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Easy Ways to be an Eco-Friendly Family and Teach Children the Importance of Going Green

Bring your family together through environmentally friendly activities. Children (and many adults, too!) tend to think new is better. Springtime and Earth Day remind us to teach our children to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Reduce. Save our planet by saving water. Children enjoy playing in water, especially in the bathtub. At the appropriate age, teach your children to switch to showers in order to conserve water. Explain that grown-ups take showers instead of baths. Children may be more likely to want to be like their adult role models and willingly switch to showers. Since it is easy to lose track of time, you can set timers for your children when they are in the shower to let them know when it is time to get out.

Saving energy is important, and it can be a great reason to optimize family time. Instead of watching TV and playing video games, have a weekly game night with cards, board games and more. This will reduce the amount of electricity your family uses, and it can be an incredibly fun way to build memories together.

Reuse. To show your children that used items can be just as good as new items, consider bringing your children to a consignment shop and letting them pick out something they like. Additionally, you can encourage your children to donate a few items that they no longer use, such as toys and clothing, to charities. This shows children the importance of reusing resources and how it can influence others in their community.

Recycle. It is important to get children involved in recycling, both for the children and for the environment. Consider establishing a competition between family members. First, educate your children about which items can be recycled and which items are trash. Next, provide separate bins for recycled products for each family member. At the end of the week, the family member with the most recycled items wins a prize. Children will feel proud of doing a good job with recycling, which will encourage them to continue. To make the competition more advanced, consider disqualifying one recycled item each time a family member fails to turn off an unnecessary light.

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Go green through community service. Cleaning up local streets and parks helps children learn how to take care of the environment and how to work with others. Saving the planet takes teamwork, which is another important concept for children to learn. Participating in community service allows children to have fun interacting with others, which is better than staying cooped up inside with their video games.

Encouraging your children to become more eco-friendly creates a healthier and happier household. Introducing these tips at a young age will inspire them to continue making positive differences in their environment in the future.

Five Ways to Encourage Environmental Responsibility

Conserving the environment is a priority, and helping to foster an eco-friendly mindset in children is more important than ever. Here are five ways to encourage environmental responsibility.

  1. Teach your children to garden. Gardening is an excellent way to teach your twenty20_89c7a32e-5c1e-4530-983f-92f78ca380a3child some basics of biology, such as how the sun helps plants grow, how plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis and how vegetation contributes to a healthy environment.
  2. Enjoy some fun outdoor activities. Creating a wildflower scrapbook or going on an outdoor scavenger hunt may help your child appreciate all the beauty, wonder and fun the environment has to offer.
  3. Go for a hike. Whether you walk through the woods or just around a local park, hiking lets children experience the environment while getting some exercise. The internet can be a terrific resource for finding hiking trails close to home.
  4. Start at home. Recycling and conserving electricity and water at home with your child can go a long way toward preserving the environment. You can even make a game of counting how many different items you can recycle every week.
  5. Make something new with something old. Cardboard tubes, empty milk jugs and many other items can be given new life with a little creativity. Let your imaginations run wild and create something fun!

How Dr. Jack Maypole Encourages Healthy Eating

It can be challenging to get children to eat vegetables. Pediatrician Dr. Jack Maypole, member of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, offers five tips on how to encourage healthy eating.

  1. Offer one new food with two well-established foods. For Hand with Heart Breadexample, if you know your daughter likes pasta, serve that as usual and add a portion of a new vegetable to her plate.
  2. Establish a rule that children have to at least try one bite or taste of a new vegetable. Research shows that most children will take to a food after up to about a dozen tastings (for some super picky or rigid eaters, such as those on the autism spectrum for example, it may be many more times).
  3. Set children up for success by discouraging snacking or tanking up on beverages before mealtime.
  4. Keep mealtimes positive by involving children in food prep and getting enthusiastic in the craft and presentation of food. This may cultivate interest and curiosity in the food, which can lead to the development of a more adventurous palate.
  5. Never force feed or go to war about making your child eat. Everyone loses. If you are concerned that your child may have issues with food, such as allergies or sensitivities to texture, contact your child’s primary care provider.

For more information, check out this article in which Dr. Maypole provides additional nutrition advice.

Five Ways to Encourage Good Sportsmanship

Healthy competition can be a lot of fun. However being a good sport is the key to having the most fun. Here are five ways to encourage good sportsmanship.

