We’ve had some lovely clear autumn days lately, but yesterday was a wet one and the weather forecast suggests there will be more to come next week.
A bit of rain is no reason to stay indoors though. Tom and I have enjoyed plenty of wet weather playtime. Here are my top tips for getting outdoors in the rain with a toddler:
1) Keep it short and sweet
In fine weather, we expect to be out anything from an hour to all day. When it’s wet though, I prefer to keep it short and sweet. 15 minutes to half-an-hour is the perfect amount for a 13 month old to have fun without over-doing it.
2) Dress for success
For parents as well as toddlers. Waterproof trousers, jackets and rain footies are a must. Don’t over do it though, rainy weather doesn’t necessarily mean cold weather and waterproofs are a trap for sweat. Keep under-layers light (as appropriate) to allow for running around.
3) Have a change of clothes to hand
Little people are especially vulnerable to changes in temperature and it can be dangerous for their core temperature to drop too low. To avoid too long in chilly wet clothing once playtime is over, have a spare set to hand in the change bag, buggy or car.
4) Enjoy it!
Getting outdoors should be fun, not a task. Head out with a positive attitude, even on the wettest of days, and you’ll be amazed by how much fun you can have. Splashing in puddles, catching rain drops and making mud pies. Just be ready for a nice warm bath to clean up once you get home.
Play Inc is all about the comercialisation of childhood; the idea that rewarding play can only come from bought toys or experiences. To be honest, I was feeling pretty smug about this one. After all, Tom is only one. He doesn’t watch tv, so no adverts, and has only a limited number of toys (mainly of the wooden, educational kind, so of course he doesn’t play with them).
But closer examination reveals that a bit of commercialisation has sneaked in. Despite my general desire to avoid ‘brand’ items, Tom actually has a number of items of clothing with popular tv characters. Even worse, several of these depict Mickey Mouse, showing Disney really do get a foothold everywhere (the damn mouse is on two pairs of pjs and his dressing gown, all part of a bundle I got on eBay and didn’t check properly before bidding). He also has a couple of Thomas the Tank Engine things, an inevitable consequence of his name.
I guess I didn’t think these things would be a problem. A few months ago, Tom showed no signs of recognising symbols and I thought he’d grow out of the clothes before they could have an influence. But already he’s beginning to put stuff together – he pulls out his highchair when he sees me getting his plate out, for example. How long will it be before he starts to recognise the mouse from his pjs on items in shops?
I know that, no matter how hard we try, Tom is going to spend his life exposed to all sorts of advertising and brand names. But I’ll try to limit it as much as I can. First step? Those damn Mickey Mouse pjs are going to the charity shop.
At least there are no bulletin boards in the wild!
When we woke up on Wednesday, I was sure the day was going to be a complete bust. It was grey, miserable and rainy outside.
Fortunately, I was proved wrong. After a slightly grey morning, the sun came out and it turned into an absolutely beautiful day.
To celebrate, Tom and I set off for a longish walk along the River Lee. I don’t know what it is about being near water, but something in me just relaxes whenever I’m around rivers, lakes, ponds or the sea.
We wandered along happily in the sunshine, admiring the houseboats, dodging cyclists, and grabbing the odd late blackberry from the hedgerow.
I originally had the intention to head for Wicks Wood, but was seduced off the path by this little woodland clearing.
Tom then proved he really is a toddler, deciding that we were going to head along a path he found between the trees.
He walked steadily for a good 15 minutes before we looped back to the river and he discovered his very first muddy puddle.
He splashed happily for a bit, before agreeing to get back in the buggy for the walk home.
A bit of sunshine, a riverside walk and a muddy puddle. Simple things that make for a wonderful day!
I’m sure I’m not the only parent of a first-born who keeps a mental list of things I would do differently with my (so far still theoretical) future babies. Near the top of the list is committing more fully to letting those gross motor skills – things like sitting, crawling, and walking – occur naturally and in their own time.
This is actually an idea I heard of relatively early in Tom’s life, when he was about two months old. I discovered a brilliant parenting website by a lady named Janet Lansbury, who is a proponent of the ‘RIE‘ (Resources for Infant Educarers) style of early years care. This approach to raising children follows the principles laid out by Hungarian early years expert, Magda Gerber. At the heart of the RIE approach is respect for the baby/child; all other principles stem from there.
Janet Lansbury’s website was a life saver in those early months. It’s a method of parenting that just really chimed with me. It focuses on trust, respect, and seeing babies as capable little people – dependent but not helpless. I can truly say it revolutionised my growing relationship with Tom, took a lot of stress out of being a parent, and is one of the first steps that I took on this journey to bring up a ‘Wildling’ (there’s a lot of focus on creating safe, outdoor play spaces for young babies)
One of the core principles of the RIE approach is that babies should be allowed to move freely and develop their gross motor skills naturally. This means no tummy time, no propping babies to sit, no using walkers, jumperoos or ‘walking’ babies along, and, wherever possible, encouraging babies/toddlers to climb down from high places by themselves, rather than lifting them down. The argument is that babies who are allowed to navigate these milestones by themselves are more in touch with their bodies and more in tune with their physical motions, making them more graceful and less likely to fall. As a result, it’s actually a safer approach than placing them in situations they can’t get out of themselves. And it is more respectful, as it allows the baby the freedom to move naturally, rather than being dependent on an adult to place them in a particular way. There’s a whole host of articles on Janet’s website, so I recommend starting here with the main principles of RIE, if you are interested in learning more.
