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Archive for June, 2020

“But Mom/Dad, Why Can’t You Play Right Now?” How to Answer This Question Effectively and More When Working from Home with Children

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

For weeks now, I’ve been spending my days shifting between multiple roles, and it isn’t getting any easier! When I’m working, I feel like I’m ignoring my children. When I’m attending to their needs, I feel guilty about not being able to make progress on work-related projects. When stress hits, I’ve often reacted to my children’s interruptions and emergencies with an abruptness that I later regret. I’m guessing many of you have experienced something similar at some point.

In this blog post, I share a practical strategy for how to interact with children in a way that respects their desire for your attention and your need to set boundaries that help you get some other things done. The approach is described by Dr. Marjorie Kostelnik and her colleagues as using personal messages. It’s a developmentally appropriate strategy that helps both parents and children achieve their goals while building trusting and affectionate relationships. In my role as a college professor, I teach it to college students who are learning to interact with preschool-aged children. It might seem awkward or too wordy at first, but it gets easier with practice. It pays off because the more your child hears you talk like this, the more tools she or he will have to control her or his impulses to interrupt.

The following is how it goes.

STEP ONE: Offer a reflection that describes your children’s perspective.

I think of this step as sportscasting, except instead of being on ESPN saying, “he shoots, he scores,” I’m in my home office having conversations like the following:

When my adorable child says: I’m tempted to say: Instead, I try to say:
“Moooom, you said we could make brownies!” I can’t right now. You’re frustrated that I can’t make brownies with you yet.
“Come see what I did!” I’m busy. You’re excited about your painting and you want me to take a look.
“I’m bored.” Shhhhh I see you’ve finished that episode of Daniel Tiger and you don’t know what to do next.

Describing a child’s perspective before reacting shows that we are trying to understand his or her point of view and that we care about his or her experience. It also gives us a few extra seconds to think about how to respond next.

STEP TWO: Share your own emotional reaction and explain why you feel that way.

STEP THREE: Tell your child what will happen next. Be sure to follow through!

These steps give children a chance to practice their developing perspective-taking skills and to improve their understanding of emotions. Then, by hearing parents share clear expectations for what will happen next, children can begin to develop strategies that will make moments of waiting easier.

Step One Steps Two and Three
You’re frustrated that I can’t make brownies with you yet. The people I work with are waiting for me to finish this project, and I want to get it done. After I give it to them, we can go to the kitchen together and make our special treat!
You’re excited about your painting and want me to take a look. I’m proud of you for working so hard on your art project. I’m on a conference call right now and I will come to see it as soon as the call ends. 
You’ve finished that episode of Daniel Tiger and you don’t know what to do next. It’s important to me that I have some time to get a few things done. I’d like you to find something you can do on your own right now. Do you want some help choosing a few puzzles to do?

When adults talk in clear, responsive and respectful ways, children’s self-regulation skills improve. It’s also important to model your respect for their activities. Instead of interrupting their play or media use, you might say something like, “It looks like you’re having a lot of fun drawing with chalk, I have a break now and it’d be nice to take a bike ride with you. Is this a good time?”

Full disclosure: As I’m writing this, I’ve been guilty of responding a bit abruptly to my youngest child’s plea for attention. it’s not easy to practice what I teach consistently. But when I catch myself responding with annoyance, I start over and try again. Many people give up on personal messages because it feels clumsy at first. My advice is to keep trying. Practice makes better (forget perfect), and we have a lot of opportunities lately to refine our skills in warmly-communicating clear and respectful boundaries with our children.

OPTIONAL ADDITION

Note – Planning can ease the pressure of competing responsibilities. One important strategy is providing young kids with a visual cue to your availability. In my house, when I can’t be interrupted, I put a note on my office door letting my older children know when I’ll be available next. With younger children, I suggest displaying a picture of Quiet Coyote or some other signal so that they know not to interrupt. Be sure to take it down when you’re better able to be interrupted.

The Only Sunscreen Tip You Need This Summer

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By Laura Mellor-Bachman M.Ed., manager, program development

Applying sunscreen during the summer months can be a messy and emotional business, especially if you have a toddler. However, I stumbled across a simple way to make applying sunscreen to my two-year-old daughter, Juliana, a pleasant experience for all.

When Juliana gets a diaper rash, we put “cream on her hiney,” which she used to love saying out loud with me as I applied the cream to her hiney. When winter came, her hands were getting chapped from the continuous hand-washing at school and at home. So we started putting cream on her hands. As you can imagine, Juliana picked up on how this was similar to her putting cream on her hiney, and each night before bed, she loved rubbing the lotion on her hands and on my hands, too, for that matter.

