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Five Simple Ways to Raise a Reader

Child ReadingIt’s been said that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Reading strengthens children’s analytical thinking skills, improves their memories and expands their vocabulary. Reading is also an excellent way to reduce stress. But how do you raise a reader? Here’s how:

1. Establish a story time. Ask your child to pick out a book and read it to him while he snuggles with you on the couch. Make time every day to read an age-appropriate book to him. He will remember the time you spent together even if he forgets the stories. 

2. Share your faves. Have favorite books from your childhood? Pick out a few, read them to your child and see if any of them click. She might not love all of them, but chances are that she will probably go wild for some of them. After all, books like Green Eggs and Ham and Curious George are classics for a reason.

3. Explore an author’s works. Did your child love Where the Wild Things Are and Chicken Soup with Rice? Find Maurice Sendak’s other books and read them to him. If you aren’t familiar with the author’s other works, you can ask your local librarian or do some research on the Internet to find additional titles.

4. Let one passion inspire another. Find books that speak to your child’s interests. Does she like animals? Check out a Berenstain Bears book from the local library. Is your little one into trucks? Get some books about construction. Got a baseball fan?  Well, you get the idea.

5. Lead by example. Encourage your child to be a voracious reader by showing him that you are a voracious reader. Planning weekly trips to the library with him, taking him to your local bookstore on a regular basis and designating a special story time will show him that you make reading a priority. 

First Birthday Party Ideas

baby girlA first birthday is a big deal; well any birthday for our children is a big deal.  First birthday parties can be as extravagant and whimsical as our imagination will allow, but really do not have to break the bank. It is an opportunity to celebrate the birth of our child and their first amazing year of life – full of growth, milestones and fun. Here are some ideas for birthday themes that can be simple to put together.

Ships Ahoy Nautical Theme

  • Grab blue and white thick-striped fabric and red felt. Cut out the letters of your child’s name (or initials) in the red felt and glue or sew onto the striped fabric as a backdrop to the treats table. Affix it to the wall with removable hanging strips;
  • Build a big cardboard box sailboat with items you have laying around at home (cardboard box, old pillow case or leftover fabric, a broomstick, etc.) and let the children set sail;
  • Craft a lifesaver using a white foam craft ring and thick red ribbon for a decorative welcome sign;
  • Use blue and white striped fabric for tablecloths and red and white for placemats or napkins;
  • Spread seashells and miniature sailboats across the center of tables for fun décor;
  • Make shortbread cookies in the shape of seashells, crabs, anchors and any other nautical themed cookie cutters you can find. Ice them with white icing and sprinkle with blue sprinkles;
  • Give small blue or red plastic buckets and shovels as favors. You can use permanent marker in blue or red to write a note or the child’s name on the side of the bucket and include a sample of your nautical shortbread cookies;
  • Have goldfish snacks in a fish bowl with a small sand shovel as the scoop.

Ice Cream Social – for the child who loves ice cream

  • Bake cupcakes, once cooled, pop them out of the cupcake liner and into the top of an ice cream cone (some shaping may be needed to fit the cupcake into the ice cream cone). Then ice the top with homemade icing or dip in melted white chocolate and cover with sprinkles. Let cool in the refrigerator top down on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper so the icing/chocolate hardens;
  • Grab a white t-shirt or onesie and find an ice cream cone iron-on.  Once the iron-on is affixed to the shirt, set aside this cute little T for the big birthday boy or girl;
  • Use small fruit baskets like the ones you see at the farmer’s market as containers for your ice cream sundae station toppings.  Make sure you put a spoon in each for easy scooping. Liquid toppings could go in mason jars;
  • Place waffle cones filled with special treats that won’t melt and place in a favor bag closed with a twist tie.  Send each child home with one.
  • Create a pin the cherry on the ice cream cone game.

Winter ONEderland – for a winter baby or if you’re dreaming of snow and cold, winter air

  • Have mugs setup and ready to go with mini marshmallows and hot cocoa mix (for summer, pre-make iced hot cocoa);
  • Have a large coffee maker ready with a pot of hot water for the hot cocoa. (adult supervision needed here);
  • Make a snowflake garland with white or shiny vellum paper and twine;
  • Play pin the carrot nose on the snowman;
  • Make a snowman sheet cake;
  • Give small, plastic snow globes as party favors;
  • Use small foam craft balls as snowballs on top of fake snow for decoration;
  • Make snowflake and snowman PB & J sandwiches with cookie cutters;
  • Write “Thank you SNOW much for celebrating my birthday with me!” on the favor bags or on a large sign hung on party guest’s way out.

