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Archive for 2009

‘Tis the Season to be Giving!

Almost every conversation during the holiday season revolves around the word “thankfulness,” making this the perfect time of the year to help your children understand the meaning of being thankful. One of the many ways to do that is through community service.

Volunteering is an enriching experience for all involved, and there are now more opportunities, and more reasons, than ever for families to volunteer together.

Reasons to get involved:

  1. It feels good.  Satisfaction and pride come from helping others.
  2. It strengthens community.  Organizations that use volunteers provide services at low or no cost to those in need.
  3. It can strengthen the family.  Families can have fun and feel closer.  Select one or two projects a year and make them a family tradition.

What do children learn?

  1. A sense of responsibility.  Children learn how to be on time, do their best and be proud of the results.
  2. One person can make a difference.
  3. The benefit of sacrifice.  Giving a toy to a child who is less fortunate helps children learn that it’s good to sacrifice.  Volunteering to clean up a park teaches children that there are more important things besides us and our needs.
  4. Tolerance.  Volunteering allows children to be in touch with people of different backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities and ages.

How to get involved?

  1. The internet offers a lot of information about volunteering. You can begin your search by logging on to Yahoo! Directory and typing “community service and volunteerism organizations” in the search box.
  2. Call a local charity, church or hospital.

Community service makes a lasting impression on children. They quickly learn that the service they provide impacts real people, and they feel good about it.

More on Teaching Your Child a Second Language

Last week we took a look at the importance of introducing a second language to a child early on, and at activities for accomplishing this among children from infancy to 18 months old. Below are some suggestions for the toddler to pre-kindergarten age group:

Toddler (18 to 36 months)

  • Repeat everyday words in all languages.
  • Link words together.
  • Prompt your child to attempt new words.
  • While playing a game, such as “Memory,” recite words in both languages.
  • Begin to use common words in the second language without repeating in your native tongue.
  • Listen to music in other languages.

Preschool to Pre-Kindergarten (36 months +)

  • Use your everyday experiences for language opportunities (e.g., sign the food item you want your child to find at the grocery store).
  • Sing songs in other languages.
  • If your family has two native languages in your household, speak one language at home and the other outside of the home to practice proper language use.
  • Watch your child’s favorite movie in another language. Many DVDs now offer language choices.
  • Visit cultural fairs, food markets and restaurants of other cultures.

The key to teaching your child a second language is to immerse him or her in the language. Your child’s teacher probably does this throughout the day by labeling and referencing items and actions in the classroom in different languages. You can work with your child’s teacher by referencing these labels and incorporating the language into your child’s play at home. With your participation, the immersion is complete.

December is Learn a Foreign Language Month

Learning language is a natural process when children are young. Introducing them to second languages such as Spanish, French and sign language encourages brain development. The earlier a child is exposed to another language, the greater the likelihood that the child will become fluent in the language.

Second languages also help celebrate cultural diversity and create an understanding of the written word. A second language can open doors and unleash curiosity.

Immersing your child in a second language early on is the key to success. Following are some age-appropriate activities to help you incorporate a second language into your baby’s daily routine:

Infant to One Year

  • Sign as you say words.
  • Sign in one-word syllables (e.g., more, mom, dad, ball).
  • Gently move your child’s hands to make a sign.
  • Play music from around the world.

12 to 18 months

  • Add to signing vocabulary, use signs with verbal cues.
  • Say both the English word and the second language word for an object.
  • Practice the second language while playing ball (e.g., As you roll the ball to your child say, “Here comes the red ball, pelota roja.”)
  • Use the second language words interchangeably in your own speech.
  • Name body parts, animals and colors in the second language.

Visit our next blog post for suggestions on teaching a foreign language to toddlers and preschoolers.

More Reading Readiness

boy-bookLast week’s post was about the importance of reading and how to teach/encourage children to read at a young age. It looked at activities for infant to toddlers. Below are some suggestions on the steps to take during the Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten stages of development:

PRESCHOOL (30 months +)

While grocery shopping, ask your child to find an item that starts with a certain letter or find a particular cereal.

While in the park, ask your child to bring you nature items one at a time. Write the word for each item and then write a story using these words.

Show your child speech in the written form. Ask your child what he or she would like to buy at the grocery store and add it to your grocery list together, write notes to Dad or  make “to do” lists.