  1. Root for both teams. The point of any game for children is to have fun, so if you see a child on the opposing G2 - Sportsteam hit a home run or make an amazing save, feel free to cheer for her. This may send a message to your child that enjoying the game is the point of it.
  2. Focus on the positives. If your child is disappointed that he did not win or was not on the winning team, remind him that he played well and he had fun with his friends.
  3. Respect the referee. Point out that the referee’s job is to ensure that everybody plays fairly and safely. Explain that generally the referee is a volunteer who is paid very little or nothing. Thank the referee for his service and encourage your child to do the same. If other parents or children berate the referee, explain that this behavior is not appropriate.
  4. Have a winning attitude. This means teaching your child to be positive whether she wins or loses. When she wins, she should win graciously with little fanfare. When she loses, she should shake the opponent’s hand and congratulate her for a game well played.
  5. Look to the future. Regardless of what happens, remind your child that there will always be a next time, another game, another season. Explain that he should just focus on having fun because that is what really counts.

Superhero Green Smoothie

In a hurry? This sweet green juice has lots of vitamins and makes a good pre-practice dinner or a great breakfast. Use a blender or juicer to combine the ingredients into a quick, healthy meal.

Smoothie

  • 1 handful kale
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 pear, cut into small pieces
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced into small pieces
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 cup strawberries or raspberries
  • Juice from 1 lemon (or ½ an unpeeled lemon if you are using a juicer)

If your children have a strong aversion to anything green, you can use more strawberries or raspberries or add some blueberries.

Five Ways to Foster Creativity

The ability to be creative and think outside the box is important for problem solving and innovation, which are highly valued abilities. Here are five ways to encourage creativity at home.

  1. Read to your child. Before you begin, ask your child to close his eyes and imagine the story as you read it. Afterward, ask your child to describe what he saw while you read.Art
  2. Put on a play. Create a story with your child and then act it out. Encourage her to dress up like the character she is playing by using old clothes, hats and accessories. You could even record her performance and turn her play into a movie.
  3. Establish a play space. Set aside part of the basement, a spare bedroom or a corner of the living room where your child can explore and discover whatever interests him. If it gets a bit messy, try to be lenient with him since this space is meant for free play.
  4. Encourage free play. Free play is exactly what it sounds like – unstructured play time, a time when your child can play however she likes in the dedicated play space you’ve set up for her.
  5. Inspire your child’s inner Picasso. Keep plenty of art supplies such as paper, paints, paintbrushes, markers, crayons and modeling clay available in case your budding artist decides to create a masterpiece.

Early Learning and Technology Part Five: Social Interaction and Collaborative Learning

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 03/15/2015 on the 
HMH blog.

We know that relationships are essential to healthy child development. We can observe organic collaborative Girl at Computerbehaviors even in very young children, who often explore their worlds and gather information while they play independently, but then eventually come together to learn and share experiences with others. 

Technology offers unique opportunities to cultivate the innate human instinct to collaborate. Educators and developers have embraced these possibilities by creating platforms and projects designed to facilitate learning experiences and communication–between peer groups, teachers and students, and school communities and families–and to expand virtual space for cross-cultural education.

Let’s take a closer look at how technology can support collaborative learning:

1) Extending Access

In 2001, education researcher Dr. Sugata Mitra launched a unique experiment he called the “Hole-in-the-Wall.”Mitra installed a public computer in a remote village in India. Young children in the village quickly discovered how to scroll, seek out information, learn English and more. In short, Mitra witnessed young children teaching themselves and one another via the computer’s resources.

The Hole-in the Wall project cracked open the concept of a school “in the cloud” that children can access anywhere, anytime.  The community computer and its content enabled a natural learning environment to grow, complete with encouragement from mentors, teachers, family and friends.

As Dr. Mitra’s work demonstrates, technology’s potential to extend access to learning content far and wide is huge. In the last decade, partnerships between educators, ministries and organizations have helped to deliver content and training across the globe, from reading on mobile phones in developing countries to professional development seminars that can be viewed offline for communities lacking internet connections.

2) Creating “Blended” Learning Environments

An approach commonly called a “blended” learning model encourages classroom collaboration, and technology can provide a wonderful support system for the experience. For example, students may be organized into small clusters based on shared learning styles, abilities or interests. This organization allows teachers to focus carefully on individual students and to craft dynamic learning scenarios for an individual child or small group. Technology’s capacity to support personalized learning pathways allows for individually tailored pacing and practice, in turn promoting subject or skill mastery. As a result, students feel confident and are proud to share their knowledge.

