Long distance family guide for kids

“This one here looks like you!”, said a 2 year old Z to her uncle. They laughed and kept going through the photos. They see each other twice a year. He is one of those family members important to her parents but almost inexistent in her life. But he is a part of long distance family guide I made for Z just before Christmas.

We live over 1600 kilometers from our families. Our parents visit quite often and we skype almost every day but there’s obviously more people in our families than our parents.

Going home, especially for holidays, may be hard for a child that needs a warm-up time, like our Z. Everybody wants to talk to her, hold her or touch her. It’s normal, they see her only few hours a year. None of us ever imagined those 1650 km between us.

So, before our last journey home, while thinking about 2-days road-trip entertainments for a 2 year old, I made a photo album of all family. Not only those she will meet during Christmas (although main focus was on them) but also those living even more far away.

It was a winner! In the car, we would name everyone, tell short stories about them and why they are important to us. Some names made her laugh, some faces were more interesting then others. She still likes looking at them from time to time. It helped probably, that wherever possible, I added pictures of those relatives with Z. (pictures from our previous visits). Of course, most of the time, she was mostly interested in looking at herself in those pictures.

I’m totally not scrapbooking kind of person, but to make this album mire personalized I took Z’s stamps and named everyone with bright colours.

Things you’ll have to figure out:
1. The order in which to arrange the pictures. You can go by age, by families, by names, by random. I did my family first and within it each family was together to show her that E and N are kids of F and A.
2. Do you want to leave space for future family members?
3. Do you want to include those who passed away either before or after your child was born? That was a bug one for me. My family is very small and already 4, extremely important to me are not with us any more. I wouldn’t be me if not for them, they were vital parts of my life. My mom and grandma somehow even made my grand grandmother a very important person in my life, even though she passed away years before I was born…
But in the end, this was to make Z familiar with those she would meet. I’ll keep the extended important crowd for some other album.

Terrible twos? No! The amazing twos!

You’ve read enough about the terrible twos. Tantrums, stubbornness, doing the opposite, pretending not to hear. Ungrateful, non-cooperating, sneaky, manipulative creatures. They throw themselves on the floor and scream until they get what they want.

I am not writing to deny the above, either.

I will write till my fingers hurt how 2 year olds are amazeballs!

In that year between their 2nd and 3rd birthday kids become so grown up comparing to babies they’ve just stopped to be. Your jaw will drop but it depends on you how often it will drop. How much time and attention are you willing to devote?

1. All the talking!
When they finally speak fluently, using full sentences, it’s just amazing! It’s a life-changer! You can finally have real conversation. Some will talk more than others, both are blessings! At that age they can express opinions, describe the world around and include astonishing observations, point out your mistakes. They also listen a lot and are vocabulary sponges, so really be careful what you’re saying. They have surprising memory, so… be careful what you’re saying, or they will tell your mil how you feel about her

2. Stories and lies!
It is strictly connected to point no 1, of course but it has to be a separate point because this is not just talking. The way they use all gathered information and the proof how complicated thoughts and processes inhabit their brains!
Example? Few days ago, 28 mo old Z was telling me that a turkey stole her jacket and ran away. He was hiding because it was raining. “And mommy, I was crying and asking him to give that jacket back to me but he didn’t”. She makes me laugh few times a day with these kind of stories.

3. Singing and reciting!
All those books you read, all those rhymes, all the songs you heard together and all those you sang to your babe – they will come back. Suddenly your kido will tell few lines of that book you last read 6 months ago (or even the whole story!).

4. Pretend play & imagination
You think your 1 year old cooking a dinner with felt veggies is a pretend play master? Wait till a two year old plays for a week with an invisible baby! Wait till your child decides mommy will be dad, daddy will become a child and child becomes a mom. If you just let them be, they will show you how useless toys are!

5. Indepedent rockstar!
They were just born right? Just yesterday they were only crawling? Well, this year they will be potty trained and able to dress themselves.
Trust them! Please, supervise but not do for them. Offer help, be close, don’t rush. It will only take few more minutes than usual but will boost your amazing-two-year-old’s confidence for the whole day. Let them cut soft veggies and fruits, let them wash themselves, let them help you cook and do a lot alone, let them try and dress themselves. It’s so amazing to see how happy they are about themselves when they accomplish something alone.

