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Crafting Parenting Reading Relentless Self-Improvement

…and this concludes the intermission…for now…


My goodness; I had never intended for the blog to go so silent for so long.  My schedule has been kicking my butt lately – I’ve been working on a Master’s in Psychology focusing on Child Development, which has been AWESOME.  The program is through a venerable (online) university and I think they didn’t bank on candidates like me when they set up the system that bills me a set fee every three months until I finish.  What better motivation could there be to crank out 55 papers in six months?  So I’ve been a bit busy with that.

Oh yes, and with a little podcast I started.

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New podcast episode: “Wait, is my toddler racist?”


“People unfamiliar with the psychological literature typically hold two beliefs about racial prejudice.  First and foremost, they believe that young children are inherently color-blind and do not notice racial differences unless they are pointed out.  The second popular belief is that children would never develop race bias if they were not explicitly taught this by their parents” – Phyllis Katz, a psychologist who has studied the development of racism in children for decades.

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Introducing the Your Parenting Mojo podcast

Things have been a little quiet around here for a few weeks, because I’ve been pretty busy working on some other projects.  It was actually going through the process of writing the epic post on symbolic representation that made me realize how much fun I had digging into the research on that topic and also realized how much information is available in the scientific literature that could be valuable to parents if it ever saw the light of day.  But there was still so much I didn’t know, so to put a framework around it all I decided to go back to school and get a Masters degree in Psychology with a focus on Child Development.  I’m a couple of classes in and absolutely loving it.  And secondly, to help parents benefit from all the information I’m reading without having to do the reading themselves I just launched a new podcast called Your Parenting Mojo.

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Happy second birthday to my Carys

In some ways it seems like no time at all and in other ways it seems like forever since you were plopped on my chest just after you were born – you were a screamy slithery blob and it didn’t seem like you were really interested in being out in the world.  (Thinking about it, you still love to snuggle under three layers of blankets…) Continue Reading

Crafting Education Parenting

A series of bubble provocations – with recipes!!


Carys received a small bottle of bubbles as a birthday party favor a few weeks ago, and she fell in love.  The first thing she wanted to do every morning after she woke up was blow bubbles.  (Actually she usually wanted us to blow bubbles for her while she sometimes chased them down, but she was still having fun.)

We blew lots of little bubbles (blowing sharply through the hole in the wand) and bigger bubbles (blowing more gently through the hole) but I got bored of blowing bubbles for her pretty soon so following on from my recent thoughts on provocations I decided to extend the concept into a provocation.  The following series of photos were taken over a period of a couple of weeks as I researched and found ideas for things to do with bubbles and introduced them one by one.

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Education Parenting Reggio Emilia Reggio Emilia Study Group

When can a child represent an object using art?


One topic I want to dive into particularly deeply coming out of the Study Group in Reggio Emilia is that of toddlers making representations: choosing to draw or paint or otherwise create a representation of another object.



On a visit to a preschool in Reggio Emilia I observed four children in the infant-toddler room (so, <18 months old) sitting on chairs around a table.  On the table in front of each child was an orange, a sheet of paper, a paintbrush, and a set of paints in different shades of orange.  The children were painting with orange paint (because that’s the only color choice they had) onto the paper in a variety of lines, blobs, and squiggles.  In a Q&A session after we looked around the school I asked the Pedagogista (the school’s head teacher/learning coordinator) whether she thought the children were in fact representing oranges in paint on their paper and she said unequivocally “yes”: “What the child paints may not look like an orange but it represents that to them.”

About a year ago – long before I learned about the Reggio approach to children’s learning – I read Pennie Brownlee’s booklet Magic Places, a guide to supporting young children’s creative art work.  Brownlee states: “Children working in the scribbling stage [age 0-6 years] are not depicting anything.  Because they’re not depicting anything, it is inappropriate to ask a scribbler, “What are you drawing?”  It is equally inappropriate to ask a scribbler to draw any particular thing: they are making marks and patterns” (Magic Places p.27).  Brownlee does go on to note that the “symbol stage” lasts from 4 to 10 years so apparently may be some overlap between the two stages, but according to Brownlee’s definition children younger than four are unlikely to be depicting anything. Continue Reading


The New Snack-Like Toys: 1.35 billion* missed opportunities to connect with our kids

*Calculated from statistics provided in the article: Toys $10 and under make up 27% of the $25 billion toy business = $6.75 billion/assumed average sale price of $5 = 1.35 billion toys sold


Children are starting to play the way they eat, which means a lot of snacking.