Then something clicked: I realized how this fun routine would make applying sunscreen easier during summer. Each night after a bath, whether Juliana had chapped hands or not, we did cream on your hands. Then we expanded it to cream on your ears, neck, arms and belly. It worked! Juliana helps me put lotion on her body, and we have some giggles, too.

She now practices several skills: she knows her body parts, she coordinates movement over her mid-line when rubbing in the lotion (great for brain development), she bonds with me and, most importantly, she has fun applying sunscreen! When it is time to go outside now, we do what we’ve been practicing over the past couple of months: cream on your legs, cream on your elbows and cream on your nose. I love her independent spirit, and she is so empowered to help keep herself safe during the most sunshiny days.

Children’s Books About Inclusion and Diversity

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

good way to begin a dialogue with young children about inclusion and diversity is by listening to and reading stories. Engaging young children with stories of people from diverse cultures, backgrounds and races helps extend their understanding of familiar emotions and social behaviors by presenting them in new contexts, as well as providing them with opportunities to encounter emotions and social behaviors that they may not be exposed to in their everyday interactions within their families and communities. This helps promote critical thinking about bias, and it develops children’s ability to stand up for themselves and others in the face of bias 

The following is a compilation of books selected by members of the Educational Advisory Board as well as families who also sent us book ideas that they feel support the understanding of inclusion and empathy. Here is a list of 15 books to help launch important conversations: 

Infants and Toddlers

Who Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim is a tickle and giggle book with beautiful baby’s brown toes.

Whos Toes Are Those Book CoverTen Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox is a wonderful celebration of babies from all over the world.

Ten Littler Fingers and Ten Little Toes children's book cover

Dream Big Little One by Vashti Harrison shares the inspirational stories of powerful black women in history.

Dream Big Little One Children's Book Cover

Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora is a cheerful book that all babies will enjoy. 

PeekABoo Morning Children's Book Cover

Who? A Celebration of Babies by Robie Harris is just that, a wonderful book featuring babies’ first words. 

Who? Baby book cover

Preschoolers to Kindergarteners 

We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Kates (Sesame Street) supports young children’s understanding that although we are different in many ways, we are all the same inside. 

6-different-the-sameLovely by Jess Hong is a celebration of what makes everyone unique and how we all are lovely. 

Lovely child book coverThe Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson supports children as they work through the challenge of not feeling that they fit in or are fearful of new environments. 

The Day You Begin children's book cover

The Family Book by Todd Parr, focuses on how families, although often very different, are alike in love and caring for each other. 

The Family Book children's book cover

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, explores how children accept cultural differences such as names unfamiliar to them and learning acceptance and friendship. 

The Name Jar book cover

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët is a heart-warming story about caring for others and standing up to bullying. 

I walk with Vanessa book cover

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman sets the stage for understanding inclusion with a wonderful story about the children in a school. 

All Are Welcome book cover

Say Something by Peter Reynolds shows children how their voices are valued. 

Say Something Children's book cover

Skin Like Mine by LaTishia M. Perry celebrates diversity in an entertaining way for early readers. 

Skin Like Mine Book Cover

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester is a great book to help parents begin the dialogues with their children. 

Let's Talk About Race book cover

Check out more book recommendations from Goddard parents!

Goddard Parents’ Recommendations for Children’s Books about Diversity and Inclusion

We asked Goddard parents to send us their favorite books about diversity and inclusion to feature alongside the recommendations from our Educational Advisory Board. Here are some of their top picks:

*I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët is a heartwarming story about caring for others and standing up to bullying.

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*The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi explores how children come to celebrate cultural differences, such as names that are unfamiliar to them, and learn about acceptance and friendship.

The Name Jar book cover

The Little People Big Dreams series includes books about notable black men and women in history, such as the volumes Martin Luther King & Harriet Tubman by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Pili Aguado and Rosa Parks by Lisbeth Kaiser and Marta Antelo.

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Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel and Shane W. Evans is a book filled with joy and the freedom of expression in a young girl’s life.

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*All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman sets the stage for understanding inclusion with a wonderful story about the children in a school.

All Are Welcome book cover

I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo supports children in overcoming bullying and loving who you are.

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It’s Ok to Be Different by Sharon Purtill and Sujata Saha encourages young children to be kind and embrace the uniqueness of one another.

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*Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds shows children how their voices are valued.

Say Something Children's book cover

A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara teaches the alphabet by highlighting the importance of standing up for what you believe.

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Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw is an engaging tale of two pen pals from different cultures who share similar lives.

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*Also recommended by The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board

Click here for more book recommendations from our Educational Advisory Board.

