Tell us a little about your family…
I am Amii, a thirty year old early years teacher turned stay at home mum. I live with my husband Bo (30), our two daughters Baobao (2) and Xiaobao (6 months) and our two cats, Neko and Foxtrot. We love to spend our days outside in nature, or snuggled up with a good book. I write about what we do over at Baobao Tea and Soy.
What are the 3 words that define your parenting style?
gentle. loving. eclectic
What is your children’s current favourite toy?
Baobao is really into doing things together at the moment - puzzles, books and play dough are the big three at the moment. We're planning to introduce games soon.
Xiaobao is incredibly physical, crawling and pulling herself up on anything she can. Who needs toys, when you can push around your big sister's chair.
What is your - and your children’s - favourite toy of all time?
The more I think about it, the more I realise how very different Baobao and I are. Growing up, I loved small world play. Polly Pocket, Playmobil, animals and dolls, I had them all. Baobao isn't hugely interested in small world play, outside of her trainset. She much prefers seeing how things connect together and enjoys puzzles, putting together train tracks and connecting Duplo blocks together.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Every Halloween, we would turn off all of the lights, snuggle up under blankets on the sofa together, eating snacks and watching scary movies. I don't even really remember the films we would watch, but I remember being together as a family. It's that feeling of togetherness that I want my daughters to experience as they grow older.
What have you found most surprising about your children / about being a parent?
I'm constantly amazed by just how much my daughters can do. We have taken inspiration from Montessori, when making our home accessible for them, so Baobao is able to prepare her toothbrush and brush her teeth completely independently (although we do check each time) and can prepare her own lunch, cutting vegetables and fruit and spreading things on to bread. If you had told me that at 2 she could do that, I probably wouldn't have believed you before I had her. She surprises me daily.
Do you have any tips for other parents? About toys, learning or anything else…
Less definitely equals more. We did our first big toy purge when Baobao was around 15 months old. Since then, I have noticed the change in Baobao's behaviour when there are just too many toys on offer. She clearly becomes overwhelmed. She is able to take in so much more from the world around her, when she has fewer distractions, as it were.
With Xiaobao, we have taken this approach from the start. She currently only has two or three rattles, a few grasping toys and teethers, and a few balls. As I am writing this, she is playing with a pot and a wooden spoon (and attempting to climb out of her highchair). It's so much simpler when the item your child has been playing with can just be returned to the cupboard when they are done.
And finally, anything else you wish to add?
Read! Read with your child whenever they ask. Read them funny stories, sad stories, stories with morals. Read them poetry. Read information books. Read books about the world. When they don't want to read, speak to them. Describe what they are doing, what they are seeing, where they are going, why they are going somewhere - describe everything. Even if they aren't speaking yet themselves, narrate constantly, because they are taking in more than you know. Once they are speaking, listen. Listen to the big things, the little things, the sentences that feel like they might take ten years to finish, the tangents that make no sense. It will be worth it.
And take some time for yourself, because no one can give from an empty cup.