Archive for March, 2011

A Doll for Milo

I’ve been struck by how distinctly gender roles are defined in baby stuff.  Clothes are definitely geared for girls; the choices for boys are mostly limited to sports or transportation themes: footballs, baseballs, fire trucks, etc.  The same goes for toys: cars and trains for boys, dolls and clothes for girls.  Blue for boys, pink for girls.

I am trying to be conscious about what messages this early gender marketing is sending to Milo.  It’s okay to wear blue, but not pink.  You’re expected to be athletic and like sports.  Boys like cars, but girls don’t.  Why?  Why send these messages to our children?  What’s the point?  In an era where the definitions of masculinity and femininity are fluid and evolving, why box our children into their gender roles at such a tender age?

Blake likes to think of himself as a “sensitive New-Age guy,” not your stereotypical man.  He is especially sensitive to how societal pressures may squash Milo from being himself.  In addition to the cars and blocks in Milo’s toy stash, Blake suggested we get Milo a doll.  This would encourage his nurturing side, he explained.  Milo had recently learned the word “baby.”  He’d been pointing out pictures of babies, or even photos of himself, and chanting, “Bay-bee! Bay-bee!”  Now would be an opportune time to introduce a doll.

It was unlikely we’d find an appropriate doll at Toys R Us, however.  Blake wanted a doll that was plain, with small features.  Such a doll would be like a blank canvas that would allow Milo to use his imagination to create its personality.  This idea comes from Waldorf teaching philosophy.  (In a past life, Blake had considered training as a Waldorf teacher.  Sensitive New-Age guy.)  A simple, small or no-featured doll made sense to me too.  However, most of the dolls on the market already had their personality, pre-stamped by Disney.

So I decided I would knit a doll for Milo.  I consider myself an advanced intermediate knitter and I thought knitting a small doll for Milo would not be too difficult.  I knit this:

It took me a little longer than I had anticipated, partly because I had to make a lot of little decisions: size, color, what kind of yarn, hair, etc.  “Milo’s Baby” is machine washable, complete with belly button.

One morning, we left Milo’s Baby in his room, in a spot where we knew he would find it.  Milo declared, “Baby!” and seemed to know exactly what to do with his doll.  He gave it a hug.

We’ll see whether giving Milo a doll will break open the gender role boundaries for him.  Milo has been both nurturing and ambivalent towards Baby.  He finds it convenient to carry Baby around by his hair.  One day, his hands were full so he decided kicking Baby down the hall was the most efficient way of transporting him.  But one night, Milo sat in the rocking chair and rocked Baby to sleep in his arms.  Then he pointed to the crib.  Daddy put Milo and Baby to bed together and they both slept through the night without a peep.

Knitting pattern for Milo’s Baby can be found at Wee Folk Art.  This is a great website for making all sorts of Waldorf type toys.  You know, for the sensitive New-Age guys in your life.

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Spilled Cheddar Bunnies

Yesterday, my dear little boy did this:

He poured out almost a full box of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies on the floor.  Oops.

I was reminded of a story a friend told me years ago.  Her first child, who was then about the same age as Milo is now, had gotten into the flour pot and spilled flour all over the kitchen.  The little girl had flour all over her face and hair and she had made a big mess.  As my friend was telling this story, I would have thought she might react with annoyance at having to clean up after her baby.  Instead, she said, “Oh, well!” and let her daughter continue to play with the flour.  She figured the deed had already been done and she might as well let her daughter play in the flour.  She could clean up later.

I remember this story struck me because I admired my friend’s sense of humor and grace in this situation.  It would do no good to freak out and yell at the baby, who was just innocently curious.  And since the mess had already been made, you might as well let the baby explore and have fun.

So when Milo poured out the Cheddar Bunnies, I stifled my urge to say “Uh-oh!” and grabbed the camera instead.

It was great fun for about 20 minutes or so.  And afterward, Milo helped me clean up!

I get the feeling we’ll be finding Cheddar Bunnies in strange places for the next few weeks.  But it was worth it.

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It’s been a very long winter here in New Hampshire and it’s still going.  Yesterday, I posted a link on facebook from Merrimack Valley Moms about indoor activities for kids with cabin fever.  My friend Angela commented on the link: “Corn starch and water.  All you need.”

This reminded me that I had come across a recipe for finger paints that used corn starch, water, and food coloring.  So this morning, I decided to wing it with the corn starch.  I mixed up the corn starch and water to consistency of gravy.  This didn’t work terribly well.  The corn starch kept gooping up at the bottom of the bowl.  But I didn’t have time to actually look up the recipe, so I went with what I had.  I divided the goop up into 2 bowls and added food coloring: blue and yellow.  Milo was fascinated.

Ingredients for fun?

This didn’t really work as finger paint, but it did work for bright colored goop that Milo liked playing with.  I spread butcher paper on the table and let him go.  He had fun dipping sticks and spoons and hands into it and smearing it everywhere.  He took my silicone turkey baster and used it as a paint brush.  He drank a little of it.  He experimented dropping some blue into the yellow and created green.  This occupied him for almost a full hour, which is an eternity in toddler time.

This stuff is cool

I like that I didn’t have to police Milo with the goop.  He could make as big a mess as he wanted, waste as much goop as he wanted, play with mixing colors, throw it across the room, etc.   It was an opportunity for him to play, which is how babies learn.  After it was all done–meaning when the colored goop was emptied out of the bowls onto the table, the floor, and Milo–clean up was easy.  The goop dried up into splotches that easily wiped away with water.  They looked like those sugared dot candy that you peel off strips of paper.  Maybe I stumbled on the recipe for sugared dots?

When I looked up the recipe for finger paints, I had gotten it wrong.  You’re supposed to use corn starch and dishwashing liquid or shampoo.  I’ll try that recipe some time, but this one was pretty fun too.

Basic color theory: blue + yellow = green

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