PARENTING

August 10th, 2010 | Childhood, Parenting, TV and Media, Waldorf Education | Permalink | Comments (35)

Last month, my younger son William and I saw Toy Story 3 in New York City in 3D. I loved it! Yes, you read that right. Miss Sarah, the anti-media-for-young-children Waldorf teacher, absolutely loved Toy Story 3.

Those of you who’ve seen it know that the ending is a tearjerker, but I nearly melted in a puddle of my own tears, thoroughly embarrassing my 15-year-old son. The movie was especially heart-rending for me because my older son Harper is the same age as Andy, the boy to whom the toys belong.

Harper was about four years old when the original Toy Story was released. At the time, we lived in Hollywood, my husband was working in the entertainment industry, and we were invited to the premiere. As perks, we were given full-size Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys, which Harper played with for years.

In Toy Story 3, things have progressed in real time. Andy has grown up and is getting ready to head off to college. And guess what? Harper is 18 now and leaving for college in a few short weeks. Like Andy, he is in the process of saying goodbye to his toys, his childhood, and his parents, so the poignant ending of Toy Story 3 left me crumpled in a sea of wet tissues.

Not only did Toy Story 3 have personal relevance for me, but I also appreciated its compelling story, great dialogue, engaging characters, and its technological sophistication. It’s the first movie I’ve ever seen in 3-D, and it really was a marvel, perhaps one of the best animated movies ever made.

But in spite of my enthusiasm for the movie, I would not recommend it for children under nine. Bracing myself for the backlash, I can already hear the cries of protest: “But it’s rated G!” “We took our four-year-old to see it and he LOVED it!” “Come on, it’s Disney. It’s wholesome family fun.”

Let me explain my thoughts . . .

Read the rest of this entry »

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July 7th, 2010 | Giveaway, Homemaking, Parenting, Play, TV and Media, Waldorf Books, Waldorf Education | Permalink | Comments (56)

I became a fan of Shannon Honeybloom as soon as I first laid eyes on her beautiful book, Making a Family Home. Not only was I thrilled with its beautiful photographs and ideas on how families of young children can create a more beautiful, nurturing and rhythmic home life, but I was also amazed to learn how much Shannon and I have in common!

Not only do Shannon and I share backgrounds as actors, but we also have both authored books, gone to NYU, lived in Brooklyn, and received an M.S. in Waldorf Early Childhood Education from Sunbridge College in Spring Valley, NY. What are the chances? Though we have never met in person, Shannon feels like a soul sister to me (albeit a younger sister!).

Over the course of the past year, we’ve enjoyed a series of lovely e-mail exchanges. I told Shannon how much I wish her book had been available while I was teaching Waldorf Parent/Child classes. I would have liked to put a copy in the hands of every parent in my class. So naturally I was thrilled when Shannon offered a copy Making a Family Home as a giveaway to readers of Moon Child. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to introduce you to Shannon and get to know her a little better.

Making a Family Home

Shannon Honeybloom, Author of Making a Family Home

SARAH: You know that I am a big fan of your book Making a Family Home. Can you tell us what led you to write it?

SHANNON: When my first child was born, it was a really crazy time for me.  As any new parent knows, one’s world is instantly transformed when baby arrives! I was thrilled to be a mother, but I really had no idea about what it meant to be a mother and to raise children. I started to think about motherhood, caring for a family, and making a family home.  I realized that a happy, healthy home is so important for children, and gives them a strong foundation for their future success and happiness.

Those thoughts and concerns, that early confusion, and also exploring early childhood education and homemaking in a graduate program setting, all provided the spark for Making a Family Home.

SARAH: Can you tell us a little bit about your family and the rhythm of your days?

SHANNON: I have three children–two sons, ages 7 and 9, and a 4-year-old daughter.    They are all in school now, so that provides the big daily rhythm for us, and we tuck in other routines around it.

We wake in the mornings, and to make things easy and smooth, we have already picked out their clothes the night before.  After breakfast (something like pancakes, or on busier days, cereal with toast and fruit) we head off for school.

