The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Raising Independent Kids

lazy mom

I fondly look back at the days when I was mom to only one little angel. I was that mom who seemed to have all the time in the world to give unhurried baths, prepare elaborate activities, read aloud ten million books and still go to work for half the day.

When Little Sir came, though, and started growing up real fast, I started to feel like I am always running out of time. There are two adorable kids to read a million different books to, two kids to snuggle with for just a little bit more, two kids to give baths to, two kids to plan activities for and, gasp, two kids to train how to be good people in the future. That last one’s the scariest part.

During the first trimester of my pregnancy with Baby Bumblebee, though, when I could hardly keep my eyes open during the day, I stumbled upon a lifesaving thought. I could be a lazy mom!

Because, admittedly, I was very lazy during that time and left my kids to their own devices for much of the day. But hey, the good thing is, I got to realize that it can actually be great to be a lazy mom. I get some time to get things done, and my kids are learning to be independent.

Don’t get me wrong. Kids do need love and attention, especially when they are babies. But once they’re in the toddler years and beyond, we have to let go at some point.

So, without further ado, let me share my lazy mom’s guide to raising independent kids. Hooray to the lazy mom!

1. Let them run around dirty. Let them give themselves a bath.

During the TMA Homeschool Conference 2015 (which The Learning Basket, together with Manila Workshops help put up for TMA Homeschool), I was so relieved to hear Joy Mendoza talk about letting her kids take a bath on their own starting age three. I really thought, then, “Hey! I’m not the only lazy mom out there!”

Joy said that doing so teaches kids early on 1) to care for their bodies and  2) that their privates should remain private. And 3) it’s one less work for her (and the nanny) to do! I couldn’t help but grin because all her points are true, right? Especially number three.

I was actually feeling a bit guilty that I’ve been letting Little Sir take a bath by himself… even before my first-trimester-excuse. So I was relieved to hear validation from another mom and glad to keep on my merry way.

2. Ignore them. Let them play on their own.

I love homeschooling my kids but I also love my work. Early on, I knew that I have to have dedicated time for them because they are the reasons why I’m working at home in the first place.

So, here’s what I do. I basically ignore them in the afternoons when I’m working.

I take comfort in the fact that study after study shows that children thrive with unstructured play. My kids have their own language (Baby language made up of crazy baby-sounding syllables) and their own world (Babyland), which they happily inhabit every afternoon.

So, no, I don’t entertain my kids all the time and I don’t feel guilty about ignoring them.

3. Order them around. Let them clean up after themselves.

I admit that I’m lazy about keeping the mess out. I can stand it, really! But I don’t want my kids to be lazy, do I? So my solution? Order them around.

These days, I make sure – by being firm and consistent – that they pack away their things every night. I told them that their playroom is their responsibility and that we wouldn’t go up to sleep unless it’s spic-and-span. It helps that I fixed the room up with the Montessori idea that everything should have its own place.

My kids are getting the hang of it, even the four-year-old, and I just help them a bit to not make them feel that they are my slaves (I’ve been accused of that!). If they’re already busy cleaning up, though, I just sit pretty and watch them.

I’m sure this can be applied to other chores as well. We’ve had fits and starts with some chores, but we’re not consistent yet.

lazy mom

4. Let them run around naked. Let them dress themselves.

Unless you want to keep bending down to put on your child’s clothes for him, you have to be lazy now and let him do it himself.

We also always say in our parenting workshops to let children put on their own shoes as soon as they show interest, even if it takes a million years for him to get done. The sense of accomplishment that you’ll see on your toddler’s face will be priceless.

5. Let them fight it out. Let them figure out how to settle differences.

I used to fret over what to do when my kids would suddenly stop playing and snarl and even hit each other. I would play referee and immediately separate them from each other.

That is until I read Janet Lansbury’s article on sibling toy taking. She cites Magda Gerber who advised to “intervene minimally in disputes between siblings.” I’ve taken this advice to heart and kept myself from settling fights between my two kids, even when they were smaller.

My heart would pound in dread when a fight would suddenly burst out. But unless they’re really about to or are already hurting each other, I mostly just observe and describe what’s happening without judging them. I am always amazed to see how fast they go back to hugging each other.

The value of being lazy in settling fights? They learn to solve their issues and get along with each other.

6. Let them fall. Let them learn to pick themselves up.

When T was a teeny tiny girl, I was always there to pick her up the moment she was on her knees.

With Little Sir, I realized that he could benefit from not being rescued all the time. At about 18 months, I already let him wobble up and down inclined areas (ramps). With my heart beating fast, I would keep myself from assisting him.

I celebrated each time he accomplished his mission without falling. But when he did fall, I would hold my breath and show my most calm face, and stay where I am. Lazy, you know.

Practicing this type of mom-laziness is great for kids, though. They get to learn that falling is a natural part of life and that they just have to get up again. Now, how to do this with more serious kinds of falling/failing as they grow older!

7. Don’t give them food. Let them get their own food.

I’m guilty of still feeding my little boy his lunch and dinner, especially when he makes his very cute face just for me. The not-so-little girl can also still sometimes demand so much.

