What do fairies have to do with children’s emotional development?

Every day I marvel at my little one. I watch in awe as she explores her surroundings completely, unapologetically curious yet so innocent. I watch nervously, yet excitedly, as she teeters over the edge of the slide unafraid of any consequences that may occur if she falls. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of fear and the desire to provide as many opportunities for exploration. And then there are days, you know the days… the days that just seem to go on forever because it’s the day she decides to explore tantrums, anger, and ultimately, rebellion. Even though her little mind can’t define exactly what this action is she knows she likes it and she likes the reaction it elicits from her parents. So, what happens now? Don’t pull your hair out just yet.

 

Trigger warning: I’m about to use that annoying “Oh, it’s just a phase…they’ll grow out of it soon” reason.

 

Okay, so while it is a phase (and yes, they will grow out of it…just hang in there!), it’s important to understand that the tantrums, anger, aggression, and all the other less than appealing behaviour is the result of cognitive dissonance. Yep. Your little one’s developments (the ones that make you marvel in awe) are also the cause of their little bouts of insanity. New discoveries are a constant stimulus of emotions and unless children have learned to identify these feelings, they will not be able to control them. And here, ladies and gentlemen is the quote that inspired this whole blog to further explain my point:

 

“Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time.”

 

Is this not a perfect description of that little human you’re raising? (Good ol’ Jimmy Barrie knew what he was talking about!). Essentially, it’s our jobs as parents to help children identify the emotions they feel and provide guidance to help them solve problems and overcome the many frustrations they will encounter before your first coffee throughout the day. I firmly believe that playtime is the best time to learn. And what better toy to effectively help children to identify their emotions than a Mood Swing Puppet? (Yeaahhhh, I’m still working on a child-friendly name).

 

Step 1: Take some fabric, an old T-shirt will do! Trace a human (ish?) figure onto your fabric and cut two identical pieces and sew the sides together leaving the bottom open (I’m going to be honest: this one was done by a tailor…Ssshh!). If your little one is old enough, they can also do this part. Meanwhile, you can finish that cold coffee you were meant to drink earlier.

 

Step 2: Create the emotions by cutting a sad mouth and a happy mouth from coloured felt material and stick them on both sides of the puppet. Alternatively, you can just use a sharpie and draw the mouths directly onto the puppet. You can also draw eyes, but I’ve chosen to use googly eyes for that extra wow! Also, it’s fun for the little on to stick them onto the puppet (hooray for independence!) Drawing furrowed brows on your sad person to make them grumpy, just sayin’.

 

Step 3: If you want lovely locks of hair, cut coloured yarn and paste them onto your puppet’s head (So presh!).

 

Next time your child demonstrates less than desirable behaviour just remind yourself: they are yet to develop self-regulation skills that provide them with the emotional tools to manage their emotions. (Fun fact: these are the same emotional tools that keep you from pulling your hair out!) So, go forth…talk, explore, sing songs and play games about feelings using your Mood-Swing Puppet! (Yep, couldn’t think of a better name…suggestions welcome!).

 

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

When I first discovered I was pregnant the first thing that came to mind was how amazing the Peter Pan theme would look in my baby’s bedroom. Peter Pan has been my favourite story for as long as I can possibly remember (The J.M. Barrie book version, just to clarify!). So, naturally I tried my very hardest to ensure my love of this classic story extended to my daughter (her bedroom says it all…), but as she “Rawr…rawr…roars” to me with a fierce showing of her ‘terrible claws’ I am reminded that her favourite story is Where The Wild Things Are. I’m not going to lie, I really thought that she would also just love Peter Pan basically from day one because, osmosis. But of course, I understand that she is far too young for a story about a young girl who runs away from home to live a life of adventure and yeah, there’s also a boy who can fly and doesn’t want to grow up. (See what I did there? Shout out to my fellow feminists!)

Okay, I digress. What I’m trying to say is always read stories that pique your child’s interests and are developmentally appropriate. Endure the nights of reading the same stories over and over again, because one day they will do something AMAZING! They’ll point out their favourite character by name, or the colour of an animal or imitate the sound it makes, and they start communicating their experiences in their own clever, little way and you’ll be convinced that the little human you created is the smartest person on the planet (and it’s true!) You children possess the capacity to become whatever their little heart’s desire…and it’s your job to encourage these amazing discoveries by creating enjoyable and meaningful play experiences.

