Monday, August 20, 2007

There's A Reason Why Seals Don't Tan

I love the sun. The sun is my enemy.

I have very fair skin. In winter, I am practically translucent. In the full glare of summer sun, I am vulnerable to bursting into flame. So I never go outside without sunscreen. Nor do I ever take Wonderbaby - who is similarly pale - out of doors without full complement of hats and sleeves and layer upon layer of sunscreen.

Problem is, sunscreen is messy. It's gloppy and goopy and it makes your skin all greasy and your hands sticky and have you ever tried getting it on a recalcitrant toddler? It's like lubing a seal on the side of an oil-slicked iceberg. Not easy. Spray sunscreens make the whole project somewhat easier, but one still always ends up feeling somewhat greasy - and the child always ended up coated in sand or dirt or whatever material is closest at hand to stick to her sunscreen-slicked skin.

KINeSYS sunscreen goes a long way to combatting these problems. Its childrens' spray-on, fast-dry sunscreen does indeed spray on and dry quickly - two things that make the ritual of sunscreen application immeasurably easier. We've only had the products for a week - and not a sunny week - but the few times that I've used it have been immeasurably less messy than any other sunscreen-applying episode that I've experienced. The product is similar in composition to a light oil - but one that seems to dry within moments of hitting the skin. It stays fluid long enough to spread it around a little - which is important to Wonderbaby, because she likes to rub creams into her skin, and gets frustrated if she can't be involved in preparations for going outdoors - but it dries quickly and seems to leave no residue. Which - fabulous.

The only thing that would make this better - and perhaps I'll change my mind about this once I've used the product a bit more - would be if it sprayed on with some tint, so that I could be certain of where it has been applied. It dries so quickly and imperceptibly that it can be hard to tell what parts of the skin have been covered (a problem that I've remedied by spraying twice.)

We've already packed up the samples to take along on our camping holiday - if it turns out to be a surefire mosquito-attractor or happens to cause us to break out into spots, I'll let you know. But I'm guessing that it's going to make our recreation a lot easier.

A lot less sticky, at least.

Find out more about KINeSYS here. And check out more KINeSYS reviews at PBN all this week.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Come On Vamonos!

Wonderbaby speaks Spanish. Sort of.

She speaks Spanish - is being raised to know some Spanish - because I speak it. I'm not Spanish, nor any strain of Latin, but I did live for a couple of years in Spain and because some of my very dearest friends (Wonderbaby's godfamily) is Spanish and because we're all going back to live there one day (well, that's the dream, anyway.) So she's going to need it.

So far, her education in Spanish has consisted of me reading to her in Spanish, listening to Spanish and Latin-American music with her, and - not least - using the services of a part-time Spanish-speaking nanny. And it's been more or less successful: Wonderbaby communicates easily with her wonderful nanny, who has spoken to her only in Spanish since WB was nine months old. (And, from time to time, WB tosses in some Spanish with her English just to keep things interesting: bye-bye sometimes becomes adios (or, 'ciao,' for some Italian flavour), cow becomes vaca, water becomes agua, etc., etc.) But I've worried about how we'll keep this up once the nanny goes (which she must, because we can't afford to keep her full-time) - I'd read that children learn best when one person speaks the second language to them exclusively, and although my Spanish is good, I don't want to use it all the time.

Enter The Bilingual Edge, which tells me, to my very great relief, that this is not necessary. I can use all variety of methods to keep up WB's language skills - music and reading, in addition to conversational speaking. Indeed, TBE insists that parents don't need to be native speakers of a language in order to introduce it to their children. Rather, parents just need to be committed to exposing their children to that language at any opportunity - and willing to perhaps look a little silly, sometimes, doing it (as when, as the book recommends, reading in a language that one does not know. My husband - who does not speak Spanish, but who gamely tries to read it to WB, found this very reassuring.) And it dispels the myth that 'mixing' languages (one person speaking more than one language to a child) is counter-productive to language learning. (Children, they insist, sort through differences in language on their own, and this exercise can actually be developmentally advantageous.) Which, again: big relief.

