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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Jogging Memories with a Journal

As your children begin to learn to write, encourage them to keep a journal. This practice will enhance their arithmetic skills while allowing them to create memories from their childhood. Many of us might not have clear memories of when we were young. By encouraging your little ones to record their favorite remembrances and exciting milestones, they will have pages of memories on which to reminisce.

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Begin by asking your children to write a great, funny or inspiring thing that happens to them each day. Doing this will also boost their moods by noting uplifting things that are surfacing in their lives.

Five Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

1. It develops the ability to sympathize with others. Once we understand how difficult it can be to learn a second language, we begin to see how people who come to America knowing very little English must Feeling empathy encourages our little ones to develop patience at an early age.

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2. It inspires interest in other cultures. It’s natural for children to want to understand more about the people who speak the language they are learning. Learning the language will increase your child’s ability to retain information about the cultures and customs of the people who speak that language.

3. It provides a great opportunity for career advancement in the future. In many career paths, knowing more than one language creates more opportunity for job positions. Incorporating a foreign language at this young age will increase your child’s ability to retain the second language.

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4. It enriches travel experiences. If your family loves to travel, learning the language of the country where you visit will enhance your experience. You will be able to interact more easily with the people who live there. Encourage your little one to find a pen-pal from a different culture.

5. It develops awareness of tone in music. When children hear tonal foreign language sounds, it increases their ability to understand music pitches, especially with Mandarin (a language spoken in China). Your little one will not only be well-versed in a foreign language but in music as well.

What languages are your children learning?

How to Create a Story with Your Child

Many parents read stories to their children. But have you ever created a story with your child? Crafting a story with your child helps boost creativity, literacy and critical thinking skills. It is also a great opportunity to bond with your child, and it’s a lot of fun. Here are the four steps to creating a story.

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  1. Create two or three characters. Make a character checklist with your child to flesh out the characters. Are your characters boys or girls? What kinds of food do they like? How old are they? What do they do well? What do they not do well? Where do they live? How do they know each other? This is a good starting point for coming up with interesting characters, but feel free to give your characters additional attributes.
  2. Give them something to do. All characters should want something, even if it’s just to get ice cream. Once you figure out what your characters want, have them try to obtain it.
  3. Put obstacles in their way. If your characters want ice cream, for example, and are trying to get to the ice cream parlor or supermarket, put obstacles in their way. The obstacle, in this case, could be the simple problem of not knowing the way to the ice cream parlor or supermarket. Stories come from the characters having to overcome challenges to achieve their objectives.
  4. Write the story down. If your child isn’t old enough to write the story down, write it down for him. You could even paste those pages in a scrapbook, turning your story into a keepsake.

Five Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Disappointment

Disappointments happen to everyone, and there is no way to avoid all of them. Here are five ways to help your child cope with disappointment.

  1. Be there, but give him space. Children react to disappointment differently. Depending on Girlwhether your child is extroverted or introverted, he might want a hug and a pat on the back, or he might want to be left alone for a little while. Wait until he comes to you to comfort him.
  2. Turn a negative into a positive. Reframing a setback in a positive light can help to alleviate your child’s disappointment. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” (Elkhorne, 1967, p. 52). Looking at a mistake or disappointment as a learning experience can benefit your child’s development.
  3. Try to take your child’s mind off it. Suggest an activity that your child enjoys to help cheer her up. You could also suggest going on an outing. If these don’t appeal to her, let her know that the offers are on the table if she changes her mind.
  4. Set a good example. If your child sees you handle disappointment with dignity, he might, too. Taking responsibility when you make mistakes shows your child that you’re okay and that disappointment happens to everybody.
  5. Watch what you say. Try not to downplay your child’s disappointment or say something like, “That’s life.” Instead, ask your child questions about how she’s feeling or about what happened. Offer to talk through it if she wants.

References

Elkhorne, J. L. (1967, March). Edison: The Fabulous Drone. 73, 46(3), 52.

Language and Literacy Series: Talking with our Hands – A Hidden Key to Learning!