3) Learning by Playing

Digital games powered by quality content can improve attention, focus and reaction time. Whether there are two players or many, gamers acquire pro-social skills through healthy competition, which then translate to other relationships and aspects of life.

Consult KQED’s Mindshift’s Guide to Digital Games and Learning for recommendations on digital learning tools.

4) Making Global Connections 

Increased connectivity can offer children real-world insight into communities and cultures around the globe. There are a number of exciting collaborative projects and platforms that create space for teachers, students and parents to communicate and learn from one another, regardless of geography.

For example, ePals uses web-based tools to bring diverse learners together in virtual classrooms. Over 4.4 million students and teachers are currently participating in cross-cultural exchange on the platform.

Look out for projects and competitions that bring kids together to reach common goals via online collaboration, like the Give Something Back Project’s Virtual Classroom.

5) Bridging Home and the Classroom 

There are also many free apps to connect teachers, parents and students in order to support timely and confidential communication. Check outGoogle Apps for Education. This free suite of productivity tools helps keep parents in the loop on their children’s progress in class. Parents can log into Google Drive and see what their kids have been up to in any class and communicate with teachers.

Whether you are encouraging technology-enabled collaboration at home or in the classroom, remember to balance screen time with face-to-face conversation and interaction.Encourage kids to think about digital citizenship and to act as positive role models for others in all social interactions, whether on-screen or off. Happy collaborating!

Potty Training

Potty training is a major milestone in a child’s life and can be difficult for many parents.

Most children begin to show signs that they are ready for potty training between 18 and 24 months. However, instead of using age as an indicator, look for other signs that your child may be ready to start the process, such as these:twenty20_f33fc0a5-02b6-4782-90db-35bd62a89cda

  • She orally expresses a need to go;
  • She keeps her diaper dry for over two hours;
  • She goes to the potty, sits on it and then gets off the potty;
  • She pulls down her diaper, her disposable training pants or her underpants;
  • She shows an interest in using the potty or in wearing underpants.

During the potty training process, remember that teaching a toddler to use the potty is not an overnight experience. It requires a lot of time, patience and a willingness to accept setbacks. Remember that accidents will happen. Recognizing all the little successes during the process is important. Be sure to praise her each time she attempts to use the toilet, even if nothing happens. If you show disappointment when she wets or soils herself, it can result in a step backward. Instead, offer your support and reassure her that she is close to using the potty like a big girl.

10 Training Tips

Once you see that your child is ready to start learning how to use the potty, these tips may help.

  1. Do not make your child sit on the toilet against her will. Instead, show her how you sit on the toilet and explain to her what you’re doing. Children learn by watching. You can also have her sit on the potty seat and watch while you or one of her siblings uses the toilet.
  2. Establish a routine. For example, you can begin by having her sit on the potty after waking up with a dry diaper or by having her sit on the potty an hour after drinking lots of fluid. Only have her sit on the potty for a few minutes a couple of times a day. Let her get off the potty as soon as she wants.
  3. Try catching her in the act of pooping. Children often give clear cues that they need to use the bathroom: their faces turn red and they may grunt or squat. Many children tend to have a bowel movement around the same time every day.
  4. Have your child sit on the potty 15 to 30 minutes after meals to take advantage of the body’s natural tendency to have a bowel movement after eating. This is called the gastro-colic reflex.
  5. Remove a bowel movement from your child’s diaper, put it in the toilet and tell your child that poop goes in the potty.
  6. Make sure your child’s wardrobe is suitable for potty training. Avoid overalls and onesies. Simple clothes are necessary at this stage of training, and children who are potty training need to be able to undress themselves.
  7. Some parents like to let their child spend some time during the day without a diaper. If she urinates without wearing a diaper, she may be more likely to feel what’s happening and express discomfort. If you opt to keep your child’s bottom bare for a little while, keep the potty close by, protect your rugs and be ready to clean up the mess.
  8. When your son is ready to start urinating standing up, have him play target practice. Show him how to stand so that he can aim his urine stream into the toilet. Some parents use things like cereal pieces as a target for their little guys to hit.
  9. Offer your child small rewards, such as stickers or time reading with Mommy, every time he uses the toilet. You can also let him pick out a few new pairs of big-boy underwear.
  10. Make sure all of your child’s caregivers, including babysitters, grandparents and teachers, follow the same routine and use the same names for body parts and bathroom acts. Let them know how you’re handling the issue and ask them to use the same approaches so your child won’t become confused.