PRE-KINDERGARTEN (48 months +)

Read with your child. Take turns reading pages, modeling intonation and punctuation cues.

Make up silly rhymes and alliterations.

Help your child cut large letters from old magazines. Talk about words that begin with each of these letters.

While driving ask your child to help you find a particular street sign.

As with everything else in your child’s development, reading skills take time and patience to develop, and be assured that reading will happen when your child is ready. Also remember that children learn by example. Let your child see you read often, they’ll want to do exactly what mom and dad are doing.

Preparing Your Child to Read

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Reading is one of life’s most important skills, that’s why parents should focus on reading readiness early in their child’s life. Reading begins with language and how it relates to your child’s world. Creating a language-rich environment will help your child’s vocabulary grow. A print-rich environment may also help prepare your child for reading by making the connection between your child’s world and the symbols we use to communicate.

Below are some suggestions on the steps you should take for infants through toddlers. Our next post will look at ideas for preschool and pre-Kindergarten-age children.

INFANT TO ONE YEAR

Read simple board books with one picture per page, contrasting colors or simple pictures, and point to the items on each page.

While reading to your child, make faces–it’s fun and your child will notice subtle differences.

Allow your child to point and turn book pages.

Describe everything; name colors, shapes and sizes.

FIRST STEPS (12-18 months)

Read longer stories to your child and allow him or her to interact with the book–pointing, turning pages or even turning the book upside-down.

Name objects as your child points.

Make noises! Imitate cars, animals and eating sounds during play.

Speak to your child in a normal tone to demonstrate accurate sound recognition.

Enunciate words of interest like M-M-Mommy.

As syllables start to represent words, such as “juice” and “more,” expand upon them  (e.g., “apple juice,” “Would you like more apple juice?”).

TODDLER (18-30 months)

Read everything–signs, labels, toys and your child’s name.

Take cues from your child—interested, not interested, read or just look at the pictures, read more or stop before the end of the story?

Find and point out shapes and symbols in your home or community.

Recite rhymes and alliterations; pause to allow your child to fill in the last word or phrase.

Play games where symbols lead to action (e.g., two orange squares on the card means to move two orange spaces).

Top 10 Eco-FriendlyToys Under $30

I had such a great time evaluating and selecting the top eco-friendly toys for the Goddard Systems, Inc. and Eco Child’s Play holiday toy test!

The Toy Test Committee consisted of Eco Child`s Play representatives and Goddard educators. Entries were evaluated based on a number of criteria, including:

  • Affordable price range ($30 and under)
  • Appropriate for preschoolers and early elementary school-age children
  • Creative, social or engaging
  • Eco-friendly
  • Interactive, child-initiated play focus

After a fun month of toy mania, it’s finally come down to this:

Aromatic Play Clay (Mama K, Ages 3 and up, Approximate Retail Price: $20 – $22.00)
Mama K’s Aromatic Play Clay is 100 % natural, bio-degradable, gluten free play clay. It combines aromatherapy with activity and fun. With seven scents to choose from including soothing lavender, relaxing chamomile and tension-easing bergamot, fun never smelled so good! Mama K’s Play Clay is also suitable for kids with Celiac and Autism Spectrum disorders.

Count Octopus (ImagiPLAY, Ages 3 and up, Approximate Retail Price: $17.99)
Learning to count is fun with this Octopus Number puzzle. Hand-crafted & hand painted with child-safe paints. Count Octopus is made from plantation-grown rubberwood, an environmentally-friendly hardwood.

Desert Hothouse (DuneCraft, Ages 3 and up, Approximate Retail Price: $14.99)
Create your own sandy, dusty desert scene with the DuneCraft Desert Hothouse. This kit comes complete with a variety of cacti and succulents including the Giant Saguaro, Joshua Tree and many more. Little ones will have a blast designing a desert landscape with included gravel, sand, boulders and desert friends. These easy-to-grow plants will start sprouting in a week and will last for years.

Green Toys Recycling Truck (Green Toys Inc., Ages 3 and up, Approximate Retail Price: $24.95)
Now little ones can learn all about the basics of recycling. Made in the USA from 100% recycled milk containers, the Green Toys Recycling Truck sorts bottles, cans and paper. It also has a movable recycling bed and open/shut rear door. It is safe, non-toxic, BPA-Free and packaged in recycled and recyclable materials.