6. Surprise
A two year old will surprise you daily with new words, new abilities, new ideas and a passions. Seriously, every day will bring new achievements, and it will cheer you up, lighten up your day if only you let it.

7. Person
Till now it was unclear. The cuteness of being a baby was overshadowing the person they were (at least for most parents). Now you can see more clearly who you will share your life with. You will  get a better idea now if your kid is more into arts, or music, or stem or sports. This is when you get to know them better than ever before.

I won’t lie to you. All the things that made the term “terrible twos” live in the parenting world, they are true. 2 year olds have all these abilities, feel they can manage everything by themselves, and deal with emotions too big for they mind. Raising a child is a fascinating journey with challenges at each step. Raising a 2 year old is not easy but has it ever been easy when they were younger? What does “easy” even mean?

The Universe is laughing in my face

The universe is laughing in my face. My 2 year old daughter entered the pink, princess, dress phase. MY DAUGHTER!? IN MY HOUSE!?

With the help of family members, who like to joke around, she is in possession of one professional ballet costume and one outrageous pink dress (imagine the Big Bird in pink). Thanks to me she has a very cool tutu and thanks to herself (well, kind of) she now has another ballet dress, pink wings and silver ballet shoes from H&M. And . Until today a fly-flap was her wand and she was happy with it. Until she saw that damn pinky awfulness.

It all started with ballet. I couldn’t watch Peppa anymore, so I grabbed Thaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” by Marinsky Theater Ballet and let her enjoy. Ballet I adore. I was training to get into ballet school at the age of 9, started ballet classes when I was 4 or 5. It was beautiful, demanding and way too physical for me. Not mentioning my lack of sense of rhythm.

It was the love at first site for Z. She knows The Nutcracker by heart now = the choreography, not the story. She lately agreed to change it for the Swan Lake. At least she’s listening to great music, right?

The pink concept is so totally alien to me. And I don’t mean colour. I mean the whole pink-plastic philosophy.  have nothing against the colour. I just don’t understand the deal with princesses, white horses, fluffy dresses. It was never me, at least not in my memory. And now I just need to vent about it.

The princesses, the fairies and the shallowness that goes with it. Please, don’t be offended, let’s speak honestly. Is there anything more to princesses than the looks and finding the charming prince? That’s what I call the shallowness. There’s probably nothing wrong with having few shallow elements in life, I just don’t feel comfortable with this one.

So, is there a line? I accept that I can’t fight it. I accept my daughter of course. For tonight the decision is to let her dress as ballet dancer, princess or a butterfly but using my taste, not industry’s taste. I will excercise my right as her mother to direct her passions and energy towards… my way.

The thing is. She would still be happy with the fly-flap if someone at H&M hadn’t designed that kitsch version. Pink can be so beautiful, yet it’s so often mistreated. Does everything girly have to be pink and full of sparkles?

In order to make Z’s play more friendly to my eyes I will need: a smoky navy blue tutu from the Kids on the Moon, a crown from Nununu, a wand from Nununu. My mum promised to supply us with wings that will not make my head ache. Together with ballet costumes we should be fine for a while. If pink is the love of her life – let it be. But first I have to show her other possibilities, how she can master pink and maybe even add some minimalism to the mix.

And there’s something else this post is about. I’ve realized this is the first time that she’s showing me very clearly that she’s different, independent human being with her own opinion and taste. This is the first time I have to accept her choice is different than mine, whether I like it or not. It is so normal, was absolutely predictable, yet it feels so strange. Whilst I am so proud she has her own opinion, it saddens me that she’s growing up so quickly. and so pinkly! (Ok the last bit is a joke.)

Oh, and did I mention that for the past 10 nights she’s been sleeping wearing a dress over pjs…?

A toy gun in my playroom

I am strictly against allowing people to have guns at home, Strictly against guns anywhere near me. But I am not against toy guns (at least those that can’t harm anyone). I don’t believe kids copy play into real life, I’d rather say they imitate life while playing.

