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Archive for April, 2010

Helping Your Child Make Friends

Dramatic PlayTo a preschooler, a “friend” is anyone who is willing to play the way they want to play during any given period of time. Playing with friends is an important way for children to learn social skills including sharing and taking turns.  Providing your child the opportunity to make friends is helpful, worthwhile and fun!

Dale Walker, a professor of child development at the University of Kansas, offers these guidelines to promote productive and enjoyable play dates.

  • Limit the initial invitation to one or two friends at your home.
  • Schedule the play date for one to two hours to avoid over stimulating the children.
  • Plan games and activities your child enjoys and provide enough materials so the children don’t have to share immediately.
  • Guide the children as they make a craft, play a game or splash in a wading pool rather than letting them manage themselves.
  • Schedule play dates with the same children on a weekly basis.
  • Periodically play one-on-one with your child to develop familiarity with their playing style and stimulate their social interaction.
  • Reading books and watching shows about friendship also reinforces the positive aspects of socialization.
  • Model friendship by inviting friends to meet, especially when your friends have children compatible with your own.
  • Limit your expectations and pressure to prevent your child developing insecurity about developing friends.

Making More Time for Your Family

Time, or the lack of it, drives many of us to live at a frantic pace. There is an enormous cost to being in a chaotic rush each day. Renew your commitment to begin family traditions which make room for you to experience the true joy of family life.

  • Practice making choices by limiting after school/work activities.
  • Use a family-oriented calendar system to track each family members schedule and important reference information.Family - Mom Daughter A
  • Turn off the TV to allow more time for reading, talking, playing and learning.
  • Enjoy food and meals together by making dinner “an oasis in time,” without interruption.
  • Make a weekly meal mandatory for everyone in the family to share.
  • Claim a tree or outdoor area as a spot to visit regularly to read together.
  • Cook double the quantity needed to save or freeze half for another night.
  • Participate in outdoor activities as a family including picking apples, hiking or riding bikes.
  • Get enough sleep to help you feel rested and calm.
  • Specify a night to spend at home to eat pizza, play games and talk.

“Parents fight a daily battle as they try not only to meet all their responsibilities for work, caregiving, and housework, but also to hold on to a few crumbs of time they call their own,” says Kerry Daly, professor at the University of Guelph, in his paper “It Keeps Getting Faster: Changing Patters of Time in Families.” Time is your family’s most precious non-renewable resource. Make the most of this component that magically turns a collection of individuals into a stronger, more robust group of people.

Take a Hike and Create a Learning Adventure!

Infants & Teacher with Bubbles CSpring can be a beautiful time of the year.  Leaves are budding, plants are sprouting and temperatures are starting to warm – it is a great time to go on a learning adventure with your child in the great outdoors!

  • Find an appropriate location.  Start small; you do not want to intimidate your little one by trying to climb to the top of a mountain in one day!  Contact your local visitors’ center or tourism office for maps of trails or parks in your area.
  • Once you have found the perfect trail or park, map out a path with your child and stick to it.  Carry the map with you and do not wander too far off the trial, especially if you are not familiar with the area.
  • Hiking is a physical activity, so take a few minutes to loosen up and stretch at the beginning of the trail.  Let your child suggest a few stretches, too.
  • Pack water and healthy snacks.  Drinking water often and nibbling on food throughout your hike will keep you and your child energized.
  • Enjoy the beautiful scenery and look for signs of wildlife, such as paths in the weeds, mounds of dirt or footprints in the mud.
  • Collect objects such as leaves or rocks (check with the park/trail authority to ensure this is permitted) or take pictures of things that interest your child.
  • Remember to ‘carry-out’ your trash.  Food and trash can be harmful to wildlife.

Have fun and enjoy this wonderful learning and growing opportunity with your child!

Your Child’s First Chores

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!

Age-Appropriate Chore Ideas
Toddlers

  • Pick up toys and books
  • Collect dirty laundry
  • Dust with socks on hands

Preschoolers

  • Make the bed
  • Help with laundry
  • Help in the kitchen – cooking and preparing food
  • Set the table
  • Take dirty dishes to the kitchen
  • Carry and put away groceries

Pre-Kindergarteners

  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Feed the family pet
  • Vacuum
  • Take out the trash
  • Fold and put away laundry

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 and make mistakes, but the value for their learning and their self-regard are more than worth the extra time.

