Five Activities To Increase Self Esteem in Preschoolers

The preschool years (3-5) is such a big developmental period for the brain.  

Kids are learning about self-concept, how they fit in socially, who they are as an individual (that they even are an individual), what roles they play. They’re learning about who they are based on the reactions and feedback from others.  It’s a crucial time period that will help boost (or hinder) their emotional IQ and set them up for a strong foundation before they head off to their first years of elementary school.  

It’s important to nourish this growth period in and to help make them kindergarten ready.  And when I say “kindergarten ready” it’s in no way whatsoever related to academics. I make a face whenever someone mentions anything close to forcing kids to learn to read before kindergarten.  I groan at the Crayola kits aimed at “preschool readiness”. 

When I say “kindergarten readiness” what I mean is asking ourselves how well adjusted our child is with being left without us for hours? How do they adjust to a new environment?  Can they balance, can they pinch stuff? Reading and writing begins at the core of the body and then moves outwards, to gross motor skills and finally, to fine motor skills. But a kid can’t learn to write if they can’t pinch or track things with their eyes. A kid can’t concentrate in school if they are worried about when they’ll be picked up. 

So here are 5 activities to not only boost self confidence in your child, but also help them get kindergarten ready. And I’ve referenced two studies/articles at the end for more reading on this subject. 

Proprioceptive Activities 

When a child has sensory integration issues they can take on unsupervised risky behavior, act clumsy, shy away from others for fear of being touched, or too fidgety to sit still.  These symptoms of a possible sensory disorder might cause a child to have low self esteem. One type of activity that could be useful involves proprioception. Proprioception is the ability for a person to recognize where their limbs are in space.  Doing activities that incorporate gross motor movements, like pushing or pulling heavy objects, are proprioceptive activities. At home, school or a child care center can encourage proprioceptive activities by having the right tools, like wheelbarrows, shovels (big and small), and carts with ropes for pulling.  By allowing children to move around rocks, pulling the cart, digging holes, the children are engaging their big muscles and able to be more aware of their limbs as they move about.

Additional activities could be carrying water for plants, pulling weeds, or helping to pour mulch onto the garden beds.

Proprioceptive activities allow a child to feel like they’ve accomplished some hard and helps a child to develop their gross motor skills, which is something that’s required before they develop fine motor skills.

Risky Play

I mentioned unsupervised risky behavior above. Allowing supervised risky play can greatly benefit the self esteem of a child.  Things like climbing trees, jumping off big rocks, or other high things; balancing across a log or some tires, are all risky play activities.  Most schools and child care centers can’t allow a child to climb trees, however at home, moms can set up an environment that allows for some risk taking. 

At child care kids can climb shorter ladders or step stools.  Jumping off high things can also include landing into something soft, or sliding down a pole. But taking risks could also be using tools that could cause injury like scissors or other sharp objects.  Children in Montessori schools are encouraged to sew, knit, and cut food for meal preparation, under supervision.

Risky play has been acknowledged by Norwegian and Australian teachers as being something that increases children’s self esteem, among other things like problem solving and developing motor skills. (Little, 2012)

Just like proprioceptive work, risky play helps children become more aware of their bodies, improves their physical well being, and allows children to experiment with how far they can do a thing before they get scared or feel like it’s unsafe.  Kids should be able to push their limits instead of being forced to live in a bubble of over-protection.

Traditional educational locations probably won’t be able to allow children to take on the more riskier play, but moms, forest schools and natural schools can allow it.

Risky play doesn’t just mean physical risk.  What about a game with friends; where a child takes that chance of not being picked for a team, or they get pointed at for “being it”, or they are the first to lose?  Social risks also increase self-esteem in a child as long as it doesn’t escalate to teasing or bullying and everyone seems OK with the gentle ribbing from their peers.

Chores and Assigned Duties

Self esteem enhancing activities for preschoolers doesn’t have to be all outside.  At home and within a classroom there are maintenance items that must be regularly completed. What better way to help kids gain self esteem and the adults to gain a helping hand than to give kids a sense of ownership and responsibility for cleaning up after themselves and serving themselves lunch and snacks? 

Of course, the tools used for meal time and cleaning up should be age appropriate. Smaller pitchers can be used for pouring milk, as well as small tongs to pick items of fresh food. Children can be asked to set the table and clean up their messes after they are finished. Students can be assigned to wash the tables each day as well. 

Chores in general are a fantastic way to give kids a sense of belonging and contribution to their family.  In addition, chores teach discipline and delayed gratification, gratitude and prevents entitlement. Many times I have heard stories of children going off to college and not knowing how to scramble eggs or work the washing machine. Allowing kids to do things for themselves through household chores helps to prep them to become capable adults. 

Group Activities 

Group activities can also foster higher self esteem in preschoolers.  Because a sense of familiarity fosters friendships, allowing children to work and play together, to gain a sense of familiarity, will increase their likelihood of becoming friends.  (Curry & Johnson, 1990) Not only will friendships add a sense of security to a child, but they will also gain a sense of self-concept by being able to compare themselves with other children. Preschool students can work in groups on a project, arts and crafts, play time or a game.  The time will allow them to get to know each other and discover sameness and differences.  

