In praise of good quality art materials: Stockmar and Lyra review (+ discount code) 

Art is an important part of our daily rhythm at the moment, with Frida choosing to work with her paints, pencils, crayons and modelling clay most days – sometimes more than once. She has free access to paints, water, pencils, crayons, paper, and felt tips (you can see our current set up here), and tends to work with them either before breakfast, after lunch, or before supper. 

I am a firm believer in giving children the best possible quality art materials we can afford. If you have ever used poor quality art materials, you will know why! Cheap crayons which snap, brittle colouring pencils which leave a weak colour, box paints which are watery and pale. How can we expect our children to develop a love of art when their materials are so often second-rate and frustrating? I believe that giving children good-quality art materials sends them a clear message: that their art work is important and deserving.

I realise that good quality art materials are not always cheap, but perhaps gifting them at special occasions, or asking friends and family to do the same, would be a way to slowly build up a selection of great-quality materials. These have the benefit of often lasting much longer, making them more cost-effective in the long run.

With this in mind, I was so delighted to receive some new, quality, art materials in the post from One Hundred Toys for Frida and I to review!

Stockmar Opaque Colour Box Paints

I feel rather cheeky in reviewing the Stockmar Opaque Colour Box Paints, as if we weren’t sent them to review I would definitely have bought them myself.

We are big fans of Stockmar products, and own both the block wax crayons and the stick wax crayons (Stockmar crayons are worth buying if only for their gorgeous honey smell, let alone the wonderful colours, texture, ergonomic shape, the fact they last for ever… I could go on!) as well as some concentrated watercolours. I have talked about Stockmar before, but I really do love the brand, and the high-quality Waldorf-inspired art materials they produce for children. I was therefore very excited for Frida to try out the Opaque Paints!

We have not been disappointed. These paints are so richly pigmented that the gentlest paintbrush stroke on the paints translates into rich colour on paper – perfect for a two year old who is still learning how to use water colours. I have tried out other “children’s palettes” before and been so disappointed with the weak colours. These are excellent quality, and need so little water that I am sure they will last a long time (making them good value too). I think there is obviously a reason that these paints seem to often be found in Montessori and homeschooling family homes!

The set comes with a paintbrush, some white paint, and a mixing tray. Frida has been really enjoying mixing up some lighter colours using these.

I love watercolours for young children as they are such a wonderful practical life activity! There are so many steps; filling the water, fetching an apron, fetching paper, rinsing the brush after each use, emptying out the dirty water and cleaning the brush after use, wiping up any spills… There are also numerous benefits in terms of fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and building up little hand muscles in preparation for writing one day.

Now that we’ve tried these, I feel like every home should have a box of them. I can’t imagine a better set of watercolours for young children, and once again am really impressed by the quality and beauty of Stockmar products. If you have family or friends who are beginning to ask questions about holiday gifts, these would make a wonderful suggestion.

Lyra Ferby pencils

We were also sent some Lyra Ferby pencils to try out. I love that these are short, providing much more balance for little fingers, and have a triangular shape which makes it easier to hold them. Frida is still working on her pencil grip, and these pencils make the perfect “starter” pencils when moving on from crayons. The colour range is excellent (Frida was so drawn to the white pencil, and for a few days did a lot of white-on-white drawing) and the colours themselves are bright and highly pigmented.

Lyra also do longer crayons, and I love the look of this skin-tones set which has been designed to reflect the diversity of skin-tone children see all around them. Once Frida is drawing figures I will absolutely be buying her a set.

Frida was previously using IKEA pencils, which are around the same size but less ergonomically shaped. These are, unsurprisingly, much cheaper, although seeing the two used side by side I think it’s clear which ones are the better quality as the pigmentation in the Lyra pencils is much stronger, giving a brighter colour with less effort (this is important I think when you are two!) and a wider colour range.

We were also sent a little Lyra pencil sharpener. It seems like a pretty unexciting object, but Frida has been really taken with it, and is trying very hard to learn how to sharpen. Pencil sharpening is such a satisfying practical life and fine motor skill activity. I love how it is shaped to fit little fingers. I really recommend it as a first pencil sharpener.

