mainly music Blog

  • Are you expecting too much from your toddler?

    Take a deep breath and read Miriam McCaleb's words of wisdom on how to parent a willfull two year old.

    What gives? What makes us think it's acceptable to label two year olds as "terrible"? "The terrible Twos" is a common phrase used to describe our divine children as they negotiate the rocky path of toddlerhood. Just when toddlers need their adults to be at our most compassionate, understanding and helpful, we turn on them with our language and expectations. Within their earshot, these groovy toddlers are described as "terrible".

    If i knew i was being described as a "Tragic Thirty-something" rapidly approaching my "Foul Forties", i would be highly likely to lay my most awful behaviour on you. Really, you wanna see terrible? I'll give you tragic! You aint seen foul like i can deliver it....

    We've certainly moved on from thinking it's okay to use such terms when describing gender, ethnicity or ability. So why is it socially acceptable for two year olds?

    Rise up, dear readers and join me in a campaign to say "NO!" to using this unfortunate moniker. Yes, friends, beware the power of the fulfilling prophecy.

    Bye bye baby, hello toddler

    Let's explore some of the developmental tasks of children as they near the age of two, and how we as adults need to adjust our expectations. After all, when we know what is going on for children during toddlerhood, we have no need to label their behaviour "terrible".

    Toddlerhood can emerge as a shock to many parents. You've adjusted to the needs of infancy, you have been brave and giving as you negotiated sleepless nights, sore boobs, and the constant aroma of baby vomit. But along with the challenges, you've enjoyed the rewards of parenting a baby: the admiring gazes of folks on the street, the convenience of the non-mobile infant (still in the same spot where you left him, 10 minutes later!) and the glorious baby grins and giggles. Seemingly all of a sudden, this portable and somewhat malleable baby is replaced by a toddler, determined to practise his newfound walking (running, and climbing) skills, a toddler with his own ideas about where to go next and what he would rather be doing, wearing or eating. This shift must be met with a shift in your skills, or conflict will arise.

    Dr Ron Lally, one the founders of the Program for Infant/Toddler Care, a research-based training organisation in California, talks about the tension that occurs when adults continue using the same skills that were successful in caring for a young baby when they're engaged with an older infant or toddler.

    He explains that the main development task of a very young infant is to experience security and that the ultimate caregiving style for a very young infant is modelled on a warm, bosomy grandmother. Calm, gentle, sensitive love delivered by an attuned and nurturing adult with tons of time to snuggle. Perfect!

    But as that little baby grows into a mobile infant, the envelope of the cost embrace becomes more of a part-time residence. The main developmental task of the mobile infant is exploration, and a child of this age (who has made the cognitive leap that "mummy ends and i begin") has a ton of work to do in figuring out how his body works. He must learn to roll, commando-crawl, rock on hands and knees, pick things up with a pincer grasp, stand up, walk and climb. Huge work!

    Step up, coach

    Now that the middle infant has started to walk, he is, by definition, a toddler. And toddlers have a whole new world to negotiate. They've mastered much of their physical work, and they're moving into a complex world of understanding relationships, emotions and identity. ("Me! Mine! I do it!") This learning is profound and important, and Dr Lally uses the analogy of a coach to describe the type of skill set that will serve a toddler well.

    The coach is encouraging, clear and patient. The coach recoginises that some skills will need to be practised over and again, without becoming frustrated. A skilled coach wont become angry or take it personally when they receive messages, "I need your help. No, go away! I can do this on my own! Actually, hey, i really do need your help!" recognising that the need for support ebbs and flows when negotiating new skills - sometimes within moments.

    No need to get mad about it - it's not naughtiness or willfullness, its just how it is. Sue Gerhardt repeats this language in her excellent book Why Love Matters. She talks about the role of a skilled adult as an "emotion coach". Our toddlers need us to identify what they seem to be experiencing, to weave it with some empathy, and to avoid judgment of their emotion.

