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Archive for November, 2019

Winter Scavenger Hunt

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Your local park can be a magical winter wonderland that is perfect for playful learning. Create a scavenger hunt for your family to enjoy while exploring nature. You may decide to separate into teams and see how many items you can each check off before your opponents.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Animal tracks;
  • Hidden berries;
  • Icicles (Only adults should handle icicles. they can be very sharp!);
  • Human footprints;
  • A leaf still on a tree;
  • A tree with no leaves;
  • Something green;
  • A pinecone;
  • A bird;

You can modify your list depending on the ages of the children. Enjoy the endless possibilities!

Screen Time Guidelines for Summer Break

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Searching for a summer camp program? A high-quality summer camp provides fun, hands-on activities that aren’t reliant upon technology. Technology may be used to enhance the activities, but screen time is used sparingly. To limit how much screen time your child has this coming summer, follow the steps below to create a reward system at home.

  1. Select readily available tokens that your child cannot easily access, such as stickers or playing cards.
  2. Think of some helpful tasks that your child can do around the house. Tell her that she can earn a reward for each task she completes without being told to do it. Examples include cleaning up after herself, bringing in the mail, feeding the pets and setting the table. Explain the concept of exchanging the token for a prize or privilege. This system will also help your child learn and understand the concept of spending money to purchase a product.
  3. Explain to your child that each time she wants screen time, she must hand in one of her tokens. Set a time limit for each token that is suitable for the age of your child. For example, one token could equal ten minutes of screen time. You may want to set a limit for the number of tokens that your child can use each day. Write down these rules and explain them well to stop any arguments before they start.
  4. Let your child know that if she has no tokens, she will have to do more chores to earn screen time.

Your little ones will be so excited to earn their tokens that they will not realize how many helpful tasks they are completing.

Four Ways to Implement Positive Discipline at Home

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Positive discipline is a popular topic right now. Parents, teachers and other caregivers all want to help raise happy, healthy children, but the constant influx of advice can be overwhelming. To help streamline this information and ensure all Goddard School faculty members, directors and Goddard School owners have up-to-date knowledge of cutting-edge early childhood education topics, GSI offers Goddard Systems University (GSU). GSU is a treasure trove of professional development tools for improving the processes, protocols and culture at Goddard Schools.

Recently, GSU held a webinar on positive discipline. As a mom who struggles to maintain a positive attitude when my son flings his food or has an epic meltdown because I’ve asked him to eat, I immediately signed up for the course. Though it was designed for Goddard School faculty members, some of this great information can apply to parents and other caregivers.

Here are a few of my takeaways from the positive discipline webinar.

1. Positive relationships are the keys to positive discipline.

Caregivers must build a loving, trusting relationship with the children in their care because this relationship sets the foundation for everything. Children need to feel safe and secure; if they don’t, they’re more likely to exhibit challenging behaviors.

2. Step back and determine the reason for the behavior.

The first step in implementing positive discipline is to understand the reasons for challenging behaviors. As adults, we must prevent ourselves from escalating the situation, no matter how frustrated we may feel. Instead, reframe your thoughts about the tantrum. Ask yourself, “What response is the child trying to get from this behavior?”

All behavior, appropriate or not, is a reaction to a stimulus. Use the challenging behavior as a teaching moment to help you figure out what may have caused this behavior. Remember, children learn social-emotional responses, including body language, from adults.

3. Don’t explain appropriate and inappropriate behavior during a meltdown.

During a meltdown, children don’t have the bandwidth to understand rational ideas. That doesn’t mean you should walk away. Instead, show them how to calm down. Some ideas include breathing deeply, squeezing a bear, sitting in a “cozy corner” or blowing a pinwheel. Whatever you choose should focus on helping them get their negative feelings out. Once your children are calm, you can explain why the behavior was inappropriate and reinforce appropriate ways to respond to situations that upset them.

Something that really hit home for me was learning about the message adults send if they walk away from a child during a meltdown. Walking away shows children that it’s better to ignore a problem. Worse yet, children may interpret an adult walking away as their caregiver being detached and indifferent. The results of walking away may show up as children enter adolescence. Despite our best efforts to encourage our children to talk to us when they have problems, they will not feel safe having open discussions with us if they perceive us to have a history of being indifferent.