After school we try to keep extra activities to a minimum and really allow the children to play. Childhood is fleeting and the most important thing children can do is play freely.  Of course, we do have some scheduled activities. My older son loves to play golf, so we have a golf lesson, or a game now and then; and we have swimming lessons in the warmer months.

After dinner, the children get ready for bed.  Our bedtime routine is well established–we light a candle, read a book, say a verse, sing a lullaby, and lights out.  When days are busy and crazy, I treasure that quiet moment in the evening with my children.

SARAH: What effect do you think a child’s environment has on her behavior and sense of well-being?

SHANNON: Everything affects all of us, but children’s senses are especially sensitive to their environment.  Noise, temperature, color, texture, light, and smell all affect us in some way.  Creating a nurturing space for children is about paying attention to how the senses are affected in each moment.  If the television is blaring, if the colors and shapes are hard and garish, if the temperature is frigid, then all those things make us feel and act in certain ways.

If, on the other hand, a room is comfortable, relaxed, and quiet; if the light is gentle, the colors harmonious, and the furniture soft; then that affects us in a certain way, too.  We can bring consciousness to our homemaking in order to create a healthy environment for our children.

If we feel comfortable in our bodies, if our senses are nourished, if we are filled with a sense of well-being, then we are free to pursue our life’s work, whatever that may be!

SARAH: I’ve met many parents who express a desire to transform their home from a place of disorganized chaos to a more nurturing, rhythmic and peaceful environment. The task can seem daunting and overwhelming, and parents often don’t know where to begin. Are there three simple actions you can recommend to take as first steps?

  • Declutter/Simplify. Release stuff from your life and from your schedule, too.  Making a nurturing home is ultimately about nurturing the relationships in the home, it’s not about all the stuff you can buy.  Focus on the people in the home and not on the stuff.
  • Simplifying life goes hand-in-hand with de-cluttering. Try to simplify things just a little bit.  It’s hard these days–there is so much to do!  Try and cut back a little, and instead of always being on the run; stop, slow down and spend time with the people you love.
  • Unplug. Resisting the constant temptation of email, the computer, and cell phone is definitely a challenge for me, but the constant chatter of all these machines is not helpful if one is trying to live in the moment.  I try to find time to really unplug from these gadgets and simply be in the moment with the people I love.  Being with someone–a child or an adult–and showing interest in him or her, is a way to demonstrate your love. But if your interest and attention are always being pulled away by electronic gadgetry, then that is a loss.
  • Love. Which brings me to my last tip, love.  Making a nurturing home for your family is one way to express your love for them.

SARAH: What are you doing with your life right now? (Besides the important job of parenting!) Are you finding time to pursue acting?

SHANNON: I try to find time to write and act.  I have some really exciting acting projects right now; one is an independent film that is shooting in July.  What I do artistically nourishes me, and in turn, helps me to nourish my family.

SARAH: How do you juggle your various activities and keep balance in your life?

SHANNON: It’s not always easy, but I try.  I think just being aware of the importance of balance is a great start.  When things get crazy and hectic, I try to step back and slow down.  Right now I am enjoying yoga and that helps me to breathe and find a moment of peace amid life’s chaos.

SARAH: Is there anything new you’re working on? What is the best way for readers to keep abreast of your work?

SHANNON: I have some writing projects that I am working on in addition to the film project that I mentioned earlier.

SARAH: Thank you so much, Shannon, for sharing your time with us and for the wonderful gift of creating Making a Family Home!

Shannon Honeybloom

Win a Free Copy of Making a Family Home!

For a chance to win a free copy of Making a Family Home, simply leave a comment before Monday, July 12 at 8 a.m. EST, at which time I will close the comments and select a winner at random from all the entries received.

For a multiple chances to win, please spread the word about this giveaway! Blog about it, Tweet about it, or share it on Facebook. Leave additional comments noting each action taken.