A quick note on age: Frida is 28 months and really enjoying using these art materials. I think the age you could introduce them depends a lot on your child – some 18 month-olds would love these, whereas some 36 month-olds may still not have much of an interest in painting or drawing. Follow your child! For gifts, I would probably gift the wax crayons from the first birthday onwards, and then pencils and paints from the second birthday onwards.

I love gifting art materials – both for my own daughter, and for other children in our life. I have already bought Stockmar crayons in the past to give as birthday presents (the parents have assured me these have gone down well with their little ones), and I will absolutely be buying some of the Stockmar paints and Lyra pencils to gift for birthdays and Christmas presents, as Frida and I have both been very impressed by them. They are high quality materials which are so well designed for young artists, and I cannot sing their praises highly enough.

One Hundred Toys are kindly offering you lovely readers a 10% discount to use in their online store with the code: FRIDA101

They have so many other beautiful craft items and toys on their site; do have a look!

The Stockmar paints, Lyra Ferby pencils, and pencil sharpener were gifted to me from One Hundred Toys to review, but this review is my own honest opinion (and Frida’s!) I only ever recommend things which we have tried and genuinely loved – and would buy again. 

I also love the One Hundred Toys blog which you can read here: https://www.onehundredtoys.com/blogs/news 

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A day in our home : reclaiming our rhythm 

I have been thinking a huge amount about our daily rhythm at the moment, and what I want that rhythm to look like. This summer has been quite difficult for me personally, and that coupled with the lack of structure that summers often bring has seen our rhythm flounder. I knew something had to change, so I re-read “Simplicity Parenting” (the bible on simplifying and rhythm setting in the home, I cannot recommend it enough). I started to make a mental note of what was working well and where the “low” points of our days were falling, observing patterns and thinking about where I could improve the flow of our day, as well as considering what was really important to me (lots of time for free play, daily time outdoors, habit forming, family meals) and how to be intentional about these things.

After lots of thought and observation, I think our current rhythm is working really well for us, so I wanted to share with you a little bit of what our weekday rhythm looks like.

I know that life is messy, and it won’t always be practical to stick to this rhythm. It might look quite rigid written down, but is actually much more fluid. At first when I read about having this sort of rhythm in the home, I will freely admit I thought “Gosh, how dull! Where is the excitement?” But my goodness, how my opinion has changed! I want Frida to feel secure, and confident about what her days and week look like. Life must often feel so powerless for young children, and I really believe that giving them back some power through predictability and stability leads to happier, calmer children who simply don’t feel as out of control. I know that the days where we follow a strong rhythm are just so much better for us. Less friction, less boundary-pushing, less stress, less impatience. More smiles, more cuddles, more joy. I end the day feeling tired but content, rather than tired and disappointed with myself and wishing I had done things differently.

I have put timings down to give you a rough idea, but I go by our moods and needs rather than the clock. If Frida has woken extra early or seems tired then everything might happen a bit earlier, or we might spend less time outdoors and more time snuggled up. What’s important is the rhythm and flow of the day, rather than what happens when.

Our weekday rhythm 

6-6:30ish – Frida wakes up, which is my prompt to wake up too. I’m really not a morning person so before we get up we usually have a snuggly cuddle under the duvet which gives me a few minutes to wake up until she pulls me out of bed and into her playroom. Frida sleeps in her own bed in our bedroom, but often climbs into our bed in the middle of the night and I wake up to find her next to me!

I sit with Frida in her playroom as she plays, until either she wants breakfast or my need for a cup of tea becomes too strong, and we go downstairs. The cat usually joins us. Before we go down there is “tidy up time”, prompted by me singing (poor Frida!) and tidying up.

7:30ish – Before each meal Frida fetches herself the appropriate crockery and cutlery from her shelves in the kitchen, chooses a bib (if eating something messy), and fills a glass with water. I do have to prompt her still sometimes. Frida is as involved with meal preparation as she wants to be; sometimes she will want to help a lot, and sometimes she doesn’t.