So, I’m starting to be lazy in this area too. When Little Sir asks for a sandwich, I ask him to make it himself. I ask him to get the bread and his favorite spread and let him prepare it on his own. I still have to work on meals, though. He eats by himself when he wants to (or maybe when he’s famished?) so I’m sure he can do it. I just have to be lazier.

 

I’m happy with how I stumbled on this lazy-mom thing. Good thing I got pregnant, haha! It does work for me, as I get to have time for other things. And it does work for the little ones to have a lazy mom: they get to practice different skills and learn to rely on and take care of themselves.  I  think I still need to work on being lazier some more, though.

How lazy are you? Can you share some more lazy mom tips?

Make magic!

Mariel Uyquiengco

How I played with my one-week old baby

sensory play

When T was just a week old, I started sensory play with her.  I would gently tickle her feet with a feather, ring a tiny bell very softly near her ears, move a black and white face cut-out in front of her, and lift her up and down in my arms ever so slowly. Oh, and I also made her smell vanilla.

I did that with her for about a month or so before moving on to other fun things. I rolled a ball for her eyes to follow, made her kick and punch soft rattles, and called her name from different parts of the room to see if she would look at the source of the sound.

I have to admit that I wasn’t as conscientious when Little Sir came, because honestly, who has the time to do all that with two kids? :) But really, I want to do it all over again with my third little one (coming soon!), and have my two older babies help me out.

But why would I even want to do that?

Contrary to popular belief that little babies just sleep, nurse and poop all day, our little angels actually have alert moments during their sleep-and-wake cycle. From birth, in these moments, they are busy observing and learning about the world around them through what is natural and immediately available to them – their senses.

Sensory play has a critical role in brain development. It is through their senses that children learn and their neural pathways are strengthened. Neurons that are not used often disappear, according to Marian Diamond, PhD in the book “Magic Trees of the Mind”, and must therefore be properly stimulated.

Sensory play can be called the foundation for learning and is very important in early childhood. It is our job to introduce the world to our children in a way that they can understand in their early years.

So much more

Taking care of our children is, as Johnson’s Baby puts it, “so much more” than just giving them a bath, changing their diaper, and giving them food. Every interaction we have with our kids is an opportunity for them to learn through their senses.

I touch on this topic in our parenting workshop “You Are Your Child’s First and Best Teacher.” In it, I teach all the neat tips and tricks that I’ve learned as a U.S. licensed Kindermusik educator and from my own private learning sessions on early childhood development courtesy of my older sister, a child psychiatrist. ;)

But since we don’t have a scheduled live run of this workshop this year yet, you can get inspiration and ideas about sensory play every week on our Facebook and Instagram accounts starting today.  In fact, we have just shared a list of sensory activities to develop your child’s sense of touch. These are much like the activities that I do with my own kids!

Join us

Together with Johnson’s Baby, I invite you to join us in advocating sensory play in early childhood. Share your own photos of your kids involved in sensory play with the hashtags #somuchmore #playforreal and #sensoryplay over at our Facebook page to inspire other parents to include this very important kind of play in their own homes.

 

Make magic!

Mariel Uyquiengco

5 No Prep Activities For Earth Hour 2015

earth hour 2015

We are turning off our lights, gadgets,and pretty much everything else that consumes electricity at 8:30PM tonight (March 28, 2015). This is in observance of Earth Hour 2015, which the Philippines will celebrate today.

Earth Hour started in Australia in 2007, with millions of homes and businesses turning off their lights for an hour to show their stand against climate change. The year after, more than 30  countries participated in this movement that continues to grow annually.

Here are some activities that you can do with your children to make this event even more significant.

1. Have a slumber party.

Bring out your PJs, some milk and cookies and have a slumber party with your kids. Tell stories about your childhood or make up new fairy tales featuring them as the heroes and heroines. Play a story chain game, where each family member takes a turn in contributing to a made-up story. The sillier, the better!

2.  Time travel to the past

Pretend to live in the olden days and navigate your way using candles and lamps. Bring out your anahaw fans to cool down and beat the summer heat.  The kids will have a kick at experiencing first hand how it was to live without electricity.

3. Read the Creation Story

While you’re at it, why not try reading just as Jose Rizal did? Bring out your favorite children’s Bible and read the amazing story of The Creation. Talk about how God made the earth in 7 days and appointed men to be the caretakers of the world.

4. Sing to learn about the 3Rs

You may be surprised at how even very young children can give wonderful ideas to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Point out also simple ways that they can help save the Earth – throwing trash in recycling bins, bringing water in reusable thermos instead of plastic bottles, upcycling tin cans to make musical instruments. Endless possibilities! To make it fun, teach your kids this song that I found here.

3Rs Song

(Sung to the tune of “The More We Get Together”)

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Recyle, recycle.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

It’s easy to do.

Cause your earth is my earth

And my earth is your earth.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

It’s easy to do.

5. Stargaze

With most of the city lights turned off, tonight would be a perfect time to go stargazing. Talk  about the phases of the moon. Look for Orion’s belt. Identify planets and stars. Science lessons have never been this fun!

 

Training our children to love and care for Mother Earth at an early age is a valuable legacy that we can impart to these future stewards of our planet. And it starts with a simple step – such as turning off our lights for an hour tonight.

 

Have fun with your  child!

sanne