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Archive for August, 2016

The Power of Play

Play is a child’s work. As he plays, he has a chance to relive his experiences, ask questions about his world and, most of all, act out his dreams.

In play, he may feel the safety of not being watched or directed, and the freedom and exhilaration of enacting his own ideas. In play, a child can embellish his new developmental achievements, experimenting as he goes. For example, when he has learned to walk, he may pick up a large wooden block that’s too heavy for him, drop it, and lean over to try to pick it up again. He may hold it in both hands this time, teetering as he concentrates. Losing his balance, he sits down hard but still holds onto the block.

Now he can turn it over, mouth it or push it to make it go, growling like a car engine. What has he learned?

1. To enlarge on the new task of walking

2. To balance while holding a heavy toy

3. To turn a wooden block in his imagination into a noisy car

In this one bit of play, we see an athlete, a scientist and a builder of dreams. When does play begin? At each diapering, each feeding, each time he’s put to bed, the baby starts to respond to his parents’ rhythms, smiles and strokes.

By 4 months, play can become more complicated. A baby can add peekaboo or play with a toy strung over his crib. If he bats it, it will swing around. The baby sees that he can have an effect on his world. This is a time when play can postpone more basic requests – such as crying to be fed. The baby learns to fill up his own space with independent play. A parent can begin to push him into a schedule. Much of play is to test how the world works. By 7 to 8 months, he can crawl toward a forbidden TV or lamp. As he advances, he looks back to check his parents’ watchfulness. Then a parent rushes over to pick him up. He is learning to predict and control important adults around him. He tries his maneuver again. His mother drops the phone to come to him. He squeals with delight. What a source of power! Once a child can walk, all kinds of new experiments are possible. He can walk around the corner and out of sight of his parents. If that doesn’t bring them, he may screech, partly afraid he has lost them, partly to get a response. When his parents rush to him, he has learned more about himself and them. By 14 months, one toddler may sit beside another. One of them picks up a block to shake it. Without seeming to look, the other shakes his block in the same motion. Their play becomes matching. They try out rhythms, hiding the toy, throwing it, testing the friend by stealing his toy. They are starting to explore social skills, communicating without words, joining and not joining a friend. By 18 months, a child will imitate much of the world around him. He takes a teddy bear and cuddles it. He wraps it up in a blanket. He has taken the step into symbolic play. He play-acts what he has experienced in his own nurturing. At 3, a child can even try out a variety of grown-up roles. A little girl might put on her mother’s jacket like a dress. She has incorporated her mother’s femininity and is trying herself out as a grown-up woman. A boy will do the same with his father or an older brother. Fantasies are thus not an escape from the world but an exploration of how it works. As children grow older and play more elaborate games, they learn about rules. Even here they experiment, and they may try to cheat to see the reaction it brings. They also learn to play cooperatively: Building forts, playing hide and seek, or acting out a story all require working together. It’s easy to see how a heavy dose of television or video games can usurp some of the learning and joy of free play. It substitutes ready-made fantasies and passive watching for independent, active exploration and freewheeling imagination. The extra richness and freedom of outdoor play, with its endless discoveries and new sensations, can be a high point of childhood. There the child can step fully into the roles of explorer, experimenter, builder and dreamer. (This article was taken from the NAEYC website and  is adapted from “Touchpoints: Birth to Three,” by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua D. Sparrow, M.D., published by Da Capo Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group.)


For more information on The Goddard School in Franklin (Cool Springs) visit our website and our Facebook page.