Dad’s Important Role in Parenting

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

Fathers don’t mother, just as mothers don’t father. It is obvious from the start; they are less likely to use baby talk, choosing real words instead. They like their babies activated when they are interacting with them, while mom is more likely to comfort and cuddle tight. Play and surprise are more common in dad-infant interaction than with mom, who often prefers a soothing and regulating routine. Even the way a dad holds his baby, more commonly facing out than when mom does, hints at feeling his job might be different than hers – more of a let’s see what the world has for us today than I’ve got you safe and secure right here over my heart.  

Safety and security are huge concerns for today’s parents, both at home and in the wider world. So, which approach is more likely to raise a secure child? Both are, especially when woven together. Secure attachments between mothers and children seem most uniquely effective in providing comfort when the child is distressed. While fathers are committed to comforting their distressed children, there is a unique component to their interactions with their children. Fathers often provide security using shared, controlled excitement through sensitive and sometimes challenging You can do it! support as the child’s exploratory system gets stimulated by novelty. That roughhousing that is so common between men and their children serves a purpose; while it is fun and stimulating to both players, it also helps the father teach the child where the edge between play and trouble lies, No fingernails!  When the father lets the child wander off a little further than the mom might at the park, he’s allowing the child exploration and novelty, retrieving the child when something looms to threaten the security of such adventure. 

That distinction is worth celebrating this Father’s Day. It’s why dad is not just a stand-in for mom, who so often bears the weight of being the real parent. Helping children feel comforted when distressed is incredibly important to their sense of security and so is the support they feel from being fathered when they start looking for the world beyond mom’s arms.  

SoMoms and Dads, here are two tips to help you as you parent together: 

Moms – Support the fathering figures in your children’s lives with your appreciation and respect. They are not just subbing for you; they are your tag team in keeping your children secure and safe, not just from the world, but in it. 

Dads (biological and otherwise) – Turn off your devices and be in the moment with your children. They need to know, trust and feel the real you. Take your unique role as the securer of exploration seriously; they do. 

Keep Outdoor Play Simple: Let Nature Supply the Learning.

Dad and two small preschool children going on walk outside on a path

Daily walks or time spent outdoors have recently become part of many families daily routines as the benefits of time spent outdoorsincluding lowering stress levels and combating hyperactivity, are being experienced firsthand. As such, many parents and caretakers are looking for guidance on worthwhile outdoor activities for their children that don’t require a lot of planning or supplies. Below are some ideas for simple, quality outdoor activities that you and your children can do together that don’t require supplies or much planning. 

Activity One – Taking a Walk Outside 

Taking a walk may seem too simple to have any real benefits, but it has many. It is a great gross motor and physical activity for the whole family, especially those still perfecting their walking skills. Even for older children, taking a walk on uneven ground such as over roots in a wooded area or through a park with slopes, arched bridges or hills provides excellent opportunities to practice coordination and helps them learn to navigate varying terrains safely 

Activity Two – Counting Natural Items 

Head outside to your backyard, a nearby park or natural space. Have your children pick an item that they can see more than one of, such as trees, flowers, rocks or even wildlife. Have your children count how many of each item that they see. For infants, talk about what you see and count out loud to them. Older children may even want to practice adding or subtracting the numbers that correlate to different natural items. 

Activity Three – Watching Clouds  

Find an outdoor space with a clear view of the sky. Lay in the grass or on a blanket and ask your children what they see in the clouds. Point out anything that you see in the clouds. Does one cloud look like a dog and another like a tree? Ask your children what they know about whatever they see in the clouds to help develop their critical thinking skills, and identify areas of interest that you can explore together 

Activity Four – Taking a Thankful Walk 

Take a walk around your yard or community and point out natural items that you are thankful for to your children, such as I am thankful for the trees because they provide shade for us on hot, sunny daysI am thankful for the grass because it gives us a soft place to sit outside or I am thankful for the sun because it helps all of the plants to grow. Then ask your children to point out what they see around them that they are thankful for, and why. Depending on what your children point out, you can dive deeper into any topics that they show interest in and help them think critically about the natural world around them.  

Even the simplest of outdoor activities can have numerous benefits for both you and your children. Use your time spent outdoors as a chance to relax and enjoy some quality time together while the learning happens naturally 

Rorie Wells M.A., CPSI 

Education Facilities Specialist – Playgrounds 

Here’s What Your Children Are Learning While They’re at Home

man teaching preschool girl sitting at table with him teaching her math and letters

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

Many parents have expressed concerns over what their children may have lost in terms of education while schools have been closed. The parents fret that they haven’t had the time or experience to ensure their children are learning. Rest assured that learning doesn’t begin and end at school. There is a great deal of value in what you have been doing at home. 