4. Remember PIES, STAR and ART

Children feel confident when their environment meets their PIES needs: their physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs. By ensuring all their PIES needs are met, caregivers have a greater chance of preventing challenging behaviors. If a challenging behavior occurs, remember to STAR: smile, take a deep breath and relax. Then you can act by demonstrating the ART principles: acknowledge the child’s feelings, respond to those feelings and think about how to respond with empathy and clear expectations.

How do you practice positive discipline at home?

DIY Snow Dough Recipe

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Help your children bring the snow inside this winter with snow dough. This sensory substance is perfect for modeling snowballs and snow-people, no matter what the weather is like outside your window.

What You’ll Need:

  • A measuring cup
  • A large bowl
  • An airtight container
  • 1 cup of conditioner or lotion (Pick an unscented option if you want to add essential oil for a custom scent.)
  • 2 cups of cornstarch
  • A few drops of your favorite essential oil (This is optional, but peppermint gives the dough a crisp, wintery smell.)

What to Do:

  1. Help your children measure the cornstarch and conditioner or lotion and put them in the bowl.
  2. Add a few drops of essential oil (optional). Parents, please do this step for your children.
  3. Have your children mix the ingredients with their hands until well combined. If the mixture seems a little too dry, add more lotion or conditioner; if it’s too moist, add more cornstarch. Play around with amounts until you have a mixture that is neither crumbly nor sticky.
  4. Have your children wash the excess ingredients off their hands. Together, create some winter shapes such as snowflakes, snow-people or snowballs. When you’re finished, store the dough in an airtight container.

Here are some snow-themed books for you and your children to read together:

The Snowbear by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Claire Alexander;

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal;

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats;

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs;

Snow Friends by M. Christina Butler, illustrated by Tina Macnaughton.

5 Easy Activities for Your Family to Practice the Art of Giving

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By Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Sharing and giving are an important part of learning, and the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to help your children develop these important skills.

Gift-giving creates a happy feeling not just for the receiver but also for the giver. Children are in fact happier when they give back. Researchers at the University of British Columbia* interacted with children using puppets, which would make ‘YUMM’ noises when given treats. The results indicated that children were happier when giving the treats away than when receiving treats for themselves.

Here are five easy activities for your family to practice the art of giving:

  1. Give a Gift That Keeps on Giving – Make a “Giving Book” with your children. Think of five things they would enjoy doing for someone at home or for a neighbor or a relative. Write or draw the things on three-by-five index cards, decorate the cards and staple them together. Present the “Giving Book” to the relative. This is a gift that keeps on giving and extends the fun beyond the holidays. It also gives your children confidence in the things can they do for someone else.
  1. Build a Plan for Giving – Ask your children how they would like to give back. You may be surprised at what they come up with. Implementing their ideas will help build their confidence and commitment to the activity. Decide together on how to accomplish their ideas.
  1. No Money Needed – It is important to have children experience how to give beyond buying a gift. Donating time and effort is just as important. This will help your children in daily interactions with others. Many foundations have projects that are designed just for kids. Your children could make artwork for a local children’s hospital or help plant trees for a nature reserve. Whatever your child’s passion is, connect it to giving back.
  1. Donate Your Joy – Ask your children to select gently used clothes, toys and other things around their room that they could donate to others. You can choose the charity together. Take your children with you to donate the goods so they can see where they will go. Talk about who might receive them.
  1. Checking In about Feelings After your children spend time giving back, ask them how they feel. Most likely they will have a positive response and want to do it again. Conversations about giving help young children make the connection of that good feeling to giving back.