    A threatening toddler storm in the supermarket checkout can be responded to with something like: "Oh, I Know! All of those chocolates look so interesting and it's hard when you can't have what you want, eh? Looks like you're mad about that! Oh well .... sorry, babe, no chocolate today."

    This is quite a different message to, "Stop being silly. You don't need chocolate. Stop it!"

    The limit is the same (I'm not buying a chocolate bar), but while the first response acknowledges that human desires and emotions are normal (and lets be honest, whose not tempted by the beautifully wrapped treats?), the second serves to add an unhelpful layer of shame to the mix (It's silly to feel like that). When we are honest with ourselves, we realise that it's entirely reasonable to feel discomfort when faced with the yearning for something desirable that we cannot have. New car, anyone? Coveting another pair of impractical shoes or beautiful handbag? Yes, it's hard when we can't have what we want.

    Local parent educator and university lecturer Nathan Mikaere-Wallis has another terrific analogy when talking about supporting children through this time. He talks about a child's need for an emotional apprenticeship. Just as the master mechanic wouldn't mock the junior for not yet knowing how to manage a blown carburetter, wise adults know we must share our experiences, to avoid abandoning children in the complex world of emotion.

    Recipe for brain development

    Exploring the work of Dr Bruce Perry, a Texas-based neuroscientist, author and child psychiatrist, gives us another lens through which to view this idea. Dr Perry developed what's known as the neuro-sequential model, a fantastic tool for understanding the way our brains develop. The neuro-sequential model demonstrates that toddlers are working with an incomplete brain. Their brains have a way to go before being totally organised. Is it any wonder they need our help?

    This model teaches us a hierarchical nature of brain growth and function. Dr Perry uses the analogy of a layer cake: The bottom layer must be firm and cooked so other layers can rest upon it.

    We now know that our brain uses a foundation of simple functions and later develops more complex functions. The first region of our brain to develop is the brain stem, focusing on survival functions, for example: breathing.

    Next, the neuro-sequential model teaches us that toddlers do huge work to develop control over their bodies, as they wire up a region known as their mid-brain. Then, the "layer" of the limbic system is developed, and this is the home of emotion.

    Anyone hanging out with toddlers will recognise that they often feel deep emotions, and they move from one to another for reasons that may seem illogical to adults. Most grown-ups have access to a region of the brain known as the cortex, which enables logic to override an emotional response. Research indicates we don't fully wire up our cortexes until we're in our mid-20s. So, to expect a two year old to "calm down" just because you say so is unreasonable.

    Toddlers have an emotional brain, but they don't yet have a logical brain. Robust cortical growth happens most readily when it rests upon a strong foundation. This can't happen when the "layers" of the "cake" that sit underneath have raw cake batter in the middle.

    It is arguable, then, that the best way to ensure a healthy wiring (and perfect bake time) for the limbic system is to engage emotionally with toddlers as they do the work of learning about feelings.

    Imagine your 20-month-old wants to wear the green T-shirt and it's wet on the washing line. He's disappointed, maybe sad. Perhaps a tantrum is looming. While it's great if you take the time to talk with him about the wet fabric and the fact that he'll get cold if he wears it now, he will not be able to hear your logical messages and explanations while he's in the midst of his emotional reaction.

    Instead, start with his emotion. "Oh, I can see your face looking really sad about that. Are you disappointed about the T-shirt being wet? Because you really love that T-shirt, don't you? But do you know what, honey? It's all wet! It was dirty, so I washed it, and now it has to get dry before you can wear it again."

    See - all those logical explanations are in there too, but we must begin by allowing, acknowledging and explaining the emotion. Over time, children become more skilled at recognising the emotions that pass like clouds across their consciousness ("Yes, I'm angry!"). Knowing what they are, as well as having been coached about how to manage them, is essential in learning to regulate them - to calm oneself down.

    Understanding tantrums

    Speaking of regulating emotions, let's take a moment to talk specifically about tantrums. Tantrums are usually a result of a child not having yet learned to deal with their powerful emotions in more of a socially acceptable way. They are not usually about naughtiness or manipulation - remember, these children don't yet have much of a logical brain, so they're not able to plan, plot or control their parents.

