Last year at this time I had a one-week baby and my resolutions for the new year were simple: be present with my family, find gratitude every day and take care of me. These goals were simple, but not always easy. Still, it helped me to go back to those intentions for the year when I felt overwhelmed. I reaffirm these resolutions for the year ahead, but I also feel more ambitious and inspired to bring more creativity, fun, and learning to my children every day.
I love books as inspiration, especially for projects with Cee. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I’m too easily followed or overwhelmed by Pinterest on Pinterest. I like finding great books and working through them. For each of my resolutions, I found one or two books as a starting point for the year. (All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, so I get a tiny commission if you buy through a link at no additional cost to you. More here. I have not received any compensation for this post, unless otherwise stated , I bought these books myself.)
1. Make more art together.
I think everyone has to make room in their life to create something, and children naturally want and need to explore different possibilities every day, whether by building a fortress, making music, cooking or painting. This year I want to do more creative art with Cee. We often need a quiet afternoon activity while BabyM is napping, and this seems like a special way of spending time together.
The beautiful book is inspiring for this resolution, The artful parentby Jean Van’t Hul. This book immediately attracted me and kept me awake for a few nights reading and writing notes on how to create a great space for art, accessories to add to our collection, and projects that I enjoy doing would try. But before I even got my hands on this book, Cee intercepted and flipped through it, leaving sticky notes on each page that showed something she wanted to try.
Cee’s biggest Christmas present was a new art table with lots of storage space so that she can have a comfortable workspace that is (for now) out of her brother’s reach and doesn’t have to be cleared for every meal. I also had fun choosing a few new art supplies as gifts for her. The art space is still evolving, but Cee spent most of the Christmas day (and subsequent days) working on her new table.
The first half of this book is about how you can shape your life to inspire creativity through space, material and process. We will discuss things about how to talk to your children about their art so that they can have the conversation. (“Tell me about your painting” instead of “What is it?” Or “It looks like a house.”) The second half offers 60 art projects for ages 1 to 8. These projects are intended to stimulate creativity, not necessarily a specific product give. I love that they are generally simple and use most of the materials we already have, and many of them incorporate cooking, science, outdoor games, and natural world observation. We started playing with a few simple projects and I can’t wait to learn more in 2016.
Jean Van’t Hul published a second book in 2015 called The artistic year. Your first one has enough to keep us busy for a while, but maybe I’ll add it for next year.
2. Do more science together.
Throughout the toddler years, children are organically doing their own scientific experiments every day, and I don’t think they need a lot of guidance for structured experiments. When Cee turned 4 last year, we got her this science kit. It gives you some nice basic supplies like tubes and a pipette, and there were a few good experiments, but I think Cee grew out of 5. She is starting to ask more complex questions about science, and she is excited about doing more interesting and surprising experiments. Enter our next book: Kitchen Science Lab for children by Liz Lee Heinecke. I learned from this book from Tara Haelle’s list of Five scientifically based parenting booksthat also contained my book.
With this book, you can skip the kit because you have most of the supplies in your own kitchen. (Also a recent post on Heinecke’s blog, The Kitchen Pantry Scientistgives a list of supplies for a homemade science kit with a lot more potential than most you can find for sale these days.) The book contains 52 experiments, many of which are currently perfect for Cee and others that will be more appropriate in a few years.
We started two simple experiments on surface tension last week, Tie dye milk and Zooming fish (You can also find both on the author’s blog). I like to have the physical book because I think the experiments are presented more clearly in book form (with great photos) and it is nice to have the book in front of us in our “laboratory”.
3. Keep talking to Cee about the value of the money and how we – and she – can use it.
One of the most useful parenting books I read last year was The opposite of being spoiled by Ron Leiber. Cee asked for an allowance about a year ago when we read A little sister for Francis in preparation for the arrival of BabyM. Francis gets an allowance and Cee wanted one too. I was totally lost until I read Leiber’s book. Now Cee gets $ 3.00 every Saturday (well, if we remember) and she puts one in three glasses: save, spend, and give.
This simple exercise opened up all kinds of interesting conversations and decisions. For example, Cee decided that she wanted to buy her own plasters with her pocket money because she was fed up with me saying no to plasters for every invisible bump and bruise. For a long time we have examined all the patch options and compared the prices. She had to choose between a box of 100 simple plasters of various sizes or 20 paving stones for princesses for around $ 4 each – spending money for a month.
Talking and practicing with money has covered so much more than we spend. For one thing, we received many math lessons. It also gives us a little context for how we talk about privileges and how we help others. Homelessness is a very visible problem in our city, and we discussed the pros and cons of Cee who gives her money to people she sees on the street. This opened up discussions about how we can help those in need and inspired us to work with them voluntarily Burrito brigade, a local group that produces and distributes about 500 burritos every Sunday. It’s a rewarding and tangible job for both of us, and Cee ultimately decided to donate her money to the Burrito Brigade. She was assured that it would buy a lot of beans, and we were both proud of it.
Lieber’s book deals with topics that I haven’t even thought about, such as why all children should work and the materialism that will no doubt hit us from middle school. So I’ll read this book again and continue this conversation with Cee this year and probably in the years to come.
4. Stay on track in 2016 with happy, healthy eating and family cooking.
I feel like eating is one thing my family does well, but it is always hard work and a work in progress. We’re pretty good at cooking balanced meals and eating together. The meal times with my two children are pleasant at the moment as Cee branches out to be more adventurous with her food, and BabyM, who has just turned one, is in this wonderful time when he will try everything and have a great appetite this is what his fast growth supports. Area of responsibility of Ellyn Satter Feeding children has been my guide from the start. I love its simplicity and always recommend Satter’s books, My child and Secrets to healthy family nutritionto other parents.
I take this as a resolution because I think we all need to be reset a bit after the holidays. We relax our usual routines and structures with treats over the holidays and at the beginning of the new year our daily candy intake is still higher than normal. It’s time to get back to a healthier balance, but I don’t want the shift to focus on treats, though that’s part of it. Instead, I want new inspiration to have fun trying new (non-dessert) foods and getting Cee more involved in the cooking.
I just got a review of a new book that might help: Raise a healthy, happy eater by Nimali Fernando and Melanie Potock. I’ve only read sections of it so far, but it looks like a great resource. Potock is a pediatric nutritionist and wrote a guest post for Science of Mom last year about getting your baby off to a good start with solids by ensuring that they have a comfortable and stable seat at the table. I think it’s also Potock’s perspective and background in feeding therapy and as a speech pathologist that characterizes this book. I find the developmental and cognitive aspects of learning to eat fascinating, so I think it’s great that this book describes them at every stage. If your child has special eating problems, this book may be particularly helpful. I look forward to reading more of this book as BabyM’s food develops as I know that he will likely be more selective about food next year, as most babies do. With Cee, I’m going to try out some of the recipes in this book and use his tips for school lunches when she starts kindergarten next fall.
In addition to these books, I look forward to reading more this year. I am reading and enjoying Eula Biss About immunity: a vaccination. Next is a book with a similar title, but a completely different content: immunity by William E. Paul. I am thrilled to have found a local science non-fiction club and this is the book we will discuss next. Finally I give myself up NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman for my birthday. I have heard wonderful things about it and look forward to reading and learning from it.
What are your resolutions for parents this year? And what are you reading these days?
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