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Archive for September, 2010

Ask The Expert: Second Languages

What are your thoughts regarding the role that learning a second language has in child development and raising multilingual children?

Research on dual language acquisition (DLA) shows that given the opportunity, very young children can and will learn two or more languages at the same time.

An effective learning environment for the young dual language learner is one in which strategies are in place to intentionally and continuously support bilingualism.  Parents can do the following:

• engage young children in conversation during daily routines, for example, during mealtime or before naptime using the second language;

• read with children, using common words, poems, songs, and stories in the second language;

• label objects verbally using the second language;

• introduce the sounds of the alphabet letters to the dual language learner in both English and the second language;

• venture out and explore environments where the second language is spoken.

Young children can become increasingly fluent in a second language if they have opportunities to speak it with a variety of individuals, on a variety of topics.

For young children, the language of the home is the language they have used since birth, the language they use to make and establish meaningful communicative relationships, and the language they use to begin to construct their knowledge and test their learning. The home language is tied to children’s culture, and culture and language communicate traditions, values, and attitudes.  When introducing a second language, parents will need to have command and comfort of that language in order for children to become fluent.

The Goddard School Play Tips

PLAY IS LEARNING!

Art - Painting Girl APretend play is an important component of your child’s cognitive and social development. Your child processes his/her feelings and understanding of the world as he/she plays.

“Young children who learn through play are more capable of making their own decisions, advocating for themselves and using creativity to solve problems as they grow. Play is essential to the development of your child’s brain, triggering trillions of neural connections that form the basis of healthy cognitive function and mastery of your child’s physical world,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, a Yale University child psychiatrist and consultant to The Goddard School.

Infants…

  • engage in play by responding to sounds, then by following objects and people with their eyes.
  • demonstrate their memory by repeating an action that previously made you laugh.
  • explore hand-held toys or rattles – turning them over, banging them, shaking them and maybe even tasting them.
  • learn to roll over and sit up, creating choices as they discover how to move. They take aim at their own source of interest.
  • learn self-discovery and motion when toys are placed within and outside their reach.
  • want to examine objects as well as talk to them and follow your lead. Say, “clap,” with a smile on your face and your baby claps and smiles, too.

One-Year-Old children…

  • play with water, smell a flower (which is not as easy as you may think) and recognize animals like the ones from their mobiles.
  • join in the conversation with simple words and phrases and respond to “bye, bye” with an unsolicited wave.
  • demonstrate their knowledge – pointing to any­thing you ‘name’ such as ears, even when they cannot see them because they’ve learned to trust their own experiences.
  • play with you and imitate your actions. Watch them reflect your love with a doll providing “hugs and kisses” and ‘helping,’ the way you have guided them.

Two-Year-Old children…

  • demonstrate independence to determine their limits as well as when and how to play.
  • speak on a play phone and answer questions such as “Why?”
  • solve simple puzzles, hold crayons in their hands, hum and sing as they play as well as join activities without prompting.
  • enjoy using their imagination – pouring from one cup to another and manipulating play dough.
  • begin to understand the concepts of sharing and waiting their turn.
  • communicate in short sentences and demonstrate their personal understanding of the world while playing.
  • can multi-task: they can sing and perform the motions to a song or converse while they paint.

Three-Year-Old children…

  • ‘work’ while playing. They explore roles, feelings and ideas in an un­inhibited environment. They practice various emotions to determine how they fit into their personality.
  • have a large vocabulary and under­stand the intonations of language.
  • begin to connect the spoken word to written language and can orally retell a favorite story.
  • are interested in cause and effect; and can identify colors, shapes, sizes and weights.
  • play a role or game for long periods of time until they have exhausted their curiosity.
  • need their space. Let them invite you into their play.