I say I would commit more fully to this with future babies. That’s because my adherence to this principle with Tom has been a bit patchy. Before I found out about RIE, Tom spent most of his time either in my arms (feeding) or propped up in a bouncy chair. Once I had read some of the articles, I started laying Tom down on his back on a blanket or fleece on the floor instead. I’d surround him with toys, and was quickly surprised by how much he was able to move, simply by pushing with his feet and creeping (very slowly) about the floor. Later, once he learnt to roll, he could scoot about on his tummy fairly easily.
I have to confess, once Tom was about five months, we did occasionally sit him up on the floor surrounded by cushions. It was a fairly rare occurrence, but it did happen. This was at least partly because I hadn’t adequately explained the reasoning behind not doing this to Mr Techno – for some reason I thought he wouldn’t support it, which was daft because he did place Tom on his back to play most of the time, even without me explaining why I had started doing that. I also justified it because I knew we would take the ‘baby-led weaning’ approach to weaning Tom, which requires babies to be able to sit up before they start solids. I now realise I could have only sat Tom up in a high chair for meals, rather than on the floor for playtime.
By 7.5 months, Tom was crawling (arms first, then legs too) and it was logical to carry on letting him play freely on the floor, without restraining him in any way. It was noticeable that, contrary to my mum’s predictions, Tom could get into a crawling position from his tummy. He didn’t need to be sitting up first. In fact, it wasn’t until he was 10 months that he could get into a sitting position by himself and even now he gets onto all fours first, rather than sitting up from a lying down position. For him, that is just the natural way of doing it.
Tom has been in a walker precisely once in his life (at my in-laws, when I wasn’t around). He has pushed his buggy around in the park a bit, or our office chair around the flat, but, in both situations, worked out he could do so himself rather than us encouraging him too. Another confession; we did sometimes (though rarely) let him hold our hands and walk along before he could walk by himself. Usually though he just cruised along the furniture.
I’m definitely not saying that any of this has made Tom reach milestones any sooner. It hasn’t. He was an average age crawler and a very slightly late walker. But he has done both these things with great confidence. He’s only been walking about two weeks, but already his nursery key person has commented on his control – apparently toddlers usually struggle to regulate their speed at first. As soon as he could walk, he could stop and stand still, change direction, and bend to pick something up off the floor. He does take the odd tumble, but far less than I expected.
He also meets challenges well. In the park the other day, I watched a two-year-old girl reach a slope and hold out her hand immediately for her grandmother’s hand to be helped to walk down it. Tom reached the same slope, got down on all fours, turned round and went down it backwards, without a single comment or helping hand from me. Because that’s how we taught him to go down stairs.
Tom has proved to me that this way of letting babies develop is better, safer and more respectful. So if we ever have another child, I’ll be making sure Mr Techno and I are on the same page from day one and let motor control develop naturally.
Last week didn’t get off to the best of starts. Mr Techno had Monday off, so we all headed to Spitalfields Market to try to get ahead with some Christmas shopping. Sadly we were uninspired by the selection, returning home with only some (yummy) brownies from Konditor and Cook. The shopping trip took up time we would normally have spent on Wild Time.
Wednesday was much better, despite being a drizzly day. I wrapped Tom up in waterproofs and rain footies and we had fun in the garden in the morning and the playground on the afternoon. See my post on playing in the rain for more.
Thursday and Friday were our normal walk to nursery and back via the park routine. We saw the sun coming up over the park in the mornings, and, in the evenings, were fascinated by the flock of parakeets that live in the sycamore trees. Great clouds of them kept making a break from the trees to swoop over our heads, cheeping madly.
What with jury service and work stress, I’ve been a bit of a hermit the past couple of weeks. This weekend I aimed to change that, so we spent Saturday with some friends, one of whom lives near Victoria Park. Although it was a little drizzly, we had a great walk through the park, finishing back at Soph’s house for tea and soup.
Sunday we had a couple of Mr Techno’s friends, who he has known since primary school, coming round for dinner. There was no food in the house, so Tom and I walked to the supermarket (about half an hour) via Leyton Jubilee Park. We stopped on the way back for a picnic lunch, then enjoyed some running around.
I’d planned to go for a walk on the Marshes in the afternoon, but Tom fell as we were heading out the front door, and bust his lip. Poor thing was obviously in pain and upset by the fall. Once I had cleaned him up, it was a bit late for a long walk, so we just headed back to the park for a while.