What did you do or do you plan to do for your child’s first birthday party?

Five Tips for Developing Healthy Learning Habits

  • Encourage play. Playing alone and with others not only builds brain development, it also helps children develop social skills and a sense of ethics. The most effective play is free of evaluation and correction (after all, throwing a ball shouldn’t be “right” or “wrong”), while promoting autonomy
  • Play together. In addition to their ABCs and 123s, preschool children are learning and developing life skills that will shape who they grow into as adults.  One of these building blocks is learning to play well with others and accepting one another’s differences.
  • Get adequate sleep and proper nutrition. Your child will do their best if they get to sleep early and eat a healthy breakfast each day before school. A daily diet of junk food is not compatible with learning. It can cause listlessness and hyperactivity, which can impair a child’s ability to learn. Skipping breakfast, especially, is a detriment to a child’s education.
  • Continue year-long education. Routine provides structure, which is often lacking during the summer months when children all too quickly become detached from the lessons they learned throughout the school year.  Maintaining a schedule throughout the summer supports an environment that is less of a contrast to the classroom and provides a healthy balance between building skills, play and rest.
  • Turn off the screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to avoid television and other electronic media for children two years of age and younger. Time spent in front of a computer, TV, video game or other similar devices can interfere with schoolwork, physical activity, curious exploration, social interaction and play.

Celebrating Grandparents

National Grandparents Day falls on the first Sunday after Labor Day every year.  With well over 25 million more grandparents today than in 1980*, it is a holiday worth observing. Grandparents all over the country help care for their grandchildren, and they deserve to be recognized for the support they provide to their families.

Celebrate National Grandparents Day with some creative activities and gifts.

  • Create an ecard online. Ask your children to help you choose the card and compose a message;
  • Help your children write a note or draw a picture for their grandparents. You can also send a photo of your children with their grandparents. Add a stamp and address the envelope, and have your children place the note in the mailbox;
  • Help your little one craft a one-of-a-kind piece of art for their grandparents. You can even buy a frame for the artwork and present it to Grandma and/or Grandpa;
  • Bake something special for your children’s grandparents. If they have a favorite treat or snack, your little chefs can help you whip up something sweet for their grandparents. Wrap it up in a nice tin or container;
  • Schedule some one-on-one time for your little ones to bond with their grandparents. Grandparents love nothing more than uninterrupted time with their grandchildren.

Reading is another excellent way to share stories and bond. Here are some special books to share with your children’s grandparents:

  • Your Mommy Was Just Like You written by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by David Walker – Children wonder what their parents were like when they were young. In this story, a grandmother tells her granddaughter what her mother was like as a child.
  • You’re Lovable to Me written by Kat Yeh and illustrated by Sue Anderson – This story illustrates that parents’ love never wanes, no matter how young or old their children are.
  • One Love adapted by Cedella Marley and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton – This story adapts Bob Marley’s lyrics into a story about a family, including a grandmother, that works with the local community to build a park where everyone can play and enjoy the outdoors.
  • You’re Going to Be a Grandma! written by Deborah Zupancic and illustrated by Joel Grothaus – This book lets a grandmother-to-be record important information about her new grandchild.
  • Grandpa Green by Lane Smith – This special story is about a grandfather who may be losing his memory and his grandson bonding over the topiary garden the grandfather has lovingly maintained for many years.
  • Here Comes Grandma! by Janet Lord – This book whimsically illustrates the lengths a grandmother will go to see her grandchild.
  • The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka – This book is written from the perspective of a little girl whose grandparents are her caregivers. This book is great for grandparents to share with their grandchildren, especially if they often look after their grandchildren.

Make celebrating your children’s grandparents and yours an annual tradition.  While we may show our appreciation for them every day, National Grandparents Day gives us a special opportunity to show them extra love and attention and teach our children about the importance of respecting their elders.