Imaginative Play

Imaginative play has been shown to let children assume roles of power and to gain self confidence through those roles. (Curry, 1990) Whether they are Batman, a caregiver, a doctor or the captain of a ship – pretend play can allow children to assume a role and to behave within the rules of that role and boundaries of that role.  Having to behave within a child-defined role can help a child to also learn self control, to take turns, language skills, and can enhance peer relationships. (Curry, 1990)

Problem solving through dramatic imaginative play allows children to face a problem without actually having any harm come to them and helps them to understand the perspective of their peers. 

I hope you found at least one idea that you can implement today to help your little one gain some self confidence, or just keep it going at maximum levels. I’d love to hear/read if you used one of my tips or something else you did. Join me on the HPF Facebook page and tell me all about it.  

Until next time, Screensavers. 

References

Curry, Nance E. & Johnson, Carl N. (1990) Beyond Self Esteem: Developing a genuine sense of human value. Retrieved November 22, 2019 from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED326316.pdf

Little, Helen (2012) Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Volume 13 Number 4 2012, Early Childhood Teachers’ Beliefs about Children’s Risky Play in Australia and Norway. Retrieved November 22, 2019 from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2304/ciec.2012.13.4.300

Showers Count As Self Care, Right?

Hello, my Screen Savers, today I’d like to chat about my daily shower ritual. It’s a self care ritual that I love to do but there’s specifics about my water temperature preferences.

Each evening, after the kids go to bed (and sometimes twice on the weekends) I like to take my shower.  I do admit that sometimes at 5:00 a.m. when everyone is still asleep, it’s nice to be able to shower in peace.

I like my showers hot so I typically put it on a nice average temperature, known as “Satan’s tongue”, before I’ll even dare to step foot in the tub.

The heat is meant to scare my husband into thinking there’s a demon sauna in our house so he won’t fucking bother me but for some reason he’s not yet been scared away. “Hey babe…?” he hollers from the kithen.

My eye roll is huge. Couldn’t you have asked me whatever it is before or after the damn shower? Whhhyyy now?

Why is it that when I couldn’t care less if I was surrounded by a pack of crazy shit-throwing monkeys, that not one monkey is around? And when I want to be naked, alone, and enjoying the limited privacy in our one-bathroom house, fucking EVERYBODY NEEDS ME RIGHT THAT MINUTE?

And then, because we’re trying to talk over the sound of the water, our conversation reverberates up through the floor and sends a ripple into the space time balance where my sleeping kids sense a disturbance in the force. We can hear them gallop down the stairs because they “have to go to the bathroom” when really they just want to hear what fascinating boring conversation the adults are having.

At this point I’m almost out of hot water before I’ve actually had any time to myself. And I’m frustrated AF.

This was supposed to be my self care, damn it! I was supposed to escape into the bathroom, pretend the kitty litter box wasn’t there, and wash all my troubles away with the blessed sounds of the tranquil water flowing over my body. Just like a goddamn rain forest!

And then the whole thing is ruined because my husband is mad that I’m mad and now both kids are arguing over who has to go back up the stairs first (as if we’d forget the first one exists while the other one is still at the bottom of the stairs and tell the last one to stay and par-tay!)

I read an article at tinybuddha.com that said “Self-care means pausing and paying attention.” the author brings up the fact that self care means taking care of yourself. That it doesn’t necessarily mean escaping to the spa for a massage or, in my case, a shower (but definitely not a lovely soak in the tub for me, because that never happens anymore. I can’t get my ass unstuck from the sides of the bathtub without giving myself a body hickey.) The article mentions reflecting on the day and sending yourself to a time-out, if it’s necessary.

If only! I’d love a time-out to think about what a naughty lady I’ve been…while everyone else behaves themselves on the other side of the door.

But between the job and the husband who can’t seem to find the spoons (the real ones, not the metaphorical ones) and the kids who fight… And guess who gets the majority of the chores for running the household?

That wasn’t a complete sentence up there. I can’t even finish a grammatically correct thought.

Anyway, back to the TinyBuddha.com article.

The article gives the impression that taking a shower isn’t enough for self care and that it’s simply escapism and it’s not enough. What’s important, according to Tiny Buddha, is to truly reflect on oneself and take necessary corrective action, take responsibility for oneself. It’s mindset work and models and figuring out why you keep doing the things you don’t want to do.  It’s making dinner when you don’t want to because you have to do the hard things even if they suck ass.

Reflect on myself?  Hmpf. Interesting idea. I feel like that’s easier said than done. After having kids I find myself far from focused and definitely not in a state of mind to have any ease of reflection. And that sentence was a run on. On the best days my brain is mush. I’m tired by 8:00 pm and then get a second wind until about 11:00pm then berate myself all night for not going to bed by 9:00 pm.

Is that reflection?

Or, if I am trying to fall asleep and run my day through my head and beat myself up for that wrong thing I said to one of the kids out of anger or frustration? Or the bill I forgot to pay?

