Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Voice for All

Tumbleweed Infant House is a pretty special place.  One afternoon I had a rather big ‘aha’ moment.  I was chatting with a co-worker in a quiet moment and we were commenting how one child in my group is super chatty.  He is still in the inbetween space of being pre-verbal and verbal, but using both sound and words he has a lot to say.

Zs we are chatting about how chatty he is already and how much more so he will be when he gets more words, I casually say “He is probably so chatty because everyone here gets a voice.”

For weeks now, I will pause and come back to that statement, because it is a huge one.  Everyone gets a voice, from the youngest infant to the oldest adult.  Everyone gets a voice here.  One that is heard, listened to and respected.  This is unique in our world, where some get a voice and most do not.  

So, here’s to a place where every person’s gets a voice and can be as chatty as they please.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Lately, I have noticed the power of a simple word...and. 

As Cohort 8 continues to develop their language skills, we are having lots of conversations!  One kind of conversation that we have quite a bit is about the limits being set throughout many different scenarios. Sometimes limits can be so hard when you are 2 (or 34) and some big feelings can come up.

I found myself needing a way to validate those inevitable big feels, but still hold the limit. This is where the beauty of the simple word 'and' comes in.  I can hear you, feel you, see you AND communicate the limit. These two things, big feels and a limit, are not mutually exclusive. I can hold both, I can support both. 

"I hear you want to keep playing AND it's time to get a diaper change."

"I see you are mad about not getting that truck AND I won't let you hit."

"I hear you really miss your mommy AND it's time to work on getting shoes on."

"I see you are frustrated AND you get to try a bite of veggies before having more pasta."

The conversation that follows, supports processing the big feelings and validating limit. It applies to every part of our day!  Maybe it's a pause for a big hug before heading to the bathroom or finding a different toy. Maybe it's a further conversation about safety for ourselves, our friends and our community. But before those actions or conversations happen, I want my boys to know that they are seen, heard, and felt. AND that I still will hold limits that keep their best interests in mind, especially around health and safety. 

Who knew a small word could be so powerful!


As a music lover, I enjoy a well-done album. It starts with small melodies and rhythms that come together to tell the story of each song, individually.  Than those songs, each in a specific order and flowing into the next, come together to tell the bigger story of the album.  And further, all of the collective albums of a single artist tell this evolving story of the musician’s life.  
What does this have to do with routine?  Let's start by looking at the school day as if it were a music album. All these small pieces, the rhythms into songs and songs into playlist, come together to shape our day.  The different, bigger parts of the day - mealtimes, outside play, nap time and bathroom time - flow together to shape our day.  And within each bigger part, there are smaller routines and individual nuances that shape these bigger parts.  When all these elements come together, the story of our day is being told.

It keeps getting bigger, too. The days make up a week, the weeks turn into a month, the months into a year, and so on and so forth.

So, why is this important?  When we know how a mealtime or day or week flows, we have
an outline for what is going to happen. This predictability quiets the questions of “what's next?” or “what's going to happen?”.  When we don't have to wonder about those questions, we have more space to calmly engage with what is happening in the present moment.  This reduces anxiety and worry about present and future moments, allowing us to be open and engaged with people and play.

Building Trust with Routine

Routine provides a framework so that each day need not be a new invention, but rather it is an opportunity to fine tune one’s orientation to the world. It takes on the spirit of a beloved ritual that nurtures relationships as much as bodies.”
  • Respecting Babies, Ruth Ann Hammond

When we establish routine, we bring consistency and predictability to a child’s world.  This predictability helps establish safety and connection -the child experiences over and over that their needs will be met and that this one person (or two or three persons) will be available to meet get those needs in a way that follows the rhythms of the child’s body.  And as a co-created routine is followed time and again, trust is built between the child and parent/caregiver.  

The child, or group of children, comes to experience that all their needs will be met; both basic level needs of food and shelter and higher level needs of love and engagement.  They can relax in this trust, which allows them to explore, participate, take risks and grow physically, mentally and emotionally.

Trusting their Capabilities because of Routine

The routine is set, the small parts of each activity within the larger routine of the day. The child or group or family all know the routine and how to participate in the routine. You've watched their familiarity grow into confidence; they can do so many parts of the routine on their own - getting dishes put away after a meal or finding their shoes for outside time. Expectations have risen to meet new skills and capabilities.  

The trust built by establishing the routines flows back to them as you trust that they are capable of participating.  As this trust that we hold for the child and their abilities blooms, we get to set different expectations and limits for their behaviour.  In doing so, we can let go of holding all the responsibility and share some of the work of the day, the tasks surrounding meals or diaper toileting or bedtime - being ever available to support where the individual or group is at.  This interplay of setting expectations, sharing responsibility and inviting participation is like a dance between adult and child, working with and supporting each other.

“I know you can do this, I trust you are capable of this, and I am going to ask you to meet the expectations of the routine.  I will also be available to support you”.

Notes about Routine:
Routines and consistency are a fine pair. The more often a routine happens, the easier it is
to follow and participate in.  For example, when we eat and sleep at roughly the same times each day, our bodies tend to feel better and function better.  But there is some flexibility in routines.  Life tends to be very life-y and illness, vacations, unexpected stuff and everything in between comes up.  Routines get changed or temporarily set aside and for the most part a child can adapt, but may need some extra support during the change in routine and/or when trying to get back into routine. Some of this flexibility is based on the child’s temperament and how often routine is getting changed around.  

Also, routines do not need to be the same in every environment...actually, I think this would be quite impossible.  Children can be highly adaptable and can adjust to routines in one space being different than the routines of another space.  For example, school and home have different rhythms and children, in general, adjust to the nuances of each environment and can even come to treasure the specialness of each space.  Sometimes special items or routines from one environment can cross over into the other as a way for a child to share something in a different community - a favorite book or toy coming to school or language or songs from school being shared at home with parents and siblings.