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Archive for December, 2015

Teaching Children a Foreign Language

Learning language is a natural process when children are young. Introducing them to second languages such as Spanish, SigningFrench and American Sign Language (ASL) encourages brain development. The earlier a child is exposed to another language, the greater the likelihood is 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 unleash a child’s curiosity.

The sooner a child is introduced to a second language, the more success he will have in learning the language. Following are some age-appropriate activities to help you incorporate a second language into your baby’s daily routine.

Infant to 12 months

  • Sign as you say words;
  • Use one-word signs, like more, mom, dad, ball or cup;
  • Gently move your child’s hands to make a sign;
  • Play music in the target language.

12 to 18 months

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

Technology

As we know, technology is changing at an unbelievable rate. When we were little, modern devices were just a dream.Smart Table Now, technology makes more inventions possible, and it is constantly changing. Technology is very exciting, but have you ever asked what it is?

According to Merriam-Webster, technology is the “practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.” (“Technology,” 2015) Technology makes things so much easier and more convenient. Think of the items that have been created in science to make life easier and better. Devices, such as pacemakers and bionic legs, have been invented to improve our quality of life. Devices can also help make car rides with children more pleasurable or calmer, and other devices can make cooking easier. As technology improves, schools will include more technology at every level of education. These may include interactive boards, computers, digital cameras and tablets just to name a few.

However, remember that even though technology makes things easier, real hands-on experiences cannot be replaced. Technology cannot replace the feel of hugs, dirty hands, paint, and the wind in your hair; the sights of the brightness of the sun or a child’s smile; or the smell of hot dogs cooking on the grill. Therefore, remember to use technology to enhance learning at home, not to replace real-life experiences.

Technology [Def. 1a]. (2015).  In Merriam-Webster., Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology.

10 Tips for Traveling with Your Preschooler

Traveling can be stressful, but traveling with young children can be downright challenging. As you hit the road, keep these handy travel tips in mind.

  1. Take breaks. If you’re driving, try to make regular rest stops so your child can get some exercise, get some ChildHoldingHandexercise, use the bathroom or have a snack.
  2. Stock up. Bring a stash of toys, snacks, coloring books, crayons and other goodies to keep your little one from getting bored or hungry during the trip.
  3. Tire ’em out. Children often travel better when they’re tuckered out and sleepy. If you’re flying, have your child push a small suitcase around the waiting area or ride the escalators with you. If you’re driving, try to leave the house before dawn so you can scoop up your drowsy child, put her in the car seat and hit the road.
  4. Surprise them with treats. While good behavior doesn’t automatically warrant a reward, a piece of candy or a wrapped toy can certainly encourage your child to keep up particularly pleasant behavior.
  5. Engage them. When children are actively involved, they are less likely to misbehave. Talk to your child about the trip and ask her what she’s looking forward to seeing or doing. You can also give her a disposable camera and ask her to document the trip. This will encourage her to observe her surroundings and focus on her interests.
  6. Take a bus, a subway, a train or a boat. Children love the novelty of public transportation, so if it’s available at your destination, use it. Large cities, such as New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C., usually have public transportation systems that are fairly inexpensive and easy to use.
  7. Keep tabs on your children electronically. You can use an electronic child locator to make sure you can find your child if you’re separated. Most locators cost around $30 online and include a transmitter your child wears and a locator unit you carry. If you get separated, you can press a button on the locator, and the transmitter will make a sound that you can follow to find your child.
  8. Check the weather. Make sure you pack for any weather conditions you might encounter. You don’t want your child to be too hot or too cold. Extra clothing may make your luggage bulkier, but you’ll be glad you’re prepared if the weather changes.
  9. Pass the time. Travel delays are almost inevitable, but games can make the wait more fun. Whether you’re playing 20 Questions, a travel version of a popular board game or a quick game of Go Fish, you and your child will appreciate the distraction.
  10. Sanitize. Traveling means coming into contact with more germs than usual, especially if you’re flying to your destination. Be sure to pack plenty of antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer to disinfect your little ones’ hands, especially if they have touched the seat-back pockets of airplanes, which can be full of harmful bacteria.

Technology and Early Learning: Part Two
Building Blocks for a Nourishing Digital Diet

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 01/22/2015 on the HMH blog.

The more I think about it, the more I love the analogy of a “diet” when considering children’s digital media iPadconsumption. Just as calories from the most wholesome foods nourish and strengthen our bodies, the right mix of high quality, engaging digital content can nurture intellectual growth and spark curiosity.

So what does a balanced digital diet for young children look like? And how do we assess the appropriateness, quantity and quality of digital channels and tools – from games and apps to eBooks – especially when there are so many choices on the menu?

Some media – for example pedagogically sound, research-based education apps – are naturally more nourishing than others. And just like food, not all digital content should be consumed at the same rate. Increasingly, specialists from pediatricians to educators are providing essential information and guiding principles to inform our choices about digital content consumption for children.