    Most tantrums are what author and child psychotherapist Margot Sunderland calls a "distress tantrum", and these children should be thought of as having the words "I need to be soothed" or "Help me to handle this" printed across their beings. These children need empathy, language to describe their feelings and perhaps some distraction.

    The minority of tantrums are described by Sunderland in The Science of Parenting, as "Little Nero" tantrums. A child having a Little Nero tantrum is usually older, there are no tears or stress chemicals in his brain and body. Only a minority of tantrums are about manipulation. This is the child who needs clear limits and a calm, firm parent.

    Which brings us to the final point. In order to be the sort of parent our children need us to be, we must strive for calm, warm, consistent parenting. This is very hard to do when we are stressed ourselves. Our buttons are pushed much more easily when we're tired, when we haven't learned to process our own emotions, or if we just need a snack.

    So just as you're practising kindness and acceptance of those toddlers (the Terrific, Tantalising Toddlerific Twos), practise a little kindness and acceptance of yourself, too.

    Miriam McCaleb has been working with children for 20 years. She reckons the coolest among them are toddlers. The last decade has seen Miriam concentrate on teaching the adults in children's lives (who are also cool) and in caring for her whanau (the best of the lot!).  She works with the Brainwave Trust, blogs at and this February delightedly welcomed a new baby. 

     Special thanks to OHbaby! magazine for providing us with the content of this piece.

    Republished with permission –

  • Conflict is common to all of us. The problem is we often struggle to handle it well. To be fair, we all know how to handle it badly, and we do so on a regular basis.  We can fall into the trap of getting aggressive or we can just try to avoid it all. At one level conflict is simply the disagreement of ideas; what makes it harder are the meaning and emotions we load it up with. Some people avoid conflict, saying they want to keep the peace, which isn’t actually true, they just want to avoid conflict. You often have to go through to conflict to get to real peace. To resolve conflict well, here are four steps to apply.

    1. Own your zone.
      One thing that all people in conflict have in common is they are very aware of what the other person is doing wrong. As they focus on this, the relationship stalls. Before addressing another person's behaviour first make sure you've tidied up your side of the fence. Own your emotions, your reactions, your interpretation, rather than blaming others for what you're feeling, assuming and the way you are behaving. It is easy to fall into a ‘reactive’ mindset rather than a ‘responsive’ one. People with a ‘reactive’ mindset do three things: [1] they blame the other person for how they feel; [2] they then justify any reaction they make; and [3] they wait for the other person to change, or at least apologise. People with a ‘responsive’ mindset however, do the opposite: [1] they take responsibility for how they feel; [2] they then take responsibility for how they react; and [3] they initiate to address the issue.
    1. Know your need.
      Often conflict is the clash between two people's solutions or preferences that seem mutually exclusive. However, if you peel back their preferences you discover what is actually important to a person; what they are valuing or needing. Usually what each person is valuing or needing is equally fine.  It is here that you can brainstorm together how both can be upheld – you become a team rather than competitors. Or you can negotiate as to what you require to be ok with accepting the other person’s preferences, or equally what would they require to be ok with accepting yours.
    1. Address the person.
      As obvious as that sounds, we will often talk to everyone else except the person we have the problem with; or we clam up and say nothing at all. Often people play the conversation through in their minds and conclude that saying something won't work. They never let the other person into the conversation. When we do this we stall ourselves. We need to play our part, which is to address the person, say what we need to say, and let their response be their responsibility.
    1. And finally, communicate constructively.
      Learn how to speak the truth in a respectful way. Some people are all ‘truth’ but there is no respect in the way they are speaking; they just let the person have it. Others are so focused on being loving and respectful that they never say what they really mean. When you speak, do so from a soft heart, speaking calmly, clearly, using “I” and focus on the behaviour rather than attacking the person. One helpful pattern to use is:

    I appreciate…
    I don't appreciate…
    I would appreciate...

