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Archive for March, 2020

Your Child Can Have a Virtual Playdate!

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

In these swiftly changing times, recommendations for whether and how to maintain social connections require daily updates. If I had written this response a week ago, my advice would have been different than it is today. But our current situation is that in many places in the United States and globally, the governments have issued shelter at home orders requiring families to limit physical and social contact to immediate family members. In areas where these orders are not yet in place, they are likely to be soon. This means no playdates, no trips to the playground, no planned bike rides and no hikes or neighborhood walks with other families. Even maintaining six feet of separation is just too risky. Children are motivated to share and help, and they’ve practiced this for years. If a friend falls, the other friends will reach out their hands to help their friend up. If they have a delicious pack of gummy bears, they’ll give one to their friend. An equally important reason for not being flexible about seemingly low-risk outdoor outings with other families is that planning these outings sends children the wrong message about compliance with critical public health mandates. As parents, we must model best behaviors, set limits on behaviors and follow-through. Being clear now saves you from responding to endless pleas for playdates as time goes on.

All of these no’s are difficult to hear but the rationale is a strong one. We need to break the chain of contagion, and the only way to do that is by being united in our commitment to being physically separated. Given this new (and temporary, if we all do our part) parenting context, I’d like to offer an essential reminder: physical distancing does not have to mean social distancing. We’re lucky to live in times where technologies exist to help us connect in real time through our phones, tablets and computers. Social interaction is critical for the development of social skills, cognitive ability and mental health. Children of all ages can benefit from spending some virtual time with others during the upcoming weeks that they’ll spend at home.

Here are some tools and tips that can help you support your children’s need to maintain their relationships with others through the use of virtual playdates:

  • My favorite apps for children to use to connect in real time are Caribu (zero to eight years) and Houseparty (school-age);
  • Houseparty allows children to see multiple friends at once in a virtual hangout and even play games together, such as versions of charades, trivia, Pictionary, and Apples to Apples. Playing games requires some reading skills. My daughters spend hours on this app with their friends. Hearing their laughter fill the house reminds me that children are children, and they will find ways to have fun and play even when they’re not together;
  • Caribu is a subscription-based video chat app that recently won a Time Magazine Best Invention of 2019 award. This app combines video chatting with numerous choices for game playing and contains a library of books so that children can engage in book reading together or with distant relatives.
  • Video chat apps like Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Google Duo and What’s App offer opportunities to see each other’s faces and chat, but they also can be used to encourage children to share their non-digital activities. Children show each other new dance moves, LEGO projects and artistic creations. Just last night, my daughter made cupcakes with a friend over facetime. They each made cupcakes at their own houses but followed the same recipe together in real time. This was their idea and they had an absolute blast! The use of video chat apps can also be supplemented with traditional games like 20 questions, Simon Says and charades;
  • Netflix Party is a Chrome browser extension that lets children watch their favorite movies and shows together. When one person pauses to get more popcorn, the show pauses for everyone. For children who can read and write, there is a chat option so they can comment on the program or anything else as they watch. For non-readers and writers, they can use video chat applications on another device to encourage.

A word about infants and toddlers Babies are naturally drawn to look at human faces, especially faces that are familiar to them. Research is clear that video chatting is a positive screen-based experience for infants and toddlers. For this age group, no additional materials are needed. Just let the children see one another and respond to each other’s facial expressions and emerging efforts to talk. Although research hasn’t investigated peer relationships, when infants and toddlers regularly see distant family members on video chat apps, they form and maintain positive relationships.

Note – Before handing over your phone, be sure to turn off notifications and lock the screen by selecting Screen Pinning on Androids or Guided Access on iPhones so that your child’s experience isn’t interrupted by accidental swiping or button pressing, and of course, give that phone a good sterile wipe down before and after allowing your child to play with it.

