Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Playtime?

One of the things that we've really struggled with is how to communicate the choices that we are making with Luka in our own home, with his kind and generous, certainly well-meaning, but not necessarily on-board, grandparents/family/etc.

This is a particularly tricky situation, and I honestly don't know how to handle it even after a year+ of practice. We try to avoid plastic any/everything in our house, and are firm believers in the 10% toy & 90% kid formula (for more info on that, take a look at this excellent explanation of what this means) for toys. We eat mostly organic food, and we use our small toy budget to select high-quality, safe, and long-lived options. So, we have a collection of wooden blocks (which my husband likes building with at least as much as Mecha-Lukazilla likes to smash those creations down), many things that Luka's technically "too young" for right now that he will grow with and has already found novel ways to play with explore bang around, and also a well-loved selection of real items that the kid has co-opted for his own playtime uses, like these:



But we also have some "learning" contraptions that have been gifted to us, brightly-colored objects that light up, sing, repeat vocabulary, and so on - sometimes with a logic that makes absolutely no sense to either of this kid's parents, and often with a response pattern that doesn't actually seem to interact with the child so much as disrupt his attempts to play and learn.

I'm reluctant to call these buying tendencies purely problematic, since it's wonderful that we have people in our lives who want to help contribute to Luka's fun and learning. But at the same time, these plasticy things are very expensive and often actually impede the learning process (for some evidence-based claims to back up my assertion, Nurture Shock is a good place to start, specifically Ch. 10 for this issue; a slightly-older but even more compelling argument comes from Einstein Never Used Flashcards). They're TOO much toy, and don't leave enough room for the surprising, serendipitous ways that kids end up manipulating the world around them. I guess another way of putting this would be to say that I want most of the noise in the house - the singing, the weird screeching, the repetitious sound-making - to come from my kid (or, er, his silly parents...) and his natural interactions with a wide variety of objects. I want to prescribe these interactions as little as possible.

One of the best resources I've found online to help solve this "problem" is here. I'm sure that there are others, and that other parents have founds ways to gently (but insistently - marrying these two important qualities is always the key, right?) shape the giving behaviors of others. What suggestions do you have? Or, perhaps, to many of you, I'm being ungrateful - should we just lighten up? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fast forward!

Ok, so, it's a few months since my last post, right? Having a kid, procrastinating like crazy on my diss, getting a full-time job, have kept me pretty busy. Did I mention that the kid is uber-energetic?

As well, as I've learned, the interwebs are inundated with mommy blogs, and I'm not sure how much I want or even have to contribute to this phenomenon. At the same time...

I've just recently become a fan of Mama Natural and have been a longtime fan (and old school associate, too, back in the dark days of Logos) of Orangette. The former's recent query about announcing births (and my complete inability to remember how I actually tried to let everyone know, after the botched "funny" attempt via Facebook), and the latter's actual announcement made me realize two things:

1) I am forgetting things that I thought would be unforgettable.

- and -

2) I'm so excited to see how an old friend (and now-fave blogger) writes about her own experiences that it makes me want to articulate mine.

I've definitely begun to find my way as a parent, over these past 14 months. Enough to know that whatever wisdom I've gained will be challenged in the months and years to come, and also that this journey has become a calling of sorts.

So I'd like to take this space and make it useful: at least to myself, in recording the struggles and joys and confusions that make parenting such an occupation; but hopefully, too, to other people out there who think that parenting is about more than the baby gear and cute kid pics (though, to be sure, it's about those things, too. There is nothing more currently nerve-wracking to me than trying to find the best bigger-boy car seat. Augh!).

I hope that this will become a space worth reading. And I hope to hear from you, too, whoever you may be, about your own experiences.