The Giveaway is open to all, but a winner outside of the continental U.S will be responsible for shipping charges.

Lots of luck!

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March 20th, 2010 | Babies, Parenting, Photographs | Permalink | Comments (2)

On my recent visit to Chiapas, Mexico in January, I was impressed to see the indigenous Mayan women wearing their babies. With babies strapped snuggly to their backs, I saw women selling produce and wares at the public markets, and women farming and working the land while wearing their babies. During my visit, I never saw a single stroller. I found myself wishing that more American mothers would return to this practice.

Mayan Baby Wearing in Chiapas, Mexico

So imagine my alarm when I became aware of the recent controversy over the use of baby slings. My fear was that this would turn mothers away from this age-old practice.

Fortunately, Mothering magazine promptly responded to the controversy and issued this statement:

SANTA FE, NM (March 18, 2010) — On March 12, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a Federal Agency, issued a warning in regard to the use of baby slings. The CPSC asserts that there is a risk of slings suffocating infants who are younger than four months old, and that caution should be used when carrying babies of this age group in slings.

Mothering puts the CPSC warning in perspective: Babywearing is safe, but some slings and positions are not. While baby carriers are as old as civilization, modern babywearing has exploded in the last four years. Along with this rapid increase in use has come the creation of some unsafe carriers, in particular bag-style slings that have a deep pouch, excessive fabric, and an elasticized edge. These deep, bag-style slings can be especially dangerous for premature or small babies.

Some general guidelines for safe babywearing:

1. Only choose a sling that allows you to see your baby’s face.

2. Be sure baby is not curled up tightly, chin to chest. This position can restrict breathing, especially in newborns or in infants who cannot yet hold up their heads.

3. Make sure that the sling fabric is “breathable,” and keep baby’s face clear of fabric.

4. Do not press baby’s face tightly against the sling wearer’s body.

5. Position the baby’s face upward.

6. Reposition baby if there are any signs of respiratory difficulty: rapid or labored breathing, grunting or sighing with every breath, restlessness.

For more information, see Mothering’s Special Report on Babywearing

For babywearing safety tips, see “Babywearing 101

So I hope that you mothers of infants and toddlers won’t panic, but will heed these precautions and continue to wear your babies in good health and with love. Your children will benefit from their closeness with you!

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March 12th, 2010 | About, Parenting, Play, Waldorf Education, Waldorf Toys | Permalink | Comments (21)

Welcome to my new blog!

I’m Sarah Baldwin, a Waldorf early childhood educator, author, and owner of Bella Luna Toys, an online shop selling Waldorf toys, wooden toys and natural toys, chosen to nourish a child’s senses and inspire imaginative play. I am also the author of Nurturing Children and Families, a book for teachers and leaders of Waldorf parent/child playgroups.

My husband, Max Alexander, is a journalist and author who shares an office with me upstairs in the barn next to our home. Max, our two teenage boys – Harper and Whit (who now prefers to be called William) — and I live on the beautiful midcoast of Maine on Buttermilk Lane (no, I didn’t make that name up!) in the small town of South Thomaston, minutes from the coastal city of Rockland and its working harbor. If you know Maine at all, we’re about half-way between Portland and Bar Harbor on Penobscot Bay.

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In addition to being passionate about children and Waldorf education, I’m also wild about traditional music and learning to play fiddle. As a family, we love to spend our winters skiing and our summers sailing, making Maine an ideal place for us to be.

When I made the decision to take ownership of Bella Luna Toys in September 2009, I knew from the start that I didn’t just want to have a retail website. While I truly love the toys I sell, I envisioned Bella Luna Toys becoming a forum where I could share my knowledge of children and my love for Waldorf education. I wanted it to be a site where I could answer families’ questions and interact with them. And, most importantly, I wanted it to be a place where I could support the magic of childhood and the importance of play — helping children and families find joy in life and learning.

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I hope that you will find my blog, “Moon Child,” to be such a place. I’m so glad you found your way here. Leave a comment. Don’t be shy!

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