Simply Parenting – Screen Time

As with all things in life, I believe that screen time is fine as long as there is balance. So yes, when you are all at the end of your tether, vegging in front of the TV can be just the ticket. When meeting your friend for a cuppa and a chat, your phone will keep your toddler distracted so you can actually enjoy it. Giving children access to your laptop or tablet so they can ‘Google’ something (used to be called research), is a very valid part of their social and educational development.

Research and what-not!

Research and what-not!

We can start to go wrong by relying too heavily on all the screens available to us. We may ‘officially’ allow them to play a game on the Wii for half an hour but more realistically this will be 45 minutes or an hour. How many times have you agreed to half an hour of TV only to finally turn it off after an hour and a half? Am I the only one who lets them google Titanic and then spend 30 minutes watching funny videos on YouTube? Then, before we know it, they’ve had three hours of ‘screen time’ without even thinking about it!

But what harm is it really? I can’t purport to be an expert on the effects of screen time on the youth of today, although we are all aware of the correlation between screen usage and obesity in children.

However, I do know how screen time affects my own children. When it is time to turn off whichever screen, there is often a melt-down. They are always a little grumpy and less inclined to play together after watching too much TV.

Zombified!

Zombified!

In fact, they can become irritable, sluggish zombies for what feels like an eternity, completely negating the peace and distraction that the screen usage gave me in the first place!

So here are some tips to consider when managing screen time.

  • People come first: This is actually ingrained in me from my own childhood. We always had to turn the television off if a visitor came, and now the same applies in our house. Also includes if I’m talking to them and they do not look at me, they know TV will be turned off.
  • One screen at a time: So if you are playing on the XBox then the TV or iPad is off.
  • Keep it social: Watch TV together. Choose multiplayer games rather than single player games. Oversee any and all internet access or use parental controls.
  • Strike a balance: For example, thirty minutes screen time equals one and a half hours activity, playing outside, colouring, reading, puzzles etc.
  • Interaction: Discuss what you watched/played/researched after the fact.
  • Keep it appropriate: Absolutely NO screens in the bedroom, or after a certain time of the day. (The earlier you start this the easier it will be to enforce during the ‘fun ‘teenage years.)
Watching together.

Watching together.

Get out and do something too!

Get out and do something too!

Then there is the amount of time I spend looking at a screen. ‘Mum please put your phone down and watch me’ or ‘are you finished on your phone yet Mum?’ are all too common refrains in this house. And while I’m not about to start beating myself up about it, I am becoming increasingly conscious of not looking at my phone when I am in company, be it with friends or family.

So how do you manage screen time?  Feedback is always welcome, so please feel free to comment below!

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

photo credit: tug of the screen via photopin (license)

photo credit: After-dinner Gangnam Style via photopin (license)

photo credit: Robo-Nazi via photopin (license)

Simply Parenting – Sleep Patterns

‘Is he sleeping through the night yet?’; ‘I need coffee, I was up half the night’; ’sleep deprivation is the worst!‘

When it comes to parenting, one of the biggest features of rearing our children is sleep. How much should they get? How do we settle them? Should they share the bed with us? Should they share a room? When should we transfer them to their own cot? How often should they nap? Why won’t they sleep??

Nope - not sleepy!

Nope – not sleepy!

Then we compare ourselves to other parents. ’I would never let my child in the bed with me, she is mad.’’ I would never let my child cry for a minute, let alone cry themselves to sleep. Self-soothing is a form of torture‘! The blame game continues on and on.

So let’s get back to basics. No matter what your own personal outlook is, the fact is that children really need sleep. They need a lot of sleep. Sleep is crucial to their growth, brain development, physical development and general well-being. Often when our children are not sleeping well, it is because they are over-tired or are caught up in the running around that is part of everyday life, and so we need to stop making excuses and start parenting up!

'Then she said, see you in the morning' 'Too funny!'

‘Then she said, see you in the morning’ ‘Too funny!’

Every child is different!

