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Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

Six Ways to Help Children Cope With Stress

Childhood can be a stressful time. Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and member of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, offers six tips on how to help children cope with stress.

  1. The most effective help comes from adults working to get a better grip on their own stress management. Better-rested and fed adults who try to get regular exercise, communicate and relax regularly with their children are the best models and teachers of stress Stressed Kidmanagement.
  2. Support one or two (not three or four) activities your child does that makes her feel good about herself. Positive self-regard can be great insulation against negative stress effects.
  3. Lose the junk comfort foods and have only healthy ones available.
  4. Monitor screen usage, and limit high-tension, high-speed games and puzzles. Such cheap thrills may result in expensive stress on the immature central nervous system.
  5. We all prefer being useful to stressing out, so use a calm tone when asking a stressed child to engage in, or help you with, a manageable chore.
  6. Help your child clean up one of his spaces in the home. This can show him that he too can control some of the mess that is stressing him out.

Five Ways to Foster Creativity

The ability to be creative and think outside the box is important for problem solving and innovation, which are highly valued abilities. Here are five ways to encourage creativity at home.

  1. Read to your child. Before you begin, ask your child to close his eyes and imagine the story as you read it. Afterward, ask your child to describe what he saw while you read.Art
  2. Put on a play. Create a story with your child and then act it out. Encourage her to dress up like the character she is playing by using old clothes, hats and accessories. You could even record her performance and turn her play into a movie.
  3. Establish a play space. Set aside part of the basement, a spare bedroom or a corner of the living room where your child can explore and discover whatever interests him. If it gets a bit messy, try to be lenient with him since this space is meant for free play.
  4. Encourage free play. Free play is exactly what it sounds like – unstructured play time, a time when your child can play however she likes in the dedicated play space you’ve set up for her.
  5. Inspire your child’s inner Picasso. Keep plenty of art supplies such as paper, paints, paintbrushes, markers, crayons and modeling clay available in case your budding artist decides to create a masterpiece.

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.

Hungry Minds: How Curiosity Drives Young Learners

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.

“Curiouser and Curiouser” cried Alice after she ate the cake, and then suddenly shot up in height “like the largest telescope, ever! Good-bye feet” she exclaimed!

For some children, that iconic scene, shortly after Alice lands in Wonderland, is their introduction to the term “curiosity.”  But for us — well, take a moment and see what comes to mind when you consider curiosity…

I recently did a random “man on the street” survey, asking for single-word responses, and found that people associate curiosity with many things. I heard the words necessary, intelligent, spark, engaged, open-minded, open-ended, creative detective, and seeker.

Personally, I’ve been consumed with curiosity for decades, believing that it is the secret sauce to learning and to a fulfilling life.  So what is curiosity?

Einstein’s comment, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious,” provokes even more questions:  Is curiosity a skill or a talent? Is it innate or learned? Can it be taught or cultivated? How does it shape how we learn, especially early learners? What is the primary role of curiosity?

Regardless of how curious we are about curiosity, it is difficult to study. However, contemporary neuroscience has revealed some insights.  In a study published in the October issue of the journal Neuron, psychologist and researcher Charan Ranganath at the University of California, Davis explains that the dopamine circuit in the hippocampus registers curiosity.

“There’s this basic circuit in the brain that energizes people to go out and get things that are intrinsically rewarding,” Ranganath explains. “This circuit lights up when we get money, or candy. It also lights up when we’re curious.” When the circuit is activated, our brains release dopamine, which gives us a high. “The dopamine also seems to play a role in enhancing the connections between the cells that are involved in learning.”

Ranganath’s research, covered in this fascinating piece in Mindshift, gives us a working definition of curiosity, as an intrinsic motivation to learn. It also presents us with an exciting challenge – how can we create learning environments and experiences that will engage young children and ignite their innate curiosity?

The early years are a window of opportunity for parents, caregivers and communities to encourage curiosity. And it really matters. Curiosity increases knowledge and knowledge makes learning easier.

Nurturing curiosity in ourselves and in young children is easy to do. Here are my top ten ideas for the home and the classroom:

  • Slow down: In an age of immediacy, slow things down and encourage discovery. “I am curious about,” or “just out of curiosity” are great conversation starters.
  • Don’t have all the answers: Declaring you don’t know something, but that you want to find out together is an invitation for curiosity.
  • Put kids in the driver’s seat: In classroom activities or at home, let kids make decisions – this leads to uncertainty quickly and will encourage exploration.
  • Get real: Curiosity can’t be nurtured in the abstract – it’s messy.  Get kids investigating a topic or solving a mystery.
  • Delve deep: Hold your own Boring Conference in class – it’s a fantastic one-day celebration of the obvious and the overlooked, subjects that become absolutely  fascinating when examined more closely.
  • Encouragement matters: Acknowledge a question by saying “That is a wonderful or interesting question.”
  • Talk shop: What, why, how? Let kids explore how things are made. “How Things Work” is a great example.
  • Identify role models: Curiosity is also highly contagious.  If you set the example for being curious you will be amazed at how the world changes. Also, seek out others doing interesting things.  Chances are they are using their curious natures to guide them.
  • Practice: Make a list of things you want to know more about and carve out a little time to explore.

