Gentle Hands


Recently I found myself in a strange new situation. A parent approached me about my child’s behaviour. He told me that my daughter had pushed his daughter in ballet class and now his daughter no longer felt comfortable being in the class. ‘I’m just sayin’, he said. ‘It is what it is.’ To say I was absolutely gobsmacked would be an understatement. I stood there in the tiny playroom, Tallula on my hip, leaning backwards, trying to get my attention. A good friend of mine waiting for this all to be over. Me too. I didn’t know what to say. I was completely caught off guard. I had just been stopped by a young woman who I found out later was the program and class coordinator, who mentioned there had been a small pushing incident in class and without the assistant there today the teacher really wasn’t able to address it. My question would have been, how do you address this behaviour? To find out if it is the same way that we do. But I had to run to get Tallula, who was now the last one in class waiting to be picked up.

In my recent monthly letter to Tallula, I mentioned that we’ve been working on ‘gentle hands only’. In our Tuesday playgroup she’s been pushing some of the younger girls when she doesn’t want them near her or doesn’t want to share. The teacher assures me this is typical toddler behaviour. Since Sebastian isn’t physically capable of such behaviours, this is all new territory. Our teacher said the best way to work through the behaviour is to immediately step in and exhibit kind and gentle hands and make sure the other child is ok, modelling this behaviour for Tallula and reminding her rather than ‘no pushing, etc.’ So this is what we’ve been doing and she’s definitely learning that pushing isn’t ok, that it makes others sad. Though she continues to do it in some circumstances she’s realizing that it’s not ok and I feel like she’s trying hard to regulate.

I phoned the play centre where we have the class and spoke to the program coordinator because I wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page with how to encourage safe and positive play. I explained what we were doing at our other play group and mentioned it’s a child development program, and somehow she thought I said it was a behaviour program implying that we are trying to ‘fix’ Tallula’s behaviour. I still felt uneasy when we hung up. One thing she said which stuck with me was how they don’t train their staff so everyone brings something different to the mix. I read that as, anyone could react in any way to her pushing. I want to make sure it is positive. I also wasn’t keen when she mentioned consequences such as ‘no sticker if you push in class’. Surely I would prefer my daughter to learn that pushing doesn’t make others feel good rather than, if you don’t push, you get a sticker. I mean at age 2.5, stickers are pretty important. (Refusing to submerge hand in the bathtub before bedtime ring a bell for anyone?)

There’s also this thing about Tallula. She’s absolutely the most caring kid I know. She’s gentle with her dolls, holding and kissing them. Wrapping them up and making them ‘nice and cosy’ for bedtime. One only needs to look at her with her brother to see the unbreakable bond created by two extremely loving kiddos. She also always helps out the kids that need it. So for me, I was struggling with this behaviour too because I didn’t understand where it came from and these two people absolutely wanted me to feel like she was a ‘bad’ kid which I know absolutely she is not.


And guess what?! They were totally in the wrong. Because pushing, hitting, and biting is TYPICAL TODDLER BEHAVIOUR. That doesn’t mean that all toddlers will do it. But it means that those that do do it, do it for a reason and it’s our job as adults to help them learn to express themselves in different ways. How I wish the program coordinator would have taken this approach with the father and even with myself.  I read three articles that gave me fuel for my fire and also made me feel like most certainly the situation hadn’t been handled properly.

Aggressive Behaviour in Toddlers was the one I found most extensive and helpful. It mentioned watching for stressors that contribute to the behaviour. Is she tired? Overwhelmed? It talked about the consistency of using both actions coupled with words. Such as exhibiting a gentle touch when saying gentle hands with our friends. It also mentioned repetition. And that it takes a while.

I know Tallula is starting to think about it and process it but sometimes she just can’t help it. Which the article mentions too. We talk about different ways to deal with our frustration and anger and why sharing is good. We take deeps breaths; we even take breaks together instead of time outs. And we read a lot of books. I have many from my teaching days that talk about feelings and also when I taught conflict resolution. Her favorite right now is ‘Sophie’s Grumpy’ (When Sophie Gets Angry, Really Really Angry). She will retell you the story without even looking through the book.

I’m not worried that Tallula won’t learn how to regulate her emotions and stop pushing others. I don’t think she’s a bully. I think she’s a toddler learning how to navigate in the world. Despite a vocabulary that I think is extremely impressive, she’s still not quite there with the ability to fully express herself verbally. (I know adults that still can’t do that.)

I thought about why I was so upset after the confrontation with the dad. And it didn’t have anything to do with Tallula. It had to do with the parents. It has to do with the parents. The ones that shuffle their kid away instead of staying to deal, work through, and teach our children how to get along. It has to do with the parents that don’t know that pushing can be typical behaviour and it’s up to us to teach or kids how to stop those behaviours, together. And it has to do with the staff that also don’t know child development well enough to explain it to a parent that voices a concern.

As parents we want to protect our children. But we also want to help them grow. And learn. And for me, maybe this space with parents navigating their child’s every move just ain’t for me us.

