call for us to come help him because he’s rolled himself off the mattress and onto the floor!  He NEVER cries when I lay him down in his bed, and I’m sure that when he starts crawling he’ll continue to enjoy the freedom that comes with not being caged up in a crib.

My husband and I enjoy having our bedroom to ourselves, and having separate bedrooms has allowed everyone to sleep better because we don’t wake up with every little peep he makes, and he rests well in his own space.  He’s able to sleep through the night now (at almost 5 months of age), but some nights he wakes up either because he’s lost his covers, has a wet or soiled diaper, or wants some help falling back asleep.  I take care of whatever is bothering him, pat his bottom a few times, and he drifts off to sleep again.

He no longer needs to be wrapped up like a burrito; now he likes his covers loose so he can wiggle around on his bed.  Just when you think you have your baby figured out, he goes and grows on you… 🙂

 

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Topponcino Tutorial

I’m very much a “fly by the seat of your pants” type of sewer, so I unfortunately don’t have a pattern or very precise measurements for the topponcino.  However, I can share with you how I made it and you can check out the pictures of my topponcino, in case you want to make your own.

Materials:

  • muslin fabric (or other thin cotton fabric) for topponcino
  • soft cotton fabric for cover
  • cotton batting
  • embroidery thread
  • sewing machine (or needle and thread)

Cut out two ellipses from the muslin, about 30 inches long by 15 inches wide (leave 1/4″ seam allowance).  Place right sides together and sew along the edge of the ellipse, leaving about 12″ open (so you can insert the batting).  Turn the sewn pieces inside out so the right sides are showing.

Place the muslin ellipse on top of several layers of batting (3-4 layers, depending on the thickness of the batting and on how thick you want your topponcino to be).  Trace the elliptical shape on the batting and then cut an ellipse from the layers of batting.  Insert these layers of batting into the muslin ellipse, making sure that they don’t bunch up.

The topponcino. Note the embroidery thread fasteners.

Using embroidery thread, sew through the muslin and batting at several points on the surface of the ellipse so that the batting stays in place.  Then sew the open gap in the muslin.  Now you have a topponcino.

To make the topponcino cover (like a pillow case), place your topponcino on your cotton fabric and trace the ellipse, leaving a 1″ seam allowance.  This will be the top of the topponcino cover.

This is the front of the cover (sorry for the spit-up, see what I mean about making 2-3 covers?)

To make the underside of the cover, repeat the process of tracing on the cotton fabric but this time make the resulting elliptical shape about 4-5″ longer than the previous ellipse (so you can have an open seam from which to remove the topponcino).  Cut this longer piece in half and hem the straight edges.  Match up the top and underside of the cover, with right sides facing each other.  Sew all around the ellipse (note: the two underside pieces will overlap a little bit).  Turn the cover inside-out and iron.

This is the underside of the cover.

Insert the topponcino in the cover and you’re done!  I suggest you make 2-3 covers, especially if your little one is prone to spitting up.

Happy sewing, and let me know if you have any questions!

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Topponcino: The Miracle Pillow

I have three close friends who have completed the Assistants to Infancy training course (to support the development of children from birth through age 3). When they found out I was pregnant, all three told me to make a topponcino.

A toppon-WHAT?! A topponcino is a thin full-body infant pillow that provides the newborn with a sense of security when being passed from one person to another or when being placed onto his bed when he falls asleep in arms.

mom-holding-baby-on-topponcino_1200x
www.topponcinocompany.com

Being the crunchy momma that I am, I argued that the topponcino would interfere with the child feeling the mother’s arms around him.  All three friends wisely smiled and said: “Well, you don’t HAVE to use it if you don’t want to.”

I went ahead and made it anyways (save your sanity and get yours here*)… But then I put it in the back of the baby’s closet and promptly forgot about it.

The baby was born, and as most parents of newborns will tell you, my life was turned upside-down. I went into survival mode, trying to figure out what my baby needed and how to best satisfy those needs. For four weeks I struggled with his naps; he’d fall asleep without any problems in my arms after breastfeeding, but whenever I placed him in his bassinet he would quickly stir and begin to cry.

One month after his birth, after countless infuriating cycles of “nurse, burp, sleep, put in bassinet, wake up & cry, repeat, tear my hair out”, I remembered the topponcino in the back of the baby’s closet, and my friends’ suggestion to use it when transferring the baby to his bed. I placed my screaming over-tired infant on the topponcino, offered the breast, and watched him soothe and fall asleep. I lowered him down to his bassinet on the topponcino, then very slowly and gently removed my hands from beneath it, and held my breath in anticipation of a meltdown.

Nothing happened. Baby slept. And slept and slept! And guess who’s sleeping as well?! I’ve since used the topponcino with my second child and avo20120219-105503.jpgided many of the sleep issues I faced with my first.

My baby needed to feel the consistency and security of a surface that wouldn’t change temperature, firmness, or smell during those fragile moments of first sleep. The topponcino does this beautifully, and as usual I am humbled by the simplicity and elegance that is Montessori.

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