Or the bill I “forgot” to pay.

Let’s take a cue from Brooke Castillo, one of my favorite life coaches and follow the model.

C
T
F
A
R

I’m going to start with the “F” line (you knew I’d go there) for FEELING.  What am I feeling?

Anger.

We’re only allowed one word here.  If I were to have more than one feeling then I’d need to write another model for it.

And then I cam work backwards from there to THOUGHT and then CIRCUMSTANCE.

What’s the thought that leads to the feeling? I might not know.  You might not know either.  But just put in the first thing that you think.  It’s not about getting it “right”.  There’s no “right” in the model because you can do 100+ models for just one feeling alone.

T: I shouldn’t have to ask my husband to help me with this shit.

What’s the circumstance that leads to that thought?  What factual thing is happening that makes me have the thought:

C: I’m doing the household chores alone

And then we work down from the F line.

ACTION. What action occurs because of my feeling of anger?

A: Suffer in silence aka “sit in my dirty diaper”.

RESULT. And the result of that action is?

R: The work gets done but I resent my household.


So, in summary, the model looks like this:

C: I’m doing the household chores alone.
T: I shouldn’t have to ask my husband to help me with this shit.
F: Angry
A: Suffer in silence aka “sit in my dirty diaper”.
R: The work gets done but I resent the rest of the house.


The reality is that those showers, on the rare occasion that I’m actually ALONE, are the only time I get to think about nothing. Those are the times I can dream about my goals and not be “on”. I don’t have to be a mom, a wife, a coworker, a public servant or a pet owner. For that 20,30, sometimes longer minutes, I don’t have to worry about anyone else because I’m naked. And I’m wet. And there’s nothing I can do about those worries when I’m naked and I’m wet. And I’m vulnerable to just be with me.

So is showering self care? You’re damn right it is.

And I’ll tell you how it goes (when I’m not interrupted).

It’s a small luxury, the hot hot shower. A bit of ecstasy so tiny, but I know that the small things are hard to come by right now.

It goes on for about 20 minutes like that. If it’s a hair washing day then I’ll drop the temp to shampoo and condition. I’ll scrub up with soap after and usually brush my teeth in there too.

By the time I get out I look like an overripe tomato. Red, wrinkly, round.

The time I’ve had has allowed my brain time to process the day, to wind down so I’m not thinking of all the things while I try to get to sleep.

I’ll put my hair up in a wrap to maintain the curls and then head to bed with PJs on. At this point I’m pretty exhausted from the day, mentally, and my body is ready to go down. I can only hope that at this point my Future Self is not an idiot and doesn’t decide to get on social media for a “quick minute”, losing all that sleep momentum.

That’s my mom self care.  Every day.

I hope that whatever self care quickie you get today gives you some relief to get a good rest and kick ass tomorrow.

Have a terrific week, my Screen Savers.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Basement

You’re not going to find photos of a beautiful home on my IG feed.  My home is a disaster in one room or another at any given moment. As it was when I ask the kids to go clean up their room.  But sometimes “cleaning up” isn’t the solution when there’s too much shit to KEEP organized. Sometimes the solution is to get rid of crap.  

Continue reading “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Basement”

Declutter to Stop the Emotional Speedball

Speedballing:  mixing heroin and cocaine together and shooting up.  

The effect is “supposed” to give the feeling of a euphoric high without the “negative” side effects like anxiety and heart palpitations.  But the danger in the combination is that the user may believe they have a higher tolerance than they actually do and take more drugs and lethally risk an overdose.

Organizing clutter is like taking an emotional speedball.

Let’s assume clutter is the cocaine in this study and organizing is the heroin.

Retail therapy can act like a drug.  It’s not as deadly as cocaine. No. But creates a dopamine high effect. And if one can snag a deal or a great sale, the high is even bigger.  So the more a person buys, acquiring all that stuff, can give that similar high. But the high doesn’t last. In fact, all that clutter over time can cause depression.

On the other side of it, organizing can have a cathartic relaxing feeling like heroin. We’ve spent hours on Pinterest to find the best way to organize, visited the dollar store for buckets and tension rods; baskets and stickers.  The stuff is put away and we can see the floor again. Yay! So glad that shit is out of our way now. We can sip some wine and read a book.

So we’ve got our stuff, cleaned it up, and can now go about our day.  Right?

Probably not.

Here’s why, my own example. I’m a total thrift hunter.  I love thrift stores. Love the outlet thrift store even more. I’ll spend hours at the store with my latex gloves and eye for stuff.  Because I’m totally going to use it someday. Then, when I get home, it all sits in bags in my living room. The high of the hunt is gone by the time I get home and I don’t want to bother with putting it all away.  My living room will look like crap for a couple weeks and I’ll snap at people until I get tired of the mess. Eventually I’ll rage clean to make it look decent again.

I’ll stuff the crap into closets, cabinets, and drawers. And I can still close everything. So I’m all good.

But the clutter is still there.  