As for curiosity being the secret for lifelong learning in the 21st century, the “New York Times” magazine recently profiled productive people from various fields, including politics, art and science, who were 80+ years old. When asked by the “New York Times” what kept him intuitive, architect Frank Gehry, still going strong at 85, said “…. stay curious about everything.”

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!

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Secure

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Feeling Secure, Included, Respected, Important and Accepted

According to Dr. Newmark, the fifth critical emotional need of children is the need to feel secure. Helping children feel secure means creating a positive environment where people care about one another and show it, express themselves, listen to others, accept differences, resolve conflicts constructively, provide structure and rules so that children to feel safe and protected and give children opportunities to participate in their own growth and the evolution of their family.

These important elements contribute to children’s sense of security:

  • Their Parents’ Relationship – When parents bicker, treat each other without respect and rarely show affection for each other, children experience anxiety and insecurity. If couples treated each other with the five emotional needs in mind, they would be better role models for their children.
  • A Caring, Affectionate Environment – Ob­serving affection between their parents and receiving affection from them is very important to children’s sense of security. The beginning and ending of the day, week, month and year present opportunities for regular demonstrations of affection toward your children. Remember to take care of yourself, too.
  • Traditions and Rituals – Establishing traditions and rituals for family celebrations and participating in family activities give children a sense of stability and security.
  • Their Parents’ Anxiety – Overprotective and excessively controlling parents often produce insecure, uptight, anxious children who carry some of these hang-ups and anxieties into adulthood.
  • Discipline – Children need structure to feel secure. Establish rules and consequences together. Avoid creating ambiguous expectations, implementing too many rules, creating inappropriate or excessive consequences, being inconsistent with the consequences and using physical punishment.
  • Self-Discipline – Encourage self-discipline so your children develop it. Allow your children to explore and experience the consequences of their actions. This way, they learn to anticipate negative consequences and exercise self-control to avoid them. If their parents are too controlling, children don’t have this opportunity.

Children need freedom as much as they need control. Being too protective can result in intimidated or rebellious children. Our goals are to protect them so they don’t suffer from their im­pulses and inexperience and to give them enough freedom to grow into confident, self-reliant, thoughtful, independent, caring and civic-minded individuals. Growing up in a positive and stable environment contributes to a child’s sense of security.

Satisfying children’s five critical emotional needs will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

Click here to read article one in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Respected.”

Click here to read article two in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important.”

Click here to read article three in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Accepted.”

Click here to read article four in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Included.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Included

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Feeling Included, Respected, Important,  Accepted and Secure

Feeling included is the fourth critical emotional need of children. They need to feel like they belong, they are a part of things, they are connected to other people and they have a sense of community. Children join cliques, clubs and teams to satisfy their need to belong.

People who do things together feel closer to one another. Family activities offer a way to become closer, have fun, learn and contribute to the happiness of others. Identifying strongly with the family unit makes children more resistant to negative outside influences and more open to positive role models within the family. Obviously, we can’t include children in everything, but we need to make a conscious effort to include our children when we decide on family activities. This way, the activities will that appeal to everyone. Regularly repeated activities can become traditions that further satisfy a child’s need to feel included and secure.

Including children in your work life has multiple benefits. Describe your work environment, your job duties, your co-workers and your feelings about your work and your fellow workers. If possible, take them to work and encourage them to ask questions and give their opinions. If you work at home or have your own business, introduce them to clients and co-workers and let them do some work for you and with you.

Communication is another key tool for helping children feel included.  Parent-child communications are often brief, dull or haphazard.  Consequently, despite their best intentions, caring parents may have little understanding of what their children are thinking or feeling. Meanwhile, children often feel misunderstood and puzzled by their parents’ actions and frustrated by what they feel are attempts to control and overprotect them. The challenge for parents is to move from sporadic, brief interchanges to a sustained and substantive dialogue. Family meetings and feedback sessions provide the settings and contexts for this dialogue to happen. These sessions should take place at a regular time. Let everyone share their thoughts and feelings and discuss how everyone feels the family is doing, how individuals are doing and what your family could be doing differently and better. Make a conscious decision to include children in choices, discussions and decisions in their everyday lives.