*Source: The MetLife Report on American Grandparents

Five Ways To Help Ease Back-To-School Butterflies

Back-to-school time is approaching, and excitement is in the air. Sometimes all that excitement can be accompanied by nervousness, though. Help ease back-to-school butterflies with these five simple tips:

  1. Begin transitioning your child into a consistent school-night routine a few weeks before school starts so he has time to get used to the new schedule;
  2. If your child has specific worries about the first day of school, listen to her, offer reassurance and brainstorm together for solutions;
  3. When dropping off your child, be loving, be direct and leave promptly. Don’t say you’ll miss him; instead, say you can’t wait to hear about his day;
  4. Visit the classroom, playground and/or building with your child a few times before school starts. This can help familiarize your child with a new environment, easing any anxiety she might have;
  5. Establish a reasonable bedtime so that your child will be well-rested and ready to learn in the morning.

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Feeling Important, Respected, Accepted, Included and Secure

Children need to feel important, which means they need to feel that they have value, they are useful, they have power and they are somebody special. The following are examples of how parents can help develop or diminish a child’s sense of importance.

Being Overprotective – Parents may diminish children’s sense of power by limiting them too much. Children need to experiment and try new things. We need to encourage their curiosity, experimentation and desire for adventure instead of saying no too often.

Being Excessively Permissive – However, if you never or rarely say no or if you try to satisfy all of your children’s desires, they could develop a false sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations, which will hurt them in the future as they discover the realities of life. Distinguish between wants and needs. When you say no to something a child wants, you should still honor the five critical needs.

Talking Too Much and Not Listening – We talk, we lecture, we give advice, we tell children how to feel and what to think and we overpower them with words when we should listen and pay more attention to what they say, think and feel. Give your children your undivided attention, even when you only have a few minutes.

Making All the Decisions – When parents make all the decisions and solve all their children’s problems, children miss an opportunity to increase their self-confidence and develop good judgment and decision-making skills.  Asking their opinions and listening to their answers contributes to their sense of importance. Let your children make small, age-appropriate decisions, such as what to wear, what vegetable to eat with dinner, what board game to play and what color collar the family pet should wear, etc.

If we provide constructive, meaningful ways to make children feel important, they will not need to engage in inappropriate destructive activities to convince themselves and others that they are important.

Satisfying a child’s five critical emotional needs, which are to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure, will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

Click here to read article one in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Respect.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Respect

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project

Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

 Feeling Respected, Important, Accepted, Included and Secure

One of children’s critical emotional needs is to feel respected. For children to feel respected, adults need to be courteous, thoughtful, attentive and civil to them. As individuals, they deserve the same courtesy and consideration as others. Children learn about respect by being treated respectfully and by observing their parents and other adults treating one another with consideration.

When adults don’t treat children with respect, it can lower children’s self-esteem and cause them to rebel and act disrespectfully toward others.

Their parents’ opinions, values, attitudes and actions matter to children. Children have some of the same needs as adults, and what we say and how we say it affects them.

For example saying, “I’m sorry, honey. I don’t have time right now,” is as quick and easy as saying, “Can’t you see I’m busy? Stop bothering me!” With children, a simple act of courtesy can go a long way.

If we want our children to grow up feeling respected and treating others with respect, we need to do the following:

  • avoid being sarcastic, belittling children or yelling at them. We need to keep our anger and impatience to a minimum;
  • avoid lying;
  • listen more and talk less;
  • give fewer commands and more suggestions and requests;
  • say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’ to our children;
  • become conscious of our mistakes, be willing to admit them and be ready to correct our behavior.

Displaying these behaviors as parents will help us cultivate our values in our children.

In the next blog article in this series, Dr. Newmark will discuss children’s need to feel important. Until then, consider the following.

When you were a child, did adults constantly interrupt you before you could finish your thoughts?

If your toddler is feeding herself and getting food on her bib and clothes, do you grab the spoon and yell, “Stop that. You’re making a big mess. Here, I’ll feed you,” or do you put your arm around her and say, “Isn’t that great? You’re trying to feed yourself.”

Satisfying a child’s five critical emotional needs, which are to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure, will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Everyone, including babies, toddlers, teenagers, parents and grandparents, has similar emotional needs. Meeting your child’s needs in childhood provides the foundation for success in school, work, relationships, marriage and life.