A new survey by MumPoll of British parents reported four in five say their families have formed a closer bond during this time. The survey also revealed some parents are engaging in new activities with their childrenFor example, 28 percent of families reported picking up family gardening. Parents also said they are playing more games and puzzles together. 

Think about all of the learning taking place in those activities listed above. For example, puzzles and games help support mathematics, self-regulation, communication and science skills. Gardening supports science, develops motor skills and requires planning and organization. These may not be formal school lessons but they are definitely learning opportunities. 

In our Goddard At Home activities, we have focused on fun and engaging experiences that cover a variety of learning areas instead of one or two skills. We have purposely made it easy for families to select activities that work for their routines. Parents do not need to try to recreate school but rather focus on following their children’s interests and enjoying the activities. 

Parents have reported to us that they are seeing positive changes in their children over the past few months while they’ve been at home. This is especially true in language development, taking on more responsibility and being more self-confident. These skills will help children cope with change and be better prepared when they do return to school.  

The simple acts of reading a story, taking a walk or cooking together are all learning experiences building language, math, science, executive function and other skills. 

When you think of what your children are learning in this context, it can be a lot less stressful. You got this and your children are learning.  

 

 

Six Activities to Enjoy in the Summer Sun

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

Summer is a great time for outdoor play with your little one. There are many fun things to do that help support sensory integration, language development and fine and gross motor skills. Of course, there is also all that fresh air and sunshine, which is the best part! Here are six activities to enjoy in the summer sun.

  1. Water is great for sensory play. Water balloons, sprinklers, etc. Your child will love the textures. Sing a song as you play, describing what your child is doing. Try “Here we are playing in the water” song to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” Singing and talking while playing is terrific for early language development.
  2. Go for a walk in the backyard. Talk about what your little one sees and points to. Pick up flowers, leaves, stones and sticks. Let your child feel the items, but be careful your child doesn’t put the items in his or her mouth. Children learn by observing and experiencing new things. Your descriptions of the items will help your child build language skills as well.
  3. Enjoy early science activities without the mess. Get out some ice cubes and watch them melt while asking your child what happened to them. Or place ice cream in a sealed plastic bag and have your child play with it until it melts. Remember to talk about what is happening and repeat the activities a few times. Repetition supports learning and recognition of new objects.
  4. Messy art fun is perfect in the summer. Using finger paints and paper, encourage your child to use his or her feet and hands to create a design. The best part is you can clean up with a hose while enjoying the water play. Let your child hose you off as well!
  5. Set up an outdoor obstacle course using big cardboard boxes, blankets draped over a chair and other objects. Include your child’s favorite stuffed animal or a ball or two. Your child can then explore going in, under and around the items. Give simple directions such as “Roll the ball into the box” or “Let’s have Teddy go through the hoop.” Your child will build language and listening skills as well as work on gross motor development.

Five Books That Help Children Understand Different Types of Families

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

Listening to stories is an essential early literacy and social-emotional development activity that should begin in infancy. Stories help children learn about emotions and social behavior as well as new things they are not exposed to in their environments or communities. The characters within each story give children a framework for developing essential social skills – cooperation, collaboration, listening and taking turns. 

We often rely on storytelling to help children, and adults, understand new concepts or experiences. One of the topics that comes up often in early childhood education is different types of families. Younger children are more flexible about family structures but still may have questions when family structures appear different from their own. We selected a few books to help parents and teachers explain different family types.

Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden, illustrated by Sharon Wooding

molly's mom children's book cover

A young girl learns how to talk about her family with two moms in school. At first, it is difficult, but her teacher helps along the way. This story is very helpful for giving children ways to answer the question “Why do you have two moms?”

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson

Mommy, mamma and me children's book cover

We like this book because it goes through daily routines in a playful rhyming manner. It’s great for young ones! These artists also created a book entitled Daddy, Papa, and Me

The Family Book by Todd Parr

family book children's book cover

We love the fun illustrations in this book. It focuses on how families, although often very different, are alike in love and caring for each other. This is my go-to book for beginning conversations about families.

In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco

In our mother's house children's book cover

This is a story of family events with a family with two moms. It is full of fun and memorable family events along with acceptance within the neighborhood. It’s good for older children since it is a little long.

Home at Last by Vera B. Williams, illustrated by Vera B. Willams and Chris Raschka

Home at last children's book cover

This is a story about same-sex-parent adoption and a little boy. The dog is the best part of the story, helping the child feel at home. It’s great for adopted children. I read this to a class a few years ago and it really helped them understand the different types of families in the class.