Four-Year-Old children…

  • recognize how objects and people are the same and different simulta­neously; and can appreciate these attributes.
  • begin to recognize concepts. For in­stance, taking a bath develops their understanding of water – floating, sinking, absorbing and dissolving.
  • use their play experiences to develop identifiable knowledge – they can match by relationships and verbalize invisible con­cepts, such as time and calendars.
  • no longer need to see or hold a toy to play; they can recall previous experiences and use their knowledge.
  • can name instruments, move to the beat of music and sing along.
  • have phonemic awareness and view the written word as magical – writing a word is play!

The Goddard School Promotes the Power of Play for Learning

Art - Painting Infant & TeacherPlay for Tomorrow’s Ultimate Block Party is coming, and The Goddard School hopes that it will change the way you think about play forever. In a national event on October 3 in the Bandshell area of New York City’s Central Park, and in Mini Block Parties at Goddard Schools nationwide during the preceding week, the organizing team, Play for Tomorrow, will join forces with The Goddard School and non-profit organizations, government agencies and large corporations to kick-off a powerful new, global movement designed to recognize and celebrate the power of play for learning.

“Playful learning has always been at the heart of the curriculum at The Goddard School,” states Sue Adair, Director of Education and Quality Assurance for Goddard Systems, Inc. “It’s been clear to us all along that children learn best when new skills are presented to them in a playful and engaging way, and now there is a whole body of research to back us up.”

Play for Tomorrow is the consortium behind the “playful learning” movement. The Ultimate Block Party is the premier event in a national education movement, co-founded by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, who believes that how we play as children helps us succeed in school and shapes who we become as adults. “The workforce of 2040 is in our preschools today,” says Dr. Hirsh-Pasek, “and we must ensure that, as a nation, we are well equipped to thrive in our global economy.” Together with its partners, Play for Tomorrow is committed to building a public groundswell for the importance of play in fostering lifelong learning and to help enact change in policy and education.

“The Goddard School has been selected as the exclusive national preschool sponsor of Ultimate Block Party because of its long-standing commitment to the importance of play in early childhood education,” states Adair. As an activity sponsor at the Central Park event, and in Mini Block Parties ranging from a single day to a full week at individual schools, Goddard will invite children and families to join in fun-filled, playful learning activities designed to make learning an engaging and hands-on experience.

As part of the culmination of the events leading up to the main Ultimate Block Party in Central Park, on October 1, at 10 am local time, all Goddard School children will participate in a nationwide game of “Simon Says” and then join in singing the Goddard School Play Along song, written exclusively for The Goddard School. The song’s final chorus sums up the spirit of the Play for Tomorrow movement: “Goddard’s power of play makes learning fun, and we’ve only just begun.”

Parents will also ask their children to take a “Play Pledge” that states, “We believe in the Power of Play. Our family pledges to encourage playful learning. We recognize that play helps children explore and discover and is the foundation of creative and confident learning.” Beginning September 2, families also can take the “Play Pledge” on Goddard Schools’ Facebook, and download The Goddard School Play Along Song and helpful play tips by visiting www.goddardschool.com/blockparty.

“Many of the critical life skills that contribute to success in the workplace are actually developed on the playground and in the playroom,” says Adair. “Play time helps children develop creative and problem-solving abilities, encourages them to work cooperatively and builds their self-confidence. These are the skills that we need in our government and business leaders of tomorrow.”

To learn more about playful learning and The Goddard School, families are encouraged to visit www.goddardschool.com/blockparty.

Young Kids, Summer’s End and Exercise

Most parents count on summer itself to promote physical activity and raise-your-pulse exercise. The longer, warmer days beckon us and our kids outside and things just seem to happen. But then it’s back to school, logistics take over and couch potatoes (in both generations) often re-appear. It’s worth thinking about this transition now because now is when it’s happening. Many of us hit upon the idea of the logistical solution – find a class, join a team – if it’s in the schedule, it’s more likely to happen. And as we – and the preschools and kindergartens to which we send our children – all know, regular exercise is a very good idea. The old myths that young children are inherently sufficiently active, or that too much activity can harm the growing body – tales I heard from my grandmother – have been replaced with growing concern about shocking obesity levels in young children due to passive daily lives and unwise nutritional patterns. We know that there are short and long-term physical and mental benefits to regular exercise and that there are no short cuts to those benefits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for preschools:

  • An indoor play space should be available to allow sufficient running
  • Outdoor play should be scheduled twice a day
  • An outdoor play space should offer fixed and portable play equipment and a paved surface for wheeled toys
  • Active play time should never be withheld as punishment.

