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Archive for January, 2010

Playing With Your Child

Excerpt from Me, Myself and I

The best way to know what your child thinks about his world before he can tell you directly in words is through playing with him.  It is right there, in their play sequences and manipulations that we see and hear what they understand and think about the world we share.

Remember, however, that this is his play, not yours.  You are a partner and a facilitator, occasionally a “go-fer,” but you are not playwright, producer or director.

  • When you play make-believe with your child using simple dress-up (hats alone are great), narrate her play: “And now you get on your hat.”  Describe what you think she is feeling: “Don’t you feel fancy (snazzy, cool…)?”  And listen for when you are not quite on track: “So, then what?”  Children often love to have you with them in these imaginary explorations of role and role-play and usually will do their best to keep you from getting lost along the way.
  • Use reflecting surfaces (mirrors, windows) as you play peek-a-boo with your child’s image and then yours, or add a little face paint or make-up as he explores what happens to his face as he, or you, add a dot here or a line there.  It helps him define who he is by enjoying the reflection of his face and feelings back and forth between you.  Doing this together just feels different and better and usually more important.
  • Sit together in the dark with a flashlight and give your child a sense that he has some control over what appears, reappears, and disappears into the darkness.  Narrate the experience with him, and match his level of emotional interest, as you share the job of turning the flashlight on and off together.  Sara, at 22 months, loved this game and called it the “good-bye light game.”  She seemed to be sorting out the comings and goings of important things and people as the lights went off and on.

There are countless other ideas available from books and magazines.  Borrow, invent, and reinvent games just for the two of you.

Let It Snow

Whether you have several feet of snow or are dreading a flurry, your children are sure to be excited about SNOW!  Here are a few ideas to help you see the magic they see in the cold and wet precipitation.

TIPS:

  • When using glue with young children:  Pour the glue into a shallow container (egg cartons are great for this!) and allow your child to use a paintbrush to apply the glue to a surface.
  • Be prepared for messes.
  • Cover your work areas with newspaper.
  • Use your kitchen or a tiled area to make clean-up less stressful.
  • Put your child in a smock or an old t-shirt to avoid costly messes.
  • Remember your own childhood and relish the FUN!

Icicle Painting

  1. Freeze a tray of ice cubes with a popsicle stick in each cube.
  2. Cover a table with newspaper.
  3. Use either watercolor paper or wax paper as your surface.
  4. Let your child rub their icicles across the surface.
  5. Let your child sprinkle dry paint over their icicle painting.
  6. Watch your child enjoy the art that appears.
  7. If you actually have icicles, your children can use them instead of ice cubes.  Make sure they wear their mittens for this project.

Snow Painting

  1. Accumulate a few inches of snow.
  2. Prepare paint (watercolor, tempera, or food coloring) in containers for outdoor use.
  3. Bring the paint, paintbrushes, and children outside.
  4. Let your children paint the snow freestyle.
  5. Build a snowman and paint him too!

Snow “Spritzing”

  1. Accumulate a few inches of snow.
  2. Fill empty squeeze bottles with a combination of water and food coloring.
  3. Bring the spray bottles and children outside, and let the “spritzing” begin!

Snow Art

  1. Spray shaving cream on a table or placemat.
  2. Let your child finger-paint with the shaving cream.
  3. When your child has completed a design, press a piece of dark construction paper over it.
  4. The result is a snowy scene!

Snow Balls

  1. Prepare a workspace with construction paper, markers, glue, cotton balls and scraps of paper or fabric.
  2. Ask your child to draw a winter hat or mittens on his/her construction paper.
  3. Let your child warm the picture up with cotton balls and fabric or paper scraps.

*Children should have adult supervision throughout all activities.

Read to Me

It is generally agreed among educators that one of the best things adults can do for their children is to read to them.

Parent Tips:teaacher_girl_pink

  • During early infancy, reading helps babies build neural pathways that will eventually provide language development and acquisition.
  • Reading aloud to children encourages association with happiness, love and enjoyment. All of this can lead to children’s greater interest in reading and can result in larger vocabularies and better literary skills.
  • Choose a childcare environment that encourages storytime as an important aspect of the school’s routine.
  • Reading aloud to children also helps them with pronunciation and phonetics. Some children are able to recognize letters and numbers before they can speak, but if they are left to this without guidance their weaknesses can lie in pronunciation and sounding out words.
  • When children speak incorrectly they should be gently corrected so that they are encouraged to use proper grammar and pronunciation. Reading books can help children learn the proper format of sentences which they often mistake in late toddlerhood.
  • Children who are read to regularly, are more likely to continue reading throughout their lives.
  • Children who read are more likely to have better writing skills and be placed in higher level classes.