    For example: “I appreciate that you have been working hard. What I am struggling with is the way you arrive late each night and I really need your support. What I would appreciate is if you could do whatever it takes to be here on time. That would mean a lot to me.”

    Resolving conflict well empowers your life and deepens your relationships. Why settle for anything less?

    Richard Black
    Strength to Strength


  • Many of the songs and rhymes used in a mainly music session have more benefit than just 'a fun time'. When children use their right hand over the left side of their body and the left hand over the right side of their body, they are simulating nerves within the brain. Children in reading recovery groups often struggle with these concepts.

    Laterality is the term that refers to an important change in the brain that permits an 'internal awareness of the two sides of the body and their differences' (Newel Kephart). The brain is divided into two major hemispheres - the left and right hemisphere. Information comes to the brain from the body's sensory and motor systems, helping it to develop a 'picture' of the body - learning new tasks and learning what the body can do (that's why touch and movement are so important). The message pathways from the left side of the body cross over in the midbrain to the right side of the brain and the pathways from the right side of the body cross over to the left side of the brain.


    So what can you do at home?

    • Have some games where your child has to use their non-dominant hand to reach across their body to pick up an item.
    • With a book on their knee, encourage your child to turn the page with the opposite hand so they are using their hand across the central line of their body.
    • Ask your four year old or older child to hop on their non-dominant foot for ten hops.
    • Help your child use the monkey bars at the park.
    • Play marching around the house.
    • Reward your child for crawling from the living room to the bedroom - as a bit of a game - even though your child is now walking.
    • Have your child catch a ball in their non-dominant hand and throw it back.
    • Make a game of having your child reach for something on the opposite side of their body.

    Putting some time into your child's laterality is important for their on-going development, especially reading and writing. It's worth having a little bit of fun making this happen because your child will willingly get involved not realising their brain is growing and developing!

  • Have you looked at 'how' to speak love into your child using the love languages? While a child is young, it's good to love them through all five love languages so here's some practical ideas you could try this week.

    Time – take a moment to have a ‘date’ with your child. If you can, one parent with one child – at the park, go for a walk, make a craft; if you can’t, set aside a chunk of time to complete a project with your children.

    Act of service – does your child look after a job around the house? Maybe they feed the cat or dry the dishes. Why don’t you take their turn? Make sure you tell them WHY you’re doing this or it will go unrecognized!

    Physical touch – easy as! A rough and tumble on the floor. Read a book snuggled on the couch together.

    Words of encouragement – write a note to tell your child how much you love them and why. “I love the way you smile.” “I love you because just because you are my son – no other reason.” “I love the way you care for your sister.” Speak out what you see for little ones who can’t yet read.

    Gifts – children don’t have a ‘value’ for money. Something small – something big but cheap; children view the item’s value to them rather than what you paid for it.

    We’re grateful to Gary Chapman who wrote the book, 5 Love Languages, and recommend it to you as an essential parenting title.

  • Self-esteem. Parents are sometimes placed on a guilt trip. We measure ourselves. The critics say, the child's self esteem is all up to parents.

    It has been recorded that worry does not add a single moment to your lives. That wherever our treasure is, there our heart and thoughts will also be. And that each of us is more valuable to God than the birds of the air.

    How can we, as parents or influencers of these youngsters, present a bigger picture so they know we 'choose' them, that they are held in our hearts as 'loved'?

    Firstly, we can reduce the 'worry' factor. We can take stock of the atmosphere in our home, not talk about wrongdoings in their hearing, and stop ourselves from confiding our own fears to them.

    Secondly, we can encourage them in treasures beyond themselves - let's help them find a passion - dance, sport, art, literature. They don't have to be 'first' or 'best' - instead be satisfied with a job well done, a game well played.

    Finally, we can explore with them a picture beyond ourselves. If Gods finds us and our children more valuable than the birds, we can relax in that knowledge. Look at birds dressed so finely; they have detail far beyond our nakedness; they worry-not. Sure birds don't have schedules or iPhones, rent or mortgage, bills nor credit cards. Birds' lives are relatively care-free. But listen to their song - they sing as the sun rises, they sing as the sun sets, and whether its raining or sunny, they find something to be thankful for. Have you considered and 'i'm thankful' list !