As a child I would play with toy soldiers. I only ever stopped because I couldn’t figure out how to make it as exciting as when played with my cousin. We would fight with sticks pretending they were swords. And I remember water guns – yes, water GUNS.

There was a line of course, as there is to everything. I remember boys at school playing with stupid toy guns. They were loaded with something that hurt like crazy when hit my leg and could probably seriously damage an eye. They were banned from the school quickly.

One of my mum’s best summer memory from childhood is playing WWII (based on a famous back then Polish TV series). They had wooden handmade rifles and played in the forest all day. They played under they eye of people who saw that war first hand.

So… There are toy guns and there are toy guns.

Playtime and dressing up are a great occasion to talk about history, ethics, tolerance and all sorts of issues. So why not use toy guns to teach kids violence, criminals, and how the police and soldiers must have it but nobody else should? Teach them about violence and how dangerous guns are. And for crying out loud let them have fun: being a police officer chasing thieves, playing war, or even (politically incorrect but historically totally justified) chasing Native American Indians dressed as cowboys.

If one day Z asks me for a toy gun I will find a wooden gun that can’t fire any eye-damaging-stuff.

If I’d ban guns what about toy swords? Toy archers? What about pirates? What about sending them to Karate class? What about ghosts and vampires? Is a toy gun attached to a cowboy costume really that bad?

How about medically themed toys? In my daughter’s doctor suitcase you could find a toy syringe. Should I be afraid she will learn how to use it in a “bad” way? I can even imagine a plastic scalpel in sets for older children – imagine the chaos?

It’s not a toy gun that can harm them. It’s the luck of parental support. It’s the lack of parents’ ears and attention. I believe in bonding, in conveying values and in nurturing the empathy. But who knows? Maybe I’ll change my mind when Z is older.

Let me quote Peter Gray’s Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life:

“Some people fear that violent play creates violent adults, but in reality the opposite is true. Violence in the adult world leads children, quite properly, to play at violence.”

Having said all of the above, I do understand how my friend who moved here from Texas, being sick of guns, would hesitate a lot before even considering a toy gun for her daughter.

Where we come from, our background and our family’s past is what creates us and what plays a big part in our views. So, despite everything I’ve said above never do something you’re not sure about, even if a blogger said you can

10 tips for kids friendly restaurants

10 rules to make any restairant a family friendly place

To all restaurant owners (who consider families as a part of their target market),

Having families with children as customers is not easy. It can be stressful, demanding, messy and loud. There is another side to it though: going out to eat is sometimes a hassle for parents and not-at-all-fun time for kids. Why so many adults with infants sit every day at restaurant tables then, you may ask. Going out to eat is sometimes the only kind of fun we can have or the only way to eat a proper meal. It is our fun, social event that costs us so much more than “just” money. We do everything we can not to disturb other people. But we can only do as much.  Each time we enter a new restaurant we are hopeful to finally discover THE place. We need restaurant owners/managers to help us make that time more enjoyable and less stress-prone. You can help us, you have power to solve family-at-the-restaurant-related problems.

Below, I listed nine rules for kids-friendly restaurant and one additional that can turn a restaurant into a really super mega awesome kids-friendly place.

1. Highchairs. There’s no question about it – you need to have at least two of these. Storage shortage is not an excuse since travel booster seats were invented (for example this one from Polar Gear).

2. Now, that we’re seated, I kindly ask you to hand out the menu to everyone at the table. That includes any child able to grab it. You’re absolutely right, a toddler can’t read it but he will be entertained, his need for being treated like everyone else will be met, his parents will be able to relax and they will provide you with clear information about their order.

3. Food choice. Could you please, if possible, think outside the box when creating kids menu? “The box” these days seems to be fries and chicken nuggets. Do kids really not deserve better food (unless the restaurant is all about burgers and fried food)? My favorite solution is to simply offer mini versions of some of regular meals. We once went to a place that had no kids menu because any dish there could have been made kids size.

4. The after-the-order part is usually the hardest. Everybody at the table is hungry. The more hungry, the more impatient (see European Mama’s post about “hangry” phenomenon). You can help by providing kids with any kind of entertainment, the simplest being crayons and paper. Invest in Crayola Dry Erase if you’re afraid of damage (which is very unlikely to happen). If ambitious, you could print out coloring pages with a theme of your choice but you can skip paper altogether if you’re using paper tablecloths. Add stickers and you’ll be a well renown rockstar!