There are some times in which it might be awkward for you to start the toilet-training process. During these periods it may be better to wait until your child’s environment is stable and secure. For example you might want to postpone toilet training:

Just remember that toddlers will let you know when they’re ready. If you’re torn about when to start the potty training process, let your child be your guide.

Five Ways to Encourage Good Dental Hygiene

Getting children to take care of their teeth can be challenging. Here are five ways to encourage good dental health.

  1. Start routines early. Establishing a daily brushing and flossing routine for your child early on may help him adopt the routine and stick to it.twenty20_97663680-2916-4268-914b-ef8dbfd2ed4f
  2. Limit the consumption of sugary foods and drinks. This includes fruit juice, which contains more sugar than you might think. If your child drinks juice, diluting it with water can reduce the sugar content in each serving.
  3. Be a good example. Make brushing and flossing a family affair; brush and floss at the same time as your child. Show him that you make dental hygiene a priority.
  4. Go shopping for dental supplies with your child. Ask her to pick out her own toothbrush, toothpaste and floss. Having her own special supplies may inspire her to use them.
  5. Schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings. A child-friendly dentist can reinforce good dental habits and provide advice on brushing and flossing techniques.

Technology and Early Learning: Part Four Grey Matter: Child Development and Technology

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 02/25/2015 on the 
HMH blog.

At the beginning of this year, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center published Ten for ’15: Education Reform for a Shared Promethean BoardFuture, a list of ten takeaways and resolutions designed to give educators inspiration as they plan for a successful 2015.

Number five on that list is a call to rethink the brain. It may sound like a strange concept, but new, cutting-edge research on early brain development can help us gain a deeper understanding of early literacy and related behaviors.

So, let’s rethink the brain today.

First, some brain basics: Beginning in the prenatal period, the brain develops in a predictable sequence, accommodating a range of functions from the most basic to the most complex, from the birth of new nerve cells to the formation of intricate networks of transmitters that allow those cells to communicate.

The brain undergoes astonishing growth during early life. In fact, it doubles in size during a child’s first year, and by age three, the brain reaches 80 percent of its adult volume. We also know that genetic inheritance and interaction with the environment, including human interactions with family and others, profoundly impact the wiring of the brain. This, in turn, impacts a child’s developing sense of resilience and his or her cognitive abilities, achievements, health and happiness.

Dr. Patricia Kuhl, Co-Director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Science at the University of Washington, is currently expanding our knowledge about how young brains develop. She has been studying the period between eight and ten months of age — a critical time for early brain development — focusing specifically on language acquisition.

Her research confirms that by the time that babies are eight months old, they can discriminate all sounds of all languages. They are truly “citizens of the world.” Then, at around ten months of age, there is an important shift. They start to become “culture bound” listeners.

In a TED talk on the subject, Dr. Kuhl explains that as babies are busy collecting information about the world, human contact is essential for translating that data into language. Put simply, human interaction — the social brain function — plays a dramatic role in language acquisition. Very young children need human contact for learning and communicating. They won’t learn from a screen.

The research leads us to important questions: How exactly does technology impact developing brains, especially in the earliest years? What are the long-term implications as children grow? Is it too soon to tell?

Gary Small, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UCLA has noted that the brains of digital natives are “wired to use [technology] elegantly.”  But he also cautions that young people between the ages of eight and 18, many of whom spend 11.5 hours a day on digital devices, are lacking in ability to use human technology.  They may struggle with face to face conversations, non-verbal cues and eye contact – the same type of human interactions that are so critical for initial language acquisition.

Technology isn’t going anywhere. To ensure healthy developmental growth for little ones, balance is key. Here are a few tips to help families find that equilibrium:

  • Seek Expert Advice: The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests avoiding television and other forms of electronic entertainment for infants and children under the age of two.
  • Go Screen-Free: Create screen-free zones in your home, and use them! Create areas to read books, draw, play board games, dance and perform plays and music, and schedule time outside for physical activities.
  • Make Family Time Count: Avoid using digital devices during family meals, especially dinner; use family time for real-time, face-to-face communication.
  • Maintain a Digital Diet: Be thoughtful about the digital content your children consume. Check out our previously recommended resources to help select quality digital content.
  • Be a Role Model: Remember that children model YOUR behavior. Are you distracted by digital devices when you’re with your children? Do the majority of your family interactions include a screen? Plan an unplugged weekend! Be aware if you are using technology as a babysitter — such habits can creep in quickly.

When it comes to screen-time for kids, the choice of apps, games and films may seem endless. But just a little knowledge about the developing brain provides a golden rule – above all, human interaction and connection are the greatest learning tools we have.