However, when a baby starts on solid food (usually at around six months), they no longer need feeding during the night. I know that we like to think that the baby should decide when they want to stop night feeds and this is true up to a point.  Still, once they are eating solids and getting their nutrition during the day, night time is when they need the chance for precious sleep not milk. It falls to us to help our babies learn how to sleep through the night. Bringing them in for a quick comfort feed just because you missed them during the day, or because it is too tiring trying to settle them in their cot when you are getting up to a full day’s work the next day, suits us parents but is not the best practise for the sleep deprived baby.

 

They can catch up on sleep during the day!

I have often said as I watched each of my babies nap peacefully during the day, after I have been up pacing the floors all night ‘ isn’t it grand for you, you can sleep whenever you want’. Again, napping is crucial to our babies’ development but it does not replace the valuable sleep that they need during the night. Letting your baby ‘catch up’ by napping for longer during the day will not help them sleep at night. Another thing we do is reduce their nap times  to ‘tire them out’ in the vain hope that they will fall into a deep restful  12 hour sleep  – then we pull our hair out wondering why they will not sleep. An over-tired baby finds it very hard to get to sleep.

My child is a bad sleeper – I’ve left it too late!

Not true at all and there is a wealth of advice out there to help you encourage your child to develop healthy sleep patterns. There are volumes of books on getting children to sleep and a myriad of methods out there. I recommend the recently published Irish sleep expert Niamh O’Reilly – ‘No Fuss Baby &Toddler Sleep’,(available on Amazon) as she talks a lot of sense! Choose a method that fits in with your lifestyle and parenting beliefs, and then be consistent.

The key things to remember are:-

  • Do not make excuses
  • Change sleep patterns if they need changing
  • It is never too late to start
Encourage them to do this so...

Encourage them to do this so…

Knowing that a large chunk of our children’s happiness and well-being is based on them having a good night’s sleep is reason enough to put in a little hard work to encourage them to develop healthy sleep patterns.

..they will have  interest in doing things like this, and...

..they will have interest in doing things like this, and…

..this.

..this.

I am taking a few weeks holidays but will be continuing this series when I get back with the topic of ‘Screen Time’.

All comments and feedback very welcome.

Thanks for reading

Aisling

Simply Parenting – A series

I am trying out something new for the blog. I am going to write a series called Simply Parenting , stripping away the buzz words and labels around modern parenting such as ‘helicopter’ and ‘free range’ parenting and  try and highlight the basics of what I think we should be doing for our children  to give them the very best chances in life.

Please note that these are purely my own personal opinions developed over my years in childcare and as a Mum. Feel free to ignore or take from them as you please!

We know that what children need to thrive and grow into happy independent adults is love and space. However how we deliver this can sometimes do more harm than good – which brings me neatly onto my first topic.

Love and Space.

Love and Space.

Omnipresence

Arguably the strongest feeling that surges through our bodies when we first become parents is the urge to protect our children. We genuinely don’t even want the wind to blow on their faces, never mind the thought of them coming to any real harm or (one I find myself worrying about) being abducted.

So it is completely natural and necessary to keep our babies within earshot (if not sight) as newborns. However, knowing when to let go and when to give our children some leeway can be difficult. As much as we want to ensure that we keep our children within sight at all times it is just not a practical reality and it is not a healthy environment for children to develop and grow in.

What we need to do is promote our children’s independence by allowing them out of sight, giving them a sense of freedom by letting them climb the rock, wander to the other side of the beach, or walk to the shop when they are old enough.

'I got this Mum...

‘I got this Mum…

..See!'

..See!’

To reach the independence needed to do those few simple things, you need to start as you mean to go on.

  • If you are always with your child then they cannot learn to play alone and become self-sufficient.
  • If you always invent games for them, they do not have the chance to develop their imagination.
  • If you are always on hand to play with them, this could inadvertently stunt their social development which in turn could make it difficult for them to socialise with their peers.

So, in my view –

  • Let your children play by themselves, be it rolling around on a play mat, playing in the back garden or in their room.
  • Let them invent their own games, and allow them to figure out the jigsaw puzzle at their own pace and in their own time.
  • Give them the space to choose their own activity, be it picking up a book or sitting down to an art project.