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 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 HMH’s blog.

It just amazes me the way newborn babies come into the world as natural communicators. After their first wail, they exhibit an increasing variety of gestures and sounds; quickly becoming full-bodied, kinesthetic communicators, successfully letting us know their needs and desires through a barrage of gestures and gesticulations.

Throughout his/her early growth spurts, a young child’s gesture vocabulary expands in complex and Handsfascinating ways.  Children begin with what is called deictic gestures (pointing at actual objects), and metaphoric gestures (movements in space to represent an abstract idea, such as gesturing upward to indicate “high”).  Then, as their use of language and vocabulary become more fluid, they begin to slowly connect words to objects and abstract thoughts.  Little ones form a fully integrated relationship between gestures and words as they grow from toddlers to preschoolers. This relationship with language will continue to be refined throughout life.

Recent research in language acquisition has revealed just how important gestures are in supporting word acquisition, as well as in other learning areas, including math.  The Goldin-Meadow Laboratory at the University of Chicago, headed by Susan Goldin-Meadow, is an important research hub for the exploration of the role and value of gestures. The lab focuses on topics related to cognition, development, education and linguistics, including the study of non-verbal communication, like gestures.

In a 2011 TexXUChicago TED Talk, Goldin-Meadow makes the case that gestures not only reveal what is on a child’s mind, but can also help change a child’s mind in order to support instruction and learning. This exciting discovery reinforces and supports our innate impulse to use gesture as a way to convey meaning.

Families can play an active role in word recognition and vocabulary skills simply by incorporating gestures, creative movement and meaningful play experiences into a child’s world, whether at home or on the go! Here are five easy activities that use gesture to generate vocabulary practice and boost literacy skills over time.

  1. Trust your instincts: Use your own hands to gesture with your children.  It’s not clowning around, it’s communicating! And nothing works better than modeling.
  2. Words and actions go together: When reading, encourage your child to point to images and identify them not only with words and sounds, but also by making shapes with their hands/bodies.
  3. Sing along: When in the car, play simple songs that encourage children to use gesture and movement. There are a ton of great silly songs – remember “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”?
  4. Play: Encourage make-believe play where kids are given the opportunity to pretend and act out ideas.
  5. Practice: Try ‘Simon Says’ using gestures.  Practice is fun and it reinforces word and object recognition.

Whether you start with simple hand gestures or animated body language, by incorporating these elements into play and daily routine, you’ll be supporting your child’s literacy growth right in your own home!

Language and Literacy Series: Context, Conversation and Non-Verbal Clues

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 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 HMH’s blog.

Young children are natural experts when it comes to learning critical skills. Unlike ot072O4649her mammals, babies need adult help for nearly everything. In their first year, while kittens are already batting at mice and colts are walking on their own, young humans are studying and mimicking their parents. Children come to understand that their survival depends on learning from their families and environments. As they acquire language skills, little ones become attuned to using words and gestures to help express what they feel and to get what they need.

In 1995, University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley published a seminal study on vocabulary acquisition in preschool aged children, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. Hart and Risley spent over two years studying the lives of 42 families of varied socioeconomic backgrounds, discovering substantial differences in how families spoke with children and how many words children were exposed to regularly. This research underscored the core principle that exposure to language early and often is crucial in preparing young children for success and closing achievement gaps at the elementary school level.

But language is not only about verbal skills and words. Context, gesture and environmental awareness are key factors in the way humans communicate, and young learners pay close attention here as well.

Erica Cartmill, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCLA, has produced fascinating research on the dynamic relationship between early social interactions and infant communicative development. Her research reinforces the theory that preschool vocabulary is a major predictor of school success, with particular focus on the role that both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication play in language acquisition. She notes that gesture in particular is an essential tool for children before they are fluid with verbal language.

As we can easily imagine, most of the words very young children acquire are derived from their parents’ vocabulary. But more than hearing words, the non-verbal clues that parents give toddlers about words are part of the context of learning, and influence the depth of children’s vocabularies upon entering school.

