Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Moving Up

Q-ball knows she can pull herself up on just about anything now- especially Mama's legs!  Now she's even starting to try letting go and balancing on her own!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Baby Exploration Site 1: The Kitchen

         Our goal is to make our house as baby-proof as possible. We want to allow Q-ball to control her own exploration/play while we spend little time saying "no" or redirecting.  I have discussed some of the research that has encouraged us to make this decision already (see Mahler, play, Ainsworth) and will present more as time goes on. We have taken the standard baby-proofing steps (covering outlets, removing breakables, getting rid of poisons, etc.).  But, we have also created what I'll call "baby exploration sites" in each room which keep baby occupied and allows for individual exploration.  This series of posts is just going to showcase our baby-exploration sites as general baby-proofing information abounds.
        The first site I'm presenting is located in the room in which we spend the most time- the kitchen.  Although I've also discussed in this blog about our Montessori leanings (in this sense, presenting objects that stimulate multiple senses...), the kitchen contains very few items that have been "placed" for Q-ball to find. One Montessori aspect for which I strive within these sites, however, is to minimize clutter.  So, it's been great for helping me stay organized! This site still contains all of the items I needs to operate our kitchen which have been arranged to accommodate an acitve, exploring baby.  Also, we rent, so there are no structural changes that we have made or that we can make.

Now, how we play safely in the kitchen.
  1.  The island came with this fun curtain instead of cabinets on the bottom shelving.  I'm sure it was a cost saving measure on the part of the owner's when fixing the house up for renters, but it's perfect for grabbing a baby's attention.  Q-ball is instantly drawn to it because it's so accessible to her and fun to play with itself.  I was worried it could be a hazard because she was try to pull herself up on it, but she seems to know that that is not an option. Also, it eliminates the possibility of pinched fingers. Even if I had my own kitchen with cabinets in the future, I would consider replacing some with curtains because this has worked so well. 
  2. So, all of the items placed in this area are items that are 100% ok for baby.  I've placed the ones that are "more" ok in the front, and frankly, these typically please her long enough that she doesn't make it to the back.  Wooden bowls, baskets, paper plates, bibs, towels, cookie racks, plastic storage stuff.

Baby-exploration sites require quite a bit of clean-up! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

That Was Stinky...

            While it often seems to be an overlooked sense, a human’s sense of smell is a remarkable ability.  Smells allow humans to assess their environment for dangers (as in the ability to detect and avoid rotten meat) and can even serve as a way for humans to communicate (as is demonstrated by research that indicates that smell plays a critical role in human attraction.)  An infant’s sense of smell is especially remarkable.  A fetus even experiences smells as his mother does; in fact, living in amniotic fluid actually heightens some smells for the fetuses (while I knew about the mother-fetus taste connection, I was surprised to learn this!)
            At birth, newborns can distinguish as many smells as adults- somewhere between 4,000 to 10,000 (big difference, but there seems to be some conflicts among olfactory theorists…) The smell that is most identifiable to newborns (especially newborn girls, the effect is seen much less in boys), though, is the smell of their mother’s breast.  They can actually distinguish their mother’s breast from that of another woman. 
            While infants have very developed olfactory systems, they do not yet have the ability to distinguish good smell from bad smells.  Experiments have shown that even when really stinky stuff (like “simulated feces”) is put in a 2-year-old’s play space, they hardly notice.  (Maybe this is some innate survival skill??)  But, by age 3, humans can determine whether something smells good or bad (known as odor hedonics.)
            Which is what led me to start researching this post- I like things to smell good.  My house, my car, my clothes. Most of the products I use at home have no added fragrances (laundry stuff and cleaning products, although vinegar could be considered a pretty strong fragrance at times…)  But, I do like plug-ins, candles, and Scentsy products.  But, this week Q-ball reached a much-less celebrated milestone- she had her first “it doesn’t smell like breast milk anymore” diaper.  This is obviously a challenge to my smell-good house. 
But I have been hearing and reading more about “toxins” in these fragranced products which makes me hesitant to use them around Q-ball.  Most of what I have read has provided no actual information other than “fragrances have toxins,” so I decided to delve a little deeper.