Next time we’ll address the need to feel secure.

Did your parents read to you every night or begin and end each day with a warm hug?

If you’ve divorced, do you ever say bad things about your children’s other parent? Are you cordial to each other in your children’s presence? Have you explained what happened without blaming the other parent and emphasized that the divorce was not the children’s fault?

Satisfying children’s five critical emotional needs will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

Click here to read article one in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Respected.”

Click here to read article two in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important.”

Click here to read article three in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Accepted.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Accepted

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Feeling Accepted, Respected, Important, Included and Secure

The third critical emotional need of children is to feel accepted. Accepting children means listening to them, trying to understand them and accepting their right to their own viewpoints, feelings, desires, opinions, concerns and ideas. If you condemn or ridicule children’s feelings or opinions, they may feel that something is wrong with them. When they feel that way, they are less likely to listen to you and let you influence them.

Children can feel rejected when their parents do the following:

  • Overreact or respond emotionally;
  • Try to suppress the child’s feelings;
  • Be overly critical.

Parents can help their child feel accepted by doing the following:

  • Accepting the child’s desires and discussing them amicably;
  • Understanding that feelings aren’t right or wrong and the child has a right to them. Parents should not try to talk a child out of his or her feelings;
  • Remembering not to sweat the small stuff;
  • Catching your child doing something right and praising the child for it.

Acceptance is not permissiveness. It doesn’t mean giving children free license to act in any way they wish. Remember the distinction between wants and needs. You never will be able to satisfy all of your child’s wants, and it would not be good for your child if you did. On the other hand, as parents, we must make every possible effort to satisfy our children’s critical emotional needs. Accept your children as people in their own right and act accordingly.

Consider the following:

Did your family do much together when you were growing up? Were you sent to your room when your parents had company? Were you protected from a truth that everyone knew but no one discussed?

Do you ask your child’s opinion on important things or ask how your child feels after a big family argument or event, such as a remarriage? Do you let your child listen to you and your spouse discuss anything significant?

Satisfying children’s five critical emotional needs will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

Click here to read article one in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Respect.”

Click here to read article two in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important.”

Five Tips for Teaching Good Citizenship

We all want what is best for our children. We want them to be healthy, well-educated and happy, and we want to encourage them to be upstanding, productive members of society. Here are five tips for teaching good citizenship to your children.Sisters

  1. Set a good example. If you’re heading to the polls on Election Day, take your child along to show him how the process works and how important voting is. If you’re at a park with your child and you spot some trash on the ground, pick it up and put in a garbage can. Set an example by performing random acts of kindness.
  2. Read books with a positive message. Books such as “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss and “The Legend of the Bluebonnet” by Tomie dePaola encourage compassion and generosity toward others. Reading age-appropriate biographies about inspiring figures from history can also provide role models for children.
  3. Help your children sort through their old toys and choose items to donate. Take younger children to a clothing drive or food bank to help sort items. For older children, try to find something that speaks to their interests. For example, if your child likes animals, take him to volunteer at an animal shelter or SPCA.
  4. Discuss current events. Age-appropriate discussions about current events can help to get children interested in and passionate about what is going on in the world.
  5. Use a chore chart. Ask your child to perform simple chores around the house. List the tasks on a chart and draw a star or place a star sticker on the chart next to each completed chore. When a certain number of stars is accumulated (say, ten), reward him with a treat.

Five Tips for Developing Healthy Learning Habits

  • Encourage play. Playing alone and with others not only builds brain development, it also helps children develop social skills and a sense of ethics. The most effective play is free of evaluation and correction (after all, throwing a ball shouldn’t be “right” or “wrong”), while promoting autonomy.
  • Play together. In addition to their ABCs and 123s, preschool children are learning and developing life skills that will shape who they grow into as adults.  One of these building blocks is learning to play well with others and accepting one another’s differences.
  • Get adequate sleep and proper nutrition. Your child will do their best if they get to sleep early and eat a healthy breakfast each day before school. A daily diet of junk food is not compatible with learning. It can cause listlessness and hyperactivity, which can impair a child’s ability to learn. Skipping breakfast, especially, is a detriment to a child’s education.
  • Continue year-long education. Routine provides structure, which is often lacking during the summer months when children all too quickly become detached from the lessons they learned throughout the school year.  Maintaining a schedule throughout the summer supports an environment that is less of a contrast to the classroom and provides a healthy balance between building skills, play and rest.
  • Turn off the screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to avoid television and other electronic media for children two years of age and younger. Time spent in front of a computer, TV, video game or other similar devices can interfere with schoolwork, physical activity, curious exploration, social interaction and play.