Thumb-Sucking & Pacifiers

Thumb-sucking and pacifiers are guaranteed to evoke debate whenever the topic is raised with parents, especially new ones. We have no trouble remembering relevant stories in our own families about thumb-suckers and how old they were when they stopped. Fact: Many children choose to suck their thumbs from before they are born because it is an important form of self-soothing and comfort.

Infant Boy AHere are a few considerations that shape this debate as you make your decision about skin versus plastic:

  • Contemplating germs?  Thumbs and pacifiers are about equally un-hygienic, but both can be washed frequently.
  • Concerned about teeth deformity? Dentists have found that genetic tendencies forecast the need for braces more often than sucking a thumb or pacifier in infancy. The exception may be “24/7-suckers” through kindergarten and beyond.
  • Pacifier versus thumb?  Your thumb is always with you – no late night 911’s to the nearest pharmacy.  The pacifier, however, is easier to remove when the day comes (typically first in a parent’s mind), and seems less self-indulgent to many parents.
  • Partner consensus?  Talk to your partner. Do not assume that your partner has an identical philosophy about thumb versus pacifier as yours. This is an important conversation to have and revisit. Discuss this topic with your child’s teacher.  Most parent magazines also cover this issue regularly.

Try not to make this a big deal.  Very few children go to college with their pacifiers.  At the same time, denying your children their comfort at a time when they may need it most will backfire more often then not, increasing their attachment to it. Children who know when it’s time for their comfort are showing you they know a thing or two about their needs, not that they have a habit.

Goddard Schools Nationwide Launch Goddard Gets Gardening Program

Gardening has the ability to educate children about where food comes from and how healthy eating can impact a child’s life both mentally and physically. To plant this seed of knowledge among preschoolers across the country, 360-plus Goddard Schools nationwide will launch the Goddard Gets Gardening program.

Through a number of gardening-related activities, more than 40,000 children will learn about planning, planting, care-taking and harvesting an actual garden.

“Gardening is a fun activity that teaches patience and responsibility, healthy eating, environmental awareness and, more importantly, builds self esteem,” said Joseph Schumacher, Chief Executive Officer at Goddard Systems, Inc. “The Goddard Gets Gardening initiative introduces children, at an early age, to the excitement of gardening and provides an enriching and educational hands-on opportunity.”

The schools are taking their cue from Michelle Obama, who last spring planted the first White House Garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden, to promote community gardening and healthy local eating. The South Lawn plot quickly became the nation’s most high-profile garden spot.

Each Goddard School will develop a unique gardening experience, from sensory gardens that teach children about all the five senses to indoor gardens that demonstrate how easy it is to grow food inside. Whether children live on a farm, in the suburbs, or even in the city, the Goddard Gets Gardening program will encourage children to learn about sustainability, food preparation, plant identification, healthy eating and more.

Every day inside and outside the classroom, Goddard encourages children to lead a healthy lifestyle through a number of programs including yoga, dance, dramatic play, music and movement. The Goddard Gets Gardening initiative supports Goddard Systems, Inc.’s ongoing efforts and commitment to promoting children’s health.

Play and Learning

Excerpt from Me, Myself and I, by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D.

For most parents, children’s play is just that and no more – diversion or entertainment.  Kids do seem to like it after all, and their pleasure in devoting hours to play, make-believe, and following their imaginations is usually obvious.

But to think that play matters only in so far as it brings pleasure is to miss the forest through the trees.  Play is ultimately about learning.  And all play is educational play.  One of the interesting findings in a recent poll conducted by Zero to Three, National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, is that many parents don’t fully appreciate the connection between play and cognition.  According to the poll, parents of young children significantly underestimate the power that play has in enriching a child’s learning competence.  Furthermore, they thought their role as play partner was much less important than it was a learning partner.  Not true.

The reason that children love to play is precisely because it does mean something.  They come to it very naturally from the beginning months of their life.  In fact, a vast amount of a child’s total learning comes through play, both alone and with you.  What are some of the things children learn through play?

Blocks - Boy B

  • Children learn what is soft and hard, cold and warm, scratchy or smooth, as they touch and manipulate everything within reach.
  • Children learn what is heavy and light, as they heft and fling things about their world.
  • Children learn what is sour and sweet, as they mouth, suck, and drool their way through everyday life.
  • Children learn what is quiet and loud, pleasing and raucous, as they scream and coo, or rub and smash.
  • Children learn what works and doesn’t work, as they pull and push, fit, stack, and destroy.