TV Time

Are you surprised that the American Academy of Pediatrics says no television before age two?  This standard alerts parents of infants, toddlers and preschoolers that their children are strongly affected by the talking tube and that they need to consider the way their children are exposed to its powerful influences.

  • If you chose to allow your children to view television, consider limiting the amount of “watching time” in their first three years to 30-90 minutes per day. This is more than enough for their young brains and eyes.  Children prefer, and benefit from, interacting with people far more.
  • The programming you chose should be specifically directed at the age of your child. Most good parenting magazines regularly publish guidelines that tend to be more objective and reliable than an advertiser’s suggestions.
  • Commercial-free is far better for eyes, ears, and minds.  Fewer interruptions and a generally higher level of intellectual and emotional content are the benefits.
  • A child’s room does not need a television. Television may inhibit a child’s desire to read and play imaginatively for years.
  • When your children watch television, watch with them.  They may need your help to decipher the barrage of messages, and only you know when they have had enough.  Occasional babysitting by means of television so you can get something done is understandable, but may be a waste of your child’s time and mind.

These guidelines should be discussed regularly by all adults in your household. The evening news may matter to the grown-ups, but it is frequently incomprehensible and somewhat frightening to your little ones. Media-literate parents are great blessings to their children.

True Toys and Their Positive Effects on Children

truckboyTrue toys have no bells or whistles, they do not do anything and you do not turn them on. Most toys today have taken the fun out of imaginative play. Manipulating toys and giving them life develops reasoning and problem-solving skills as well as creates a base of simple knowledge of how things work.

Infants

Rattles – Fine motor development toy of the century. Grasping, repetitive motion that creates a desired outcome, music, hand-eye coordination and focusing visually on a moving object are all part of infant learning. Have rattles handy in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and sounds.

One-Year-Olds

Blocks, blocks and more blocks – Spatial relationships, size and shape discrimination leads to early math skills, fine motor control as well as cause and effect. This true toy is fun at any age! A child may spend hours building and knocking down blocks while developing science skills including balance, gravity and concepts of weight.

Two-Year-Olds

Paint and play-dough – It is messy and that is why they like it so much. This tactile experience will open the doors of creativity and thinking. Let them mix the colors, use different tools and add to the experience by playing some music in the background. Finger paint, paintbrushes and textured paint can be mixed with a variety of painting surfaces for further explanation.

Three-Year-Olds

A ball – Look at everything you can do with a ball – kick it, catch it, sit on it, bounce it, dribble it, play alone or with someone. A ball develops gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination and encourages healthy practices. A child needs to learn to handle a ball before they can handle a pencil.

Four- to Five-Year-Olds

Dramatic Play – Dramatic play is more than dress-up. It is a shovel, a whisk, a pad of paper. It is a pile of dirt, an old tire and a cardboard box. The sky is the limit – if your children have seen it, they want to explore it. Cut the cord off an old landline telephone and let them look inside as the telephone repair man. True toys for a four year old are simply real life items. These toys will allow children to try on new personalities and play out roles.

National Geographic Society Selects Goddard Systems, Inc. for Development of an Intriguing New Book for Families

The Goddard School — its teachers, children and parents — will play an integral role in developing the look, feel and content of a new book from NGS and award-winning author Susan Magsamen. Filled with magical science and nature adventures, the book will offer unique and memorable multi-sensory experiences for children to enjoy in the classroom and at home.

“The Goddard School was selected because of its commitment to providing the best in early childhood education,” said Jennifer Emmett, Executive Editor for Children’s Books at National Geographic. “Because Goddard is dedicated to cutting-edge early childhood learning, we feel this collaboration is a natural fit.”

“This is a unique opportunity for Goddard families, educators and our community to participate in the research and development of this special book,” said Joseph Schumacher, Chief Executive Officer at Goddard Systems, Inc. “We are pleased that the National Geographic Society and Susan Magsamen have recognized Goddard’s distinctive philosophy incorporating play, the arts and learning.”

The development of this project begins in January and will continue through 2010. During the assessment, our Goddard School community will help select the title and cover design, share ideas on classroom projects, test activities and contribute a collection of their own childhood memories. Our families will also get the chance to participate by providing their own input on the Goddard Facebook page.

The National Geographic Society project kicks off Goddard’s ‘Year of Community’ – a year focused on reintroducing the strong connection between Goddard Schools to its current families, friends and the communities the schools serve.