Here’s what I found-
In 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that 12 of 14 air fresheners that they tested contained phthalates. Phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) are a group of chemicals that make plastics more flexible, resistant, or enhance fragrances.  They are found in some cosmetics, food packaging, shower curtains, detergents, flooring, and tons of other daily products. 
While no study has specifically tested the effects of phthalates in humans, in a 2005 study, the U.S. Center for Disease Control found that phthalates disrupted the endocrine system in test rats, resulting in reduced sperm counts, abnormalities in reproductive organs and systems, and even liver cancer.  Thankfully, for Q-ball and mine’s sake, it appears most effects have been found in males.  For my husband’s sake, it appears we were still able to have Q-ball….Other studies, more specific to fragrances, have found increased instances of allergies and asthma as a result of prolonged exposure.  Some researchers believe that the effects of these chemicals are especially harmful to infants and fetuses. They state that increased levels of phthalates in urine taken for pregnant women and a threefold increase in newborn boys with deformed sex organs over the last 40 years provide enough cause for alarm.
As a result of these reports, in July 2008 the U.S. Congress prohibited the use of some phthalates in children’s toys and cosmetics. 
            But, not all researchers believe that phthalates are harmful.  The study on test rats mentioned above was later conducted on test monkeys.  The results of this study show that there were no abnormalities in the offspring.  The researchers state that humans are closer to monkeys than humans, so that the effects of phthalates of humans is likely minimal at best. 
So, how can you establish a yummy-smelling secure base for your family?  As with all parenting decisions, it’s really up to you.  Because the tests haven’t actually been conducted on humans, and research is telling us two different things, some would consider the data inconclusive.  But, I’ve decided, why take any chances?  So, in my house, we’ve gotten rid of plug-ins and candles (these had to go with general baby-proofing anyways…) I’m also planning to place some plants that help remove toxins from the air around our home.  It looks like I might not even be able to kill spider plants, peace lilies, or devil’s ivy.  As for my beloved Scentsys, I’m now using the following recipe- 
·         2 Tbsp of coconut oil
·         A few drops of essential oils.
It should be noted that this smell is not nearly as strong as the actual Scentsy fragrances, and in large room probably won’t even be noticed.  But, it can keep a small room free from bad odors, and, since research has shown that my husband and baby probably don’t even notice the smelly stuff, that’s enough for us.

Have you stopped using fragrances in your house?  Do you have any other natural ideas to keep odors at bay? 

Eliot, L. (1999). What’s going on in there? How the brain and mnd develop in the first five years. Bantam Books: New York.
Reineke, R. (2008, January 8). It's right under our noses: The importance of smell to science and our lives [Weblog post]. Retrieved from

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Cinnamon!

Q-ball has continued to enjoy baby-led solids.  She seems to now demand any food with cinnamon or Cheerios.  Here, blueberries + oatmeal + cinnamon = bathtime! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Resources Page Added

I've added a new page that lists some of my favorite resources, including some of my favorite blogs.  If you are new blogs or interested in where I get most of my information, check out the new page at the top of my blog named "Resources."

Monday, November 21, 2011

New and Improved: Treasure Basket

        Now that we have settled, I am able to improve upon the treasure basket that we are providing for Q-ball's exploration/play time.  This is an idea that I read about on several Montessori blogs and read about in How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin.
       The goal is to include "household objects and things from nature."  This way baby can explore the items with multiple senses.  Montessori herself often insisted on natural materials and avoided synthetic materials such as plastic.  Natural materials, according to followers of the Montessori method, are believed to be more beautiful, durable, and more stimulating to a child's senses.  
In The Joyful Child, Micheal Olaf has this to say about the material of toys-

It is very dangerous that wood is progressively disappearing from our lives. Wood is a material that is familiar and poetic; it gives a child a continuity of contact with a tree, a table, a floor. Wood does not cut, does not spoil, does not break easily, can last for a long time and live with the child. It can modify little by little the relationship between the objects which are timeless. Now toys are chemical and do not give pleasure. These toys break very soon and they do not have any future for the child. 

Below are what we are currently rotating in and out of Q-ball's treasure basket. In upcoming posts, I will discuss how and why we let her explore this treasure basket and other parts of the house with minimal interference.  

These items were picked up at the local market and allow us to make use of the what nature provides throughout the changing seasons.

Wooden bowls and cookie cutter from Goodwill.  Teaholder from personal collection (I've always wanted to use this phrase from art galleries...)

Leather wallet, satiny place mat, and silk cloth provide different touch sensations.