Green Toys Tea Set (Green Toys, Inc., Ages 3 and up, Approximate Retail Price: $24.95)
Pull up a chair; it’s time to serve up some eco-friendly imagination! The 17-piece Green Toys Tea Set includes a tea pot with lid, a sugar bowl with lid, a creamer, four cups, four saucers and four teaspoons. It is made from curbside collected milk containers and also meets FDA specs for food contact.

Hugg-A-Planet (Hugg-A-Planet, All Ages, Approximate Retail Price: $24.95)
A soft, educational toy, Hugg-A-Planet helps children learn about caring for planet Earth. It features over 600 labeled places, showing oceans, continents, islands and more.

Joobles Collection (Fair Indigo, Ages 0 and up, Approximate Retail Price: $25)
Organically adorable, the Joobles Collection features a variety of eco-friendly, fair trade characters. Made out of 100% organic cotton, these soft and squishy characters are hand knit! Children of cooperative workers are helped by the Fair Indigo Foundation, which provides educational programs and supplies.

Ring a Thing (HABA, Ages 1-3, Approximate Retail Price: $24.00)
Ring a Thing transitions children from free play to first games with rules. It’s also a fun way for children to recognize colors and sizes. For 1-3 players, Ring a Thing is made of beech wood. HABA products have passed certification that guarantees a high quality environmental management system.

Veggie Cutting Set (ImagiPLAY, Ages 2 and up, Approximate Retail Price: $24.99)
Help kids learn about healthy eating with the Veggie Cutting Set from ImagiPLAY. This vegetable set helps children develop motor skills and coordination while encouraging them to learn about healthy food in a fun role play environment. Segmented and secured with Velcro, for cutting over and over again, segments can be combined to create entirely new vegetables! This 16-piece activity toy is made from all-natural, earth friendly rubberwood.

Tree Branch Blocks (Natural Pod, Ages 2-8, Approximate Retail Price: $29.00) Bring the outdoors in with this beautiful set of rustic tree branch blocks. Perfect for stacking and building, each set comes with many unique pieces, various diameters and lengths for the ultimate in creative building. Tree Branch Blocks are made with kiln dried, locally (Vancouver Island) sourced Alder with Harmonic unbleached beeswax finish.

Do our children really have to be on the “fast track” of learning so early on?

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These days, many parents worry that it’s essential to teach children academics as early as possible – that the earlier they learn basic skills, the better chance they’ll have of eventually getting into a good college and succeeding in life. But could that be doing children more harm than good?

The natural way to learn is through play.  “Play is to early childhood as gas is to a car,” says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, psychologist and author of A Mandate for Playful Learning. “Children who learn through play develop social and emotional skills, which are critical for long-term success.”  The most effective play is free of evaluation and correction (after all, throwing a ball shouldn’t be “right” or “wrong”), while promoting autonomy.

A child at play is exploring infinite possibilities, and learning all the while. That’s why it’s important to find a preschool with the right emphasis on play.

  • Find a school that puts a priority on learning through play. For young children, play is unstructured and freeing. It’s not about expensive toys, in fact, the simpler the toy, the more ways it can be used by a child developing his or her imagination. Toys and equipment should be carefully chosen, first for safety and then for how they stimulate young imaginations and help children develop.
  • Look at the total school environment. The right environment will be clean and safe, with spacious places to play, as well as the resources to provide imaginative, rewarding playtime. Look for a caring and well-trained staff, a critical element for any preschool. How children are treated is as critical to their development as what they are taught.
  • Ask about enrichment programs. Look for a preschool that offers a wide variety of engaging programs, for example, yoga, manners and world cultures.  These programs develop the whole child by encouraging their innate curiosity and imagination.  Be sure to ask if these programs are included in the tuition.

For a child, play isn’t optional. The educational and other benefits of play are so important – in terms of healthy bodies and minds – that parents should put play at the top of their list when thinking of their young one’s development.

Tips for a safe and Happy Halloween

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Halloween is a magical night where the world of make-believe comes alive for children, but it can also be a great time to practice good manners, good sense and good fun!

The Goddard School and Trampoline Learning provide essential tips for a safe and happy Halloween.