THEN I think to myself “look how much room I have!” and “I have such a “clean” house!” so then off I go to the store to get more stuff.  

It’s fucking madness, is what it is.

I've been organizing and decluttering for years now
Gray hairs! All that crap just messes with your head.

Or, I’ll have a huge decluttering spree of all the shit I’ve bought in the last three years and then a couple weeks later, to blow off my boredom (because there’s nothing to clean and I need to find a way to spend my time) I’ll hit the thrift store to get that high again.

It takes a few weeks, but I keep going through the cycle (and I bet you do too) and then wonder why I would rather sit and watch TV.  I ignore the clutter until it pisses me off, rage organize until it’s clean and then get more crap.

Organizing clutter isn’t the solution.

Wait! Let’s go back to Pinterest for a quick moment.

Pinterest is an enabling asshole to those of us who already have too much shit. Because we don’t have THAT credenza. Or, we don’t have THAT knick knack.  And when we do get THE THING, there’s no room to put it or we don’t want to pull everything out of the closet to find the other things that would go with it and so we just shove the thing we bought into the closet that can’t quite close anymore and bow to clean all this up this weekend and before we know it there’s 100 home decorating magazines that we hate because it’s just full of ads anyway.

The solution isn’t to organize better. It’s not a bigger house either.

Dude, a bigger house to fit all that clutter would be a terrible idea!

The solution is to cut the emotional and visual drugs from our lives and get rid of shit.  To clear away the disorder and chaos we are creating for ourselves.

But why am I bringing all of this up on a blog about slower parenting? Well, it’s likely that with all the overwhelming demands in your life that the state of your castle is turning more into a labyrinth and you’d like to tell Jareth to suck a fat cigar.  We know that it’s difficult to concentrate on our goals of creating a calm space for our families when we’re being distracted by goblins in the maze.

Clutter is a goblin in the battle against entitlement and it’s a goblin managed by purging. (I’m not talking about hoarding here. Hoarding involves Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’m talking about persons stuck in a habit cycle that they would like to break.)

If you have kids with ADHD,

clutter can intensify their symptoms.

In addition, clutter can affect children negatively.  Children need a routine and to know what they can expect will happen throughout their day. If there’s a recurring clutter-to-organized cycle going on, their sense of stability will be disturbed and could lead to behavior problems.  If you have kids with ADHD then this can intensify their symptoms.

Now, you don’t have to be all proper and perfect, and Tidy Up.  

If the idea of pulling up a dumpster to your driveway is giving you anxiety right now then don’t do it. You’re not ready for that level.  Your level is zero right now. I’d say that my level is currently about a six. I’m not ready for the dumpster either.

You’ve got to figure out what you can do that’s stupid easy in order to build that habit of saying goodbye.  So start with something like clothes that are stained or that don’t fit. Or notebooks full of pages of notes that you know damn well you’ll never read again.  Find your zero. Get totally comfortable with that level before you level up.

Maybe you’re already above zero like I am and you’ve found decluttering fairly easy like I did, until now. Now, you’re at the hard part.  Now, there’s things that you are finding truly difficult to part with. Maybe you need a break. I’ve taken a six month break since dumping half the basement of my things.  That decluttering event was pretty draining and made me feel tied up in knots.

So take a break. But when we take these breaks we have to swear an oath to ourselves not to fill up the space again. We have to swear off retail as therapy.  And if we can’t on our own, then we need a coach or a professional therapist. You know yourself and the lies you’ll tell yourself deep down.  You know what level help you’ll need.

And if you need a sponsor of sorts, tag me on IG @hitchpitchflip or use the hashtag #speedballdeclutter   For our emotional sanity, we owe it to ourselves and we owe to our kids to show them that MORE stuff is not the solution to how we’re feeling.  I’ll be decluttering right along with you.

Let’s get it done, get this crap out of our lives and our kids’ lives.

How I Got My Kids to Happily Eat Their Vegetables Without the Drama

If you can’t get your kids to eat their vegetables, there’s hope.  

**I once had a teenager vomit into their hand at a restaurant because they had gotten themselves so worked up about having to eat some broccoli.***

 So, yeah, you’re not alone.

Today, both of my kids are adventurous eaters at 7 and 9 years old.  My son will eat onions (but only sautéed). My daughter, Abalone, loves Brussels sprouts.  We called them “fairy leaf balls” when she was young. Because toddlers can be assholes with anything that might be good for them and if I called the Brussels sprouts she would surely know we were trying to kill her. When they were very young, Abalone refused to eat her vegetables without My Mechanic first taking a bite.  And I couldn’t understand why one kid was fine with trying new things and the other wasn’t.

I was sure we were doomed forever to repeat the broccoli vomit incident but it turns out that Abalone has a disorder called Apraxia of Speech and her oral muscles and tongue had a very hard time manipulating food to be able to chew correctly.  Once we got that figured out and she started speech therapy, we were able to convince the kids that trying new things is a really cool thing and mom swears she’s not trying to poison you.

Common Mistakes

Let’s look at things you might want to stop, or start, doing to get those future foodies off on their  adventurous journey.