*Aknin, L. B., Hamlin, J. K. & Dunn, E. W. (2012, June 14). Giving leads to happiness in young children. PLOS ONE 7(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039211

Five Tried and True Ways to Ease Holiday Stress

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By Kyle Pruett, M.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Do you feel you are overdoing the holidays and beginning to stress out once again this year? Most of us tend to focus on keeping our children and their schedules – especially for the young ones – under some kind of control to limit the damage and hurt feelings that frequently accompany this overdoing. The most effective way to calm holiday stress, however, is to manage our own. Children will learn far more about staying calm when we get there first. Here are some tried and true ways to help you along the way:

  1. Manage your own expectations. Perfect holidays do not exist in real time, so expect some happiness, delight, surprise, disappointment, fatigue and meltdowns. Tell your children to expect the same.
  1. Make a list. Well ahead of time, sit down and make a list of holiday things you’d like to do or achieve, then cut it in half and proceed. One or two special events spread out over two days, with a generous dose of hanging out and “just being” time, is a pretty good pace. Get some sleep with the time you save instead.
  1. Accept help from others. Remember, you have already yielded on perfection as a goal, so let people bring some food and distribute chores for the bigger events. People old and young typically love being useful, even if it adds to the chaos.
  1. Watch the sweets, fats and fermented spirits. Your (and your children’s) tensions can all be exacerbated by lousy dietary indulgences, not to mention the guilt and the weight gain, which only add more stress.
  1. Play outside. Get out of the house and exercise (children and grownups). It helps to repair the damage to routines and relationships by refreshing minds and bodies.

Feeling Thankful Around the World

On Thanksgiving, families across the United States gather together to show their appreciation for all they have by having an abundant feast. But our country isn’t the only one to dedicate a day to give thanks. Nations all over the world celebrate similar holidays with food-based traditions throughout the year.

Here are a few highlights:

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China – Mid-Autumn Festival

While Americans prepare for Thanksgiving, people in China celebrate the harvest with the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar, usually in September or October. Originally a time to make food offerings in honor of the moon after a good harvest, the holiday is celebrated today by spending time outside with friends and family; watching the moon; and eating traditional dishes, including mooncakes, sticky red-cooked pork belly and stir-fried seasonal green vegetables

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The United States and Canada – Thanksgiving

Beginning as a day of giving thanks for the yearly harvest, Thanksgiving has expanded across the United States and Canada to commemorate family and food. On the fourth Thursday of November (or the second Monday of October if you’re in Canada), families come together to eat dishes like roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. What are your family’s favorite Thanksgiving dishes? Share them in the comments below.

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Germany – Erntedankfest

In Germany, Thanksgiving, or Erntedankfest, is celebrated on the first Sunday of October. While it began as a time to celebrate the harvest, the holiday now places an emphasis on giving back. Observers of this tradition deliver baskets of food to poor families throughout German communities. While there isn’t as great an emphasis on a big meal as with the American Thanksgiving, families celebrating Erntedankfest enjoy roast goose or turkey as well as Mohnstriezel, a special Austrian sweet bread with poppy seeds.

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Norfolk Island, Australia – Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving on Norfolk Island off the coast of Australia comes from an American trader who held a traditional Thanksgiving celebration there during his travels in the 1800s. Observed on the last Wednesday of November, Norfolk Island’s Thanksgiving meal features some foods that stand out from typical American fare, including cold pork and chicken, pilhi and bananas. One American dish that has stuck, however, is pumpkin pie.

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Korea – Chuseok

Korea’s harvest festival, Chuseok, which is much like American Thanksgiving, spans three days and is celebrated close to the autumnal equinox. Koreans spend time during the holiday visiting their families and sharing a meal complete with songpyeon, which are small rice cakes containing a variety of fillings, including sesame seeds, honey and sweet-red-bean or chestnut paste. The name songpyeon is derived from the Korean word for a pine tree with needles that are used as a base that infuses the dish with the scent of pine when the rice cakes are steaming.

Engage Your Child in Creative Thinking Over the Holidays

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By Helen Hadani, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

The holidays are a mixed bag for our family. Everyone gets excited about decorating the tree, putting out our collection of menorahs and delivering all of the sweet treats that my daughter bakes to share with neighbors and friends. They can also be a stressful time of managing schedules and making sure Santa and the Hanukkah Bear are good to everyone. Over the years (my children are now teenagers), I have tried to take a step back and think of ways to make the holidays a special time for everyone in our family by starting traditions that my daughters will hopefully continue with their own families one day.