In his book How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!, Dr. Gerald Newmark shows parents and teachers how to nourish children’s emotional health at home and at school. The book helps parents and teachers recognize and satisfy children’s critical emotional needs, which are to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure. Parents and teachers can benefit from this process, too.

In the coming weeks, we will share a series of articles on this blog with tips, activities and more information about meeting each of these five emotional needs. We’ll also address hurtful and helpful behaviors and how to become an effective parent. These simple, powerful ideas can enhance the lives of children, parents and families.

The goal is to raise self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

In the next article in this series, Dr. Newmark will discuss children’s need to feel respected. Until then, consider the following.

When you were a child and someone asked you a question, did your mother or father ever jump in and answer it for you?

Have you ever interrupted a conversation with your child to answer the phone, and then found yourself saying to your child, “Don’t be rude. Can’t you see I’m talking?”

Books for Creating Excitement and Confidence about Starting Kindergarten

The transition to kindergarten can be scary for children, even if they have been to play groups and preschool.  If your child will continue to attend The Goddard School®, the transition may be easier than the transition to public school or another private kindergarten program.  However, the transition from pre-k to kindergarten is still a significant step. Reading books to your child about the transition can help ease any anxiety about starting kindergarten. The sampling of books below touch on the challenges children and their parents face when children move on to kindergarten.

The Night before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing and Julie Durrel

This book is a twist on The Night before Christmas poem and shows children the fun of getting ready for kindergarten by packing supplies for school, setting their clothes out for the first day and taking first-day pictures.  This book also shows children excitedly exploring their classroom for the first time.

Kindergarten, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg

This is a great, poetic book illustrating some of the milestones children face as kindergarteners, including first-day nerves, new friendships, the experience of losing a tooth and hundredth-day celebrations.

Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis

This book addresses a child’s typical concerns about starting kindergarten.  With the help of a familiar face and fun learning experiences, the main character quickly learns to embrace kindergarten.

Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee and Harry Bliss (illustrator)

This story explains that children entering kindergarten don’t need to know everything on the first day. The main character fears she will be the only one who doesn’t know how to tie her shoes. She later realizes that she isn’t alone; other classmates are in the same boat.

The Twelve Days of Kindergarten: A Counting Book by Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis

This rhyming story illustrates the experience of starting kindergarten and provides opportunities for children to work on skills that are necessary for school, like counting.

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst and Geoff Stevenson (illustrator)

Addressing the subject of separation anxiety, this story teaches children that they are never really alone.  This book is also recommended for toddlers and preschoolers.  It tells children that those we love stay with us through life’s challenges and experiences.

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff (illustrator)

This book shows what teachers may do to prepare their classrooms for the children and shares the excitement of starting a new year and meeting new faces.  Offering an opportunity to study the alphabet and rhyming words, this book provides a fun, educational read for children heading to kindergarten.

Sources:
mom.me: 10 Books to Get Kids Excited for Kindergarten
cozi: 10 Books Perfect for New Kindergarteners

Five Ways to Prevent “Summer Slide”

Summer is an awesome time of year. It’s full of family get-togethers, trips to the pool and vacations. With all that awesomeness, though, sometimes learning falls by the wayside. Research has shown that some children experience summer learning loss, also known as “summer slide” because their minds aren’t as engaged as they are during the school year. You can help to keep your child’s brain active and prevent summer slide with these five fun learning activities:

  1. Read, read, read. Read to your child or encourage him to read for twenty minutes every day. Taking a trip to the library on hot, humid or rainy days can be fun, too. Also, listening to audio books is great during car trips.
  2. Learn a new word every week. Make this a game by seeing who can use the new word the most times throughout the week. You can even make a scoreboard and stick it on the fridge. Encourage your child to look through a picture dictionary to pick out new words.
  3. Get cooking. Cooking with your child is a fun way to teach your child math and reading skills as well as how to follow instructions. Look through a cookbook with your little one, and ask him what he would like to make.
  4. Hit the road. Take a field trip to a museum, a zoo or an aquarium. Before you go, read a book with your child about the sights at your destination. When you return, you and your child can write a journal entry about your adventures.
  5. Go outside. Embrace the nice weather and go on a hike, nature walk or bike ride. Pack a magnifying glass and/or binoculars, and take breaks along the way to take a closer look at things. You and your little one can even take notes on interesting objects or animals and look up more information about them online or in an encyclopedia when you get home.
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