**Note to parents: are you sending your child off with the right clothing for such activities? This is a surprisingly frequent concern among teachers.

As for those scheduled team and class activities, keep a few things in mind. Preschoolers are not ready for competition. They won’t really understand winning vs. losing, ‘doing your best,’ ‘give the other kid a chance’ until they are in fourth grade. What they need now is for you to support the skills they are developing: running, chasing or hitting a ball, enjoying the water or snow and just beginning to understand that there is something called a ‘game’ or a ‘sport.’

But children learn better from what they see and experience, than from what they are told. So – as a family – keep fitness activity as a year-round habit.

  • Visit your playgrounds regularly and make it fun. Bring along some extra things like large balls, kites, ropes for jumping and (supervised!) tug-of-war. You can enrich the time by making an obstacle course (enjoyed by any child who can walk) through the playground and see who can remember it or finish it fastest.
  • Many families treasure weekly family walks. It generally takes some humoring for the more balky ones, but scavenger items usually work for our children.
  • When weather interferes, get out the large balls, exercise mats and Twister® games, or download some stretching and balancing exercises (to do together) from family fitness websites. Remember; keep your children away from exercise equipment for safety reasons.

Take a Hike!

In a survey by the Outdoor Foundation, it was found that children are primarily motivated by their families to participate in outdoor activities.  What better way to get children outdoors and active, than by going on a family hike?  Below are some tips for planning your hike so the littlest of hikers have a fun and rewarding experience.

  • Be prepared! Gear everyone up with appropriate, well-fitting hiking shoes or boots and comfortable, breathable clothing — bright colors (for little ones mostly) and layers are best.
  • Stock your backpacks with Deet-free bug spray, water, snacks, a well-stocked first-aid kit, GPS unit and rain gear, just in case.
  • If a child is too small to walk on their own, consider using a backpack carrier rather than a stroller.  It’ll be easier to maneuver over the terrain with baby in tow and they’re sure to enjoy the “bird’s-eye” view.
  • Establish and discuss “rules of the trail” before you head out, e.g., staying quiet to not disturb the animals, plants to steer clear of, not running off, etc.
  • Start with short hikes on easy trails with fairly flat surfaces to get everyone accustomed to the hiking experience.
  • Take your time. Go slow so everyone can keep up, but also to enjoy and explore your surroundings.
  • Geocaching or playing games on your hike are great ways to keep children interested and moving along.  Visit www.geocaching.com to find out more about this fun outdoor family activity.

Happy hiking!

Child Proofing Your Home

Blocks - Infant GirlAs a parent, you probably never stop worrying about your child. Is he or she happy? Healthy? Safe? While you can’t control everything, there are steps that you can take in your home to help improve your child’s safety and well-being.

Childproofing your home can be an overwhelming task. The most effective way to start is to evaluate your home, room by room, from your child’s perspective. If your child is crawling, get down on your hands and knees. Is your child toddling or walking? Get down to his or her level and check out the view. If you were crawling, toddling or walking where would you go? What looks tempting or interesting? What is within reach? Where could you climb? While not all accidents can be avoided, below are some general childproofing tips to help you get started. Remember to evaluate every area in your home for potential dangers.

Also keep in mind that childproofing is an ongoing process. As your child grows and develops (e.g., crawling, toddling, walking), you will need to reevaluate your childproofing efforts upon each milestone.

