Tag Archives: books

Leaving Babies to Cry It Out Can Be Dangerous

the cover of Penelope Leach’s Your Baby And ChildWhen I first became a Mum, the book which most helped me was Penelope Leach’s “Your Baby And Child”. My mum had a battered copy in her bookshelf, which I read and read and lent to friends and read. Then, I bought the newer version, which was more modern but still wonderful. In fact, I think I had two copies, which have been lent out until I no longer know where they are.

This week in the London “Times”, Psychologist, Mother and Writer Penelope Leach is at it again. “I actually do know what it’s like to be woken up 14 times a night… And I have a very strong sense that the way to deal with that is not for the parent to impose adult desires on the baby, but to try and integrate baby and adult.”

Leach is concerned about the modern idea of letting babies ‘Cry It Out’. Cortisol, the ‘Stress Hormone’, is released (of course) in high quantities when a baby “experiences acute and continuing distress”. High quantities of cortisol can harm brain development. So, if you ignore an infant and leave it to cry itself to sleep night after night, the stress involved affects the development of its immature brain.

Of course, crying in itself is not a terrible thing! You and I know that we can feel so much better after a good cry. I have often held my sons while they cried out some woe or frustration, and they feel better too. But there is such a difference, as I’m sure you can see, between a baby’s frustrated or tired cry in the arms of a loved one and the lonely, frightened cries in the darkness of a baby who’s crying it out.

In Leach’s latest book, “The Essential First Year: What Babies Need Parents To Know” she cites studies to back up her claims. ‘“At three months… The babies who were picked up most, cried less,” says Leach, with a twinkle in her eye.’

I know that babies are all different. My three have quite different ways of falling asleep! My husband and I also have differences. But I love to have him there at night, to warm my feet on if I wake.

Of course, my kids have grown out of needing me to be near them to fall asleep. I read them a story and off I go. Those needy baby years are so brief, and so sweet. There are few things nicer than a sleepy, snugly baby.

Why miss out on those nightly snuggles? They won’t always smell so good, you know. They won’t always be so round and soft. And it’s doubly nice to know that by kissing those soft, silky heads goodnight, we are helping to protect the developing brains inside.

by Nan Sheppard

Photo graciously provided by the publisher, through the fair use doctrine, some rights reserved

The iPad For Families

a little girl using a drawing app on an iPadBeing a tech geek, and having earned some disposable income, I bought an iPad.  This has been cause for much discussion and anticipation around our house, not only from me, but from the little geeklings I am raising.  My 11 year-old has actually been saying he is *sure* I will need the 3G model, in hopes the wifi-only model gets handed down to him, and this was before the thing was even in our hands.

Let me preface this by saying we have an equal number of PCs and Macs in the house.  The kids both have iPods- essentially both have an iPod touch- one an iPod touch, and one an older, device only-no phone iPhone.  They’ve given up their Nintendo DS and games for their iPods, in a transition that left one child, the younger, completely satisfied, and the older slightly grumpy.  (I am, however, entirely pleased- no more expensive games they get tired of after a few days, or worse,lost or sent through the wash; more uses for the thing, and easier (and cheaper!) to give them iTunes cards as a reward than new games for Nintendo.)  Given this background, we are technogeeks  and have more than a glancing appreciation for the wonders of the App Store.

The iPhone has been great for me, and my husband bought one for himself a short time later.  The phone’s AT&T connectivity has frequently been mediocre, but every other aspect- email, photos, video on the fly, applications, tools- that’s what makes the iPhone special.  From our first iPhone, we’ve found that having a few fun games on the thing has kept kids happy while waiting in line, waiting for dinner, waiting for an appointment- you name it.  My husband and I will hand over our phones to our kids, their cousins, or other kids at the table, and they have a great time while we get to talk like adults.  This is not to say I don’t want the children to engage with us at the table, and all devices go off during the meal, but it does make everyone more patient while waiting, including me.

So the iPad entered our lives with this as the background.

The 11 year-old came with me to the store, excited by the very act of opening the box.  While we would have to wait until we got home to sync the device (we decided to do that rather than do it at the store), nonetheless, John figured out how to take a screen shot in the first few minutes.  Having the experience of the iPod Touch and iPhone already, they had all the training they needed for the iPad.  It’s largely the same thing, with a much bigger and prettier screen.

This seems like something easy to dismiss as trivial, but it’s not.  The iPad is not only pretty, it’s fast.  It’s a perfect way to look something up on the web, on your lap, and less socially intrusive than a laptop, which seems to divide the user from the rest of the people in the room. You can check email, for the workaholics, without looking like a jerk.   You can watch movies and they are gorgeous, like having a small TV with you at all times, and of course, it takes all the content we already have purchased for our other i-devices.  (Hurray for that!)