So…Yes, my little one likes Max, King of all the Wild Things, or rather his “hat”—which is actually his crown if you somehow didn’t make the connection. It’s okay, you’re a parent, and more than likely sleep deprived. And because you’re sleep deprived, here’s the world’s easiest craft…so easy, even the most thing of all could do it!

Step 1. Cut triangles out of coloured paper (or a magazine, or anything really…just find different colours). If your little one is old enough have them do this part too. Fine motor skill practice, heck yeah!

Step 2: Get a piece of A4 paper, fold it in half and cut a zig-zag where fold opens and cut down the middle of the fold to create the crown shape.

Step 3: Let your child squeeze glue on both pieces of the “crown” and use their fingers to spread it around (Messy play is the best way, after all.). Have them stick “jewels” onto the crown using your assorted triangles.

If your child isn’t into the messy glue, you could always decorate with stickers…but then what will you do with that extra time gained from not meticulously cutting out those triangles?

Step 4: Tape the two pieces together and attempt to measure it around your little Queen’s or King’s head to ensure it sits well. Then tape the other side to complete the crown.

Unsurprisingly, my Little Queen refused to put her newly decorated crown atop her head. But all was not lost. I showed her how to place it very carefully on our beloved dog, and she spent the next 15-20 minutes chasing him around trying to put it back on him. So, in the end, this forty minute boredom-buster—created from something she loves—provided an opportunity for both fine and gross motor development…not mention, a little bit of baby-pet “bonding”.


This post has also been featured on the Timeout Beijing Family Blog.

ABC: a playful post about your child’s interests.

“ABC!” My daughter utters this excitedly at least twenty-five times within the first hour of my day. She is 15-months and is thoroughly obsessed with the alphabet. While she’s not yet able to identify the different letters of the alphabet, she’s able to recognise the difference between images, Chinese characters and letters (Humble-brag much?)…So, “ABC” gets thrown at me a lot, because, well—there are a million books in my apartment and almost everything in our daily lives contains words! Okay, okay…I do have a point to make here…

I’m sure you’ve heard that play is essential to children’s development and that you should always try to encourage your child’s interests by creating play experiences that provide opportunities for them to engage in intrinsically motivating activities. What exactly does that mean? Well, look at your child. What are they doing right now? (Sleeping? What are you still doing here?! Go to sleep!) If there is anything at all, whether it’s an image in a book, an object in the room or their own feet that capture their attention for more than a minute it’s interesting to them and chances are there is something there that is intrinsically motivating.

Okay, back to the ABC! (Thanks, Dr. Seuss!) My daughter really loves it and I know, she’s too young to actually learn it and it’s significance in our lives, but like I said, she’s obsessed. So I go with it. I extend her interests, but there is only so many times I can sing ABC before my brain melts. Luckily, there are a million things you can do and no, you don’t need fancy flashcards (they just eat it anyway) or noisy, headache inducing electronic toys. You can create alphabet art out of literally anything you can find lying around in your home—or even on the streets…but remember to sterilize it first! Once, before she was born (…simple times.) I made ‘fairy rice’. Sounds fun, right? It’s actually just raw white rice mixed with vinegar and food colouring. I found them again the other day and grabbed some white glue and a black piece of paper and wrote a ‘C’ with the glue and got her to sprinkle the fairy rice on it, and Voila! Pretty, pretty, Letter C! You know what else is fun? Paper ripping. Do some amazing finger painting and then let that kid just rip it up to their heart’s content—remember to take photos, because it’s really just pure joy—and then make letters out of the small pieces of paper. You can even glue them on letters that I’m sure you had time to carefully draw and cut out. Also, paper ripping is excellent for their fine motor skill acquisition, just sayin’.

Next time you’re locked in pollution prison and you need something to keep the cabin fever at bay, just take a look at your child…what are they telling you, and more important, what can you do to intrinsically motivate them.


This post has also been featured on the Timeout Beijing Family Blog.