10 Ways to Tame a Tantrum

When your kid’s in the middle of a tantrum, it can be tough to keep yourself from having your own meltdown, too.
“Meltdowns are terrible, nasty things, but they’re a fact of childhood,” says Ray Levy, PhD, a Dallas-based clinical psychologist and co-author of Try and Make Me! Simple Strategies That Turn Off the Tantrums and Create Cooperation. “Young kids — namely those between the ages of 1 and 4 — haven’t developed good coping skills yet. They tend to just lose it instead.” And what, exactly, sets them off to begin with? Every single tantrum, Levy says, results from one simple thing: not getting what they want. “For children between 1 and 2, tantrums often stem from trying to communicate a need — more milk, a diaper change, that toy over there — but not having the language skills to do it,” says Levy. “They get frustrated when you don’t respond to what they’re ‘saying’ and throw a fit.” For older toddlers, tantrums are more of a power struggle. “By the time kids are 3 or 4, they have grown more autonomous,” Levy adds. “They’re keenly aware of their needs and desires — and want to assert them more. If you don’t comply? Tantrum city.”
So how can you stop these outbursts? What follows are 10 freak-out fixes that both parenting experts and other moms swear by.

Ignore the Kid          The reason this works is fascinating: “During a tantrum, your child is literally out of his mind. His emotions take over — overriding the frontal cortex of the brain, the area that makes decisions and judgments,” says Jay Hoecker, MD, a Rochester, Minnesota, pediatrician. “That’s why reasoning doesn’t help — the reasoning part of his brain isn’t working.” Says Alan Kazdin, PhD, author of The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child, “Once you’re in a situation where someone’s drowning, you can’t teach them to swim — and it’s the same with tantrums. There’s nothing to do in the moment that will make things better. In fact, almost anything you try will make it worse. Once he chills out, then you can talk.”


Give Your Child Some Space          “Sometimes a kid just needs to get his anger out. So let him!” says Linda Pearson, a nurse practitioner and author of The Discipline Miracle. (Just make sure there’s nothing in tantrum’s way that could hurt him.) “I’m a big believer in this approach because it helps children learn how to vent in a nondestructive way. They’re able to get their feelings out, pull themselves together, and regain self-control — without engaging in a yelling match or battle of wills with you.” This trick can work on its own or in tandem with the whole ignoring bit.


Create a Diversion          This is all about a deft mental switcheroo — getting your kid engaged and interested in something else so she forgets about the meltdown she was just having. “My purse is filled with all sorts of distractions, like toys — ones my kids haven’t seen in a while, books, and yummy snacks,” says Alisa Fitzgerald, a mom of two from Boxford, Massachusetts. Whenever a tantrum happens, she busts ’em out, one at a time, until something gets the kids’ attention. “I’ve also found that distraction can help ward off a major meltdown before it happens, if you catch it in time,” she adds. If your kid is about to go off the deep end at the supermarket because you won’t buy the super-frosted sugar-bomb cereal, try quickly switching gears and enthusiastically saying something like, “Hey, we need some ice cream. Want to help me pick a flavor?” or “Ooh, check out the lobster tank over there!” Explains Levy: “Children have pretty short attention spans — which means they’re usually easy to divert. And it always helps if you sound really, really psyched when you do it. It gets their mind off the meltdown and on to the next thing that much faster.” Fitzgerald agrees: “You have to channel your inner actress and be an entertainer — one with props!”


Find Out What’s Really Frustrating Your Kid          This trick is for tantrums among the under-2-and-a-half set, says Dr. Hoecker. “Children this age usually have a vocabulary of only about 50 words and can’t link more than two together at a time. Their communication is limited, yet they have all these thoughts and wishes and needs to be met. When you don’t get the message or misunderstand, they freak out to release their frustration.” One solution, he says: sign language. Teaching your child how to sign a few key words — such as more, food, milk, and tired — can work wonders.
Another approach is to empathize with your kid, which helps take some of the edge off the tantrum, and then play detective. “My 22-month-old throws tantrums that can last up to — yikes! — 20 minutes,” says Melanie Pelosi, a mom of three from West Windsor, New Jersey. “We’ve taught her some words in sign language, but if she wants something like a movie, she won’t know how to ask for it — and still freaks out. So I say, ‘Show me what you want,’ and then I see if she’ll point to it. It’s not always obvious, but with a little time and practice you begin to communicate better. If she points to her older brother, for example, that usually means that he’s snatched something away from her, and I can ask him to give it back. I can’t tell you how many awful, drawn-out meltdowns we’ve avoided this way!”