5. The best way to deal with waiting time is to shorten it to a minimum: make families a priority, deliver their order fast. It’s not a special treatment, it’s a salvation for you, them and other guests. This is more important than crayons or any other point on that list. I was blessed to have a calm, (relatively) well behaved toddler but I count every minute when we’re out: she’s hungry, the meal is always prior to sleep (be it nap or evening bedtime), she will not accept sitting still forever. The more we wait, the more anxious I become, the more I have to distract her instead of having nice time with my family and friends. The more I wait, the less likely I am to ever come back to that restaurant.

6. Do you ever use a barrel to drink water? Quite impractical, isn’t it? Then why would you ever give a small child the biggest glass? Same with forks, if yours are huge, they become pitchforks in small kids’ hands. Solution? Shot glasses, small glasses, even cups for tea, or espresso cups and dessert-sized forks will make a lovely kids tableware set. Also, if you got high chairs with built-in tables, make sure you have plates that will fit the tray.

7. It’s too hot! When the food finally arrives we’re all happy and relieved. All, except for the little toddler who can’t touch his food without burning his fingertips. As seconds pass by, his frustration grows and, frankly, I don’t blame him. Seeing food and not eating, while being hungry is a torture! Solution? At least, don’t heat up toddler’s plates. It can also be put in the fridge or freezer for one minute to cool down a notch.

8. Let women breastfeed at the table. Don’t roll your eyes, don’t comment and most certainly don’t ask them to do “it” in the toilet, under no circumstances ask them to leave. (Although I will admit women nursing half naked can be irritating).

9. Now, the most common mistake and the one I don’t understand. If having high chairs is obvious, why having a changing table isn’t? It is a great mystery to me. Where should I change my daughter’s diaper? On the dirty bathroom floor? On the super narrow counter the waiter offered? I can’t leave that diaper on – it would irritate my daughter’s skin, it would hurt her, it would cost me additional bepanthen tube, it would be disrespectful and the smell is probably annoying for everyone. Solution is very easy – get a changing table (if not having enough space is your excuse for not having it, consider wall mounted ones, for example this one from Roba).

Getting basics right is a good way to get you started. By basics I mean highchairs, delivering time, changing table and crayons. Each will give you one full fat star. Every other point from the list will grant you half star. Do you accept the challenge?

To be a super mega awesome restaurants for families with children you will have to do one more thing:

10. Kids corner. A place with toys, maybe a play kitchen set? A table to draw? It can be anything. It can be very small or very big, colorful or black and white. I don’t care, as long as it’s a place dedicated to my 2 year old daughter. Of course, the nicer and bigger the playing area, the better comments and better feedback to our parents-friends.

Dear parents,
What are your top kids friendly restaurants? Are there many in your area?
And what about those unfriendly, that you’d like to be friendly or friendlier?
Send them this blog post, share it on their Facebook wall! 

Let’s start our little revolution! 