Fathering

One of the principal behavior changes of American parents in the last generation centers on the wish that fathers be more involved day-to-day with their children.  My research on the issue of whether or not this is a good thing comes to two firm conclusions: 1) children raised by involved dads are thriving, healthy kids, and 2) fathers do not mother any more than mothers father.

So, what is unique about the way men parent, and does it matter to children?

  • Fathers roughhouse with their kids right from the beginning more than mothers. This is interesting to children, they respond to it, and even seek it out. It helps to build physical confidence in boys and girls.
  • Fathers allow frustration to build to elevated levels before intervening when their children are mastering something new. It turns out that dads think this helps children learn to handle frustration at manageable levels – preparing them for life’s uneven playing field. They are right.
  • Fathers may give their children more leeway in new circumstances while mothers tend to stay physically closer to their children in the park or at the mall.  Dads want children to explore. Children tend to like it, and learn independence from it.
  • Fathers use more real-world consequences to discipline whereas mothers use more social-relationship consequences.  Children who receive both integrate them well, giving them a stronger sense of internal control and self-discipline than children with uninvolved or absent dads.
  • Kids with involved dads – dads who have fed, changed diapered, bathed, and comforted (with the support of their spouses) – do better in school, have higher self-confidence, use less violent problem-solving themselves, and have stronger verbal skills.

Children can distinguish the voice of their father from their mother at birth – and their handling styles at six weeks. Any questions?  Just ask the kids what they think of fathering.

Navigating Childhood Stress

Did you know that children are just as likely as adults to feel stressed and overwhelmed?

Contributors to childhood stress include school, over-scheduling or family dynamics. Many young children put pressure on themselves by worrying about peer pressure, balancing school work with extra-curricular activities and making friends. Even preschoolers can feel stress. Their stress points may be separation from parents, a change in daily care or a new baby. Young children may express their stress through a change in their eating habits, talking less or trying to control bodily functions.

How can parents help? When your child complains about having too many things to do after-school or not wanting to go to activities – listen – this may be a signal that a child is over-scheduled and may need a break. Be sensitive to behavioral or developmental changes.

Parents should also be aware of how they manage their own stress and frustration. Children learn from their parents’ behavior, even if it looks like they’re not paying attention. Children are sensitive to everything their parents do and they will mimic strategies for dealing with difficult situations. Be a good role model.

One of the best coping mechanisms for children is routine. Young children thrive on routine; when they know what to expect they are more likely to adapt to changes faster and deal with their emotions better.

Child’s Play in a Grown-up World

Find ways to involve your children in the richness of your ‘grown-up’ life.  Be creative and patient because the results are worth your effort!

For young children, play is a lot more than entertainment. It is central to their development.  A wonderful way to play with and teach children is to bring them into your world, where ‘real-life’ happens.  Children love to do ‘grown-up’ things and to imitate you.  And when they contribute, they see themselves as players and get a well-earned self-esteem boost!

Children also learn about important values and concepts from watching you.  They see the result of practice and perseverance, and they come to know that learning is a lifelong process. They see that everyone, even a grown-up, can make mistakes and can learn from them.

There are two easy and enjoyable ways for your children to play in the grown-up world: you can let them help with your chores and you can include them in your favorite pastimes.

Work as play: Include your children in your household routine.  There are countless safe ways for children to help with meals, laundry, shopping or cleaning.  They can help mix recipe ingredients, pick fruit at the grocery store, water the garden or pack their lunch.  These activities are fun learning experiences, especially if you are teaching informally along the way.  The chores may take a little longer as they learn the ropes, make mistakes, and work at a snail’s pace, but the value for their learning and their self-regard are more than worth the extra time.

Hobbies and pastimes: Share your interests with your children.  This is one of the most intriguing, emotionally rich forms of learning that children can receive.  Teach your children about your avocations, and keep up with your piano, chess, painting, hiking or gardening.   Your enthusiasm for your hobbies will be infectious and offer many ways for your children to learn and develop skills.

Dr. Kyle Pruett Joins The Goddard School Blog!

KylePruett-blogI am pleased to announce that Dr. Kyle Pruett will be a regular contributor to The Goddard School blog!  Dr. Pruett is a Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.  He is a prominent author, international lecturer, media personality and pioneering researcher, conducting the country’s only long-term study of the impact on children of primary caretaking fathers.

Educated in public schools, Yale and Tufts Universities, he is an internationally known expert and forensic consultant on child, parental and family development, paternal involvement, children’s mental health, creativity, and the effects of media, trauma, and divorce on children.  He maintains a practice in infant, child and family psychiatry.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Pruett, an excellent resource, to this blog!