Furniture & Appliances

  • Secure heavy furniture and appliances to walls wherever possible.
  • Store heavy items on the bottoms of furniture such as bookshelves and cabinets so they are not top heavy.
  • Keep furniture and/or office drawers closed when not in use – climbing children tend to use these as ladders.
  • Make sure heavy appliances, such as televisions and computers, are pushed back from the edges of furniture – bolt them to the wall if possible.
  • Cover pointed edges of furniture with guards or bumpers
  • In the kitchen, use a stove guard to prevent your child from touching the burners or pulling at hot pots.
  • Use plastic covers if the stove’s knobs are within your child’s reach.
  • Always lock your oven or invest in a lock to prevent your child from opening the oven door.

Doors & Windows

  • Keep windows and doors closed and locked when not in use.
  • Use door knob covers. Be sure that these covers are sturdy enough not to break, but also allow doors to open quickly by and adult in case of emergency.
  • Use door stops or door holders on doors and hinges to keep little fingers safe.
  • Place marks or stickers on glass and sliding doors to make them visible.
  • Keep furniture away from windows.
  • If you have double hung windows, open them from the top.
  • Never open low windows more than four inches.
  • Use window stops, to prevent windows from opening more than four inches.

Blinds, Curtains & Draperies

  • Keep your child’s crib or bed away from blinds, curtains or draperies.
  • Keep blind, curtain and drapery pull cords out of your child’s reach.
    • Cut or remove pull cords.
    • Replace pull cords with safety tassels.
    • Use inner cord stops.
  • Make sure that older blinds and drapery cords have tie-down devices to hold the cords tight.
  • When purchasing new window coverings ask for those with child safety features.

Bathroom

  • Keep the toilet seat down when not in use.
  • Install a toilet lid lock to prevent your child from lifting the lid.
  • Always unplug appliances such as curling irons and hair dryers, after each use (and never keep anything plugged‑in near water).
  • Keep all medications and vitamins in a locked cabinet.
  • Keep razors, scissors, tweezers and other sharp bathroom objects in a high or locked cabinet.
  • Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees or lower to help prevent burns from hot water.
  • Install anti-scald devices on faucets and showerheads.
  • Use a non-slip mat in the bathtub and on the floor next to the bathtub to prevent slips.

Cabinets, Closets & Drawers

  • Secure cabinets, closets and/or drawers with locks or child-proof latches.
  • Store sharp, potentially harmful objects and dangerous products in high cabinets, out of your child’s reach.

Stairways & Other Areas

  • At the top and bottom of stairs, use safety gates that screw in place; they are more secure than those that stay in place with pressure.
  • Use safety gates that children cannot dislodge, but that you can easily open and close so you will be less likely to leave them open.
  • Use safety gates to prevent your child’s curious exploration into dangerous areas around your home such as the kitchen, bathroom, pool and hot tub.

Electrical Outlets

  • Cover or replace all electrical outlets.
    • Plastic Outlet Protectors –These devices fit directly into the outlet holes to prevent the insertion of foreign objects. If using these protectors; make sure they are large enough not to be a choking hazard.
    • Tamper Resistant Outlet Covers – These outlets look just like regular outlets, but use a plastic shutter to prevent the insertion of foreign objects.
    • Tamper Resistant Outlet Face Covers – These receptacle covers have plates that slide over the outlet holes when not in use. Some require replacing the entire outlet cover, others install over the existing outlet face cover.
  • Use a power strip safety cover on all in-use power strips.

Sources: www.cpsc.gov, www.babycenter.com, www.kidshealth.org

Does Your Family Believe in the Power of Play?

At The Goddard School, we take play very seriously.  Play is the foundation for learning, fostering self-confidence and developing skills for collaboration, cooperation and problem solving. Play is the first step in a lifetime journey of discovery because it teaches a child about his or her capabilities, strengths and even weaknesses.

“Our family pledges to encourage playful learning. We recognize that play helps children explore and discover and is the foundation of creative and confident learning.”

If your family believes in the power of play, take our Play Pledge by clicking ‘Share’ below!

Last month we debuted our Play Along Song, watch the making of video with your children! Making of The Goddard School Play Along Song!