In stepping back, you are giving them the independence to develop their own set of social skills and to develop into individuals who learn how to handle themselves in this big bad world.

What's the worst thing that can happen?

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

So in a nutshell – step back, give them space, trust their instincts and watch their imagination and independence grow.

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

Next topic in this series will be addressing our children’s sleep patterns.

What I Know Now.

I recently toilet trained my three-year-old with minimum fuss and maximum success. I am not boasting here although I admit it does sound that way. I am writing about it because what struck me when she finally decided she was ready to be trained was the difference between what I ‘knew’ working as a childcare professional and what I know being a mother of three.

No more nappies!

No more nappies!

What I ‘knew’ working in crèches was that all children can be toilet trained from the age of two and that the sooner you do it, the easier it is and the better for them. I ‘knew’ that the parents that resisted training their children were not doing them any favours. We always made sure that the children were intellectually ready to be trained, training was approached by both the crèche and the family at the same time, patience and keeping cool were the name of the game and nine times out of ten they succeeded according to our timeline.

What I know now, is that although children can be trained from that age they don’t need to be trained that early. There was always pressure to train children before they started in pre-school /Montessori classes  because the teachers either didn’t have time or were not willing to change nappies. I know now that parents who resisted the crèche timetable were absolutely looking out for their child and I would love the opportunity to shake hands with them now.

If I were to do it all again I would absolutely scrap training children according to the crèche timetable and encourage training each child when they felt ready for it. Waiting until the child chooses to start using the toilet makes for an easier, faster and healthier transition in the developing child’s life.

What I ‘knew’ working in crèches was that hungry children will eat. Now I am not talking about starving the children or giving them tiny portions – in spite of what sometimes gets highlighted in the media most people working in childcare have a genuine love of children and are actively interested in encouraging the growth and development of the children in their care. I know, imagine that! One of the side effects of running a busy crèche is that most of the day is timetabled so as to ensure that the day runs smoothly. So wherever I worked, there was at least a two hour gap between breakfast-snack-lunch-snack. With organised activities and free play in between, it generally meant that the children ate what they were given, happily and heartily.

Big,expensive, unhealthy snacks means...

Big,expensive, unhealthy snacks means…

What I now know is that, when you are at home with your child there is no timetable and you can find yourself (myself ) giving them a snack an hour – not necessarily a healthy snack either – and then when it comes to their main meal they are not hungry and don’t eat. So in this case it is better to take a leaf out of the crèche books to encourage healthy eating. Keep to set mealtimes and either eliminate or reduce the amount of snacks they have.

20150401_091759

..anarchic mealtimes!

What I ‘knew’ working in crèches was that TV was not good for children. When I opened my own crèche I didn’t even install a television on the premises, there were enough staff and activities planned that there was no need to turn on a television. Quiet time was story time or singing songs.  And when I gave up work I would allow maybe 30 minutes of television a day.

My plans.

My plans.

What I know now is that television is one of the best inventions ever – actually, strike that – Sky+ is the best invention ever as you can ensure your child never misses their favourite programme during the two to three hours television they watch a day! 😉

My reality.

My reality.

What have you learnt since becoming a parent?

Thanks for reading

Aisling

13 Minutes of Fame!

So remember a few months ago when I went on The Pat Kenny Show to discuss summer camps?

And I asked you all to drop everything and listen?

And then it didn’t air?

And I was mortified?

Well the powers that be deigned to air the piece last Tuesday morning, very apt with holidays around the corner. They are smart cookies in Newstalk.

Unfortunately I missed it, but fear not I have used all my technical skills to bring you an excerpt from that very piece.

My technical skills being what they are I cut myself off at the end.

Obviously, I finished with an hilarious anecdote and the piece trails off with much laughter! 😉

Anyway have a listen and let me know what you think!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw9CeCdiT8ssa3RoRnBvWVNacEk/view?usp=sharing

(Feel free to share this with any media savvy friends looking for a fresh voice on the radio.) 😉

Thanks for listening

Aisling

I Stopped and Looked.

I stopped and looked – you were playing away with your Lego but you were also taking the time to match the colours. I had never noticed that you did that before.