One of the most important things they learn through all this tireless trial and error is how to connect events, feelings, thoughts, and learning together into experience and to file it away in their brains under certain symbols.  This all starts to happen well before they have command of spoken language.  Simply stated, through play, children learn to symbolize their experience.

The enrichment of learning by play, and vice versa, also holds for the quality of the child’s relationships.  Research tells us that kids who are securely attached to their caregivers are better players and hence, by our reasoning, better learners.  Children who have received consistent high-quality care, both emotionally and physically, who are talked to and listened to, and who have observed those around them involved in respectful interpersonal relationships carry their security – their self-confidence and feelings of self-worth – into play with others.

Child’s Play: It’s All in a Day’s Work

In Choosing a Preschool, Experts Recommend Child-Centered Play

With so much information about preschools available to parents, it can be difficult to choose the right program. One approach to evaluating a school that can help parents choose is the level of emphasis on learning through play. For young children, play is the natural way to learn, according to the experts.

In fact, research studies confirm that children who are allowed to play function better later in life, both socially and academically.

“Young children who learn through play are more ready to make their own decisions, advocate for themselves and use creativity to solve problems as they grow,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, a Yale University child psychiatrist and consultant to The Goddard School.

Dr. Pruett points out that play helps children learn to solve problems, promotes flexibility and motivation, teaches regulation of emotions and builds resilience and confidence. Play is also essential to the development of the child’s brain, triggering trillions of neural connections that form the basis of healthy cognitive function and mastery of the child’s physical world.

Playing alone and with others not only builds brain development, it also helps children develop social skills and a sense of ethics. The most effective play is free of evaluation and correction (after all, throwing a ball shouldn’t be “right” or “wrong”), while promoting autonomy.

Sensory Table with Teacher & Young Girl“True play is actually hard work,” says Sue Adair, Director of Education and Quality Assurance at Goddard Systems, Inc. “The child lost in play is exploring infinite possibilities. Caretakers and parents can assist the child’s growth by participating in play and creating an environment that encourages play as a means to meet new developmental challenges.”

So after parents have checked the basics that are required for any preschool, how can they find one with the right emphasis on play?

Adair suggests looking at three things:

  • 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 environment. Environment means having clean, safe and spacious places to play, as well as the resources to provide imaginative, rewarding playtime. It also means a caring and well-trained staff, a critical element for any preschool. “Remember, how children are treated is as critical to their development as what they are taught,” says Dr. Pruett.
  • Ask about enrichment programs. Only the best preschools offer special enrichment programs at no extra cost, as part of the tuition. Enrichment programs – including yoga, manners and world cultures, for example – develop the whole child by encouraging their innate curiosity and imagination.

“At the end of the day, parents know they’ve chosen the right child care program when their children are given time for child-centered exploratory play during the day,” Adair says. “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 comparing preschool programs.”

Gardening Adventures with Your Children

Gardening - Kids & TeacherIf you want your child to grow up to be a gardener, it’s important to remember to share gardening experiences with them throughout their childhood. These include frequent, pleasurable occurrences, designs that include messy, colorful plots and great memories of working together in the garden. Each child’s capabilities and attention span will vary so it’s important to adjust your expectations. The goal is to teach your children to respect and enjoy gardening as well as experience a feeling of “I did it myself” at harvest time.

The Composting Council of Canada developed the following good reasons to foster a lifelong love of gardening in children.

  • Health: Growing your own vegetables makes it easier to get enough servings each day.
  • Exercise: Digging, turning, spreading compost, mulching, hoeing, excavating rocks – all burn calories, help build muscles and strengthen hearts and lungs.
  • Save Money: Even a small vegetable patch can reduce your expenses.
  • Education: Gardening is terrific for providing hands-on lessons in botany, zoology, weather, hydrology, as well as cycles of life, death and physical decay.
  • Waste Reduction and Recycling: Compost piles transform kitchen scraps, leaves and yard waste into rich soil amendments. Gardeners can reuse of all kinds of cans, cartoons, meat trays and more.
  • Stress Relief: Planting seeds and tending plants can restore balance and perspective.
  • Togetherness: Use vegetables grown together to make delicious meals together and donate abundance to people who need it.
  • Helps Improve Reading and Math Skills: Children can make plant markers, read seed packets and even help pay for nursery plants.
  • Memory Building: Provides great memories for the years to come.
  • Satisfaction: The more time you spend with your children in the garden, the more they will feel the garden is truly theirs and the more eager they will be to take care of it.