{     Offering the Best Childhood Preparation for Social and Academic Success.     }

Archive for December, 2020

Engaging Games to Develop Leadership Skills

two children playing with puzzle

By Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

All children have the potential to build leadership skills. Developing these skills boosts self-confidence, supports communication skills and helps children organize their thoughts and learn to collaborate. Beginning at an early age builds a foundation for essential social-emotional development.

Playing games is an easy way for families to support the development of social and leadership skills. Children learn to cooperate with others, present their own ideas and take turns – all part of becoming leaders. Here are five of my favorite games to help you get started.

1. Puzzles – Puzzles are a great way to learn to take turns and solve a problem together. Work with your child on which pieces go where, ask for help from each other and encourage your child to try pieces in different positions.

2. Construction – Get out blocks, clay and recycled materials. Ask your child to help you build something. Encourage your child to decide what you will build, who will do what and what materials you could use.

3. Design a New Game – Your child can get creative by taking a familiar game and developing a few new rules. Play the game together while your child explains the new rules. For example, while playing I Spy, the new rule may be that you only spy things that are red. When playing a board game, try changing how many times a person can roll the dice.

4. The Classic Egg Game – This classic leadership game can be played with other family members and friends. Split the group into pairs. Each pair gets an egg. The goal is to move the egg across the room. The pairs need to be creative. The rules can be that you cannot just hold the egg and walk it across the room, that both players need to be involved and that you must use a tool of some sort to move the egg. The less restrictive the rules are, the more creativity you’re encouraging.

5. Follow the Leader – There are many ways to mix up the activities in this game. Get moving, and give it a try. Start by asking your child to give you two- or three-step directions. Take turns giving directions and following each other. Set a goal, such as moving in a circle or moving to the end of the driveway with 10 unique moves.

National Cuddle Up Day

Family cuddling on sofa

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

National Cuddle Up Day encourages us to snuggle up with someone for the health benefits and more.

I’m not sure that I was prepared sufficiently in the run-up to adulthood to understand the lasting importance of a simple act families do every day, nor did I appreciate the science behind it. This involves parents interacting with their children of any age, sometimes with specific intent, and other times intuitively or unconsciously. However and whenever it happens, it has many important short- and long-term benefits for physical and emotional health and, can I add, it is wonderful. As we snuggle in for National Cuddle Up Day this January 6 and beyond, let us reflect on the shared benefits of cuddling with our children.

To count as a hug or a snuggle and to have the desired emotional effect, you must make physical contact and give a loving, nurturing squeeze for about 8 seconds or more, according to research. For the recipient (and very likely, the giver), a loving hug promotes the release of oxytocin, known variously as the ‘feel-good’ or ‘affection’ hormone. Indeed, we know that oxytocin promotes several important biological processes that are immensely important to a growing child. It promotes the release of hormones that boost growth, bolster immunity and lower inflammation. Quite literally, cuddles can help your child get bigger and stronger.

In turn, frequent cuddles and snuggles in families are associated with children who have less anxiety during their childhood and teenage years. This may be due, in part, to the unspoken messages hugging and handholding can convey, including the love, appreciation and feeling valued by their family and loved ones. We know that in children who receive little or no nurturing contact, a lack of hugs and snuggles over time leads them to have lower cognitive scores and a higher risk of behavioral and emotional problems.

Snuggling promotes health, and it benefits everyone involved most when it is engaged in on a regular basis and in a loving manner. Snuggles are not a chore but a joy. Find ways to connect with your little ones and, if it helps your reluctant tween or teen, get the family dog or cat involved. Plunk down on the couch and hang out. Hold hands and take a walk. Sit side by side and scratch your child’s back as you read a story together. Do whatever works for you and your crew.

Over time, children who find snuggles to be comforting may be more likely to develop some inner resilience, and that helps them appreciate the importance of connection and contact with their loved ones. Snuggles may last only moments, and you may need to make time in your busy day to make them happen. However, this National Cuddle Up Day, feel inspired by the fact that the goodness of hugs can make an impact over a lifetime.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging – In Recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

As we reflect on the events of 2020, the recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes even more important. How can we help our children live in a world that represents his dream?  Many parents of our youngest learners ask us where they should start. 