I stopped and looked – you were racing your little sister but you were letting her win. I didn’t realise just how mature a six-year-old you were.

I stopped and looked –  you had built your very own ‘Hogwarts’ and were lost in a wizarding world far away. I sometimes forget how real your imagination is.

I stopped and looked – you kicked the scooter because you hurt your hand falling off it. I realised the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I stopped and looked – you weren’t ignoring my calls to hurry up, you were trying to tie your own laces. I need to remember how hard new skills are to master.

I stopped and looked – you broke off half of your biscuit and gave it to your sister unasked and unannounced. I often forget just how generous you can be.

I stopped and looked – you were shouting in the game because you were playing the part of ‘mummy’. I was reminded that children do what they see.

I stopped and looked – you weren’t delaying going to bed, you were waiting for your brother to come to bed so you could help him with his reading.  I always ask you to help after all.

I stopped and looked – you were filthy dirty because you had to pick the ‘best’ flower for me. I am learning to love dandelions.

I stopped and looked – you grabbed your sister’s toy from her because you saw a cracked, sharp edge on it. I remembered that you do nearly everything for a reason.

I stopped and looked – you put your arm in front of your brother, not to boss him but to stop him from crossing the road until you had checked for traffic. I need to learn to trust your instincts.

I stopped and looked at how quickly you are all growing up and realised that sweating the small stuff is for the birds. I promise to stop and look a lot more frequently  lest I miss you growing up altogether in the melee that is family life!

2015-06-29 17.08.02This piece originally appeared in MummyPages . Why not pop over for a look?

All feedback and comments welcome.

Thanks for reading

Aisling

Summer Job – Positions Available. :)

I spend every Monday putting the shoe mountain that gathered at the side on the couch back in the children’s rooms and ‘dissappearing‘ the wilted dandelion or stone collection scattered on the mantle-piece. I mutter to myself about how I always have to do it, and I am going to have serious words with them all this time (including Mr Dad who seems to think there is a shoe and sock putter- back fairy living with us!) So, enough is enough.

I'm sure someone will tidy up after me.

I’m sure someone will tidy up after me.

Timing is everything and obviously dishing out tasks on a Monday morning is a surefire way to reach screaming levels of tension in nanoseconds. But the school holidays are around the corner, so this household is about to get chore-tastic! Along with the added bonus of not having to run around and pick up after them all the time, doing their own chores will go a long way towards encouraging their self-respect, self-confidence and independence.

So this summer, I will refer to the list below for little jobs that all three children from the toddler to the tweenager can help with!

Housework: Dusting; putting their toys away (tip: insist they put each toy /game away before starting a new activity); hoovering; emptying the dishwasher; making their beds; sweeping the floor; clearing and setting the table; washing and drying dishes; mopping up (inevitable) spills.

 

Never too young!

Never too young!

Laundry: Sorting out clothes for dark and light washes; matching socks; stripping their beds; folding and putting laundry away; loading and  putting on the washing machine; putting their clothes either in the wash or away at the end of the day.

My sous chef.

My sous chef.

Food preparation: Pouring drinks; preparing breakfast cereal; peeling vegetables and putting peel in the compost; making sandwiches; chopping fruit; turning on oven to preheat; weighing ingredients; using a whisk.

 

Don't forget the wheels!

Don’t forget the wheels!

Outside: Pulling weeds; sweeping the decking; washing the car (inside and out); gathering up chopped leaves and branches; watering the plants.

Obviously the list is not exhaustive but there is plenty there to encourage the children to help out a little every day.

Weeding!

Weeding!

I don’t plan on overloading them with a load of tasks. The aim of the game, for us, is to keep it light and easily achievable. That said, I will not give up at the first “I am too tired” hurdle – instead, I

will try a little negotiation. “So, what do you think you could do to help me out? ” and build on that.

Still plenty of time for fun!

Still plenty of time for fun!

By mid-August, I expect I will be having breakfast in bed while the children clean up and prepare lunch, ahh happy days! 😉

What are your summer plans?

Thanks for reading.

Aisling

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