    Start by doing  what is necessary. Then do what is possible. And suddenly you are doing the impossible.
    Francis of Assisi. 

  • Young children love to play. Sometimes they play undirected. Sometimes they need that one-on-one time with Dad, Mum or the adult in their life who is in charge. And through their play, learning takes place. That can be learning about life, about education, about spirituality, and about character. Here are three simple ideas for a day when you're dry on inspiration.

    Using an empty plastic container - like a milk container with a handle - poke holes in the base with a meat skewer, a knife or using hammer and nail. When you're outside, fill the bottle with water and let your child sprinkle the grass, the flowers, and if you're able, the concrete. Talk about what the water is doing for the grass and flowers. Ask your child to draw something on the concrete with their sprinkles - and have them talk to you about the artwork.

    Go for a walk in a park and talk about the many miracles of nature. The colour [the trees, the flowers], the shapes [long, short, wide, thin], how God cares for the birds. [watch them fly and eat], and the miracle of growth [can you find plants in various stages of growth]. Ask your child to stand next to a plant and photograph them. Let them see how tall they are next to a tall tree, a short bush, a little flower. Maybe you will have the time to stop and speak a prayer of thanks for all these delights.

    When you're indoors, sit with your child as they put together a drawing. Then mount it on an empty food box and cut it into pieces. You and your youngster can create a puzzle that is unique to them.

  • My nearly four-year-old is busy studying the latest flyer from one of the big stores, so conveniently deposited into our mailbox every other day. This is one is seasonally filled with chocolate eggs. Big ones, small ones, hallow ones, marshmallow ones, licensed ones featuring the latest cartoon star/movie star/pop star. She is dreaming, mouth almost watering. I am curious:

    Hey darling, can you tell me what Easter is really about?

    Ummm... Eggs?

    No, not really.

    Ummm... Chocolate?


    Ummm... Chocolate eggs?!

    No, not even chocolate eggs. Do you remember what happened at the first ever Easter?

    Ummm... Jesus was born?

    No, not quite. Jesus was born at Christmas time. He came into this world as a little baby, but he was actually God's son and God was sending him to this world because we needed a Saviour.

    Why did we need a saviour?

    Well, this world is pretty amazing and beautiful. But people do some dumb stuff sometimes. They hurt each other and that makes God really sad. They also forget about God and try to manage on their own. But God loves us so much, He doesn't want us to hurt each other, or ourselves, and He misses us if we just go of doing our own thing. So he came up with a plan. He would send his son Jesus to be with people on earth for a while, so they could learn more about God and the way God wants us to live. And then Jesus could take all the punishment for the wrong things people do, so us people - God's precious children, would not be separated from Him forever but could stay connected to God an one day live with Him in heaven for eternity.

    What's eternity?

    Forever and ever. But back to Easter. Jesus had been living on earth for about 33 years.

    Daddy is going to be 33 at his next birthday!

    Yep, Daddy is nearly 33. Jesus had been working as a carpenter...

    What's a carpenter?

    A carpenter is a builder.

    A builder like Daddy!

    Yes, a builder like Daddy. Jesus had been building, but also telling people amazing stories, and teaching them really helpful things about life, and making sick people better again, and performing miracles.

    Whats a miracle?

    A miracle is something so amazing that only God could have made it happen.

    Like me?

    Yep, you're a miracle. But back to Easter. People were hearing about Jesus and all the cool stuff he was doing. And some people knew he was a great leader and they wanted to follow him. But other people were afraid of Jesus. They were worried that Jesus might make trouble for the rulers, that Jesus would get people to fight against their rule and try and take over.

    But you said Jesus was only doing cool stuff?