Regardless of a diet’s particular nature—whether a protein-light Mediterranean Diet or the protein-dense Atkins Diet—nutritionists generally draw upon the five basic food groups to ensure balance. In the same way, I find it helpful to organize digital content for kids into five “building blocks,” each one providing a different learning experience or outcome.

1) Educational Media

This includes digital tools designed to support a specific learning path or engage children in a particular curriculum. Educational media also helps children acquire knowledge and practice skills in order to gain mastery, and inspire further exploration of concepts or topics. Keep in mind that if digital media claims to have educational value, it should be backed by vetted research so take some time to research the media’s development. Great examples are Curious George and the Firefighters  (Ages 4+, eBook) and Endless Alphabet  (Ages 5 and under, App).

2) Practice and Skill Development Tools

These are really a subset of Educational Media (with all the same benefits described above), but because many parents and teachers are interested in tools that support specific skill development, they are worth considering separately. Today, there are a wide variety of digital tools for kids of all ages and abilities, that target individual skills and needs, whether spelling, hand-eye coordination or vocabulary. I’d recommend apps like Slice Fraction  (Ages 6-8, App) and Cursive Writing Wizard  (Ages 6-8, App).

3) Creative Media

This building block provides dynamic, interactive experiences around music, art, videos, architecture and more. Of course, technology is not a replacement for the hands-on knowledge that children gain from painting, building, making and playing music. However, the digital arena gives children opportunities to stretch themselves in a fun environment and save iterations of their creations digitally. Get your child’s creative juices flowing with tools like Minecraft (Ages 8+, Web, Desktop, Tablet) and Toca Band (Ages 5 and under, App).

4) Entertainment Media

The proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is as true for young children as it is for adults.  Entertainment can stimulate the imagination and provide inspiration for a child’s hopes and dreams, ultimately supporting learning goals. Playful stories, apps and games introduce children to adventure, the drama of human interaction, relationships, conflict resolution, and often, areas of life that can capture a child’s interest for a lifetime, providing great fulfillment. Have some fun with LEGO’s The Hobbit (Ages 8+, Video Game Consoles) or Little Red Riding Hood (Ages 6-8, eBook).

5) Data Collection Tools

This building block is for teachers, parents or any adult working with young children. Data collection apps and programs allow us to collect data so that, as caregivers, we can ascertain areas where a child needs extra support and where they are excelling. With this information, caregivers can rearrange the other building blocks to create a nourishing digital diet that is personal, balanced and flexible. For example, HMH’s own Curiosityville helps teachers and parents keep track of kids’ progress and they play in the program’s interactive environment.

Innovative digital tools have great potential, but like many tools, they are complex. We need to think carefully about how, when and why we are using them to enhance our children’s learning and growth. By considering which building blocks meet your goals, you will find it easier to balance options and choose tools for your individual child’s age, interests and needs.

And it’s worth noting that each building block is often better suited to certain forms of media. For example, games (which may be available via an app or in other forms) may provide better opportunities for cognitive skill development, while a nature video may be the perfect choice to get your child thinking about the environment.  Apps are flexible, mobile, and interactive, providing families with resources that are engaging and accessible at a moment’s notice, while both eBooks and videos offer caregivers opportunities to share the digital experience by reading aloud together or co-viewing content.

To help evaluate specific digital tools, Claudia Haines (author, librarian and media mentor for young people) has created a fantastic rubric to help you understand the power and impact of every digital tool. The following sites also offer quality recommendations for eBooks, apps, videos and games, along with recommendations on how to ensure that screen time is also a valuable shared experience with your child.

And don’t forget to consult your local librarians! They can be a bridge between the best of the digital world and your family. With these resources and some menu planning, you’ll be sure to provide your child with a healthy, balanced digital diet.

Keeping Your Child on Track through the Holiday Season

Guest Post
by Patricia Lutner

The holiday season is here. The holidays can be fun and joyful for families, but they can also be stressful and unsettling, especially for children. You can take steps to ensure your child has a positive experience and gets through this busy time with less stress. Here are some suggestions that may help.

  1. Provide good nutrition – Eating healthy, nutritious foods can be a challenge with all the treats and special holiday foods. Stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein to provide a balanced diet for your family.
  2. Help your child get enough sleep – A tired child is a cranky child. Being consistent with naptimes and bedtimes is especially important during the holiday season. This can be a challenge, but by planning and incorporating these times into your holiday schedule, you can improve your child’s behavior and increase everyone’s enjoyment of an event.
  3. Set expectations and consequences – Letting your children know your expectations for their behavior and the consequences of misbehaving is essential, especially during the holidays. You must be willing to follow through with the consequences, or the rules will have no meaning.
  4. Keep the rules developmentally appropriate – When setting rules and expectations, be aware of what is appropriate for your children’s ages and developmental stages. Often, parents’ expectations do not align with their child’s developmental capabilities.
  5. Stay calm and be flexible – Don’t lose sight of the goal of the holidays, which is to celebrate your family and the traditions important to you. Take a break if you are feeling overwhelmed, even if it is only 10 minutes to breathe and clear your mind. Staying calm will help you and your child enjoy this wonderful time of year.