We light some candles as we sit down to eat. Breakfast on a weekday is usually porridge or maybe cereal, often with fruit. When we are done eating, Frida needs to put her bib in the washing machine, bring dirty dishes to the kitchen, wash her hands and face, then go to the loo, brush her teeth, and get dressed for the day. I help where needed.

At the moment my focus is on habit-forming and gaining independence around self-care such as dressing, pulling pants and trousers up and down, and washing hands and face, so this after-meal routine is important to me. My hope is that eventually all of these things just become ingrained as a habit and that she will need less and less help.

9 – At this point hopefully we are all dressed and ready to leave the house at some point within the next hour. Frida plays, works, or does some art once she is dressed.

10-12 – Outside. Currently I am trying to make sure we are out of the house by 10am. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to the local park, or even in the garden – what matters is that we are outdoors. In September we will start attending our wonderful Steiner playgroup again, adding in an outdoor session too which I’m really excited about. We also may try out a local forest school which has weekly child / parent sessions. This will leave a day a week with no scheduled plans, and another day for Frida to spend with her daddy (they do a special outing together every week as he works four days a week, giving me a day to do some work).

12:30 – Lunch. We usually have something simple like soup, a picky plate with raw vegetables, cheese, falafel etc, egg on toast, or fish and vegetables. Again Frida is as involved with preparation as she wants to be, abd fetches the things she needs. We light candles (unless we are having a picnic in the garden) and then after the meal the same routine applies as I described for breakfast. I usually clean up lunch whilst Frida plays, although she is always invited to help me.

1-3 – Quiet time. Now Frida no longer naps, she really needs a good chunk of quiet time to feel happy in the afternoon. We usually start this off by reading some books together, and then we go into her playroom whilst she plays and I sit and read or, occasionally, write a blog post (exactly what I’m doing now!)

Frida sometimes asks me to play too, but I remind her that this is quiet time for both of us. I might join in for five minutes and then go back to what I’m doing. This is so important for me, as I struggle if I don’t have any down-time. I am a better mother and wife for it, and I’m right there if she needs me. Win/win. Before we go down we have tidy-up time again.

3 – Tea time! We prepare tea (herbal for Frida or a babyccino) and a snack, and decamp to the dining table. We light a candle and share some books together – I usually try and include poetry, a long story, and a non-fiction book. We might also play a game, or look at some sandpaper letters or some art, depending on Frida’s mood and energy levels. After a chunk of quiet time where I am not engaging much, this is a welcome time of reconnection and fun. The snack also keeps Frida going until supper time.

4 – Time for Frida to work, do some art, or play, or for us to go for a walk, go in the garden, have a dance party – whatever appeals to Frida!

5 – Supper preparation / chores. As ever, Frida is invited to take part if she wants. Otherwise she amuses herself whilst I’m busy.

6 – Supper. We eat as soon as my husband gets home from work. It’s really important for us that we eat supper together regularly as a family, so unless Frida is really exhausted we try to make it happen. On weekends or on days my husband doesn’t work we might eat at 5:30 instead so Frida isn’t so tired.

6:30 ish – My husband takes Frida upstairs for a bath, tooth brushing, and stories, whilst I clean up after supper and have a bit of downtime.

7:00 ish – Bedtime. Frida either goes to sleep in her bed with us sitting next to her, telling stories, or in the sling with my husband. The latter is often the most effective at the moment. We then have the rest of the evening to relax and do any final chores.

9:30 – Bedtime for me! I try to be asleep by 10pm so I can get eight hours of sleep. I don’t always succeed but it’s my goal.

Phew! If you have read all of this, thanks for sticking with me! I would love to know more about your rhythm and what works for you. I will try and write more about rhythm, and helping children transition from one activity to another, in a future post, but for now – motherhood beckons… 

My favourite Montessori books for parents

I am often asked if I can recommend some books on Montessori for parents who would like to find out more, or to deepen their knowledge and understanding on the topic. I have finally organised myself enough to share some recommendations with you!