Before Halloween:

  • Avoid masks that make seeing difficult. Opt for face paint instead.
  • Be sure that children can walk easily in their costumes. Hem if necessary.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes. While high heeled shoes are fancy, it’s easy to fall in them and little feet will tire quickly.
  • Provide children with a glow stick or add reflective tape to their costumes so that they can be seen by cars as it gets dark.
  • Plan your route so that children do not become overtired. Agree ahead of time about how many houses you will visit.
  • Explain that children must stay with parents and that they should walk, not run from house to house.
  • Take the opportunity to explain that normally children should not speak with strangers. Remind them that Halloween is a special time when it is alright for them to go door to door because you will be with them to keep them safe.
  • Share your expectations about using good manners BEFORE you go out. Let children practice trick or treating at their own door a few times. Reward good trick or treating manners with a treat!
  • Bring a flashlight to light the way.

When Trick-or-treating:

  • Start early before it gets dark.
  • Be sure children are traveling in small groups accompanied by a responsible adult.
  • Only go to houses where lights are on, preferably those in which you know the resident.
  • Be respectful of people and property. Use sidewalks. Remind children that it is not polite to walk through gardens, hedges or across lawns.
  • Cross only at intersections and crosswalks. Watch for moving vehicles.
  • Be careful around lit candles in jack-o-lanterns.
  • Ring the door bell or knock on the door only once.
  • If you are with a group, wait patiently for your turn. No pushing or shoving!
  • Say, “Trick or treat!” in a loud, clear voice.
  • If you know the homeowner, greet them with, “Hello, Mr./Ms. ____.” Make eye contact as you speak.
  • Be sure to say, “Thank you!” or “Happy Halloween!” once you have received your treat.
  • If someone compliments you on your costume, remember to say, “Thank you.”

After Trick-or-treating:

  • Discard treats that are unwrapped, loosely wrapped, damaged or homemade.
  • Limit the amount of candy your child can enjoy in one sitting. Agree on a number and stick to it.

Manners Matter

When it comes to good manners, one could argue that it takes more than just saying “please” and “thank-you” to be looked upon as a respectful and courteous individual.

It’s important that children learn, at an early age, the principles of good manners and how to show respect and kindness toward relatives, friends and even strangers. World Kindness Week, which is celebrated November 9th to 15th, and the upcoming holiday season offer a perfect opportunity for parents to begin teaching their children good manners and how to be respectful and kind towards others.

The Goddard School includes a Courtesy and Respect program as one of the personal and social development resources in their core curriculum, called Goddard Guide to Getting Along™. Here are some of the skills that are simple to teach in and out of the classroom:

  • Polite greetings, such as saying “hello” and “goodbye,” using a person’s name in their greeting, shaking hands and answering in a clear voice.
  • Getting along with others, by playing fair, being patient, being helpful, being generous and respecting privacy.
  • Table manner skills, taught by showing children what to do before they eat, while they eat and after their meal.
  • Telephone manner skills, such as speaking up so they can be heard, answering the phone with courtesy and hanging up using their goodbye manner words.
  • Everyday manner skills, including being quiet in a library, respecting people who are older, covering one’s mouth when coughing, yawning or sneezing.

It’s important to teach children that having good manners is a reflection of themselves, as well as a reflection of their family. It’s a part of the foundation of learning that they will use the rest of their lives.

Ask the Expert: Keeping Your Hands to Yourself

Hello Sue,

My five-year-old daughter cannot seem to keep her hands and feet to herself and I am getting reports from her teachers that it is becoming a problem at school.  She is not doing it meanly (she’s not hitting or kicking), just trying to tickle, hug on, and poke at other kids.  We have had consequences at home (both negative and positive reinforcement) and when we talk with her about the behavior she has the right answers and knows it is unacceptable. How then do I go about getting her to keep her hands to herself?

Many thanks for the help,

Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

This is a typical developmental stage as children learn about personal space and interacting with peers.

I recommend requesting a formal meeting with the school, to start.  See if the teachers are seeing the behavior at certain times of the day, and if so, is there a way to change the environment to stop the behavior. For example, does it happen at the table during snack time, is it the same child that she is touching–if so, consider separating them for a bit.

During this meeting, talk to the teachers about consequences for the unwanted behavior. It is important to come up with a consequence that is consistent between home and school.  So if the child exhibits the behavior at home, the outcome is the same.

Try this, along with positive reinforcement when appropriate behavior is observed.

Best,

Sue Adair

Director of Education, Goddard Systems, Inc.