As children play more on-the-go – in the back of a car; in the 30 minutes after dinner but before a lesson; on the sidelines of a sibling’s soccer match – manufacturers are making toys portable and compact. The bite-size games are taking a page from the growing popularity of snack foods, whether presented in crinkly foil bags, resealable zip-lock containers, or yogurt cups.

Companies are strategically placing the impulse items near candy at checkout or in front-of-store display racks and bins. They hope that food-like packaging, under-$10 prices and positioning outside the toy aisle can attract the attention of children from toddler age to tween and compete with cell phones that parents can whip out in a moment’s notice. (Wall Street Journal, May 18th 2016)


Snackable toys?  What the hell?  So many things wrong, on so many levels…

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Education Parenting Reggio Emilia RIE

Respect: At the intersection of RIE and Reggio Emilia

As we look to incorporate more elements of the Reggio Emilia approach into Carys’ “education” (which I feel I must put in inverted commas because we’re not really “teaching” her much), one of the things I’m very keen to understand is how well it fits with the approach to parenting more generally that has been working very well for us.

On the face of it the fit seems to be a very natural one, because both define themselves as being grounded in respect.

Respect in RIE:

“Respect is the basis of the RIE philosophy” (from

Respect in Reggio Emilia is often described in terms of children’s place in society:

“One cannot have ideas about the first people [the adults] in the community without having ideas about the rights of the last people [the children]” – Mayor Luca Vecchi

“We recognize the rights not of a citizen of the future, but as citizens of today” – Carla Rinaldi (Pedagogical Coordinator and President of Reggio Children); both quotes from presentations to the April 2016 Study Group

Yet when we actually dive in a bit further, we see that this notion of respect plays out very differently in the two approaches.


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Top tips for flying with a baby (from one who’s flown more legs than she’s lived in months)

We’re back from Italy!  We had an amazing time and over the next few weeks you’ll see several posts about our Cinque Terre hike as well as on what I learned during the Study Group in Reggio Emilia.  But while I get that all sorted out, I thought it might be helpful for those of you who have upcoming summer trips to know a bit more about how we manage flights with Carys.

We’ve been very fortunate to travel to some really cool places with her over the last couple of years, and as I started planning this post I realized that she’s actually flown as many legs as she’s been alive in months.  We started young…

San Francisco > Newark > London > Geneva > Washington, D.C. > San Francisco (aged 8-10 weeks; 3 legs with just Carys and me)

San Francisco > Boise > San Francisco (for a ‘last maternity leave hiking trip’, aged 3.5 months; Carys and I alone again)

San Francisco > Vancouver > San Francisco (work trip with Alvin accompanying; aged 4.5 months)

San Francisco > Kaua’i > San Francisco (last-minute vacation once Alvin realized my Starwood Platinum status hadn’t yet expired which got us a free upgrade to a 1-bedroom suite at the Westin Princeville; aged 8 months) Continue Reading


Infant massage: How (and why) to do it


A friend of mine gave me a pile of books to read before Carys was born, and Vimala McClure’s Infant Massage: A handbook for loving parents (*affiliate link) was among them.  I was so focused on my birth plan at the time that I set it aside until after she was born.  We were pretty busy the first few weeks with Alvin’s family here and various other visitors coming by to meet the new little lady, but when Alvin went back to work after three weeks I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands and not much to do to fill it with other than Carys’ napping and eating.


diaper blowout

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Education Parenting

Five questions (so far!) to ask in Reggio Emilia


I can hardly believe I’m lucky enough to write this, but Carys and I are going to Reggio Emilia.   Yes, the Reggio Emilia – the town the Reggio Emilia approach to education was developed.

To say I’m excited would be just a bit of an understatement.

And it kind of came about accidentally – you might recall that I was looking for places to go hiking this summer.  I’d considered hiking Cinque Terre in northern Italy last year but rejected it in favor of the Dingle Way in Ireland, figuring that one day I would need a trip where I was only on-trail for a mile or two at a time. Continue Reading



Making Stuff