There is so much more to the Montessori philosophy and approach than pretty trays and wooden toys. At the heart of Montessori is a deep respect for the child, a trust in their desire and ability to learn, be independent, and make good choices, and a desire for peace and cooperation, in the home and in the world at large; it is this element of Montessori which first got me interested in its approach to education. It goes hand-in-hand with gentle, respectful parenting – no shouting, no punishments, no reward-charts or bribing, just learning, together, with love.

If you have heard about Montessori, but don’t know where to start, I urge you to begin with books – for yourself. Although it can be tempting to throw yourself in at the deep end right away and start making changes to your home or buying Montessori materials, a little time spent reading to fully understand how to set up a Montessori home – and a Montessori parenting attitude! – will allow your child to truly flourish.

Here are some of my recommendations:

Learning Together: What Montessori Can Offer Your Family (Kathi Hughes)

This is a lovely, short “beginners guide” to Montessori. A perfect place to begin if you’d like to find out more about the Montessori approach, or to buy for your partner / your child’s grandparents / anyone you think would benefit from an overview!

The Joyful Child: Montessori Global Wisdom for Birth to Three (Susan M. Stephenson)

If I had to recommend one Montessori book to a parent of a baby or toddler, this one would be it. It covers everything you need to know, including the prepared environment, physical development, toys, music, language, self-respect, science, care of self, and much more. I found this book invaluable when Frida was younger and I was just starting to really learn about the Montessori philosophy, and it shaped a lot of my thoughts and parenting.

Child of the World: Montessori Global Education for Age 3-12+ (Susan M. Stephenson)

I have just read this, and now my husband is reading this. It’s a great overview of the topics children should be introduced to, and how to introduce them. I can see myself coming back to this book a lot! I really enjoyed reading it, and felt it conveyed a lot of easily-digestible information in a short book.

How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature (Scott D. Sampson)

Not actually a Montessori book, but I think it should be prescribed reading for every modern parent! On days where I really don’t feel like leaving the house, the lessons from this book serve as a virtual push to get us outdoors, and I have never once regretted it.

Montessori Today (Paula P. Lillard)

This book is a great overview of Montessori education, from birth to adulthood. There is a focus on the classroom rather than the home, but I have still found it a very useful book in terms of development and the sorts of activities to be considering now as well as planning in the future.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids (Kim John Payne)

This book deeply affected the way that I think about parenting, our family rhythm, and what I want to prioritise as a mother. Although it is rooted in Waldorf philosophy, I think it will resonate with Montessori-inspired families. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with children.

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason (Alfie Kohn)

This wonderful book has really influenced the way my husband and I parent, and again, although Kohn is not a Montessorian, his gentle and respectful approach to parenting without praise and punishment fits in beautifully with the philosophy. We love this book so much, and it has given us much food for thought.

Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-school Years (Elizabeth G. Hainstock)

A lovely, approachable, illustrated book describing a wealth of practical life, sensorial, language, and math activities, all suitable for pre-schoolers. Because this is aimed at parents teaching Montessori at home, many of her activities can be DIY’d, and she even provides instructions. When I first read this book I was struck by how un-intimidating it made Montessori activities feel. I love it!

Montessori Read & Write: A parent’s guide to literacy for children (Lynne Lawrence)

I believe this is essential reading for the parent of any young child, not just those Montessori-inspired families. The approach Lawrence sets out in her book is beautifully simple and logical, and would be a wonderful complement to traditional schooling as well as a fantastic resource for homeschooling families. If you have a little one, and wish to help them learn to read and write, then you need to read this book!

Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives (David Gettman)

I would recommend this book to anyone who has decided on a Montessori approach (or whose child will be attending a Montessori nursery or school) and who has perhaps read other more general books on the Montessori philosophy first. This brilliant book is a practical guide to many Montessori materials, including what the child learns from each one, how to present it, and (if appropriate) some options for DIY. I find myself picking it up constantly at the moment.

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk (Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish)

I love the respectful, encouraging ethos of this book, and I’m sure I will be returning to it a lot over the years. It is definitely aimed at parents of older children though, so I have How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen in my online shopping basket at the moment!