Rally Racer Review

When Sebastian and I looked through the toy catalogue before Christmas he had one thing in mind that he wanted. A race track. We have two small race tracks that he’s tried using the past few years which work ok but he still needs help with them. I wanted to find a race track he could navigate all on his own.


This summer Sebastian’s tray was outfitted with two custom switches to help him with communication as well as computer programs/games and iPad games. He’s worked hard at school and home to learn to target these switches. We are able to connect a Big Mac switch with messages for him to share or get our attention as well as connect it to something called a Tecla for Bluetooth usage with his iPad and our home computer.


Sebastian first started out building his targeting skills using switch toys. I found a lot of switch toys we were exposed to were very simple and he would easily get bored with them over time. They were cause and effect oriented and he grew out of them. When I searched the Internet for some sort of switch operated train track or car race track I didn’t find anything in Canada.


Instead my search led me to Excitim Ltd (Special Needs Toys), based in the UK; a company run by a husband and wife team. After contacting Mike via Facebook we began a dialogue and through his website I was able to find the a Rally Racer. They also had a train but we thought the race track would be better for Seb so he could play it with his sister. We knew Tallula would want in on the action too.


Switch toys are expensive which makes them out of reach for many families. But I felt the cost was comparable to a big hot wheels race track and I knew Sebastian would not only be able to play it with us but his cousins and friends. The cost was a bit heftier than I imagined after shipping and extra duty fees. However, I wondered if shipping time had doubled the cost. During the holidays it’s always about making sure you get things on time. It was also our big gift for Sebastian (though from Santa) and who am I fooling? We tend to get whatever we find that works for Sebastian because sometimes it is hard to find things that do.



The package.
The car arrived in its original box inside another box for shipping which kept it nice and safe. All pieces arrived perfectly wrapped and neatly organized. In fact, it was packaged so well we couldn’t test it out but just wrapped the box so part of the fun would be putting it together.

Putting it together.
Sebastian’s cousin Parker was keen to help put the track together and had no problem helping ali. I set about decorating the cars with the stickers while the boys pieced the track together and figured out the best placement for the yellow rails. Tallula waited on the sidelines ready to play.

What’s inside the box?
The Rally Racer comes with one blue and one red race car. The track runs in a circle and has yellow side rails, which are important; as the cars race around they can come off the track. There are two controls. One is a small push button control for the opponent and the other is a switch control box. So we attached Seb’s tray to the box which attached to the track.

How does it work?
When Sebastian pushes down the car goes around the track. He controls one track. His opponent pushes down a button to control the other track. They speed around passing each other and sometimes crashing into each other. Which was Sebastian’s favorite part when playing with his cousin Logan. Sometimes the cars flip or fall off the track so the opponent puts them back on and they go again. Sebastian has to push on his switch when he wants the car to go. When he stops, the car stops. This is good for strength training!

Is it portable?
One of the things I really like is its size. It breaks apart and fits back into the box so we can take it with us. The box is fairly flat.

The verdict.
Sebastian loves to play with cars but he can’t manouver them himself so when he’s playing with his friends or cousins he does a lot of watching and sometimes hand over hand. This changed all that. We took the track when we stayed with friends and all the kids had a lot of fun playing with Sebastian. We could walk away and leave the kids to play together without mom or dad helping.


And that’s really what it’s all about. Plus laughter. Lots of laughter and smiles. We give the Rally Racer an A+!



I am doing this review of my own volition. I want other families to know what a fun product this is and what an easy and helpful company Excitim Ltd (Special Needs Toys) is to work with. I paid full price for the toy as well as shipping and some duty charges upon receiving the item from USPS.

30 Months.

Dear Tallula,

Today you are two and a half Tallula Lu! To the little girl who saw herself in a photo wearing her pink rain jacket and had to have it to wear around the house. Because pink is still your most favourite colour and even though you’ve added purple and orange to the list, it is still very difficult for you to share pink things with others. You kind of ‘own’ it. At least for now.


We had Play Group today. You painted and then moved over to play with the babies with your friend S from last year’s group. There are a lot of younger kids in the group and you tend to play on your own or with S. You are kind and helpful to the kiddos with additional needs. For the babies that are emerging toddlers, sometimes you push them away and don’t want to share. So we are working on gentle hands and sharing. Your teacher tells me how typical your behaviour is and I embrace that and wish those nannies and mamas could see your kind heart with the other kiddos. I wish they could understand that you are growing and developing and testing the boundaries and that sharing isn’t something you do but something you learn.


You are very good at sharing with your brother. You like to pick things out for him based on what you think he would like. We work together at offering things to your friends but also recognize it’s ok to hold close the things you want to play with sometimes. You know what you want and sometimes just take it, so we are working on taking turns too. You know when to say stop and we continue to work on using your words though you like to put your hand up for effect.


You are very strong willed but you are also a loyal friend to those you love. Like your ‘best friend’ R who has the same birthday as you! You are always so happy to see each other and have enjoyed climbing and tumbling in Gymtastics class together. Next week you will both do Fairy Tale Ballet together, all on your own. (Don’t worry, I can watch on the monitor! And I’ll be there when you finish.) You can’t wait to wear your tutu and even though you haven’t seen a Disney Princess movie yet, you recognize them in pictures and are drawn to them, much like you were to the colour pink at a very young age.