    Yep, he was. he wasn't going to fight with anybody. He was doing what God has asked him to do - teach people about the Kingdom of God. But the really powerful rulers felt so threatened by Jesus that they go soldiers to arrest him, saying that Jesus had broken the laws of God. He hadn't broken any laws, but by now the priests had told lies about Jesus to the Governor. The Governor didn't want Jesus killed, but people were all getting really upset and out of control, so the Governor thought Jesus had to be punished and then hopefully people would calm down again.

    Did Jesus get time out?

    Well, sadly not. They did a really awful thing to Jesus. They nailed him to a big wooden cross, which is really, really bad for your body, and after a while Jesus couldn't breathe anymore, and he died. And we remember that day on Good Friday. We have Hot Cross Buns, and the crosses remind us what happened to Jesus that day.

    MM1259 EasterBunImages_1

    Good Friday? That cross thing doesn't sound very good.

    Well, something really good was about to happen. And the cross thing - well, that was very, very important, because it was part of God's plan for Jesus. So it was a holy thing to happen. And another word for "Holy" is "good".

    Did Jesus stay on the cross?

    No, his friends were allowed to come and take him down from the cross. They took his body and wrapped it up, and then they carried it to a tomb.

    You mean a room?

    No, a tomb... a tomb is like a cave in a rock, and in those days that's where they put people when they had died. And then a big rock was rolled in front of the tomb and a guard was there keeping and eye on things.

    Were his friends sad?

    Yes, they were really, really sad. And they comforted each other. And then on the third day, the Sunday, some of Jesus' friends, some ladies, went up to his tomb.

    To take Jesus some flowers?

    Something like that. But do you know what they found? Nothing, No Jesus! and the big huge heavy stone had been rolled away! They tomb was empty, and the guard had no idea what had happened. And then they saw a couple of angels who told them that Jesus was alive! He had come back to life, he had risen from the dead! We call that resurrection. That's why Easter Sunday is called Resurrection Sunday. The friends of Jesus were amazed, and rang back to their other friends to tell them the good news. It was hard to believe it was true, so Peter, another one of Jesus' friends came up to the tomb and all he could find were some of the bandages they had wrapped Jesus in before. Jesus was alive, and he visited with his friends and talked to them some more before going up to Heaven to be with God.

    Why did he go back to heaven?

    Well, his work on earth was done.

    His building work? Had he finished his house?

    Not his building work, but the job God had sent him to earth to complete - Jesus had to die as punishment for our sins - the things we do wrong. Because Jesus took the punishment for us, we don't have to be punished, we can be forgiven and still stay really close to God, even though we make mistakes and do the wrong things sometimes. But Gods plan was not Jesus dying on the cross, the most amazing part was that empty tomb. The empty tomb showed us God's amazing power - God is more powerful than death, so Jesus came back to life! God is the greatest, most powerful king and ruler EVER. And because of Jesus dying on Good Friday but then coming back to life on Resurrection Sunday, we too don't need to be afraid of dying - we can live forever with God. In fact, With God we don't need to be afraid of anything!

    So...why do we have Easter eggs?

    That's a good question. The hollow chocolate eggs, the ones with nothing inside, can remind us of that empty tomb...there was nothing inside the tomb because Jesus was alive!

    Does Jesus know the Easter bunny?

    He might do. Jesus is actually really into fun stuff, and people having a good time. The bible says he came so that we may have life, and life in abundance! That means a really fun, happy, full life! At Easter there is heaps of fun stuff around. Some things - like eggs and baby chickens represent new life, the new life we can all have because of what Jesus did. Other things are symbols of spring because in the Northern Hemisphere Easter Happens and springtime. It's not spring here in New Zealand though, it's actually Autumn, but that's ok - we can still think about Spring and all the new life that happens then when animals are born and chickens hatch out of eggs...

    So why does this Easter Egg here in the magazine have a picture of a Dora on it?

    That, my darling, i just can't really explain.

    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him". John 3:16-17

    Special thanks to Ohbaby! magazine for providing us with the content of this piece.


  • Passing on your values doesn't have to be at special times. While we're 'doing life' is as good as anything. Reading a story and reflecting on the content. "What would you do if you'd been Sam?"
    "Tell me what you think Sally was feeling when she spoke like that?" Use the story content to pass on your values by encouraging your child to speak out their thoughts. Keep asking questions rather than passing judgement.