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As we are planning on home schooling, I find myself reading so many books on education. Although I love the Montessori approach, I personally see real benefit in reading about many different approaches, so my bookshelves are groaning under the weight of books on Steiner Waldorf education, project-based learning, classical education, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, and more. From each book I read I find myself storing little parts to take forward with us on our journey.

Which parenting or education books do you love? Please share your recommendations with me in the comments, as I love discovering new titles. 

Our homeschool space update – art, work, and practical life

As the summer starts edging towards autumn (and it really does feel like that here in London – sunny days are sandwiched between days of pouring rain, the blackberries in our garden are coming to an end, and the apples on our neighbour’s tree are ripening) my thoughts are inevitably turning to planning for the months ahead – definitely a habit entrenched from years in education when September meant new stationary, uniform, and back to classes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our rhythm and what I want it to look like come autumn, as I feel a bit like I’ve lost my way during summer. I’ve also been thinking hard about Frida’s work space (our “homeschool space”, if you will – AKA half of our dining room) and how it’s working for her following a recent developmental leap. I’ve made a few changes recently, mainly focused around making her art materials more accessible and appealing, and allowing her to be more independent whilst caring for herself and our home. 

The first change is that I have brought Frida’s table into the middle of her work space, rather than leaving it tucked in next to the chalk-board. Already I’ve observed that she is using it more – and using the chalk-board more, too, as it’s more visible now. 

We have also attached a spice rack to the side of the table to store her crayons and coloured pencils, so that these are convenient and accessible for her. Another spice rack has been painted with chalk-board paint and attached to the wall to store Frida’s chalks. 

I have also created a little art material storage area, by using a tiny £5 IKEA bathroom shelf unit. These are not all our art materials, but having everything out would be overwhelming for a 28 month old, and her parents! I have included some finger paints (in dispenser jars to make it easier for Frida to help herself, alongside ramekins for the paint), paintbrushes, watercolours (a review on these coming up soon), glitter glue pens, marker pens, and modelling clay. Other materials I will rotate in or bring out when she will use them. Paper sits tucked behind these materials, flush to her shelves. 

Finally, I have recently added a little practical-life area to the room, with a child-sized clothes’ horse, a basket of pegs, a hook for a tea-towel, a water dispenser, and a basket of cleaning cloths, cut down for little hands. Next to this area is a stand with her cleaning tools and apron. 

Her work shelves remain much the same as I only updated them a few weeks ago, though since then I’ve made a couple of tweaks after observing Frida (you can read about what was on them at the beginning of the month here). 

There are no toys in this space, unless you count things like puzzles and jigsaws, as I have decided to consciously separate imaginative play from her work space. This works well for us. 

As you’ll have noticed, in this space Frida currently has access to paint pumps, water, and art materials. I want to stress two things, in case you’re reading this post thinking “oh I could never give my child free access to those things, my child would make such a mess and I would find it so stressful”.

1) Frida DOES make a mess. Some of it accidental – she is two, and she’s learning! – and a lot of it intentional – it’s exciting to see what happens when a glass overflows! Frida is also an a developmental stage where she needs to push and test boundaries, which can be a wild combination when mixed with free access to messy things.

2) I find it really hard to let go. I am not one of those amazing people who can just relax, laugh about the chaos, and sit back. I am really working hard to to be more relaxed about mess and spills, and trust in Frida’s learning process, but it’s not easy for me or at all natural. I’m trying my best to not interfere too much but my goodness it’s difficult for me. 

However, despite this, I think it’s so important that Frida have independent access to these things. Mess provides an opportunity for modelling and/or practising tidying. Spills provide a wonderful practical life lesson in cleaning and wiping. I want Frida to know that I trust her ability to use these things in the correct manner (eventually, when the novelty wears off and the repeated lessons sink in – she’s got a long time to learn) and I think the positives wholly outweigh any minor stress on my part around mess. In fact, I think it’s a good learning opportunity for me, too. 