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You like to make new friends with kids when we are out and about or picking Sebastian up at school. You are drawn to kids older than you and sometimes your age. And especially if they are wearing pink. Sometimes they don’t know how to react to your friendliness, like that little girl at the Ontario Science Centre who ran from you until it became a chasing game. Or the little girl sitting with her family at the table near ours, as we finished our lunch, you joined her for hers. I’m thankful for friendly parents in these situations! And friendly kids too. You have a friend at Sebastian’s school that has the same pink boots as you and you love to save her a seat to sit next to you while waiting for the bus, ‘S! I saved a seat for you!’ You ask if you can hold her walker, like holding her hand. You are so full of love.


The things you say! When people meet you they are surprised you aren’t older. I’ve been saying you are two and a half for awhile. It became easier. Your language skills confound them. They confound us. When I sit down on the floor next to your bed at night you want to hold my hand until you fall asleep (after mae mae of course). One night as you grabbed my hand you said, ‘It’s cold. I can warm it up for you.’ And you started rubbing it in-between your own. At nap time you said, ‘I love you. I love you so much.’ And then, ‘You have a big nose. I’m going to eat it. Ahhhh.’ ‘Matchy-matchy’ You shout when you find two items that are the same. From colours to letters to pictures in games. You are starting to recognize some of your letters, with ‘S’ at the top of your list. You’ve started to say only ‘Sebastian’ instead of ‘Abees’. I love how you say his name, of course, but I will always love how you called him ‘Abees’ and wonder if you will again. You knock my socks off sometimes when you add things like ‘actually’, and ‘I think that would be a good idea’ into our conversations. I love talking with you although sometimes you don’t want to be talked too. We’ve started taking ‘time ins’ where we take a few deep breaths together to help calm down instead of getting too upset. It works. Sometimes.


You are learning that Sebastian isn’t as strong as other kids, like when you jumped on him to wrestle with him and we both burst into tears. He because his body couldn’t take your weight and me for the same reason. I wish you could wrestle with your brother and most of the time he does too. He laughs at how hard you hug him. You do a fair bit of wrestling with your dad though, so I reckon you’ll be alright in that department. He also bit down on your arm before bedtime and you were so tired you burst into tears. You didn’t understand why he did that and you felt so sad. I tried to explain to you that his muscles don’t work properly and he didn’t do it on purpose. That when that happens he feels sad too. You looked at me like you were trying to understand. I know over time you will. You love him unconditionally regardless.


I love how you fall asleep at nap time, with your hands together in prayer position. So peaceful.


You loved all things Christmas. You couldn’t wait to meet Santa and wanted him to know that you wanted Dora for Christmas. And luckily you met him twice since he forgot to ask the first time. You also got a pink camera which you love to take with you and take pictures of everything. You are now asking us to smile for your photos. And your very own pink teddy bear.


You did a lot of fun things this month! Not only did you get to have fun at the Science Centre you also got to go bowling for the first time! And you went to an indoor play space when we were in Michigan at Grandma’s and you fearlessly climbed the tallest indoor play structure in Michigan. Just to get to the pink slide. You had a lot of fun opening your gifts on Christmas and playing with your cousins. You enjoyed New Years with your friends the ‘Didodos’ on the west side of the state. You love snow and being outside. Though there wasn’t much snow this month, and the cold weather kept us inside on many occasions. But we did a lot of painting and sewing! You work with deep concentration on my old sewing machine while I sew next to you at mine. I love it.

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You play soccer with Sebastian on Sundays, though mostly you chase and kick and carry the pink soccer ball around. You love being there with your brother though. You got your haircut and it still looks wild. Wildly lovely. You went to the playroom at the hospital where Sebastian had an appointment that went over TWO hours. All on your own. For the very first time.


You love to help make dinner and I’m hoping it will entice you to try new foods. Slowly. Slowly. Baking is your favourite and you love to don your baking hat and apron. We made ice cream with the ice cream maker Santa brought us for Christmas. You enjoyed the adventure in getting all of the ingredients. Our long, cold walk through Monarch Park to Little India.


You sat through your first feature film, Paddington! You opted out of sitting on either mine or daddy’s lap but wanted one of us to hold onto your leg. You held your Paddington Bear close to you and were excited to see how he ‘matchy-matchy’ with the one on the big screen. You asked to go home about half-way through, but that was short lived. You thoroughly enjoyed the film, being sure to let us know it wasn’t scary. You said your leg and butt hurt at the end. I don’t think you’ve ever sat still so long, aside from a car ride to Grandma’s. Afterwards we took lots of photos and shared some chocolates. You were a bit disappointed to have missed out on popcorn. Next time.

You are so brave. You are so caring. You are inquisitive. You are strong. You make us laugh. You cry big tears and wipe them away all in one breath. You are a delight and a whirlwind. We love you so much Tallula. ‘Not a kid.’