    Another 'life time' is when you're in the car. Using questions, without interrogation, can be helpful way to get a picture into your child's thoughts. "Why do you think your friend said that?" "What could you do if that happened again?" Rather than hooking up the DVD player or passing over the tablet, use car time to converse.

    You'll be pleased you've made this a habit as your children get older. A car is a wonderful place to chat - you're not looking eye to eye and for the most part, your older primary or teen can't get away!

    meal times are fantastic occasions to speak truth into your child's esteem. Have each person tell one thing they love about the other around the table. You'll find sibling rivalry reduces the more you undertake this reinforcement of 'you are loved for who you are'.

    Staging special times for values is important too. Birthdays can be a chance to celebrate the child's character development. "You're becoming such a generous person. We've noticed this year how you share with your sister".

    In ancient times, God asked the people to remember important events and create a memorial. This ensured that as the generations passed, the story relating to that occasion was retold. In a similar way we use Easter and Christmas, Thanksgiving, ANZAC and Independence Day. Photo albums, whether in a book or on a tablet, can be modern day memorials. Link the occasions to what you remember of the people involved. "You were incredibly patient that day as we waited for the parade. I love how patient you are".

    What motivates your values? how do you measure them? Take time out to think about your values and how you'll pass them on to your children.

  • When you're at mainly music, there are songs and rhymes that involved props. Sometimes those props are given out to everyone, like maracas or scarves. And other times, there are props given out to only five children who come to the front to hold them.

    And then the crying begins!

    If your child loathes being left out, rather than scold them, ask the team to 'not forget your child in future', or wish there were only five children in your session, here are some ideas to help your child learn from a very young age about being a team player. This is going to take time. With the end in mind [I want to develop a team player], keep persevering in the process of teaching your child.

    Distract your child by whispering into their ear about the props at the front. "Look at the colours of those ladybugs - what colour do you see?" "I wonder if Sophie will drop her ladybug. Do you think she will?"

    Celebrate the other children who are at the front. "How cool is it that Marcus got to hold the duckling? Are you ready to clap when he holds it up?"

    If your child will not calm, take her out. But first, give her the change to make that choice. "Samantha, we cannot enjoy the mainly music session if you are going to scream about the lollipops at the front. You can either stop screaming or i will take you out to the foyer. It's your choice. "And make sure you follow through. No counting or no bargaining from you; no semi-screams from your child. Out in the foyer you can advise your child, "We can back into music when you are ready to participate. Other children are having a turn this week. You will have a turn another day. I will wait with you until you calm down. Tell me when you are ready to go back in with a smile."

    Delight in your child when it is their turn. Don't look at your phone. Make eye contact and smile while they're at the front. When you child returns, triumphant that it was their turn, smile and give a hug or high five. Tell them what and amazing job they did holding the big picture. Delighting in your child is a key attachment activity. When they know you love and adore them, no matter what, they feel secure and find a sense of belonging.

    If your child is cautious but willing about going to the front, go with them. At mainly music, we're about the connection you can have with your child in the session. Don't force them to be confident. Help them gain confidence in holding a prop. Make sure you child has some degree of willingness though.

    And during the week, practice. In the car, talk about how excited you'll be to see Amy and Oscar at the front with puppets. At home, have your child hold something related to a song or rhyme you can remember or play a song from the Greatest Hits range. Practice turn taking - have teddy or dolly hold one of the props, then your child. Encourage your child to be the session facilitator at home with the soft toys. Congratulate toys who take part. And if any soft toy cries because they want the prop, take it into another room and with a voice loud enough for your child to hear, state what you'd be saying if it was the real thing!

    Hope you have fun.

  • When we think about adults spending quality time with children, i wonder if it's just me, or does your mind go straight to sentimental sorts of scenes: cosy board game by the fire, baby crawling through the daffodils of his first spring, perhaps a slow-motion shot of a family laughing as child toddles through lapping waves.