I am sure this space will see many more iterations as Frida grows and her needs change, but right now I hope that these simple changes will make her space work even better for her. 

Does anyone else feel like they are constantly changing their spaces around? How much freedom do you give your children around “messy” stuff – and how do you stay hands-off, trusting the process and allowing your children to make a mess? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

Beautiful non-fiction books we love 

Hello! I hope you are all enjoying the summer. Here in England it seems like the sunshine has finally come back out for a while after weeks of rain – good timing for us as we have spent the weekend camping with friends. I’ve come back feeling physically tired but mentally refreshed after a weekend of fresh air and plenty of good conversation.

I wanted to share some of our favourite non-fiction books which we are currently reading. I love children’s non-fiction, and feel like we are so spoilt for choice at the moment, with many wonderful authors and illustrators working to bring the most beautiful books to the market. Here are some of our favourites, some of which are relatively new to us, and some of which we have had for a while but keep coming back to. Please feel free to share your favourites in the comments!

The Street Beneath My Feet (Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer)

Frida has been asking us a lot recently about what is under the ground, and I felt like our explanations were not satisfying her need to really explore the topic. So I did what I always do when I want to look at a new idea with Frida, and researched books on the topic! I am really excited about this book, and I think that if you have children then they will be excited by it too. It’s a pull-out book, which opens up into a long vertical “slice” of under the ground, from the surface of the earth right to the earth’s core. Along the way we encounter underground trains, animal burrows, soil, rocks and minerals, pipes, bones, and much, much more. One side looks at the ground under a busy street, the other the ground under a garden or field.

This beautiful book takes a fairly abstract concept and makes it tangible for even very young children to grasp, with sufficient information and detail that much older children would be delighted by it too. I will definitely be buying this as a gift for some of the children I know – I can’t imagine any child not enjoying this gorgeous publication!

Today (Julie Morstad)

I love the concept of this book so much. It starts with a child waking in the morning, then each double-page spread looks at a choice they might make (where to go, what to wear, what to eat for breakfast), illustrates lots of options, then asks what you would choose! We have had so much fun as a family reading through this book, talking about which choices we would make. As well as being a fun book it’s also brilliant for expanding a child’s vocabulary. Love it.

Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth (Nicola Davies)

I am a huge fan of Nicola Davies’ books, and this one does certainly not disappoint. A stunning book tackling the important issue of loss of diversity as well as introducing the concept of ecosystems in an accessible and interesting way. I love that her books do not have a huge amount of writing, allowing the illustrations to speak volumes. This book is very special and, in my opinion, extremely important. A great place to start conversations about conservation and the need to look after our planet.

The Barefoot Book of Children

I am sure I have written about this book before, but I didn’t feel I could write about beautiful non-fiction book without including this. If you don’t have it in your child’s book collection, buy it, or reserve it from the library. Seriously. It’s a wonderful look at the ways in which children around the globe are all different and unique, and yet all so very similar. It’s such a good place to start if you want to introduce more diversity to your child’s bookshelves, and an excellent basis for talking about peace, and disabilities, and different family set-ups, and geography, and and and…

How Do Flowers Grow? (Lift-the-Flap First Questions and Answers)

We recently bought this book, and I wished we had bought it sooner! A beautiful, simple book showing how flowers grow from seeds, how pollination works, how seeds are dispersed, and much more. Fantastic.

Grandma’s House (Alice Melvin)

This book is just so gorgeous, a real visual feast for children to enjoy. The book follows a girl as she walks through her grandmother’s beautiful home, ending up in the sort of garden dreams are made of! There are not many words, but the illustrations are so rich; this book is perfect as a vocabulary building book, as there are so many objects to point out on each page, so many things to talk about. Since reading this book Frida has become very taken with the idea of attics, and what people keep in theirs.

Atlas of Animal Adventures

I love the content of this book, which features some amazing animals from across the globe. From birds of paradise to polar bears, this book makes for fascinating reading – I have certainly learnt a lot! The book includes a map of the world and separates the animals into continents, so it’s a great way to introduce some geographical concepts alongside learning about some of the incredible animals we share our planet with.