As parents and caregivers, we can take advantage of the experiences we share with our children to support language acquisition, especially if we keep in mind their perspective.

Here are our top six practical, everyday suggestions to help boost vocabulary in early learners:

  • See Something, Say Something: Describe things that are happening as they are happening, e.g. “Here comes a dog,” as opposed to “We’re going to see a dog.” Children have been shown to learn words more quickly when they can see and feel the object, as opposed to an abstract word with no apparent context.
  • Be Descriptive: Encourage children to describe what they see. Typically when we point out objects to young children, for example a cow, car, boat, etc., we get stuck on nouns. Invite descriptions including shape and color (adjectives) and movement (verbs).
  • Practice Anytime, Anywhere: Take advantage of time in the car or at the supermarket to practice word play, pointing out objects of interest as you talk about them to help provide immediate context and explanation.
  • Provide Feedback: Reflect back what children say to you. This confirms their experience and affirms their ability to have a successful conversation.
  • Use Non-Verbal Clues: Remember; children are sensitive to gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and other non-verbal actions, both in conversation and in educational situations.
  • Offer Positive Reinforcement: When children are pointing at people or objects, validate and name them.

Staying Connected and Enriching Lives

The Goddard SchoolStaying connected with family members who live in different parts of the country and different parts of the world is easier than ever, but young children often act shy when they are asked to come to the phone to say hello or to smile for the camera during a video call.

We want to make these special times meaningful because young children benefit from their relationships with their extended family. Grandparents and other family members can be great role models and influences, and they provide a sense of cultural heritage and family history.

We have compiled the following tips to help your little ones feel more connected to their grandparents no matter how far away they are.

  • Have a regular call time. Remind your child about the call early in the day and a few minutes before the call. Children may be reluctant to talk when they aren’t prepared and the call interrupts their play;
  • Plan on a special activity they can do during the video call, such as reading a book together or drawing their favorite animal and sharing it on the call;
  • Have a show and tell session. You and your child can discuss something that happened earlier that day or week and show photos or artwork from the event;
  • Ask your child’s grandparents to help your child plan what they will do together on the next visit. You can mark it on a calendar with your child later;
  • Ask your child’s grandparents to play peekaboo with or sing to your very young children.

Of course, these tips also work for face-to-face meetings. Have fun creating new memories, and don’t forget to record them!

Preventing Bullying from an Early Age

To ensure our children treat others fairly and speak up when they see a peer being bullied, we should start teaching them these behaviors while they are young and build on their natural ability to show empathy. Empathy, a key tool in dealing with and preventing bullying, shows up as early as the toddler years (picture a toddler offering a hug or a stuffed animal to a friend who feels sad).

Recently, a Harris poll found that two-thirds of parents worry about their young children being bullied. This result should inspire us to have deeper conversations on this subject and develop new and creative ways to educate and inform our youngsters about what bullying really is, how they can prevent it and how to find the appropriate channels for reporting it if or when it occurs.

Bullying Versus Typical Behavior

Bullying differs from typical day-to-day conflicts. Toddlers are starting to explore their independence and using their new vocabulary to assert it. If a peer tries to play with a toy they want, the back-and-forth “mine!” game begins. This is typical toddler behavior. Bullying involves behavior that is aggressive, intentional and intended to intimidate a specific peer. Determining what is bullying and what normal behavior is for toddlers is difficult because young children are still learning right from wrong and acceptable play behavior.

Fostering Empathy and Teaching Children to Speak Up

As parents, our duty is to foster empathy in our children. We can pay close attention to small acts of kindness our children display, praise them for being considerate and encourage them to speak up when someone is being mistreated. Since bullying is fueled by silence, we can help stop it by teaching our children to treat others kindly and speak up at appropriate times.

Supporting Your Child’s Friendships

The Goddard SchoolWhen children outgrow the ‘mine’ stage and begin to share with others and make friends, these new friends will occasionally argue over a toy or game. As parents, we are often tempted to solve the problem for our children or talk with the other child’s parent. While this may calm things down for the moment, it does not help our children learn the give and take of a friendship.

