Little Girl Essentials
As a parent, it doesn’t feel like Valentine’s development grows at a steady pace, but rather that she remains at one stage for quite awhile and then suddenly, in a matter of a few turbulent days, she levels up into a new stage. She was a baby for so long, then suddenly—seemingly overnight—she was a toddler who talked and ran and talked back. She has been a toddler for years, but just recently she seems to have leveled up once again. I don’t know what to call it. Preschooler? Child? Little girl?
The transition is hard. The past few months were confusing and daunting; neither of us knew quite what to make of it. She was so much more active, so much more independent, more volatile and questioning. She hated when I helped her into her carseat or that I couldn’t be there to observe and praise her every move. I was constantly irritated at the accidental headbutts and the impossibly long time it took her to brush her own teeth. But now it feels like she has fully emerged into this new thing, this person who is interested in numbers and letters, who can follow instructions and dress herself, can feel empathy and have favorites. When I’m with her now, it feels less like babysitting and more like hanging out.
I’ve received so many wonderful suggestions and great advice from mothers at or past this stage. Even though I completely feel like I’m winging this whole motherhood thing, there are some resources and activities that Valentine and I really do both love ::
This is still one of her favorite things to do, and while we still spend the majority of our time reading picture books, she now has the attention span for chapter books. Lately, we have loved The Tale of Despereaux and my sister Emilie recommended Charlotte’s Web, which is wonderful as well. For her birthday, Valentine asked for Llama Llama books (these make Logan and I laugh out loud, especially this one) and the adorable Fancy Nancy series, which never fail to delight.
OK To Wake Clock
Valentine was waking up at 6:00 a.m. or earlier, and Logan and I were at our wit’s end until some friends recommended the OK To Wake clock. This ingenious invention glows green at the time you set, so that your child will know when it’s “ok to wake.” Buying the clock was like buying a miracle. In fact, once Valentine knew when it was ok to wake up, she actually started sleeping in past the time we set. It’s as though her brain needed to know that she would be informed when it was morning in order for her to relax enough to get the sleep she needed.
I actually don’t practice slow parenting, but this post has stuck with me and sometimes I purposely leave my phone at home and go on a slow walk with Valentine. I deliberately let her get sidetracked, and have no goal in mind except to wander. She stoops to look at bugs or to talk to me about the dog in our neighbor’s backyard. We sit on the edge of a bridge and watch the water flow beneath us. I’ve noticed that we both get very calm and pleasant during these times, and there’s a weightlessness when you have no agenda. These walks work wonders when we’ve been butting heads (literally or figuratively) and need a way to reconnect.
We discovered this series at our local library. Each album features a different classical composer, bringing the music to life through story. In Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the famous opera is acted out in a sweet and funny story, and the opera is sung in English with a simpler vocabulary. In Beethoven Lives Upstairs, a young boy is outraged when a crazy composer moves upstairs and bangs on the piano at all hours of the day and night. (When it got to the part where six-year-old Beethoven’s father made him stay up all night practicing, Valentine exclaimed, “Aw! Poor wittle Beethoven cutie pootie!”) I love the beautiful music and Valentine is mesmerized by the stories.
Julie Morstad Flashcards
I found these flashcards by one of our favorite illustrators when I was in San Francisco with my sister-in-law. Valentine and I have found all sorts of ways to use them to help her grow accustomed to letters. My mother-in-law, who has a degree in childhood development, introduced me to Maria Montessori’s idea of “sensitive periods” ::
Each period last for as long as it is necessary for the child to accomplish a particular stage in his development. These periods of sensitivity are transitory and when the aim of the period is accomplished the special sensitivity simply falls away. In other words it reaches its peak and dies away.
These sensitive periods can be thought of as moments of readiness for learning. Sensitive periods appear as an intense interest for repeating certain actions over and over again, until, out of repetition, a new skill emerges and is mastered.
Because Valentine seems hyper aware of both numbers and letters right now, I try to find ways to incorporate them throughout our day. We practice addition with carrots, draw letters on her chalkboard, and I usually run my finger along the page whenever I’m reading so that she can follow along (a trick I learned from Atticus Finch!). We also love everything made by this company. It’s amazing to watch her learn in such a spontaneous, natural way. I can tell it doesn’t feel like work to her, but more like play.
At this stage in her life, Valentine mostly just wants to play. She acts out stories with such variety and vastness that I’m amazed. She loves her Schleich animals and her dollhouse, and I’m constantly finding her “babies” tucked away in all sorts of funny hiding places. When Logan gets home from work, they act out Overwatch, a fun video game that Valentine has watched Logan play. She has an almost infinite capacity for creating stories and it’s delightful to overhear or take part in her wild imaginings. This quote by Fred Rogers is so inspiring to me ::
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.
I’m really interested to hear from other mothers about helpful resources and ideas for this new “little girl” stage. What books do you read? What music do they like? How do you encourage play and independence? Any tips or good books about discipline? What are your favorite things to do together?