A note: If you are following a very strict Montessori approach towards books, you may want to think carefully about this one. Although all of the written content is factual, some of the illustrations appeal to children’s silly nature, and put some of the animals in human accessories or situations. This doesn’t bother me at all and Frida finds it funny, but I only introduced this book when she a) already knew what these animals looked like, and b) could clearly understand that this was for comedic effect rather than because animals wear hats or drink from tea cups!

Look Inside: Our World (Usborne)

This book is a wonderful, accessible, and fun introduction to geography and biomes. Children will adore lifting the flaps on each page (as, ahem, do I) and seeing what lies beneath, to learn more about rivers, deserts, jungles, oceans, and much more. Frida is enjoying this book now but I think she will continue to get a lot out of it for years to come as we explore these concepts further.

In the same series Frida also loves Look Inside: Your Body, which I thoroughly recommend to any family with a young child as a brilliant, visual introduction to human biology. We will definitely be looking to add more of the Look Inside series to our book collection, as I think they make complex topics so accessible for young children.

Moon (Britta Teckentrup and Patricia Hegarty)

Disclaimer – we haven’t read this yet, as it’s not actually released until next month! But we love Britta Teckentrup (we have Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go and Bee: Nature’s tiny miracle, both of which are wonderful) and I think this book looks stunning. I will definitely be buying a copy and using it as the basis for further discussions and work around the phases of the moon, something we haven’t really touched upon yet.

I am always looking for recommendations for gorgeous, well-written, inspiring non-fiction books to share with Frida. What beautiful books are you reading at the moment? 

Seven ways to encourage consent in young children

Yesterday my husband Sam and I shared a high five over our parenting. The prompt? Frida had been in the garden, wearing just shorts and wellies. Sam asked her if she wanted to wear a t-shirt to keep warm and she proudly replied “No! My body my choice.” 

We are so pleased to be raising a daughter who has a strong feeling of bodily autonomy and her own power of consent.  

If I told you an adult was obedient, compliant, and carried out orders even if they didn’t believe in them or understand them, what would you think ? I would imagine you would not think very highly of them. Yet these same qualities are valued in children – children who are then expected to grow into adults who are not afraid to speak up for what they believe in and stand up for themselves. 

I want to raise a child who feels that she has a voice, and that her voice is listened to. Tied to this is the work of teaching and encouraging consent and bodily autonomy. Not just important for girls (but oh so important for girls!) raising a child who understands that they are the boss of their own body is crucial. 

SEVEN WAYS TO ENCOURAGE CONSENT AND BODILY AUTONOMY IN CHILDREN 

Respect your child when they don’t want hugs and kisses…

… and stick up for them in front of relatives and friends, too. Teaching your child that their no means no when it comes to their body is a huge deal! If we don’t teach them this as children how can we expect them to know it as teens or adults. I want my daughter to know that she can always say no to unwanted affection, even if it comes from a place of love, and that her no should always be respected. 

At times I do have to remind myself that just because I grew her and fed her it doesn’t mean that her body is mine! If Frida doesn’t want to hug or kiss goodbye we suggest she might want to blow a kiss instead, which she always does. Her body, her choice! 

Talk to your child about what you are doing to them 

I think this is so important, but in my experience often overlooked. This might look like telling your child you are about to pick them up, or change their nappy, or wipe their face, or put them in the sling. It might be about explaining they are going to have a vaccine which will hurt but will stop them getting poorly in the long run, or that you’re going to need to put them in the car seat because otherwise the car isn’t a safe place to be. 

Think about how cross you would feel if someone much bigger than you just picked you up with no warning whilst you were in the middle of doing something and moved you! Extending your baby or child the same courtesy you would extend to an adult costs nothing but shows your child you respect them and their body. Their body, their choice – and when they can’t choose, they are respected and actions are taken in their best interest. 

Don’t try to control your child’s eating habits 

Food is such an emotive issue, isn’t it? I know that I often feel disappointed if Frida doesn’t eat much, and feel pleased when she eats a “good meal”. But… what the heck? Isn’t that so odd? Obviously I am happy when my family enjoy the food I cook, but I would never feel the same emotions if my husband decided he wasn’t very hungry and had a small meal, or ate a lot because he was ravenous.