Children learn social behaviors and attitudes in many ways – through observing others, using dramatic play, modeling the behaviors of adults and siblings, and considering stories and their characters. Sharing books and bringing the narrative into the forefront supports children in applying the lessons they learned to real-life situations.We thought we would help you get started by selecting five engaging books for infants and toddlers and five for preschoolers and kindergarteners. It is never too early to build a fountain for understanding others working toward anti-bias and inclusion. 

Infants and Toddlers 

Babies around the World by author Puck and illustrator Violet Lemay 

Babies around the world children's book cover

Wonderful images of friendly babies from across the world are seen throughout this book. The book shows children in New York, London, Paris, Cairo, Beijing, Tokyo and more. The added feature of greetings in their language is fun for our littlest learners to repeat.  The English translations are a bonus as well.  Babies around the World is a great place to start viewing the broader world.  

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by author Mem Fox and illustrator Helen Oxenbury 

Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes Children's Books

The images in this colorful book will bring a smile to all children.  It helps children connect to who they are and builds awareness of how similar we all are. What a wonderfully visual way to begin to show how while we may look a bit different from one another we all have ten fingers and ten little toes!  

 Everywhere Babies by author Susan Meyers and illustrator Marla Frazee 

Everywhere Babies

In Everywhere Babies, rhythmic and rhyming language takes the reader through the everyday activities of babies. Depicting a diverse range of families, the book shows babies in all their glory:eating, playing, moving and, ultimately, showing they are valued for being just who they are. 

 Who? – A Celebration of Babies by author Robie H. Harris and illustrator Natascha Rosenberg 

Who-a-celebration of babies all babies

Who? provides a terrific way to engage babies and toddlers in the relationships with people around them.  The rhythmic verse and beautiful images make the book one they will want you to share over and over again.  

 Baby Faces by author Margaret Miller 

Baby Faces All faces

What do the expressions for yucky, yum-yum, stinky, uh-oh, boohoo and yippee look like? This book provides reallife, closeup pictures of infants with a bunch of different facial expressions that infants can make along with simple wordplay expressions to support language development. This is a simple yet effective book for helping infants learn about themselves and have positive reading experiences.  

 Preschoolers to Kindergarteners 

Same, Same but Different by author and illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw 

Same Same but different

Two boys explore each other’s lives while becoming pen pals. They learn what they have in common and what might be different. They soon learn that they have become close friends even though it might seem they live in different worlds at first.Same, same but different becomes different, different but the same. 

 My Two Moms and Me by author Michael Joosten and illustrator Izak Zenou 

My two moms and me different families

This story follows various children and their two moms. Each child describes what the moms do and compares their interests to what the child likes to do. It is fun to see how self-confident each child is. As you follow the children throughout the day, the children highlight their own talents. The story is full of the love within each family. 

 All Are Welcome by author Alexandra Penfold and illustrator Suzanne Kaufman  

All are Welcome Inclusion

School is a wonderful place to gather with friends, learn new skills, play and have fun. Everyone is welcome and everyone has a place in this delightful rhyming story about a multicultural school. The focus is on helping children understand that everyone can be welcomed and accepted for who they are.

The Day You Begin by author Jacqueline Woodson and illustrator Rafael Lopez 

The day you begin Children's Books

This beautiful story shows children how interesting their lives really are. It is okay to be different.Even though it may feel awful at times, you will soon find your way. The story highlights the interactions of a variety of children and how they cope with changes in friendships. The day you begin is the day you start to find similarities and celebrate differences. 

 Be Kind by author Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrator Jen Hill  

Be Kind Children's Books

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better and wonders,What does it mean to be kind? From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, the choices highlighted in this moving story explore what kindness is and how any act, big or small, can make a difference or at least help a friend.

Routines Are Essential after the Holidays

bedtime routine reading

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

Nate, the young father of 30-month-old Seth, had participated in a research project of mine that focused on co-parenting issues unique to preschoolers. He loved his first-born “more than he’d ever loved anything,” but he’d felt “out of my comfort zone” for most of Seth’s life. Then, it changed. “Doc, we just saw this movie that explained everything you’ve been trying to get me to understand about routines and toddlers. Now I get it!” The movie was Groundhog Day. The lesson was that repeating the same routines prepares us for changes, which we can then handle better. Life with young children is nothing if not change, often at a pace that confounds us slow-growing adults.

After the holidays, it is hard to get back into routines, but that is exactly what will relieve stress, create calm and get things under control. In general, waking up, eating, playing, sleeping and then doing these things all over again is the infrastructure of children’s routines. The sequence matters more than the time allotted to each activity. Familiar soft toys or blankets, foods, toys, games, songs, diapering routines and bathing routines all smooth the journey for both the child and the parent because they are comforting and restorative.