My older son has a Kindle, being a bookaholic.  He uses it, but not nearly as much as I think I anticipated.  The iPad takes the ebook reading experience to the next level.  The iBook app makes an ebook feel more like a real book, and even the Kindle app for the iPad is a vast improvement over the Kindle and its relatively clunky interface.  We’ve also had 2 Kindle screens go bad on us so far, making me less than thrilled with Kindle’s workmanship or durability, but ever so glad with Amazon’s replacement policy.

I honestly think as more and more books, and hopefully textbooks become available for the iPad, this may become the replacement for a backpack full of books, which would be a godsend to parents, teachers and students everywhere, even if some chiropractors will weep as a result.  Ebooks can be re-downloaded, never get lost or damaged, fit easily in your locker,and you can’t forget them at school.  What a blessing that will be.  I get all excited just thinking how much easier it will be choosing backpacks and crossing off bookcovers on that back-to-school school supply list.  So long, bathing suit-like book covers! There’s also a few great flashcard apps that should be worthwhile to help kids study and memorize stuff that’s simply necessary for school.

There’s hardly a need to even discuss the beauty of the Marvel Comic Books app, and how the boy’s heart goes pitter pat for that alone.

The games for the iPad are fun and engaging for kids, and all the old iPod apps work as well, although some of them “upsize” strangely. (Old iPod applications can be made larger, or be played at original size in the center of the iPad screen.  I’m eager to see what games come out, and I’m impressed by how many there are already for little kids, who I am sure will take to this device like a duck to water.

In our house, the iPad will become the de facto travel entertainment device.  No more dragging the portable DVD player everywhere.  The 10 hour battery life will blow all of those old players out of the water, and do away with carrying around plastic discs that are easily scratched for good.  The ability to stream movies through Netflix is amazing as well.  There will be no need for a separate gaming device, because the iPad takes care of that.  They can draw and color.  They can do homework through the Keynote (think powerpoint) app and the Pages (think Microsoft Word) app.  They can listen to music.  They can read.  They can play games.

For parents, the Epicurious app can act as a cookbook, and there are “vooks” that have video added into the book, to even be a cookbook with a cooking show combined.

I love the iPad for myself.  I love for what it might become for learning, including all the friction and hassles it will solve for us.  I love the fact that I am free of carrying around plastic discs (Cd’s, DVD’s, or even cartridges) which eventually get damaged and ruined and have exchanged it for the hassle free storage of electrons.  I care more about the content, and less and less on the physical form or package it comes in.  And electronic content is cheaper, although we consume more of it, because it is cheap and it’s easy to give in to impulse purchases.  For example, my brother had generously given me a $100 iTunes card for Christmas and my birthday.  I spent almost all of it in buying new apps and content including books for the iPad already.  The good news is I got everything I wanted in that budget.

The iPad is a great family device, and may be a glimpse of what’s in store for our children and education in the next few years.  I’m certainly happy, and not eager to unload any of our Apple stock as a result of my experience with iPad.  The only question that remains is when will we knuckle under and buy another one.

by Whitney Hoffman

Photo graciously provided by mathowie, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

5 Ways To Be More Interested

mother and daughter on a benchStu and I have both written recently suggesting that as parents we should BE interested, not ACT interested in our kids.  Well, that seems pretty obvious,  can I get a round of “uh….  duhs”?  Of course we should be interested in the Punks. (In case you’re new here,  Punks is short for Pumpkin-heads a.k.a. my kids,  Aidan (10), Clay (8), and Lucy (5).)

That being said, I don’t actually think we have to (or necessarily should) care about every little thing.  But investing now-  learning, knowing, caring, being interested in who they are and what they care about, is a pretty big deal.

These are 5 simple ways to engage Punks in a way that demonstrates your interest,  allows you to learn about their interests,  and also allows the Punks to learn more about you.

1. In the car,  play the question game.  1 person asks a question and the rest of the passengers answer it.  Then someone else asks a question.  Rinse and repeat.

2.  At dinner, play a round of best/worst where everyone share a highlight and low-light from their day.

3.  Get the Punk/s involved in planning and cooking dinner.  You can learn a lot when teaching your kids how to cook their favorite meal.  It’s a great opportunity to talk about tv shows, video games, movies and whatever else the conversation leads to.

4.  Read together.  This is easy when the Punks are small,  but it might be a bit more awkward as they get older.  Why not find out what book your kid is reading and go get another copy from the library?  Last summer Aidan and I did this with The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan (which, not surprisingly, is much better than the movie).  When we heard the movie was coming out we immediately set a date to see it on opening day.  We brought 2 friends with us and it was great to see the boy’s reaction to it,  and hear them discussing it.