Mason jars that I have filled with rice, rosemary, and popcorn.  These allow Q-ball to explore with her sense of sound. She loves these! I also poked holes in the top of the rosemary jar to allow her to smell.  But, it's frankly not very strong- I'm looking for an item with a stronger smell.

Wooden utensils from Goodwill.

Have you created a treasure basket for your baby?  What have you included?  Any ideas for an item with a stronger smell to place in the Mason jar?

Olaf, M. (2009) The first year. Retrieved from 
Seldin, T. (2006). How to raise an amazing child the Montessori way. DK Publishing:NY

Friday, November 18, 2011

This Goes in That a.k.a. The Long Telegram of Infant Containment

            With all of the boxes that have cluttered our home over the past week, Q-ball has had a lot to explore.  She’s been able to tip the boxes over, climb in them, pull out the paper, and use them as drums.  It’s made me wonder what exactly she understands about boxes and their purpose.  Turns out, quite a bit of research has been done studying the “categorization of infant containment,” so this Science Friday is devoted to what infants know about putting stuff in boxes, bags, baskets, or any other container.    
            Developmental psychologists generally believe that the earliest spatial concept that infants understand is “in” (compared to under, between, around, etc.).  They believe that knowledge of this concept is closely tied to comprehension of the word “in.”  Here are some of the findings:

1.    Infants as young as 3 months can determine spatial change, as has been demonstrated by the amount of time that infants stare as a dot’s location in relation to a bar (above, below, between.)  But, research shows that infants cannot determine spatial change in novel objects (defined as objects with which they are not familiar) until later.  That is, they know that a round dot that was above the bar is now below the bar, but if the dot is changed to a triangle which they have not seen, they are not able to make the cognitive leap that the triangle can also change positions in relation to the bar (or perform “abstract categorical representation” as researchers call it).  Some research has shown that infants cannot form spatial ideas about novel objects until 6 or even 9 months.
2.    Other researchers have demonstrated that infants as young as 2.5 months understand that a container with an open lid can have an object placed inside of it, whereas an object with a lid cannot.  After grasping this concept, infants can start to learn which objects can fit in containers.  So, they start to understand that a short box cannot hold a really tall spoon or that a small basket cannot hold a big ball.  This is known as forming categories of containment.

The study I read tried to merge the findings of the previous research described above- that is, it tried to see if infants can form categories of containment for novel objects.  Researchers looked to see if 6-month-old infants were able to understand containment in the following items, based upon the length the infants looked at the items and the act of placing one in another:

The researchers found that at 6-months, infants can make abstract categories of containment.  So, they understand that a teddy bear is inside of a basket, even if they have never seen the basket or they teddy bear before.

Some of the containers with which Q-ball is currently playing.
I believe that I have seen some of these concepts while observing Q-ball’s play.  In addition to the moving boxes, we have also been providing Q-ball with a few baskets and some bags- plenty of opportunities to have fun with containment.  She actively pulls toys out of the baskets and has started to return some of them.  However, she has yet to try to put anything into a bag, perhaps because it is not as open as the baskets.  Also, none of the items we are currently giving her provide opportunities for tight fitting containment exploration.  So, her Daddy will be happy to learn that I will need to go shopping to find some new toys!
Casasola, M. Cohen, L.B., & Chiarello, E. (2003). Six-month-old infants' categorization of containment spatial relations. Child Development, 74(3), 679-693.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Fun in Our New House!

Over the next few weeks, I'll show how we are adapting our new house for Q-ball.  But, for now, here's some of the fun we are having!

She and her dad were laughing so much during this game.  It is amazing to hear her laugh and babble now- both of these sounds have changed so much in the past few weeks- she really sounds like and adult sometimes. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tips for Travelling

