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Posts Tagged ‘Infants’

Tuning Out to Tune In: How Time Outside Can Improve Readiness to Learn Inside

Below is an article from NAEYC that discusses the positive affect the outdoors can have on learning. . It is written by Andrea Laser.


Outdoor time matters. I’ve certainly lost track of time and my thoughts and worries seemed to disappear – all because I was outdoors in a peaceful setting. As teachers we send wound up children outside to “burn off some energy.” And many of us plan our vacations based on the outdoor scenery. Our need to be restored by the outdoors and nature’s almost magical effects may actually have its roots in brain research. As it turns out, the time we spend outside can do amazing work getting our brain ready for the time we spend inside. Several years ago, the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv was published that described much of the research about the powerful effects of being outside for children. His book has many studies that describe the power of benefits of being outside and in nature for children.

The Power of Outside

Nature has beautiful and unexpected ways of capturing our attention–the wind suddenly blowing across our face, our feet slowly sinking into the sand at the beach, or seeing an animal run in full stride in its natural habitat.

Researchers call this type of attention “involuntary attention” and believe that time spent in involuntary attention may actually be giving our voluntary attention an important time of rest (Kaplan, 1995, and Taylor, Kuo, & Sullivan, 2001). Voluntary attention includes such activities as focusing on a math problem, or writing letters- basically tasks that make a person focus on what he is doing. Involuntary attention is when we don’t mean to pay attention to something, but our brain shifts our focus anyway (an animal making noise, the sound of thunder, the smell of lilacs, etc.)This research isn’t new, but as academic expectations are pushed down into earlier grades, sometimes what is considered the “non-essential” and non-academic parts of a child’s day, including recess, are tragically cut or eliminated. The reality is, outside matters, and children need time outside to be ready to learn inside.

How can you encourage this power of the outdoors for your children?

• Recess matters

Advocate for your child’s school to keep recess. If your school has cut or limited recess, ask to talk to the principal or director about why and how this decision was made. One guideline from SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators) is that children ages 3-5 years old should be engaged in 60 minutes of structured physical activity and 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity per day.

• Windows matter

Some research suggests that simply looking out a window can have some of the same revitalizing effects as being outdoors. When looking at schools and child care centers, notice how many windows there are and if children are to see out them (they aren’t covered, and they are low enough for children to see out).

• How you get to school matters

If you live close enough, try walking or biking to school with your child. Not only will this give your child’s brain time to revitalize, it also provides great opportunities for conversation and starting the day off right for both of you.

• Take time to revitalize your brain too! 

Don’t forget that revitalizing your brain is important too! Take time for yourself to be in nature. Throughout your day spend a few minutes outside and see how you can benefit from the effects of time outside.

• If you can’t get outside as much as you’d like, try bringing some of the outdoors in

Both weather conditions and location can be a deterrent to safe outdoor play for children. If you cannot get outside, try to bring the outdoors inside- collect some natural materials for children to sort, count, pattern with, draw, and observe. In addition, consider having plants, fairy gardens, and observational areas where children can observe and have opportunities to document what they notice.

Andrea Laser is an Early Childhood Special Educator teaching in Colorado for her 14th year in public schools. She has her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education, recently completed the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program, and is currently pursuing an educational doctorate in Leadership for Educational Equity with a concentration in early childhood. She has two boys, ages three and seven who simultaneously energize and exhaust her and her husband. She can be contacted at abp818@gmail.com


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

Keeping Sibling Peace

I need a strategy for curbing sibling rivalry. How can I keep the school-age boy from playing too rough with his baby/toddler brother? The refrain of “Stop X. Don’t Y. Keep your hands to yourself, etc.” doesn’t work and makes the older sibling feel like he’s always scolded while the baby “never gets in trouble.”

How old should the little one be before I can let them duke it out themselves without my intervening so much?

Parents can’t quell sibling rivalry, but they can avoid making it worse. The firstborn child has parents to himself until the second comes along. Then he must give you up every time his sibling needs you. He must look on as you admire his baby brother, and he wonders when it will ever be his turn again or if you still admire him at all. As soon as the younger brother is old enough to scoot and crawl, the older one will have to fend him off when he comes to snatch one of his toys or knock down the block tower he has worked hard to balance. Moreover, the older one must please you when you beseech him to be a “good big brother,” which often means giving up his special place in the family as firstborn.

From birth, the second child has never known another position. He is grateful for whatever parental attention he gets, and as the baby of the family, he’ll get plenty. But soon he starts wishing he could do all the things his brother can. He falls apart whenever he fails to imitate him. Parents rush to scoop him up and coddle him – to his older brother’s disgust. Over time, if parents stay out of their struggles, the older child will learn to take pleasure in the younger one’s admiration, and enjoy his role in helping him learn.