11 Free, Fun and Safe Learning Resource Websites for Young Children

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With so many apps and online programs for young children, choosing the best ones can be difficult. We have compiled our favorite trusted resources for you and your family to enjoy.

  1. Google Earth Zoom in to ANYWHERE in the world! Children will love seeing different places across the globe (ages 3-6+)
  2. PBS Education  Lots of fun, educational games with children’s favorite characters (ages 3-6+)
  3. Explore.org  Livestreams of various animal habitats, which children love watching (ages 3-6+)
  4. Common Sense Media Families’ and Schools’ go-to ratings resource for children’s apps and movies (ages 3-6+)
  5. Go Noodle Movement, dance, yoga and mindfulness activities for children (ages 3-6+)
  6. National Geographic Kids Wonderful games and videos all about animals and the world (ages 3-6+)
  7. NASA Kids Club  The best space and engineering site for children (ages 3-6+)
  8. Creativity Catapult A curated library of activities to promote creativity (ages 3-6+)
  9. Storyline Short stories, images and sounds to interest children in the world around them (ages 4-6+)
  10. Boston Children’s Museum – Parent & Educator Resources  A curriculum and activity resources focused on STEM and hands-on learning (ages 3-6+)
  11. Children’s Museum of Pittsburg – Museum at Home Maker activities to do at home (ages 5-6+)

 

How Routines and Schedules help Calm and Comfort your Child

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by Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Children thrive when there are routines, rituals and schedules within their daily lives at home or school. They feel more secure, safe and nurtured. When there are changes in their environment, it can be stressful for our little ones. By establishing a routine, even if it is a new one, you will bring comfort and consistency to your children’s lives.

We also know that change can be a learning opportunity, and being flexible with our children at times can support the development of social-emotional skills such as risk-taking, self-control and independence. The key is to balance spontaneity based on what is happening around you and your children’s interests with a daily schedule that meets your family needs.

Include your children in daily planning and decision-making, like creating menus for the week to take the stress off mealtimes or deciding when to take breaks during the day for some outdoor play. Consider taking photos of different times of the day and have your children hang them in meaningful locations around the learning space or use them to create a picture schedule.

Important Basic Routines

These routines support positive mental and physical health:

  • Morning wakeup – getting ready for the day
  • Mealtimes and snack times
  • Bath rituals
  • Cleaning up – sorting and cleaning up toys, after mealtime, etc.
  • Bedtime – getting ready for and going to bed
  • Naptime (or quiet time)

These basic routines also help children anticipate what will happen during the day and help them focus on playful learning versus worrying about what’s next. By establishing these basic routines, you free up time for more flexibility in your child’s day.

Being in the Moment

Try to be more in the moment with your children when you are doing things with them. This focused attention, as you move throughout the day, will help your children follow directions and move from one activity to another. If you act distracted while directing or speaking with your children, they will be distracted too. It is often hard to do, but your loving attention is one of the most important things you can give your children. Switching your focus can be calming and soothing for you as well.

Handling Transitions

This is the time when things could get a bit rough, especially if your children are engaged in something they love to do. Transitions can at times make children feel they have no control over what is happening next. This can create tantrums, fears and tears. The best ways to handle transitions within a day’s routine are:

  1. Prepare your children. Let them know what is coming, for example, “In five minutes we are going to stop playing with trucks and get ready for lunch.” By preparing, you eliminate the surprise.
  2. Join in the transition. It is often easier if you work with your children during the transition. They will be comforted by your participation.
  3. Praise your children. Let them know what a great job they did in cleaning up, coming to the table, etc.
  4. Talk about what is next. Explaining what will happen next helps children look forward to it.

With all the changes that we face with a big shift in our daily lives right now, the consistency with routines you establish will help your children to feel safe, confident and secure.

Interactive Songs and Fingerplays

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by Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Interactive songs and fingerplays are part of every infant, toddler and preschool teacher’s repertoire. If you think back, I bet you can name a few such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “The Wheels on the Bus.” Several parents have reached out to us and asked where they can find good interactive songs and when they should start singing these with their child.