I did get a new haircut for our new city!
Well, we are finally pretty much back to normal- new house, 90% unpacked, and we even now have Internet!  It was quite difficult to keep the blog updated without access to the Internet...
         Over the past 2 weeks, Q-ball and I have traveled over several states, slept in five different beds, lived out of suitcases, and without regular access to a kitchen and washer and dryer.  Should you suffer the same fate with an infant, here are the top ten ways that I survived...
1.       Parenting on demand- Crossing time zones, day-lights savings time, and major shake-ups to a normal schedule obviously affected Q-ball's sleeping, eating, playing, moods, etc.  We had to be extra cognizant of her needs and wants to prevent meltdowns (hers and ours, obviously...)
2.       Breastfeeding- Can't get much more convenient. Nothing extra to pack or carry.
  1. Babywearing-
a.        I thought this was essential to get through the airport.  My hands were free for check-ins and security, Q-ball was happy, and I wasn't banging around a heavy carseat while running past crowds.  
b.       Also, this became totally necessary as days when naps just weren't going to happen under a roof (movers coming and going, maids in the hallways, another new place.)  Some days the only way she would sleep was for me to go on a walk with her in the Ergo. It ended up being great for both of us as I got fresh air and exercise (needless to say, we weren't eating our healthiest.)
4.       Hand-washing station/cloth wipes- Q-ball was crawling all over the hotel room. After just a few minutes of being on the floor her feet, legs, and hands were be black.  It was gross, but there was little we could do except wash her.  In addition to her normal baths, I would wipe her down with cloth wipes and a pre-made solution of 2 parts water and 1 part baby soap (I keep it in a water bottle with a leak-proof valve top) several times a day. 
5.       Plan your diapering system.  I already discussed this in a previous post.  If you use cloth have a detailed plan for washing. 
6.       Pack a nightlight.  The rooms are new to you and baby- not friendly for moving around at night with the lights off.
7.       Work with the hotel staff.  We often requested room service at specific times to try to accommodate Q-ball’s anticipated naps.  It didn’t always work, but at least we tried.  This was also necessary because we were travelling with our darling cats who needed to be caged for housekeeping.
8.       Baby-led solids.  I didn’t worry about packing or buying any special solid foods for Q-ball for this trip.  Frankly, I didn’t put much emphasis into her eating solids at all during this trip, but with BLS she ate some toast and bananas from the hotel breakfast bar and some pieces of fruit at lunches.
9.       Pack an extra-duty  garbage bag to cover the car seat when it is checked on the plane.  I did this previously, but didn’t this time and ended up with a big spot on the car seat.  (Which I subsequently have not been able to wash without a washer and dryer…)
10.    Pack outlet plugs.  Again, we didn’t do this.  But, it would have been great to have in the rooms we were visiting as the outlets were the first places Q-ball headed for. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Life in Transition

Since I missed last Wednesday (the camera was temporarily lost in the move...), here are belated Halloween photos as well as pictures from our current playground- hotels!

With her uncle and his Halloween present.
If you are wondering what flying is like with an active 7 month old, this picture is pretty much it...

Before the hotels, there was the air mattress...

At her cousin's, Q-ball got to play with a pet that actually let her pet him (unlike our cats!)

All this crawling on the carpet has given her quite the rug burn!

We've tried to have healthy meals with manners, but there's only so much you can do. Q-ball eating some cheese and Daddy eating some pizza.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I did it! Cleanin' Cloth Diapers by Hand

We are in the midst of a move.  So, I knew that we would be without easy access to a washer and dryer for awhile (currently 10 days...)  But, I had planned to used cloth diapers throughout the process.  Or, I thought I had.  I made a few grossly inaccurate assumptions.  Actually, just one- that my home-owning, nearly 40-year-old cousin with whom we would be staying for 2 nights owns a washer and dryer.  

Upon arrival, I discovered he didn't.  Then, I learned fact two- also does not own stopper for his tub.  I guess those things are easily lost.  So, we used disposables for two days.  And, I remembered why I hated them- they are stinky, and we have constant blow-outs. 

So, when we moved into a hotel, I wanted to get Q-ball back in cloth.  But, I hate hotel washers and certainly don't trust them with washing diapers.  So, I decided to handwash.  This was a bit of an impulse decision on my part (in my defense, I had some poopy diapers that were a few days old.)  I hadn't done any research on how to do it, and I really didn't have the right materials (detergent type, gloves, drying rack.)  But, before I knew it, the diapers were in the tub and my hands were jumping in right after them.  Thankfully, I have a patient husband.

It didn't seem to be a complete failure, but I have since bought some Rockin' Green (usually just use a free and clear) just to avoid possible chemical burn on hands and because I am more worried about build-up with this method.

So, if you are traveling and planning on using cloth diapers, here's some advice that should have probably been common sense: 
1) Make sure there's a washer.
2) Have a contingency plan, just in case.

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