Thursday, 23 January 2014

Learning Self-Regulation


I've heard over and over of parents who allow their toddlers to self regulate with food, claiming that if we leave them to it and don't interfere with 'on demand' feeding that children will learn to recognize their own hunger cues and equally know when they have had enough.

I like the principle - but I don't know anyone who has made it past about three years old.

photo credit
The reality is that society dictates we should eat at certain times, and it's kind of awkward if you refuse lunch whilst everyone is seated at the table and 20 minutes later you are hungry but mum has put everything away. So you either end up telling your kid when to eat - or feeding them junk because real food takes time and preparation.

Still, like I said, I like the principle.

It's something Cosmo's doctor told me about when he was very young and I was getting frustrated about him just wanting to watch the same DVD on loop, or when he just wanted to read the same book (or sometimes even the same page!) again and again. He said he's trying to puzzle something out. I assume that because he can read the words, he's got all the information, but particularly for children who learn to read early, being able to understand what they are reading may take more time.

He asked me to indulge him.
Read the same page 50 times if necessary, move on when he is ready.

Gosh, that took a lot of restraint from me, but it worked! He would watch the 20 minute DVD on loop (brilliant baby by the way if anyone is interested) but then he'd know everything on it and never choose to watch the same one again (at least not for a long time, and when revisiting an old DVD it was for comfort, watched once and then relegated to the 'I've seen that' pile).

We've been up against this battle again recently, only this time it's grated on me even more because his current obsession is Minecraft - and I am not a gamer.

Everything in me wanted to limit him to 20 minutes a day - or some other such rule - but having been through plenty of other past obsessions I let it play out properly.

My mum bought him the game for Christmas and for a couple of weeks I was convinced it was all he would do with all of his free time - and then we hit our breakthrough. He just turned around and said 'I think I'd like to take a break from minecraft for a little while'. He started playing legos with his sister again (boy, has she missed him!) and at the end of the day, it's only really been a two and a half week obsession.

He still enjoys playing minecraft, but he's also enjoying other things too and he doesn't play it for hours at a time.

So, here are my top tips for surviving obsession phases:

1) Try not to worry about making everything meaningful. I like to relax and read a magazine sometimes, or watch a movie. Not everything I do has value other than relaxation and not everything your child does needs to either.

2) Respect what they value. I don't love minecraft. I don't think it's awesome. But my son does and I wouldn't like it if he told me I couldn't look at pinterest because he doesn't think it's cool. Live and let live.

3) Find ways to work it into other things they might enjoy. Cosmo is currently working on a book of tips for his Dad so that he can learn how to play too. It's still Cosmo's favourite topic, but thankfully it's away from the computer screen!
Top tip for Minecraft... but also life in general...

4) If you really need to limit their time on something (eg. I don't want him sat at a PC all day) rather than saying no to it, find something else that will take up some of that time. If Cosmo wants to spend all his free time on the computer, but I don't want him to spend more than an hour, I need to find tasks that will take up all but an hour of his day, then he can play as long as he wants without a conflict. If you tell them they can't do something (or they can only do it for a limited time) it becomes the craved for 'forbidden thing'. I'd rather say 'of course you can play - right after we get back from the park and have picked up the groceries'.
We also have a rule where nobody has free time until they have completed their curriculum based activities for the day.

If you have anymore strategies, let me know. It might sound like I have it all sorted, but I really don't. It pains me to wait out an obsession, but it's totally worth it in the end. The result is a happier, less frustrated child, who learns how to self regulate their own time.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Maybe this isn't news to some of you, but I have only recently discovered the awesomeness that is

From what I've gathered so far, it's kind of like the online answer to why I went to brownies - to earn badges. Only these badges are way cooler. They're chunky, hexagonal, embroidered patches, and you earn them for completing three tasks in a skill area. 

You simply upload a video or photo of yourself completing a task, someone reviews it and validates your reward. 

Badges are awarded for all kinds of stuff, my kids are keen for the backyard farmer, Lego master and minecrafter badges; but the range is as diverse as architect, bee keeper and dancer to mycologists, geneticist and sys admin!! 

Here's a video my kids made for one of their 'backyard farmer' skills.

The only downside to this whole thing is that it's based in the USA. Although their postage charges are very reasonable ($2 to ship to England) it obviously takes a while to get over here. Long enough that Cosmo is questioning me about whether there is a real badge or if it's just on the website (which incidentally, would still be fun to so if you didn't want to invest in the patches...) 

Each kid gets their own "stream" of activity which other people can follow, and they can follow others, either to keep up with what a friend is doing, or for inspiration. 

The best part is that as a parent, you get a log in too. The site emails me to approve everything my kids upload, so there is little to no chance of anything stupid being naievely posted online - unless you naievely thought it would be okay too, which you can't really blame your kid for... 

We think this is awesome, and it's a great boredom buster when you are scratching for ideas to do with the kids. A lot of the skills don't require much equipment and are pitched at several levels, so whilst my backyard farmers are planting celeriac, someone else might be caring for livestock. 

Definitely worth a poke around in your free time, and if you do sign up, message me your user name; the kids and I would like to follow you :0)

In unrelated news, lychee has enjoyed drawing cats this week. 

Lego electro city

Today the kids had the opportunity to attend a Lego workshop where they built a city with other children.

All the children were told they could build anything they wanted to be a part of the city and my children both independently chose to build farms! 

They had a great time, but I've injured my right hand which was incredibly frustrating to them. They wanted my help, but my left hand is like the Incredible Hulk, smashing through their carefully planned buildings. 

They quickly learned it was easier just to get on by themselves.

This horse was found by a friend, who recognised Lychee was building a farm and offered it to her. 

She spent half the morning singing a little song about him 'this is my horse that Wesley bought me for a present...'

This is her completed farm, which Cosmo quickly amalgamated into his own... 

But lychee was content to build a park opposite, with a lake to walk her puppies around and a waterfall. 

The next stage was building circuits to light up the cities. 

Here it is all lit up. 

It was a fun morning and really excitingly lychee even put her hand up to answer a question - an incredibly bold move for her!

Unfortunately, she didn't answer when called on, but it's a start...