The time to start is anytime. Interactive songs and fingerplays can start as soon as your infant is born. Singing, as well as talking and reading, support your child’s brain development, and this is especially important in the first 1000 days. It is also a great tool to help increase bonding with your child. The interactive songs help you to hold eye contact, view facial expressions and connect with your child. Research from the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child has found that “when an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills.” Singing simple songs supports these interactions.

Repeating the songs over and over also supports language, working memory and social-emotional development. Who knew these funny little songs could do so much? Think about what “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” (and “three, four, shut the door”) teaches – math, sequencing, self-care and more. These simple chants and songs are powerful learning tools.

Here are three of my favorite resources my colleagues at The Goddard School have shared with me to help you get started:

  1. Super Simple Songs – This site has all the songs you will remember from childhood and more.
  2. Songs for Teaching – We like the helpful list of fingerplays.
  3. Let’s Play Music – They offer many free songs and no ads.

You can also make up your own. Sing about what you are doing as you feed or bathe your child. The most important thing is to enjoy the fun and giggles with your little one.

 

Here are 5 Tips for Working from Home with Children

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Have you ever wondered whether it would be fun to homeschool your children? (Confession, I have not.) But I imagine it could be satisfying and enjoyable if you don’t have another job on the line. Yet, here, we are parents, working one, two or more jobs on top of raising our precious, loud, energetic, no napping, computer touching, toy breaking, bundles of joy. At this point, my son thinks I’ve changed his name to “Don’t Touch That!”

Raising children is a rewarding but tough job. Working at home and raising children is impossible, am I right? Well no, not necessarily. It may not always be easy, but I’ve got some great tips to share with you. They’re curated from my experience and some of my colleagues’ experiences.

So, before you hear “Alexa, play Baby Shark” one more time, check out these work-from-home parenting ideas.

  1. Maintain a routine.

Now more than ever, children need a routine. If your children attend a Goddard School, you’ll have a good idea of what their days entail. Try following this routine to keep consistency in their lives, maintain your sanity and help ease the transition back into a structured learning environment. Even though we don’t know when schools and businesses will reopen, it will happen.

Don’t forget your schedule. You also benefit from following a routine. Get up, get dressed (even if it’s just putting on another pair of sweatpants) and start your day how you normally would when preparing for work.

As you navigate your new normal, stay in touch with your manager and team and let them know you’ll have time to complete things when your children are napping or after they go to bed. Open and transparent communication with your team and managers is the key.

  1. Take breaks!

A twin mama at GSI said she takes breaks to spend time with her children. She does crafts with them or takes them for a walk where they practice number recognition on mailboxes, learn about the local flora and fauna (mostly just squirrels) and play in the mud. Of course, she has plenty of work to do, but she carves out time to be with her twins.

Right now, toddlers through early elementary-school-age see that their parents are home and don’t understand why mom or dad can’t play. My son is beside himself whenever he can’t come into my room. He can be rambunctious and not on his best behavior. I end up feeling frustrated, but when I finally let him in the room, I hold him for a while. It calms him down and he goes on his merry way to play with toy bugs. I continue to underestimate the importance of being present for my little guy. I’m torn in two directions: I want to be a great employee and a stellar mom, regardless of the quarantine and work from home situation. It’s hard to do both but taking breaks to focus on your kids will help.

  1. Share responsibilities with other adults at home, if possible.

During these unprecedented times, hundreds of thousands of American workers are figuring out how to work from home for the first time. If you have a partner at home, sit down to discuss your upcoming week. Share your work schedules so that someone is watching the children while completing smaller work tasks, such as checking emails, giving the other time to be on the phone or join meetings. Then switch! This requires flexibility and juggling, and there may be some mishaps – especially when your littlest co-workers didn’t get the schedule memo – but this method will alleviate some of the stress for adults working from home.