Stop the bull***t

I’ve been looking for a job for quite some time now, writing motivation letters with a child on my lap. I’ve been through excitement (applying for 5 positions a day), disappointment and frustration. Applying for a job can be like a job in itself, especially as a mother. It’s exhausting!
To everyone responsible for hiring: employ mothers, you will benefit! Even those who decided to stay home for a year or two. Let me explain.
I have to admit I’m not a great fit for the job market in Geneva, with a law degree from Poland and experience not related to my education. But it’s not only that. I realized that being a mum, and the commitment I made to raise my daughter, is seen as me being lazy, wanting to relax, an easy way out.
How is it possible for professional agencies, HR personnel and even management to be so wrong?
On one of my interviews I was asked to explain the 3 year gap in my CV. The explanation is simple: I couldn’t find a job the few months after my last contract expired, I got pregnant, and had a rough 9 months of pregnancy. When my daughter was born it became clear to me that I want to spend time with her, at least a year. I started looking for a job when she was around 8 months old but have had no luck.
The young girl interviewing me was nodding, with what looked like understanding, but at the end asked: so you’ve not even done any volunteering since you had a child?
My jaw dropped. It’s very uncommon for me to have no answer at all. How to explain to a childless 20-something girl, who is climbing a ladder in a corporate world, that to volunteer I’d need proper childcare and for that I need to work and earn money. Last time I checked volunteering was unpaid…
I actually believe that being a mother has raised me to higher levels of every skill I had. I’ve always been good with planning, time management, logistics, organizing events small and big. And guess what? Being a mum requires me to practice all those skills daily. DAILY. No weekends, no sick leave, no vacation. I work all the freaking time, I don’t sit on the couch all day painting my nails, watching Coronation Street and Loose Women. I wish being a stay at home mum would mean couch and TV time at least once a week (Even just a lazy Sunday in bed would be great).
Instead of doing nothing I’m now a pro in logistics, prioritizing, budget planning, time management. I am not afraid of taking independent decisions, taking risks. I analyse risks and benefits in the blink of an eye when it comes to making decisions and dealing with choices. I can work in highly stressful and chaotic environment, I have ability to complete difficult tasks while concentrating on 10 other things at the same time and being interrupted every minute.
Problem-solver is my middle name. Don’t even get me started with multitasking. And this comes from a mother of one child only, imagine mums of two or more, or mums of two under two!
True, priorities change once we have children. A mum-worker might not always be able to stay at work till midnight. She might have to stay home to take care of her sick baby, BUT once she’s at work she’d be very efficient – no long coffee breaks, no wasting time on the internet. She knows how to use her time wisely. She cares about her job – if a mother is working she needs it (either financially or to keep her sane). She will finish everything on time to be able to leave on time. She also has her imagination on full speed, problem solving is her life. Expect creative thinking out of the box.
Does that sound like a bad employee?
Luckily I’ve met mums, who see my skills and know how to use them in a “professional manner”. Together we’re starting a big, exciting project. I am truly and deeply grateful to be on board! It’s such a great feeling to finally be surrounded by people who know that being a mother doesn’t make me less of a valuable employee. Sadly, the majority of men and big part of childless women won’t understand, won’t see these values. Isn’t it time for a change? We’re not in the 60s and it’s not Mad Men.
Stop the bullshit! Employ mothers!
*This post has been in draft folder for a quite a long time. When a friend posted this Glamour article, I thought I finally have to finish.
Whether you agree or disagree I’d love to hear your thoughts: here or on facebook.

Color sorting games

Lego, recycled materials, colors, smiles and focus.

Simple to set up color sorting games for young toddlers.

Days are getting wetter and colder. It’s getting darker each day earlier. Time for indoors fun and a bit of brain exercise! Color sorting games are great for tots! You can start with 18 month olds, teaching one or two colors a week. Don’t make a big deal out of it, just randomly name the colors of items you’re using, toys you currently play with, cars you’re passing by.

I’d move to color sorting games as soon as the child can recognize two colors. Games can get more complex for children who can name the colors, but you;ll have to wait for another post to see those. Today I’m bringing to you the simplest of games: for one all you need is Lego Duplo.

1. Recycled play-dough/formula containers and paint chips.

You simply just cut the lid to create a narrow slot and find something that will change the color of your container. If the label is still on, you can paint it. You can also do what I did – tape it with different colors of insulating tape. You can glue color paper, or use contact paper. Whatever works as long as the colors match your paint chips! Cut the paint chips so that they’re not too long for the containers (if you don;t have paint chips use colored paper). Mix the chips, place them in a bowl and ask your child to match and use the slot. That’s it. But you may be surprised how kids can get interested in that activity (not necessarily when you want them to).

2. Recycled containers and Lego Duplo.

Prepare containers as in previous activity except for the lid – you want need one. The challenge now is to match colored containers with Lego bricks of different sizes and shapes. Z was sitting with those cups for ages, just filling it with blue blocks, emptying and again.

3. Lego Duplo – the simplest way.

No crafting, no DIY. Only a Lego base-plate and assorted bricks. You may want to start with one shape in different colors and move it to the level of different sizes and shapes later. Attach one block of each color to the base. The task here is to build towers, each with different color. If your child can’t build with Duplo yet, let him show you were to attach the brick. Z learned how to attach new blocks quickly after we started playing that game (or maybe we haven/t used Lego enough earlier?).