Here’s what you should stop doing:

  1. Thinking they’re too old to like vegetables. Let’s put the assumptions away for a minute.
  2. Making a big deal about eating their veggies. We’re going to be matter of fact, but also fun. But there’s no Men In Black coming to kidnap them as soon as they take a bite. When something is “good for them” it’s surely Mom Code for a conspiracy.
  3. Having a lack of patience.
  4. Begging them to eat.

Here’s what you should start doing:

  1. Introducing a variety of colors and textures (assuming your child doesn’t have a medical condition that they can’t eat certain things).
  2. Change the format.
  3. Modeling Behavior.
  4. Encourage membership into the “No Thank You Bite” Club.

Start when they’re young but don’t freak out if they’re 12 and hate tomatoes.

Building an appreciation for vegetables when babies are new to solid foods is the best practice, but you’re not too late if they are in elementary school or older.  The tactics and tips I’ve learned can be used for 2 year olds through 12 and beyond.

When it’s time to introduce solids to your baby, start with the easy to eat stuff.  Let’s not force adult food on a person who is growing in a world that is one giant lab experiment to them.  But once they’ve got a handle on solid foods, mush up other things for them to try. And if they hate it? Well, this is all brand new to them.  We offered a variety of foods to them many, many times. So much that Monkey stopped eating eggs for about a year unless he was at Grandma’s house (obviously Grandma wasn’t trying to poison him). I liked to follow the baby solid eating schedule at: Momtastic

Don’t Push The Issue.

Sometimes just backing off the pressure can help you and your picky eater be more open to hearing each other.  Begging a child to eat or getting angry at them will likely make them more likely to question your motives and believe you’re trying to poison them.

Have a conversation with your older kids about what they don’t like about eating vegetables. Is it the texture?  The flavor? The color – I mean, sometimes kids don’t want to eat GREEN food. If they are old enough to communicate their concerns, then work within their boundaries.  Maybe they really hate broccoli but they love kale chips – hey, it’s a leafy green, work with what you’ve got, Mom.

Sometimes a taste experiment is in order.  I convinced my then four-year-old Monkey to try a tiny bit of raw onion and then a tiny bite of a caramelized onion.  He loved the cooked onion. And since then he’s been open to trying onions in other forms. You can try a raw vs. cooked experiment on all sorts of things.  Tomatoes, broccoli, carrots.

Abalone only likes raw, crunchy carrots, but not cooked carrots. “They’re too mushy,” she says.

Monkey can’t stand Brussels sprouts.  He takes a couple of No Thank You Bites and we usually leave it at that.

I’m willing to work within their boundaries if it encourages them to try new foods, even if it’s just one bite.

Be Consistent.

None of these tips will work if you only try them once and decide they won’t work.  Get 100 no’s before you give up on that particular food. Your kids also need to know that you’re going to consistently offer new foods and expect them to at least take a bite of those foods.  

Modeling Behavior.

I hate cottage cheese and most fish.  But every year I still try some cottage cheese and the fish I don’t like to see if my taste buds have changed their mind.  Still a big fat nope, but at least I’m willing to try. Modeling the behavior that you are willing to try foods that you might not like is another tactic to get your small humans to try new things.  Another modeling example is doing your damned best to not say “I don’t like…..” such and such food. They hear you and will follow your lead. My kids know that I don’t like certain foods now, but I’ve also established a base line that they try new foods, they know what the expectations are in the house when it comes to meal time.

Grow Your Own.

Kids are so much more willing to try a new food when they’ve nurtured it from a seed or seedling and watched it grow right in their own yard (or balcony).  

And growing your own food is the perfect opportunity to create another taste experiment.  Let them eat a tomato from the store and then another from the garden. Let them experience the texture difference and taste difference between the two.

Click here for a post I wrote about growing food with your kids.

The “No Thank You Bite” Club.

And sometimes a kid would test the crazy scale on me when one week they’d love something and the next they’d refuse to eat it. My solution was “You have to take one bite.” And they’d cry and whine and throw their heads back. And I’d ignore them. And eventually they took that bite.

Membership into the “No Thank You Bite” Club is easy.  If your child doesn’t want to eat their vegetables, or any “weird” food, encourage them to try just one bite.  We call it a “No Thank You Bite”. We say, “OK, you don’t have to eat all of it. But you do need to take a no thank you bite.”  Once they take their No Thank You Bite, I say thank you and drop it. After a few times that they’ve been offered this food and taken their No Thank You Bite I will then encourage them to take a second No Thank You Bite, eventually getting to however many bites as they are old.  And if they genuinely don’t like something, well then one No Thank You Bite is all they will ever get to and we offer the things they do like, more often.

The “No Thank You Bite” Club is not an optional membership.  It is a requirement in our house but I don’t beg them to try it.  The rule is, you take a no thank you bite. That’s my expectation as their mom and I don’t mess around.  And if they refuse to even take a no thank you bite, then they start with their veggies next time, with nothing else on the plate, until they take that bite.  There’s no drama, I don’t beg, I don’t bother them over and over. If they ask if they can have anything else it’s , “Sure, as soon as you take that no thank you bite.”  And they might huff and puff. I ignore it and happily eat my dinner.