Grandparents and Young Children

Does the following aphorism strike you as cynical or enlightened? Grandparents are close to their grandchildren because they share a common enemy.

I didn’t much appreciate this irony until I became a grandparent myself. The middle generation is the reason the grandkids exist in the first place, but they are also the ‘common enemy’ against which the forces of wisdom (grandparent) and immortality (grandchild) are arrayed. Grandparenthood enjoys the privileges of age and experience, and grandchildren (seeming) agelessness and inexperience. Only the ‘middlers’ bear the ultimate responsibility for damage control, missed bedtimes and nutritional excesses. Everything else is just plain old fun seasoned with pride.

But is this traditional view of grandparenting changing along with the American family? About 10% of all grandparents are caring for their grandchildren over 30 hours a week and/or 90+ sleepovers a year. Does this take a toll? Interestingly, caring for the young seems not only to have few negative effects on the older generation’s health, babysitting for them may be especially beneficial for grandmothers (grandfathers – as usual – await study).  This is not to say it’s always a piece of cake to smoothly manage all these needs spanning three generations.

Having two sets of grandparents should be a blessing, right? More helping hands, assets, etc.? But what if the styles and values of the grandparents differ significantly? For example-one pair childproofs the house for young visitors while the other refuses to do so ‘because it’s not good to teach children that the world can be changed to accommodate their needs.’ One routinely takes them shopping and the other insists that when they come to visit, they bring their own toys ‘since they don’t intend to spoil anyone.’

The effects of such variations on the grandparenting theme are less toxic to kids than to their parents since they learn early that it’s ‘G’Mom/Dad’s loving that matters; the goods and services are nice, but it’s being adored so unconditionally that feels so great. Not that the latter can’t be taken to the extreme occasionally. When my wife and I were recently consulting to an owner of multiple childcare centers in Shanghai and Peking, we heard, with troubling frequency, of young children ‘behaving so imperiously, defying teacher authority repeatedly’ because – according his head teachers – they are ‘treated like little emperors/empresses by four doting grandparents’ per child (given China’s one child policy).

Some suggestions to avoid such pitfalls while establishing lasting closeness through unique grandparent/child activities are listed below:

  • pick a series of picture or chapter books that are shared only between grandparent and grandchild
  • chose a particular destination for the skipped generation pairing –a manageable museum, a public park, breakfast/desert outings
  • apprentice the grandchild to a grandparent’s passion – dominoes, cooking, card games, fishing, a team sport (fan or participant)
  • memory moments stimulated by old photos, or recollections of parental childhood, or just ‘when I was your age…’
  • a ‘treasure box’ of things kept at grandparent’s house that are only played with, or worn, there

Ask the Expert: Setting Limits, Discipline & Distraction

I have an 18 month old who is into everything. I feel like I am always telling him “no.” What are the appropriate limits to set for him at this age?

If you are “always telling him ‘no,’” then you probably have that nagging feeling that you are not getting through or that he couldn’t care less. Some “experts” feel that 18 months is too young to set limits, given that children at that age have yet to understand the relationship between cause and effect, or the difference between right and wrong. I am not one of those “experts.” As you imply in your question, limits are necessary at this age, especially around the ever-present issue of safety.  However, saying “no” repeatedly just teaches your child to ignore you. This is called habituation – when the brain actually pays less attention to the familiar. For this reason, I am a big fan of distraction – not headbutting – at this age.

The tired old adage, “practice makes perfect,” is a cornerstone of teaching acceptable, responsible behavior to a child. Limit-setting for about the first two years of life rests on you – specifically on your ability to distract and, if needed, remove your child to ensure safety and socially acceptable behavior. These actions (plus child-proofing the premises as much as possible) have been shown over and over to be the most effective ways to keep behavior in check without quashing a toddler’s delight in exploring and learning.

What is being taught in distraction and removal (along with a firm “no”) are patterns of what’s acceptable and what’s not. When your actions are consistent, each repetition sinks a little deeper into the well of your child’s memory. This happens even before his cognitive powers are up to the task of understanding the whys of safety rules or of more complex concepts, such as value and ownership, which govern what he can and can’t do with objects.