Help children learn to solve problems themselves with the following proven steps.

  1. Talk about the situation to help your child understand the other child’s point of view. “I guess Kyle wants a turn, too.”
  2. Stay calm and let your child know that hitting, grabbing and shoving hurt other people. “You hurt me when you grab the toy, and I don’t like that.”
  3. Model sharing for your child and congratulate your child when he takes turns or shares a toy. “Wow, you guys are having fun. I like watching you play together!”
  4. Be nearby. Watch and guide the children as they solve conflicts. Once the children resolve the conflict, step in and praise the children. Having an adult close by puts the children on their best behavior, and developing good social skills leads to fun and enjoyable play dates with friends.
  5. Don’t overwhelm your child with play dates. Hold your first play dates with friends your child feels comfortable with and have several activities ready. During the play date, let the children choose which activity to do.
  6. Have bedtime talks and read stories. Talk about the friendships your child is building and read books on friendship. Children learn how others cope in social situations through stories.

Talking Differences

What do we do when our preschooler asks about someone’s physical disability? What do we do if any of our children have a physical ailment and someone has questions? How would we want other people to talk to our children about the children’s condition? How would we want the children to react to people who stare or ask them awkward questions? With the help of Goddard School parent, SooAnn Roberts Pisano, who is the mother of a child with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), we are providing some tips for teaching our children appropriate ways to approach someone with a visible disability or ailment.

Society and tradition have taught us that staring and pointing is rude, and typically it is. However, SooAnn Roberts Pisano points out that teaching our children not to stare “does not teach us to see with our eyes in the same way we would naturally. It essentially instructs us to pretend like you have zero interest at all in what we are seeing and try to appear as natural as possible. It instructs us to remain ignorant about what we do not understand.”  We don’t need to allow staring, but we do need to explain to our children that taking an interest in others and seeking to understand their disabilities or differences is important.

How do children with disabilities or conditions that make them appear different than others deal with the stares and questions? While no solution works in all situations, Pisano developed some simple tips from her personal experiences, comments from adults with disabilities and parents of children with special needs. These can help us approach people with disabilities and educate ourselves and our children to embrace and understand differences.

  • Smile. When you catch yourself staring at someone, smile at the person in acknowledgment. Teach your children to smile at people they see and not to fear those who look different.
  • Ask, “May I ask you about ____?” When you notice someone with a disability or a genetic disorder, show interest and respect by asking them about themselves.
  • Let the person say no. If the person doesn’t want to talk about his or her situation, he or she will let you know. The person might tell you where you can find more information.
  • Use the K.I.S.S. principle and Keep It Short and Simple. Never use questions like “What’s wrong with him?” This can be highly offensive. A person may have a disability or a genetic disorder, but that does not mean there is something wrong with him or her as a person.  A better question to ask may be “May I ask you about your son/daughter’s skin/bandages/condition?” If you are the parent of a child with a disability or genetic disorder, keep your explanations short and simple. Any detailed explanation or any explanation involving medical jargon may confuse the listener. Keeping your explanation simple will help your child learn how to talk about his or her condition if you are not around.
  • Say thank you. If you’re the one asking the question, thank the disabled person for letting you ask. If you’re the one being asked, thank the questioner for asking. Even if the question results in the most awkward conversation you have ever had, these conversations help us fight ignorance instead of passively promoting it.

This is not a simple subject. Conversations about disabilities can be awkward, but we shouldn’t avoid them and remain ignorant about those around us. We can make a better society by taking an interest in those around us, teaching our children how to ask someone about their appearance or disability in a polite manner and embracing that people’s differences make our world amazing, inspiring and bright. The next time we find ourselves staring at someone, we should choose to understand that person’s situation rather than ignore it.

This article was adapted from an original article written by SooAnn Roberts Pisano for the Confetti Skin, Beauty Within website. She adds, “I hope this prov[id]es a tiny drop towards a ripple effect that gets us to talk to each other, even if it’s done in all the wrong ways.  After all, while saving face is nice, learning is what’s most important.”