This, I found, is the book's singular strength - it aims to help and encourage parents who are confused by the whole issue of language learning, parents for whom such training is desirable but not straightforward. If we were truly a bilingual household, and spoke Spanish regularly in front of WB, I wouldn't concern myself too much with 'how to's'. But we're not such a household, and because of this - even though we're not exactly an entirely unilingual household - we needed some help. And that help and encouragement was very welcome - not least because it came wrapped in the message that learning second languages needn't be, nor should be, stressful or challenging. Just welcome that language into your home, and enjoy it. The rest will fall into place.

How often do you get to hear that message in relation to your child's education? That's what I thought.

(With thanks to the Parent Bloggers Network!)

Monday, August 13, 2007

So You Think You Can Teach Your Baby To Read?

Do you want to teach your baby to read? It is, after all, not all that difficult if you've got Dr. Titzer - with his handy lesson plan and multi-media support - as your partner.

We tried Your Baby Can Read! Volume I some months ago, and discovered that, yes, it does seem to promote early reading ability. It was limited reading ability - WonderBaby was recognizing words - but still, much more than I'd expected for a child barely 14 months old. The question, however, was whether I wanted to teach my baby to read:

Sure, (I said) I might get WonderBaby to read the words in her books, rather than just fondle the pages and kiss the pictures, but to what end? Shouldn't she love her books for the simple joy of being able to embrace their bookiness, before rushing to decode the letters inside? Shouldn't the relationship begin as an erotic one, such that her intoxication with the book compels her to explore every inch of its mysteries, from form to image to word and beyond?And, how could I overlook the disconcerting irony that attends to teaching one's child to read with a DVD?

I still have these concerns. Reading is for loving, not for rote learning. That said, however, I've come to realize that singing and dancing along with a DVD program - in this case, Your Baby Can Read! Volume II - that pushes words isn't necessarily an exercise in rote learning.

WonderBaby loves this DVD. LOVES. As in loves it so much that she asks for it by name - baby read? Peez? - and shoves the Teletubbies (oh beloved Po!) aside in its favour. She shouts along as words are read - COW! CUP! HAT! - and then sings and dances when the songs come on. She seriously, seriously loses her shit for this DVD. How can something so much fun be rote?

She throws her little self right into the fun of shouting words and singing words and dancing to words and - yes - learning words (many of which she can now recognize). But what's most important about this, I think, is not the learning so much as it is the passion-building. In the process of having so much freaking fun, I'll venture, she's developing a passion for words. (Which is not necessarily a passion for reading, nor for books, but those, I think, are somewhat different matters.) Loving words - thinking that words are fun- is the first and most important step to loving reading and books and all the wonderful things that words make.

And although I can and do do everything that I can to encourage this love myself, it certainly doesn't hurt to have to some big guy in a doggy suit jumping around and pointing out the words to Old MacDonald Had A Farm as back-up.

Posted as part of the Parent Bloggers Network series on Your Baby Can Read. *You* can read more about YBCR at

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Coming Attractions

Review blogs, like math, are hard. I have plenty of stuff to review, but so little time to review that stuff.

So, in lieu of a review this week, here's a Pending List! (yay!):

Printakid personalized books (preview: a big hit with WonderBaby, but the CD is key with toddlers.)

Brighter Minds Media books for tots (preview: another big hit with WonderBaby, who loves her books, but especially loves books with cows. Bring on the cows!)

The Bilingual Edge (preview: it was useful as a handbook, for hints and tips, but didn't change the approach to bilingualism that we already use here.)

Your Baby Can Read, II (preview: damn, but does WonderBaby ever freakin' love the DVDs for this program. I'm not sure that they're teachin her how to read, but she now knows all the words to Old MacDonald Had A Farm.)

KINeSYS sunscreen system (preview: I'll let you know when I have more than a tablespoonful to try out.)

Fly Fusion Pen Computer (preview: this is the BEST thing that I've seen in, like, forever, and am BUSTING to write about it. It rocks, but it's totally pitched at the wrong market. You want this thing; who cares what your teenager wants? You can see how I used it during BlogHer here - I know, hardly inspired, but cooool. That's a jpeg from my FlyFusion notebook, doodled during a panel session and uploaded later. SUH-weet.)

Later, skaters.