My friend had a brilliant idea of using colored plastic bottles with same colored lids – color sorting and fine motor! I’d add putting a matching colored marble before closing the bottle. What are your favorite color sorting games?

Visit me on Facebook and share your tricks with others!

Tolerance part. 2

As parents we have to make 100s decisions every day,     100s occasions to be judged and criticized.

Breast vs bottle, nature vs C-section and vaccinations are medical-related topics that divide mothers in a modern world. But there are so many other aspects of parenting than just medicine. Unfortunately all those aspects divide parents even more every day, everywhere.
We’ve recently had a one week holiday with 3 other couples, all parents. We spent one evening talking about our parenting approaches and discovered that though we’ve known and liked each other for ages, grew up in similar environments, we believe in totally different things when it comes to children. The point of the conversation was not to point fingers, blame or list mistakes. Nobody wanted to drag anyone on their sides. It was just an exchange of views.
Basic questions were asked. How to raise your kids so that they’d respect their parents, how to treat them to gain their trust, what to do so they could see us-parents as friends/partners now and later in life. We talked about importance and levels of discipline, bedtime routines and eating habits.
We talked about how the way we were raised influences the kind of parents we become. How much of our parenting style is subconscious copying of what our mums and dads had done? How much of it is conscious? Are we able to identify our parents mistakes (or what we didn’t like) and not make them ourselves?
We have different approaches when it comes to our kids not wanting to be in a pram or in a car seat. Completely different solutions to make our kids good and healthy eaters. Completely different view on bedtime and nighttime. Should kids be our partners in everyday life from day 1. What kind of punishment is OK and when?
Well, each couple had different views but we all agreed that it all depends on so many factors: on who we are, on our children’s personalities, on our childhood, on reality we live in, on our birth and newborn experience etc.
There’s no 100% proof that one parenting model is better than the other. There is no recipe for a perfect parent and perfect child – I have no idea what that would even mean.
Judging other parents, criticizing them is simply unfair. We have no idea what we would have done in their situation, with their child. We are different, our kid is not the same as theirs, so solutions and tactics are different.  Accept and respect other parents’ choices, even if it means accepting CIO, even if it means accepting co-sleeping. Rather than judge we should be ready to hear each other out, to support and help each other feel comfortable and sure of their choice. Confident parents feel better about themselves and are happier.
Let other parents be themselves, let them follow their path. Modern society talks so much about racism, homophobia and other forms of hate and intolerance but forget about it when it comes to everyday life and less controversial groups in our society.
Interested in reading part 1? Go here.
Other parenting topics are placed in “parenthood” section.

Tolerance part 3

In past weeks I wrote about importance of respecting other people choices in their parenting life. About how we should respect their beliefs and stop judging. How scientific arguments are not the sole base of our decision-making process, that we all live different lives, are different and have different children, and thus we act differently in similar situations.

The conclusion for some readers was that nobody should interfere, comment or give unasked advice to parents.
Is that really what we want? Are we all so sure that we’re doing the right thing?

For the last 22 months, or more, I’ve received advice from friends and family. They all meant good only. Nobody intended to harm my daughter, nor me. Nobody meant to offend me. All they wanted was to help an expat mum struggling without daily help from her family.

Lots of times I argued, disagreed and felt treated like a “bad mother” (sic!), but waking up the next day I would realize they were actually right. Applying some of those advice really helped me and definitely has not harmed my daughter. There’s a lot of advice I wish I’d followed but haven’t. I also gave few unasked advice myself to my mum friends and helped few of them. I hope they didn’t feel offended. I had no intention of hurting them in any way.

So, is the world in which everybody cares only about their business, the world that we want to live in? It takes a village to raise a child, doesn’t it?

Wouldn’t it be better to accept comments and advice, let them in our home, think them through and then follow or throw away? Isn’t it better to remember that people want to help, not harm? That they have our best interest in heart and mind? Remembering that will make it easier for you to accept advice, even from strangers. When giving advice be ready to meet opposition, an argument. Respect this different choice and assure the parent that, of course, they know they’re situation best, they will do what they believe is best and you are just giving another point of view knowing you may be mistaken.