Harsh? They eat their veggies, don’t they? And the veggies they eat are veggies they’ve told me they like. I’m not going to never ever cook Brussels sprouts for Abalone just because Monkey doesn’t like them.

(Monkey ate four Brussels sprouts just the night before I published this post. Apparently I cooked it how it likes it? Huh, no different than any other time.)

Change the Format.

Sometimes texture or visual aversions are why a child won’t eat their vegetables and changing the format of how the vegetables are presented is your only Mom option.  These can also be called Tricky Tactics. Here’s some Tricky Tactics you might want to try:

  1. Put the veggies into a casserole
  2. Make a smoothie and stuff some spinach into a protein shake or some carrots into juiced fruit. (leave the pulp because it’s good for them. Frozen bananas are my secret ingredient)
  3. Cut things up really small if larger pieces are an issue.
  4. Mix the good with the bad.  They like carrots but aren’t so fond of broccoli? Mix them together when offered.
  5. Offer just veggies, first, as the only thing on their plate.
  6. Just make shit up!  This is when you call Brussels sprouts “Fairy Leaf Balls” or sprinkle some “Magic Cheese” (parmesan) on their veggies.

We’re trying to get the ball rolling, to get them willing to try new foods.  If that means juggling your Fairy Balls around on the plate then do it. Sometimes you gotta make it fun and other times you have to just say to yourself, “OK, no big deal, we’ll keep offering the healthy stuff”.  

But don’t ever just throw up your hands and say “Well they refuse to eat so I just don’t offer it anymore!”  That’s the exact thing you should NOT do. That’s when you get a teenager vomiting into their hands at a restaurant because, “OH NO!  BROCCOLI!! I’ll surely be poisoned!”

Why Your Dirty Kids Are Just Fine

Your dirty kids (and my dirty kids) are just fine.

I mean, how many times have I said, “Wash your face. Wait, WTF is that on your face?  You know!?  I don’t even want to know.”

How many times have you asked your kid what on earth is smeared from the corner of their mouth up towards their ear?

How many times have you licked your fingers and reached out to clean off whatever dirty spot they’ve got on their face? 

If your kids are like my kids then you know the feeling of wondering what’s on the floor, what’s on their face, and what’s on the couch?  I’ve seen mine plod through the kitchen and leave globs of goose poop along the way. Thank goodness for laminate floors.

Dirt Happens All Year

During the summer my dirty kids have perma-stains from their knees and elbows, down.  During the fall their shoes and clothes are covered in leaf dander and puddle smut.

OMG – and the reaction from Monkey when we ask him to wash up. He takes the biggest offense when we suggest he go wash his face. It’s as if the fun would wash away and fall the drain if he were to clean it off.

“No, Mom. I don’t want to” he says.

“Yeah, Mom! We want to stay dirty forever!” echos Abalone. 

Screw it. They need all the outdoors they can get, even if that means the outside stays in their hair overnight. (But they WILL clean up the goose crap.)

Here’s why I don’t care if they’re dirty for longer than a minute:

  • Dirt is healing.  There’s microbes in the soil that have been studied to have an antidepressant chemical.
  • The sensory stimulation of jumping in puddles and into piles of leaves,digging holes, and squishing in the mud has strong proprioceptive benefits. Check out Gardening With Kids for more info on proprioception.
  • With winter on the way, we northerners are going to lose sight of the dirt soon when snow covers the ground.  Why not let them enjoy their fun before the ground turns into an ice block?
  • Studies have also shown that exposure to small amounts of bacteria found in the soil can boost a child’s immune response to help prevent diseases as they age.

Monkey learned to ride his bike in a rainstorm. He didn’t care that he was all wet and that the rain was sliding down his forehead into his eyes.  He had just discovered something new he could do and the gross motor sensory processing was off the charts for him. He was a four year old on a mission and high on life in those couple of hours, there was no way I’d take that joy from him.

Sensory Play for Dirty Kids

Abalone got painted by her brother when she was about two. They’d gotten a hold of Monkey’s markers and by the time I realized how quiet it was they both came out to show me their masterpieces. Both wore just underwear and were covered, face to feet, in colors. So many colors.  And their faces lit up so big when they came out to show me all the work they had done. Nope, no way would I steal that joy. (I only wish they could work together now as quietly as they did back then.)

I’m pretty sure they’ve been covered on their hands and face with automotive fluids, and grease, when they help My Mechanic look under the hood and fix our cars.  He’s dirtier than they are and he doesn’t wash up.

Eh, Let Them Stay Dirty

Mostly, if they aren’t at risk for the Blue Haired people calling The Department Of Making You Sad, the only time I worry about them being dirty is if its on their hands and I don’t want pathogens being ingested, or, you know, poop.  Bodily fluids have to be cleaned up immediately.