The first sign of memory related to limits is when you see your child looking over his shoulder as he moves toward some forbidden object. You probably noticed some of these “catch me if you can” grins and challenges to your “no” back when your child was just crawling. You also have probably experienced many a bout when your child has dissolved into tears after spilling or breaking something. Herein lie the seeds of shame – healthy shame, the kind that regrets an error or mistake. And, yes, there is a conflict. Your child’s desire to please you at this stage runs head-on into his need to figure out the boundaries in his world.

Fortunately, the solution to both sides of the conflict is the same – consistency on your part in maintaining the rules. Consistent repetitions of the same words and acts by you enable your child to begin to feel embarrassment and shame when he breaks the rules. This is a very healthy development, one that is central to his ability to control his own behavior in the future, when you are not around to act as police officer. If this process goes as it should, by 36 months your child should show the beginnings of self-control as well as the first signs of a sense of right and wrong. These are the foundations of conscience.

Unlike physical skills, such as walking, a conscience doesn’t emerge on its own. It is a product of parental guidance and teaching, and its early signs are clear markers that you are getting the job done.

Key to your success is your child’s desire to please you. These are important assets for you to use in this 18-month period. The process is slow and time-consuming, but in the long run more than worth the investment of your patience, time, and effort. This is when your approval is a powerful tool to coax a child to verbalize his wants and needs rather than to act out his emotions. Conversely, withholding your approval and/or showing disapproval are strong motivators for little ones to stop unacceptable behavior.

There is no denying that there is a rise in negativism around 18 months. Maybe they start to “act no” more often because they hear it so often! It is hard to know which is “horse” and which is “cart” here, but the new motility of toddlerhood is a heck of a lot of fun for any ex-lap child. Regardless, it is our job to keep them safe; therefore limits matter.

There are, of course, limits to limits. You can’t force your children to sleep, eat, go to the bathroom, think the way you do, or speak on demand. There are also times when it is necessary to back off – when they are spent and you are exhausted, or when you are going to lose anyway.  Won’t eat any dinner? Okay, but no cookies. Don’t want to go to sleep? Fine, lie there then. This doesn’t mean you should NEVER cave, however. Surprise your toddler every once in a while, just for the sheer pleasure of seeing the amazement on his face. Saying “yes” occasionally will actually revitalize your “no.” Besides, perfect parenting is extinct.

Finally, and essentially, the way you set the limit is every bit as (and often more) important than what the limit actually is. Emotional intensity does not make limit setting more effective, it’s just the opposite. So keep it cool and business-like; limit setting should be customized, but never personal.

Age Appropriate Fitness

Focusing your child’s physical fitness on fun activities will increase your child’s ability to move with confidence and competence.  Exercise increases overall metabolism, builds a healthy heart and lungs, strong bones and muscles, and improves coordination, balance, posture and flexibility.

Infant Gross MotorInfant

Encourage babies to explore activities that allow for reaching, rolling, sitting, crawling, pulling themselves up and walking.  ‘Tummy Time’ is the perfect opportunity for babies to practice lifting their heads and develop strong muscles.  Placing toys just out of reach encourages babies to reach for the toys, assisting in physical development. 

First Steps/Toddler

Support young toddlers mastery of walking by allowing them to be active!  Play with them as they learn to run, hop, dance and throw.  Have them chase bubbles or invent a silly walk – play becomes exercise.  Remember to always provide encouragement to toddlers as they build self-confidence.

Preschool +

Preschoolers need plenty of time and space to run around and play.  Taking your child to a playground or park is a great way to release energy and exercise!  Encourage creative dancing and riding scooters and tricycles.  Play ‘Statues’ by playing up-tempo music.  Have your child move while the music is playing and freeze into a statue when you pause it.  Play outside with your child and teach hand-eye coordination by showing the basics of throwing, catching and kicking a large, soft ball.