For parents of young children, the holidays can be a wonderful time to engage your children in activities that enhance their creative thinking. For instance, there are endless stories about holiday characters that can be read, told or written about in words or in pictures. One clever twist is to ask your children to make up a different ending to or detail in a story. What if Santa’s reindeer couldn’t fly? What if Frosty the Snowman turned everyone into a snowman?

In my family, the holidays are all about food. (For the record, this is also the case for the rest of the year.) Baking and cooking are great ways for children to express their creativity and build their executive function skills (e.g., by following directions, by planning or by inhibiting their impulses to stick their fingers in the brownie batter). Even the youngest children can help stir the pancake batter, crack eggs or measure ingredients.

One of my favorite things about the holidays is taking photos of special events (much to the chagrin of my family members, who say I like to document events rather than experience them). While most parents don’t want to think of more ways for their children to spend time on a mobile phone or tablet, asking your children to take photos or videos and creating a slideshow or scrapbook is a wonderful way to capture and share special moments from their perspectives.

The holidays will be here before we know it. Read, bake and take photos with your children to spark their creativity and make it a fun holiday for everyone.

How to Survive Holiday Travel with a Toddler

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By Jack Maypole, M.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Are you going on a trip and looking to pass the time while you pass through security or over the river and into the woods? Screen time has its limits in helping kids cope with long trips or stretches in airport lounges, and there may be some opportunities that allow even pre-literate kids to engage in the joy of the travel adventure, even if the lines are long or you aren’t even there yet.

Consider making the journey a game, and use the time-tested scavenger hunt or bingo board to liven up your passage. If you are traveling by air, for example, you can use waypoints in your trip (the parking shuttle, the TSA, the airport gate, a food court or the passenger-assistance staff) as boxes or pictures to be marked off as they are seen. You can use simple images off the web for toddlers and preschoolers or brief titles and make a small grid before you leave.

Bigger families might break up into teams. Longer trips might mean double-sided lists of items and sights to hunt for. Everybody gets to pitch in. Who knows? Maybe the winner gets the window seat!

Finally, remember the healthy stuff. Keep tissues and hand wipes handy. Make sure there are snacks for everyone and plenty of water. Whenever possible when in long lines or a waiting area, keep your family in a contained area, away from the potentially sniffling crowds. If there are two adults traveling with children, consider having one stay in line as long as possible while the other stays with the children in a nearby, less-crowded area until it’s time to get back in line. Wash your hands and wash surfaces on planes and trains. These few steps will maximize the chance of staying healthy during the trip.

Five Classic Toys Our Educational Advisory Board Swears By

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By Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

It’s the holidays, and everyone is promoting the latest gadget or toy. Your parents call to ask what to buy your children this year. The best toys are those that engage children and keep their interest over time. Toymakers and game creators from years past knew this, and there are quite a few classic ones that are still very relevant today. The key is that your children can be creative, learn something new, build on learned skills as they continue to play and, most of all, have a lot of fun. Toys that just entertain are those that sit in the toy box or on the shelf, disappointing you or the grandparents that just made that big purchase.

Here are five of our favorites:

Wooden blocks – They’re great for innovation, engineering, dramatic play and critical-thinking skills. Little ones can begin to develop early collaboration and communication skills as they start to share with others. What will we build today?

Board games – Taking turns, counting and developing vocabulary are just some of the skills children build when playing simple board games. Get out the classics such as Candy Land, UNO Junior and Chutes and Ladders. Prepare for lots of giggles.

Puzzles – Puzzles are a great way to learn to take turns and solve a problem together. As children work on the puzzles, they develop self-regulation and concentration.

Balls and jump ropes – Outdoor play is a great way to move away from the devices and get children moving. Collect different sizes of balls, and practice kicking, throwing and bouncing them. Jumping rope is terrific for gross motor skills and balance.

Modeling clay – Children need to develop fine motor skills beyond using a device or an app. Nothing is better for that than modeling clay, like Play-Doh.  Learning to sculpt with Play-Doh also taps creativity, artistic expression and strategic thinking.

These classic toys and games provide hours and hours of playful learning and make for very happy children. Don’t forget that children also love to play with the boxes the presents came in!