Hugs          “This may feel like the last thing you want to do when your kid is freaking out, but it really can help her settle down,” Levy says. “I’m talking about a big, firm hug, not a supercuddly one. And don’t say a word when you do it — again, you’d just be entering into a futile battle of wills. Hugs make kids feel secure and let them know that you care about them, even if you don’t agree with their behavior.” Cartwright Holecko, of Neenah, Wisconsin, finds that it helps: “Sometimes I think they just need a safe place to get their emotions out.”


Offer Food or Suggest a Little R&R          “Being tired and hungry are the two biggest tantrum triggers,” says Levy. Physically, the kid is already on the brink, so it won’t take much emotionally to send him over. “Parents often come to me wondering why their child is having daily meltdowns. And it turns out they’re happening around the same time each day — before lunch or naptime and in the early evening. It’s no coincidence! My advice: feed them, water them, and let them veg — whether that means putting them to bed or letting them watch a little TV.” Think how cranky you get when you miss out on sleep or your blood sugar hits rock bottom, he says. With young kids, who have greater sleep and food needs, the effect is magnified tenfold.


Give Your Kid Incentive to Behave          Certain situations are trying for kids. Maybe it’s sitting through a long meal at a restaurant or staying quiet in church. Whatever the hissy hot button, this is the trick: “It’s about recognizing when you’re asking a lot of your child and offering him a little preemptive bribe,” Pearson says. “While you’re on your way to the restaurant, for example, tell him, ‘Alex, Mommy is asking you to sit and eat your dinner nicely tonight. I really think you can do it! And if you can behave, then when we get home I’ll let you watch a video.'” For the record, Pearson says this kind of bribery is perfectly fine, as long as it’s done on your terms and ahead of time — not under duress in the middle of a tantrum. If your kid starts to lose it at any point, gently remind him about the “treat” you discussed. “It’s amazing how this can instantly whip them back into shape,” says Pearson.


Speak Calmly          This is a biggie — and is much easier said than done. But experts insist you must keep your cool during a child’s tantrum. “Otherwise, you’ll get into a power struggle and make the whole thing escalate. Plus, part of the reason kids resort to tantrums is to get attention,” Dr. Hoecker says. “They don’t care if it’s positive or negative attention they’re getting. All they care about is that you’re giving them 100 percent of it.” Levy agrees, and adds: “Talking in a soothing voice shows your child that you’re not going to let her behavior get to you. It also helps you stay relaxed — when what you really want to do is yell right back. In fact, the calm tone is as much for the parent as the child! If you’re tense, your kid will pick up on it, and it’s going to amp her up even more.”


Laugh It Off          Every parent dreads public tantrums, for obvious reasons. You worry other parents will think you’re a bad mom — that you’ve raised an out-of-control demon child. But that, says Kazdin, can tempt you to make choices that will only lead to more fits. “Kids, even very young ones, are smart,” he says. “If you get angry or stressed or cave in and let him get his way just to end the meltdown before more people start staring, he’ll learn that — aha! — it works.” Your best bet, Kazdin says, is to suck it up, plaster a little Mona Lisa smile on your face, and pretend everything is just peachy. And what are others thinking? “We know from studies that the only thing people judge is your reaction to the meltdown,” says Levy. “If you look calm and like you’ve got it under control — yes, even though you’re not doing anything to stop the fit — they think, Now that’s a good mom.”


Get Out of There          Getting kids away from the scene of the tantrum can snap them out of it. “It’s also a great strategy when you’re out and about,” says Levy. “If your child starts melting down over a toy or candy bar he wants, pick him up and take him either to a different area of the store or outside until he calms down. Changing the venue really can change the behavior.”


Taken from Parent Magazine

By Shaun Dreisbach from American Baby Magazine


For more information on The Goddard School in Franklin (Cool Springs) visit our website and our Facebook page.