Here are some tips to help you back into your routines:

  • Routines need some stretch, so don’t be dogmatic, and be playful. Our preschoolers loved family picnics in their play spaces;
  • Talking with children about routines as “just the way we do things” can reduce power struggles over who is the boss of what happens next in the day, including when to go to sleep;
  • As the children learn the rhythm, parents can back off a bit so that the children can enjoy the fullness of being in charge of themselves for a while, but we all learn the price, especially over the holidays, of backing off too far. Flexibility is appropriate, but the sequence rules;
  • All this can make it seem that the earlier routines are established, the better. It takes time and a lot of watching and input from spouses and friends before we can see patterns emerge, and they will if you feed your children when they are hungry, change them when it’s needed and put them to bed when they are tired. Soon, your child will be eating at the time when she is usually hungry, seeking a play partner at the time when she is usually social and drifting off at the time when she is usually sleepy. Bingo! This fairly predictable pattern has become a routine. To push your own agenda too early means you will spend far more time managing meltdowns than you would have spent building and maintaining routines;
  • It’s the unpredictable changes that come along in life, such as deaths, friends moving away, sicknesses or the losses of pets, that are the hardest times for families, so practicing manageable change in the structure of routines helps families prepare for those inevitabilities.

How Small Children Can Make a Big Difference

children's hands playing piano

By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

In my last blog, I wrote about ways to help children cultivate an attitude of gratitudeDr. Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti, a colleague who studies positive psychology, recently told me that people who are more grateful also tend to be more optimistic, be more hopeful, have higher life satisfaction and be more empathetic. I hope that you’ve been trying some of the ideas that I shared! As it turns out, focusing on the good in our lives is only one way to reap these positive social-emotional benefits. Another way is to give to others in ways that support them without expecting anything in return. Today, I’ll share some ideas for how to get children of all ages involved in giving back to help their communities. 

Intergenerational Caring and Sharing  Now that families are traveling to see each other less often, seniors may be feeling especially lonely and disconnectedMake it a family goal to add cheer to the year for neighbors who may be struggling. Sara Bartlett is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on the benefits of intergenerational relationships for mental health and well-beingShe has shared some ideas for how families with young children can bring joyful moments to seniors who must socially isolate during this time 

  • Letters and Drawings  Encourage children to write letters or draw pictures, and mail them to local nursing homes or drop them off in older neighbors’ mailboxesYou may even spark a penpal relationship and receive letters back;  
  • Performances – Invite your children to play musical instruments, dance or perform a short skit from the driveway or porch for an older adult who watches nearby; 
  • Shared Storytelling  Ask children to practice their storytelling skills by sharing a story with an older adult over Zoom or FaceTime or, perhaps, invite the older adult to read with the child;  
  • Surprise Packages  Involve children in creating care packages with puzzle books, catalogs, jigsaw puzzles, art supplies or other items to be placed safely on someone’s stoop or delivered to elder care facilities. 

Caring for Others in Outdoor Places and Spaces – An abundance of research links developmental benefits to connections with nature. Although the pandemic limits visits to indoor spaces, families can still safely engage in outdoor activities, and they can do so in ways that help others in their communities.  

  • Community Clean Up – Cleaning up litter in your neighborhood or local parks can be safe and fun for children – just bring a plastic bag and gloves. Be sure to set rules in advance about what can and cannot be touched safely;  
  • Encouragement Rocks!  Invite children to spend some time painting rocks to scatter around the neighborhood for other people to find. Older children can paint encouraging words and phrases on their rocks, and younger children can paint with colors that they think will make others feel cheerful; 
  • Good Deed Day – Offer to do your neighbors a favor by pulling weeds in their yards, planting a small garden or making and hanging a bird feeder near their windows. These easy and fun activities will leave your children feeling like helpers and make other people a little happier during this difficult time.   

Pro tip – If you want your preschool-aged children to be enthusiastic about helping others, start by calling them helpersIn a recent study, children were more likely to offer spontaneous help to others when researchers told them, Some children choose to be helpers,” than when they said, “Some children choose to help.” This wording helps children begin to think of themselves as the kind of person who helps, and this encourages prosocial behavior. 

I hope you enjoy these ideas for how to engage in being thankful and giving!