If it’s just you and your children at home, follow tips one and two. When talking with your teammates and manager, be firm and let them know that you may need to work odd hours to complete tasks. Reassure them that your work will get done, just on a different timetable than some of your peers.

  1. Have go-to activities that require little supervision for your children.

A west coast colleague of mine has two children under the age of four. Both she and her husband have been working from home for weeks and are getting the hang of their new normal. She created a visual schedule for her children, using simple pictures that they can recognize and understand. Depending on the day, she typically takes the morning shift with her children and her husband takes the afternoon shift.

Because her children are young, someone must be present with them 24/7. To help ease the stress of juggling little ones and work, she created simple, fun activities that require less vigilance, allowing her time to check and respond to emails while supervising playtime. Here’s one of her ideas.

If the weather is nice outside, have a car wash! It doesn’t have to be a big car, either. It can be just about anything that is waterproof. If the weather isn’t great outside, bring everything inside to the kitchen sink or bathtub.

In an upcoming blog article, we’ll have a list of simple fun activities for children to do while you’re working at home. Stay tuned!

  1. Be kind to yourself.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed on any normal day, but when you throw in working from home and being a stay-at-home parent, everything is magnified. Mistakes may happen and that’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up over this blip in time. To avoid being crushed under the weight of divergent responsibilities, make things easier when possible.

Yes, you may be relying on screen time and fast microwave meals more often. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Your children won’t remember that they ate SpaghettiOs for lunch every day for a week. And the extra screen time won’t suddenly transform them into YouTube Kids zombies. Right now, things are tough – and that’s an understatement.

In the end, your children will remember that mommy or daddy got to be at home with them. They’ll remember the extra time you got to spend together even if both of you were looking at different screens.

 

At-Home Activities

 

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Caring for Our Littlest Ones During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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by Kyle Pruett, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We have been asked by many parents of infants how to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. What do I do to make sure my baby is safe?  What if my child doesn’t have all the immunizations yet because she is too young? Should I isolate my family from our friends and close family members?

New parents and almost all parents with infants feel stressed at the best of times.  The COVID-19 crisis adds another layer. It is essential to take a deep breath, wash your hands, cuddle your child and repeat.

The most authoritative publication to date (Report of the WHO-China Joint Commission on COVID-19 /Feb 28, 2020) reported that no young children or infants were positive from November through January. The World Health Organization thinks children may be less susceptible. The very rare cases that have occurred were in families with adults who tested positive. No child-to-child or child-to-adult cases of transmission were reported. We hope this information can help to lessen your worries.

Do not worry if your child has not been vaccinated. Keep up the recommended routine of social distancing, handwashing and regular surface cleaning with standard household products. This routine is smart and is customary with a new infant in the home.

Don’t quarantine yourself from your close friends and family members. As long as they are healthy, without a fever and a cough, it is probably fine to be together in small groups during this tough time. If you need to practice social distancing to keep older family members safe, use this time to video chat and show off the baby’s smiles.

Anyone touching or holding the baby must wash their hands thoroughly first, because washing their hands cleans them better than hand sanitizer, and avoid taking the baby to crowded locations.

Limit your exposure to news and screens, avoid anxiety-ridden calls with colleagues and stay focused on the delights of being with your baby. Take time to sing, talk and read with your child. Just being in the moment with your baby will ease everyone’s stress.

During this stressful time, it is not productive to push ahead with sleep training or toilet training mastery. That is tough enough when all is going well around you. We all need to let ourselves slide back a little to keep our balance.

Remember – take deep breaths, wash your hands, cuddle your baby and repeat.

 

KYLE PRUETT, M.D. 

Through his groundbreaking work in child psychiatry, Dr. Pruett has become an internationally known expert on children, family relationships and fathering. He is a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and is the author of award-winning books Me, Myself and I and Partnership Parenting.

 

At-Home Learning Activities

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