To avoid reinforcing sibling rivalry, the first step is to accept that it is not a parent’s job to keep siblings from fighting. If you try, you’re likely to intensify the conflict by putting yourself in mid-battle. Every time you tell the older one, “No,” “Don’t,” “Stop,” he is likely to feel even more resentful of his younger brother. He knows you are mad at him. It’s easy to see how in his mind your temporary loss of affection for him is the little one’s fault – all the more reason to torture him again.

An infant must not be left with an older sibling unsupervised. But I’ve never seen one sibling seriously injure another when parents leave it to the children to sort out their differences on their own. When the youngest can fend for himself, make it clear you expect them both to straighten things out themselves.

Don’t bother trying to figure out “who started it.” Most of the time, you’ll never know, and engaging in this inquiry just heightens their competition to be your favorite. Instead, let them know that you don’t care who’s to blame. Tell them that you hold them both responsible for stopping their squabbling. And if you can manage it, give each of them regular separate times just to play with you.

Article taken from NAEYC.  (For more information: “Understanding Sibling Rivalry: The Brazelton Way,” by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua Sparrow, M.D. Da Capo Press.)


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

Children and Biting

Biting is a typical behavior often seen in infants, toddlers, and 2-year olds. As children mature, gain self-control, and develop problem-solving skills, they usually outgrow this behavior. While not uncommon, biting can be an upsetting and potentially harmful behavior. It’s best to discourage it from the very first episode. This article will help you to understand the reasons young children bite and give you some ideas and strategies for responding appropriately.

Why do young children bite?

Some children bite instinctively, because they have not developed self-control. For example, when 3-year-old Marcus grabs a doll from his 2-year-old sister Gina, her first response is to bite him and grab the doll. She doesn’t stop to think about other ways to act or the result of her actions. But there are many other reasons why children may bite.


A child might bite to

  • Relieve pain from teething.
  • Explore cause and effect (“What happens when I bite?”).
  • Experience the sensation of biting.
  • Satisfy a need for oral-motor stimulation.
  • Imitate other children and adults.
  • Feel strong and in control.
  • Get attention.
  • Act in self-defense.
  • Communicate needs and desires, such as hunger or fatigue.
  • Communicate or express difficult feelings, such as frustration, anger, confusion, or fear (“There are too many people here and I feel cramped”).

What can families do to prevent biting?

There are a variety of things that families can do to prevent biting. It helps to

  • Have age-appropriate expectations for your child’s behavior based on his or her current skills and abilities.
  • Make sure your child’s schedule, routines, and transitions are predictable and consistent. At meal and bedtimes, try to do things in the same way and at the same times. Young children thrive when they know what will happen next.
  • Offer activities and materials that allow your child to relax and release tension. Some children like yoga or deep breathing. Offer playdough, foam balls, bubbles, soft music, and other stress-reducing items.
  • Use positive guidance strategies to help your child develop self-control. For example, offer gentle reminders, phrased in a way that tells them what behaviors are expected. “Be sure to hang up your coat on the hook.”  “You can each have a bucket to use in the sandbox.”  “Put a small dot of toothpaste on your brush. You won’t need much to get your teeth clean.”
  • Provide items to bite, such as teething rings or clean, wet, cold washcloths stored in the refrigerator. This helps children learn what they can bite safely, without hurting anyone else.

How should I respond when my child bites?

While every situation is different, here are some general guidelines for responding when a child bites.

Infants learn about the world around them by exploring it with their hands, eyes, and mouths. But infants often need help to learn what they should and shouldn’t bite.

If your infant takes an experimental bite on a mother’s breast or grandpa’s shoulder, stay calm and use clear signals to communicate that it is not okay for one person to bite another. A firm “no” or “no biting!” is an appropriate response.

Toddlers and Preschoolers
Toddlers have many strong emotions that they are just learning to manage. Toddlers may bite to express anger or frustration or because they lack the language skills needed to express their feelings.

Biting is less common in preschoolers than toddlers. When a preschooler bites, it may be due to something at home or at their child care program that is causing the child to be upset, frustrated, confused, or afraid. A preschooler may also bite to get attention or to act in self-defense.

Follow the steps below with both toddlers and preschoolers.