Adults Should Get Dirty Too

Before I go:  Once, when I was gardening and using my whole body to mix up some bales of compost and potting soil (because there was a lot of it) we got some rain unexpectedly and it came down hard.  This was in the middle of the last California drought, probably about 2013, and I saw my tiny 5-gallon buckets under each gutter just overflowing and splashing about.  I knew right away that I needed in on that action. I stood up and moved the closest bucket out of my way and stood under the gutter. I let the rain from our dirty roof pour down my head. It was amazing.  I’ll admit that I’m weird but I had fun with my own grown-up sensory play that day. And I think you should go out and get dirty too.

Tell me you’ve let your kids get, and stay, dirty.  What’s your hard line on allowing dirty kids? What about you?  What’s your dirtiest memory? (You’ll have to understand that if you think I mean x-rated that your comment will so totally get deleted.)

Trust me, your kids can stay dirty for a little bit.

How Our Kids Get Better Sleep

Last month Abalone had her annual well-check visit with her pediatrician.  We see the Doc every 3-6 months for a variety of reasons but mostly to reevaluate our tactics with dealing with both kids’ ADHD. Abalone getting better sleep turned out to be our top priority discussed during this visit.

 

One of the things we discussed was Abalone’s current place of residence in “La La Unicorn Land”.  At school, her teacher told me that a couple of weeks ago it took Abalone two hours to write her name, date, and three things she was planning to work on in her journal for the day.  The behaviorist observed A for a day and she noticed that A frequently stands in the middle of the room, not really looking at anything, sort of in her own head.

In addition, one of the problems at home is that she will talk and sing to herself for two hours after going to bed.  This has been a regular problem since before she could form sentences. She would her replay her day and we’d hear a lot of “Nuh-ah, Da-Dee.” from her room as she mumbled and grumbled about whatever barbaric treatment a two-year old could take from the word “no”.

At The Appointment

The Doc and I have a special relationship.  She knows when she sees “Wilferd” on the appointment list that there will be lots of eyebrow raising and joke cracking.  She walked into this visit and the first thing out of my mouth was “Did ya miss me?” She totally did.

 

But she also set my ass straight.  She reminded me that both kids need better sleep and that the best time they learn all the stuff from the day is when they sleep (because that’s when new information is seared into their neurons).  We were both reluctant to up Abalone’s medication dosage because she is nearing the top limit of the dosing amounts for her age/weight and her appetite is already suffering. And because her sleep quantity AND quality suck ass, that perhaps her ADHD symptoms are being amplified from that suckitude as well.

So we decided to tackle the sleep issue first and evaluate the quantity AND the quality of sleep Abalone (both kids, actually) is getting. Then we would reevaluate if upping her medication dosage is something we need to do.

Quantity Of Sleep

Both kids are sent to bed at 8:00 p.m. and wake-up time on school days is 6:00 a.m.  Monkey will fall asleep fairly quickly, let’s say in about 15 minutes. That gives him 9.75 hours of sleep.  But, Abalone’s sleep pattern of 10:00 p.m. (remember, she talks to herself in bed until then) to 6:00 a.m. is only 8 hours.  A child her age needs a minimum of 9 hours sleep.  And because she has ADHD, more sleep is necessary.

Quality of Sleep

This is where it gets dicey.  Monkey has FOMO to the max. It’s so bad that even in the dead of night if his sister gets up to use the bathroom, so does he.  If she gets up because of a bad dream or feeling sick, so does he. According to Monkey, Abby has to go upstairs to bed first because her room is closer.  In reality he doesn’t want her to get an imaginary extra hug or to stay up 30 seconds later than he. The luxuries she would surely receive in the four steps behind him up the stairs would be unjust, indeed. At 6:00 a.m. he is wide awake and ready to start the day.  He quickly deteriorates within the first hour if he doesn’t get his meds, but he has always woken up this early. You can set a watch by Monkey’s morning wake up.

 

Abby frequently wakes because….well I don’t know why.  Because “ADHD”? That’s the only explanation I have. One night she could sleep to the zombie apocalypse.  The next she can hear monsters under her window outside when the wind farts. Her patterns are unpredictable and random and frustrating.  When she finally wakes, she wakes up with dark circles under her eyes and if it’s the weekend we let her sleep until 9:30 a.m.

I am regularly amazed at how two kids, both with ADHD, could manifest that disorder so differently.

Here’s the “Better Sleep Plan” we hatched:

Bedtime Routine

Doc told me hands down that my lack of a bedtime routine was no good.  I figured once elementary school started that sort of thing wasn’t necessary.  Again, I was reminded that ADHD doesn’t work that way. Better quality sleep and ADHD definitely don’t work that way. She didn’t totally care what I did, as long as we started about an hour before bedtime by turning off all screen time.  From there I could put in getting ready for tomorrow, putting on jammies, taking a bath, reading, cuddling, talking about our day, whatever. We agreed that an 8:00 p.m. bedtime was good. So the routine would need to start at 7:00 p.m.