I think food is a key area where we can teach children from a very young age – from day one, in fact – that they are the boss of their bodies. We can trust them to eat when they are hungry, and to stop when they are full. We can (breast or bottle) feed on demand, and let ourselves be guided by our children for weaning. We can offer foods they like alongside new foods, and not feel like failures if our children eat toast or porridge before bed because they didn’t enjoy or want their suppers. We can trust them to feed themselves – even if it’s messy! – and we can listen if they tell us they are still hungry even if they’ve just eaten a banana and two bowls of porridge.

I know that I would hate it if someone else controlled what I ate, so I will not control what Frida eats (even if this feels really hard at times). This includes asking her to help decide what we eat at mealtimes, just like I sometimes ask my husband what he wants and sometimes I decide. Everyone will have different views on food, but I am very pro children having access to healthy snacks and drinks so they can manage their own bodily needs throughout the day. Their body, their choice of what goes in it! 

Model your own power of consent

For me personally I have found this important whilst breastfeeding. At 27 months Frida is still breastfeeding (although not very often) and although when she was a baby I breastfed totally on demand, as she got older I found it important to say no if I really didn’t feel like it! I would explain that mummy was feeling a bit tired / dehydrated / poorly / whatever, and tell her that although I understand she wants milk she can’t right now because I don’t want to. 

I am sure people will have different views on this but for me it’s been a wonderful opportunity to model what exercising consent over my body looks like. My body, my choice! 

Explain to your child why you have asked for something – ditch the “because I said so”! 

Even if your child is young, I believe they still deserve to understand why they have been asked to do something, or stop doing something, or a suggestion has been made. How else will they learn about informed consent? I often find explaining something to Frida makes a huge difference in terms of her willingness to do something, because it’s not just a meaningless, random request any more. She understands why it is beneficial to her. Her body, her informed choice (even if she then chooses to keep her cardigan on although it’s boiling or chooses to pour water on herself even though she will then be wet!) 

Allow freedom within sensible boundaries 

The brilliant blogger Lucy Aitkenread write something on her blog Lulastic (do you know her blog? It’s so good!) which really struck a cord with me. Writing about the boundaries she enforces, she said she stuck to a simple rule of “harm no body and no thing”. I love this, and come back to it often. 

If a behaviour isn’t harming anyone, or anything, why am I trying to curtail it? Is the problem with Frida’s behaviour, or is the problem that my expectations are unrealistic or that I am trying to exercise control over her? I strongly believe that children need sensible and realistic boundaries, which are upheld consistently, and that for each family those boundaries will look different. But I also think that children need freedom within this boundaries. To learn, to explore, and yes, to test those boundaries to learn where they are and to be reassured that they are still loved if a boundary is broken. 

Hitting someone? No, never ok. Drawing on the wall? Not ok – that damages it. Drawing all over herself? Climbing on the coffee table / dining table? Her body, her choice! (Even if I find it irritating – which I sometimes do! I am not perfect and find certain behaviours very triggering, but I am trying hard to be intentional about asking myself if the problem lies with Frida’s behaviour or with my emotional response. It’s almost always my response!) 

Provide meaningful choices and involve your child in decision making 

From a very young age you can offer children meaningful choices around their body and life. Good places to start might include which outfit to wear that day, what food they would like to eat and how much of it, whether they would like to go to the swimming pool or the park, which toys they play with, which books to read… the list is limitless! For example, aged two, Frida also gets to choose if her hair should be cut or not (she can choose to have her fringe cut or clip it back if it’s in her eyes), if she has a bath or a shower or a flannel wash, if she would like to clean her own face or have me help her, and so on. Her body, her choice!

Obviously there are some things which are non-negotiable, which again I imagine will look different in each family. For us these non-negotiables include tooth brushing and having a clean body. 

Is teaching your child consent important for you? How do you show them that they are the boss of their body?