  1. If you see the biting incident, move quickly to the scene and get down to children’s level. Respond to the child who did the biting. In a serious, firm tone make a strong statement: “No biting. Biting hurts. I can’t let you hurt Josie or anyone else.” Next, offer a choice: “You can help make Josie feel better, or you can sit quietly until I can talk with you.” Help the child follow through on the choice if necessary.
  2. Respond to the child who was hurt by offering comfort through words and actions: “I’m sorry you are hurting. Let’s get some ice.” Perform first aid if necessary. The child who did the biting can help comfort the bitten child—if both parties agree. Help the child who was hurt find something to do.
  3. Finally, talk to the child who did the biting. Maintain eye contact and speak in simple words using a calm, firm tone of voice. Try to find out what happened that led to the incident. Restate the rule, “Biting is not allowed.” Model the use of words that describe feelings: “Kim took your ball. You felt angry. You bit Kim. I can’t let you hurt Kim. No biting.” Discuss how the child can respond in similar situations in the future.

What if biting becomes a habit for my child?

If biting becomes a habit for your child and ongoing positive guidance is not effective, it is time to set up a meeting with your child’s teacher(s). Together, you can plan an approach for addressing the behavior that can be applied consistently at home and at the program. Together, you can discuss and define the behavior and find the cause behind it. Next, you and the teacher(s) can develop a plan to address the causes and help your child to replace biting with acceptable behaviors. Try the plan for several weeks, but be patient. It takes time to change behaviors that have become habits. Keep in touch with your child’s teacher(s) to share information about changes in behavior. After several weeks, evaluate the plan’s effectiveness and make changes as needed.

What strategies can I use to help my child overcome a habit of biting?

Here are some strategies for addressing a child’s biting habit.

  • Observe your child to learn where, when, and in what situations biting occurs. Sometimes an adult may need to stay close to the child to prevent biting.
  • Pay attention to signals. Stay close and step in if your child seems ready to bite.
  • Suggest acceptable ways to express strong feelings. Help your child learn to communicate her wants and needs (“Amy, tell your sister you were still playing with the truck”).
  • Use a reminder system to help your child learn to express strong feelings with appropriate words and actions (“Tell Manuel that you don’t like it when he gets that close to you”).
  • Reinforce positive behavior by acknowledging child’s appropriate words and actions (“You didn’t like being tickled so you used your words to ask me to stop”).
  • Provide opportunities for your child to make choices and feel empowered.
  • Be sure your behavior expectations are age-appropriate and individually appropriate for your child. Expecting a child to do something he or she is not able to do can cause children to feel stress. Stress can lead to biting.
  • Offer foods with a variety of textures to meet your child’s sensory needs.
  • Teach your child words for setting limits, such as “no,” “stop,” or “that’s mine.”

What strategies are not helpful?

These strategies should not be used to address a child’s biting habit.

  • Avoid labeling a child as a “biter.” Negative labels can affect how you view your child, and even affect the child’s feelings about him- or herself.
  • Never bite a child back to punish or show him how it feels to be bitten. Biting a child sends the message that using violence is an acceptable behavior that can be used to solve problems.
  • Avoid getting angry, yelling, or shaming a child.
  • Avoid giving too much attention to a child who bites after an incident. While this is usually negative attention, it can still reinforce the behavior and cause a child to repeat it.
  • Do not force a child who bit and the child who was hurt to play together.
  • Do not punish children who bite. Punishment does not help children to learn discipline and self-control. Instead, it makes children angry, upset, defiant, and embarrassed. It also undermines the relationship between you and your child.

Article taken from families.naeyc.org

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

Developing Healthy Relationships between Your Parents and Your Children

Love and time…need we say more?  How about wise historian, mentor, confidant, elder, counselor, spiritual guide, financier, playmate or parental antidote?  These are all roles that grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren.  And grandparents are a growing force!  The number and percentage of the population that grandparents account for has grown dramatically in the last 15 years – from 58 million to 78 million.


Here are a few ways that you can help foster a healthy relationship between your parents and your children:


  • When planning a visit, talk about how you can help and what you should bring to help things go smoothly.  Discuss recent routines and help your parents childproof their house – more to keep your child safe than to protect the crystal. This communication
    provokes less defensiveness in grandparents, and helps them be a part of the solution from the start.
  • Relax some rules, but don’t compromise your core values. For instance, sweets seem to be a generational prerogative, but television monitoring should continue according to your child’s habits and your beliefs.
  • Children and grandparents are so close because they share something in common – you!  They can share stories, secrets, etc. that allow children the experience of close relationships with a loving family member who is not wholly responsible for their future happiness, homework or well being.
  • Spoiling is not a helpful approach to grandparenting and most of them know it.  Positive expectant attention is best.  Interestingly, today’s grandparents are so busy, I think this is less of a problem these days.
  • Enjoy the relationship your children are developing with your parents.


When misunderstandings or problems occur (and they are bound to), it’s better to figure out a way to talk about them than to avoid each other. That is too steep a price for your children. We all want this relationship to work because the benefits are forever.

by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D

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