Respect and tolerance can work if they work both ways. People will interfere, will ask you to consider doing things differently if they see you struggle. They will do it, because they want to help, they don’t have a hidden agenda.
Even if you disagree say thank you and think it through. It doesn’t cost you a thing.

Beginner’s guide to childrens books

This is a post about how to get you and your child started. How to raise a book lover. This is a recipe for a great and fun quality time together. Reading is important for your child’s development. Reading is fun, reading is a great entertainment and boredom buster. Reasons are countless and there should be a separate, very long post listing all of them.

Children’s books take a lot of space and time in our home. Z loves her books, she loves reading together and she “reads” to her toys, especially to Iggle Piggle. I have been asked a lot how it is possible that she sits still listening to a story of 25 pages and then asks for another one. Part of that is, of course, her personality and her choice, she’s also not a very physically active toddler. Books hasn’t always been her favorite activity, there was a time when 5 pages long cardboard book was impossible to read. It took time, patience and consistency to get us where we are.

This is my know-how:

1. Day 1.
Yes, this is not a mistake. You can read to a newborn baby. Read out loud, your voice will have a calming effect. No children’s books at this stage – your current adult read will be best. Something you can enjoy.  Zosia was calmed down by one of the books by Oriana Fallaci – truly nothing you would read to a toddler or a preschooler.
Buy one or two black and white cardboard books with very simple and large images. These are the colors newborns and young babies see most clearly, because of the high contrast. We had two little b&w books: one on the changing table, the other either in a pram or cot. You will be surprised how quickly they start to look at these pictures! Your role is to describe them, talk about, make up simple stories about these objects.

2. Grabbing and page turning.
The moment a baby can grab is a good time to start playing with cloth books – easy to wash, safe to chew and generally indestructible. Turning pages is a great activity on its own. Simple pictures, short sentenced stories, different textures and sound effects (no electronics but sounds related to the fabric) – this is what you’re looking for.

3. Almost reading.

Books with elements that can be taken out, puzzle-like and sound books. We fell in love with that series of sound books – thanks to them Z can imitate and recognize 5 species of birds and lots of animals and we’re moving to musical instruments now. Generally you want books that a child can play with, do something with. I guess books with elements to touch would go to this group, too although I have to admit we never had any success with those.

4. Story time
Short-sentenced short stories. Usually not more than one sentence per page. It’s best if they rhyme. Find a genre you will enjoy, because you may end up reading one story 30 times a day. Some kids will enjoy it as early as at 6 months, some at 8 months, some way past their first birthday, some around 2nd birthday. It depends on a child and on how much you read. Don’t expect your always running kid to sit still for 10 minutes but keep trying. Read with funny voices, they have to see you enjoy it, too. If they want to turn the page before you finish the sentence – let it be. You can even just talk about pictures and not read the book. Find whatever is best for your tandem.

If you notice your child is mostly interested in pictures, and points to different objects on the pictures, try big format picture books with lots of details and hidden stories. We love them here and spend hours exploring the illustrations.
Slowly move to longer and more complicated books. Remember that sometimes it’s not the length of the book but pictures or the story that will not interest your child. If he has a favorite cartoon buy books about that character. We have a big collection of In the Night Garden and Peppa Pig books. Don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t want to read a particular book, he will eventually ask for it himself.

If you’re very artsy craftsy you may enjoy creating felt quiet books for your child. They are good for any age, they can present simple pictures, whole stories, involve an activity. For an explanation go here.

Don’t pay too much attention to suggested age frame for each book. Each child is different, you will no what they need. Z is not 2 years old yet and some books we read are marked “4+” and she still enjoys those marked “1+”.
As long as your child enjoys reading, as long as those books have words there is really nothing to discuss.

One last important bit. Children learn by copying adults. If you don;t read, or don;t even have passion for books it may be difficult to convince your children to read. It’s like being told by a smoker how bad smoking is.

Was that helpful? Is reading at your home important? Do you struggle convincing your kids to enjoy books? Share your thoughts!