Parent Coaching

Periodically, when Abalone wants to co-sleep, she needs to be coached and reminded to go to sleep.  She will try to talk to me in bed and sometimes I’ve gotten sucked into the discussion. I mean, my child wants to engage with me!  How can I say “no”? And then I realize what I’m doing and remind her it’s time to sleep. After a few cut offs she will go down and then she’s out cold.  But without that gentle reminder that it’s time for sleep she would talk to me and probably never go to sleep. Once when she needed to stay up until midnight for a neurological test she did it without any hesitation.  

 

So I agreed to sit upstairs in the hallway and remind her that it’s time for sleep.  I estimated that it wouldn’t take long because of our co-sleeping incidents and her ability to fall asleep without any issues once reminded.

Guided Meditation

I wanted to try guided meditation and add it to the mix.  The kids and I have listened to Sitting Still Like a Frog before. I found a great YouTube brand called New Horizons, who have guided children’s sleep meditation that are about 30 minutes long. 

Here is a link to their page on YouTube.

The intro is the same on all of them and when I play it for the kids they like knowing what to expect from those first five minutes.  But because I have an iPhone and refuse to pay for YouTube’s subscription service I had to remain in the app while the meditation played.  I could not read any Kindle books or get in some long articles. After about a week of proven effectiveness I purchased one of their albums on iTunes.  I will likely add another album as well. Both Abalone and Monkey mostly enjoy these three from New Horizons.

  • Night Train

  • Starry Sky

  • Dolphin Dreams

Magnesium Spray

This is my secret weapon for better sleep for the whole family. But there’s some things you need to know about magnesium.

  • I could buy magnesium pills but they are huge. I’ve tried cutting horse size pills in half for myself and having the un-rounded edge just makes them harder to swallow.
  • Magnesium pills are also known to cause constipation in some people and that’s the last thing I need: for a kid who already has body sensations through-the-roof to add one more unpleasant feeling to their gut.
  • Magnesium is found in soil and we “should” be getting it from our food. But because the quality of food isn’t what it used to be we are likely to have a magnesium deficiency.
  • It’s a necessary mineral and is needed for the absorption of calcium and Vitamin D.
  • A lack of magnesium can show symptoms similar to ADHD.

  • Here’s another post where I talked about magnesium in the soil.

I spray the magnesium on the soles of their feet.

 

Why?

 

The magnesium spray is in a brine solution.  The instructions say to massage it into the skin and in my head I’m yelling “NO!”  It’s already itchy enough, the last thing I would recommend is to rub it in. Plus, any scratch, microscopic cut, or abrasion will either itch or burn like a mofo.  The soles of my kids’ feet are the least likely spot to have any open or damaged skin.

 

We spray two spritzes on each foot at 7:30 p.m. and set the timer for 5 minutes to allow time for the feet to dry.  Within this time the magnesium from the salts are absorbing into the skin and taking effect. Warnings say that it could take weeks for this to work.  That might be true for a lot of people but myself and the kids noticed it working on the first night. 

 

I sprayed it on myself on both sides of my ribcage and could’t keep my eyes open a half-hour later.  I like to use the spray on Sundays when I’m anxious about going back to work and all the things I wanted to do over the weekend weren’t finished.

Here is the same magnesium spray that we use.  

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This is an affiliate link and I may receive a commission if you make a purchase.  Any product I reccomend on this post I have personally used.

So What’s the Verdict? Did It Work?

After three weeks how has it been?  Well, I have cleaner kids from all those baths.  I also have kids that are asleep about 20 minutes after I start the meditation track (but I let it play all the way through just in case they need those last ten minutes).

 

As for behavior, there’s been some better activity.  The jury is still out because in these three weeks Abalone has caught a virus twice and the results are not accurate.  I will update as soon as she is feeling better and keep data for both kids. But, just the fact that Abalone goes to sleep within 20 minutes instead of two hours is a huge step for us.

If you try any of these steps please let me know. And if you see a difference in your child’s sleep I’d love to learn about that.

Huntington Park Gives An Up Close View Of Spokane Falls

Huntington park has a history that goes back as far as the World’s Fair, Expo ‘74.  But up until 2014, when the park was revitalized, many felt that access to the park was off limits.  However, today you can visit the park for an up close view of the Spokane falls, check out the Monroe and Post Street bridges from a different angle, get in a nice workout,  or enjoy a picnic with the family.

Continue reading “Huntington Park Gives An Up Close View Of Spokane Falls”

Day Trip Guide to Gardner Cave, Washington

We might call Spokane our home town these days but for decades before now we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.  We moved in December, 2014 and one of the reasons we moved to Spokane was that we could drive a half-hour in any direction and wind up in the forest.  That’s hard to find in the Bay Area without dealing with traffic. And a half-hour on the freeway (California) is a lot farther than a half-hour of surface streets (Spokane).  The Bay Area also has Mendocino (we love to SCUBA dive there), Tahoe and Yosemite. But those can all be full or crowded. if you pick a peak time of year.  Just try to find camping spots, on short notice, in Mendocino during abalone season.  That happened to us when the campground we reserved spaces at gave away our reservation.

Continue reading “Day Trip Guide to Gardner Cave, Washington”