    If i were to ask you to imagine and adult spending quality time with a child, to consider a rich opportunity for relationship strengthening or visualise a learning interaction, i don't reckon you'd visualise a nappy change.

    But perhaps we should. perhaps the journey to self begins on the nappy change table.

    If you're reading this, you are probably fairly interested in child development and  you will know how powerful early relationships are in impacting our social skills: our ability to read cues, to respond to and empathise with others, and that these abilities serve as powerful predictors of things like school success and later relationship health.

    Those of us who are interested in brain science understand the repetition is one of the key principles for reinforcing learning and building brains. We know that infants and young toddlers are particularly malleable at a foundational level: their 'habits of mind' are being formed, they are waist-deep in the fundamentals of identity formation.

    So while our memories might grasp onto "special occasion" moments as examples of quality time, our brains are actually built on the everyday minute, the day-in, day out activities so often disdained for being just routine.

    Please join me in rethinking this idea, just for a moment. Consider that most children are reported to enjoy around 5000 nappy changes in their lifetime. There are interactions that are happening anyway - these are, if you choose to think if it like this, tasks that must be done.

    A nappy change interaction can be swift and clinical, making maximum use of distractino as a tool for getting jobs done. The distraction might be that of the adult (cricking phone under neck or sending a text message) or it might be the child who is distracted, encouraged to lavish attention on something other than the adult.

    Instead, imagine the way that nappy change routines can be an oasis of relational connection in a busy, busy world. They offer the change for adult and child to share gaze and conversation, smiles and song.

    Children who are consistently handled with kind hands and good humour are far more likely to radiate those gifts back to the world. Imagine how you might handle a nappy change routine differently if you weren't consistently rushing to get it finished, but you were instead seeing it as an opportunity for unhurried, relational strengthening (with poo-be-gone benefits).

    These daily acts of mothering/fathering/caregiving provide an inbuilt opportunity for children to experience intimacy - especially when their adults hold an intention to build and nurture the relationship, to attune to the needs of their children, as well as achieve the practical goal represented by the routine.

    Children who are consistently handled with kind hands and good humour are far more likely to radiate those gifts back to the world.

    It is helpful to view all care routines in this way, to see that feeding a baby is an opportunity for shared intimacy, warmth and the beginnings of conversation - and to consider that nappy changes are an extension of the feeding and nurturing routine.

    Babies aren't necessarily aware of a separation: what happens at the top half of their personhood in comparison to what is happening in the bottom half, but they are certainly aware of how good it feels to be held gently, spoken to warmly, smiled at by a loving and familiar face. And we are aware of the power of the repetitious.

    Remember, children don't delineate their experiences into "educational and relationship enhancing opportunities" and "other" - the act of supporting a toddler into gumboots is just as full of rich learning as the splashing in puddles to follow.

    Let's pledge to say the word "routine" with reverence, and imagine that the very familiarity of the event creates a framework that allows us to pay even closer attention to the person we're caring for.
    Miriam McCaleb, Brainwave Trust Educator.

    Reprinted by permission of The Brainwave Trust. To obtain a copy of this article, we recommend you go to:

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Fires, floods and other nasties
Families at risk
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Fires, floods and other nasties
If there has been a natural (or man made) disaster in your country, like fires, floods or even terrorism, and you'd like to support the groups in that area, depending which country you give from, we'll make sure these groups get help. The money will go to celebration items (like Christmas books or birthday gifts) and financial support of the local groups affected.
Families at risk
We're connecting with families who don't always see the value of mainly music sessions first off - but when they attend other services provided by agencies and participate, their smiles return as they connect with their child. It fills mum's life and develops the bond with her children.
Bring connection during Covid-19
We have many stories where mothers say, "I went to my GP. I was told to go on medication. I found mainly music. I don't need medication at all." Post natal depression, social isolation, anxiety along with Covid-19 restrictions can stop anyone in their tracks. Contributing to this fund from anywhere in the world will help those mainly music groups who are struggling financially.
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