5.  Listen more.  Speak less.  When the Punk starts talking my inclination is to jump in and add my 2 cents.  But then I saw the glaze fall over his face.  I’m learning to shut up and listen,  speaking only to answer and occasionally ask a question.

How do your kids know that you are interested in them?

by Megin Hatch

Photo graciously provided by rolands.lakis via Creative Commons License, some rights reserved.

Parenting In The Media: Easing Fears Through Bedtime Stories

Kids have fears. We all have our thoughts on how to address them. The noted literacy activist, Pam Allyn, wrote a thoughtful essay on how bedtime stories can ease childhood fears. The essay also includes fantastic recommendations for bedtime books (and who doesn’t love a good book recommendation?) -

    “When the sun goes down, fears come up. The blessing of a transcendent story for any age is that it helps us to escape, to relate, to connect and to understand the perils and magic of our mortal universe.

    Great children’s literature assures us that frail looking boys with scars on their foreheads can become heroes, spiders can write words to save lives and bunnies can go to bed fearlessly. Great children’s literature inspires us to want to live backwards: to live as openly and tenderly as a child.”

Read the rest of the essay here.

Don’t know Pam? Here’s her bio from Scholastic: Pam Allyn is the Executive Director and founder of LitLife, a nationally known literacy development organization providing innovative, research-based professional development for K-12 educators. She was the Director of Funded Projects for The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and also the Founding Director of Books for Boys, a reading initiative for New York’s foster care children. Allyn has received several commendations for her work, including a Points of Light/Disney award for her literacy work and a James Patterson Page Turner Award.

Any thoughts? Got some ideas for fear-reduction? Do you play-act or have family forums or private talks? Do you avoid fear-talk (to avoid exacerbating the situation)? What’s your way to defeat the boogie man?

Watercolor Living

a watercolor painting of a seascapeI loved coloring in color books and on coloring pages in elementary school. I was so excited when someone showed me how to trace hard, wax mountains along the pre-existing bold lines of the picture to add strength to the boundaries on my works of art. Unnaturally, I enjoyed the process of diagramming sentences in high school – putting the mysterious world of words into tidy compartments. I have so many little bins for ‘organization’ that it is almost time to buy another bin just to organize my implements of order.

A few years ago, I became more and more aware of and fascinated by watercolor painting. Some of our favorite children’s books are deliciously illustrated with strokes of water-saturated color. I met a couple water-color artists. I found myself looking for information online, and eventually joining a local adult ed class. This spurt of exploration gave me an alternative paradigm for my life as a mom and wife.

Watercolor painting can be very controlled with different techniques. It is most recognized, though, as a medium that can be unpredictable. Sometimes it will go where it wills. Sometimes two boundaries not only meet but mix. Color meets color and takes on each other’s characteristics. Paint follows rivers on the paper. You can add elements (like salt) to create surprising bursts. I never completed a piece that has been framed in our home (or even taken out of the bag I used to cart my stuff to class), but I had so much fun playing with paint, water, and paper. What a refreshing delight.

Married with three children under 10, one of my greatest temptations is to be a crayon-coloring mommy and wife, pressing harder on my crayon to make my mountainous boundaries higher, brighter, and stronger. Appointments, messes, fussiness – make stronger lines. My needs, their needs, grocery lists, school plans – press harder and harder. But there comes a point in this method that you only see what become messy wax streaks. What was a pleasant picture of a frog or a princess becomes an angry mess of smudged lines.

Healthy family interactions look more like a watercolor painting. The clean sheet of wet paper becomes a fresh start for each day or each season. The colors of each personality and their needs meet on the page. Celebrations or transitions, big and little, create the surprising bursts. All the elements mysteriously meet and mix in a picture that might have been hoped for, but couldn’t have been scientifically planned.

There is a monumental risk in watercolor family living. You can choose your basic elements for the picture – love, respect, hope, and celebration. But you have to trust that the colors and tools that are your family are a picture waiting to be expressed. There are times when you will need to exert more ‘artistic license’ as you help your red be his best red, but the picture won’t be true is he is crammed in a box with thick lines, not impacting the blue and yellow in you family life.

I wish I could write that I have perfected watercolor living. The truth is that I don’t even remember it for weeks at a time, at which point I usually find wax under my fingernails. But when I take the risk, put down my crayon, allow my organic family to thrive, the picture is always breath-taking.


by Emily Pitman


Photo graciously provided by Te55, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved