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Archive for the ‘Educational Advisory Board’ Category

Preventing Screen Brain for Children Over the Holidays

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

As in changing any behavior, one might anticipate howling protests prior to separation from devices from children or teens. The equivalent of the primal yawp, or NOOOOO!. I advise parents to be steadfast and clear, and define the limits (no screens means…zero screens), and make these borders non-negotiable when possible. Pushback from the peanut gallery may amount to carryings-on, kvetching, complaining, loud grousing, grumblings, mumblings and bitter statements meant to be overheard. I’d recommend meeting these with the professional cool of an airline attendant sharing a long delay. “We apologize for the hardship, but let’s do the best we can to work together to make the journey enjoyable…” is the vibe I’d go for. Whinging is best ignored, quote the law and move on. Kids will eventually follow.

Card play, board games, or lively ‘parlor game’ type activities, like pictionary or team based activities can get kids out of their grouchy headspace and distracted (or dragged) and into the shared activity. In the case of my kids, this could sometimes take a round or two of play,  to clear the cobwebs and distraction of getting back to their device. Like many kids, they didn’t always want to, but they should be committed to a reasonable amount of time to engage that feels sufficient (15 minutes), and soon enough they moved on and got lost in the game. During such evenings, I’d argue, that ALL screens are best valet parked for the duration, and at least for the evening.

 

How to Limit Children’s Sugar Intake During the Holidays

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

As the holidays come upon us, and the cornucopia of delectable desserts and candies and sweet offerings become ubiquitous from late October through Valentine’s Day, consider the following strategies on managing how much is too much for young children in terms of junky food and sugary snacks.

Is it excessive to sequester them to the kids’ table, where they might only access kale chips and dried fruit? Perhaps.

What is most important is stepping back for a moment, and thinking holistically. How many sweet or junky (and no doubt, delicious) foods or drinks do children consume on a typical day? Parents should have a sense of what a child eats. Keeping a food diary for 2 to 3 days may provide an informative snapshot towards that end.

For those kiddos who consume a larger amount of sweetened drinks, candy and junk food (say, several times a week), their parents may want to be more mindful and more vigilant in general, and work as a family to define what is reasonable. Resources like myplate.gov offer some nice resources to start that conversation. And, I’d reckon, a fair number of families may find that their children take in more sugary calories than they think.

So what to do for the holidays, then? A more pragmatic and sustainable approach of limiting sweets and sugary foods tends to eliminate free-range access to candy dishes and cabinets of findable goodies. Simply, don’t buy or leave these items around. They will be found!

Rather, during holiday gatherings, when the breaking of bread and sharing of food becomes a focal point of many family bonding sessions, buy them then, and perhaps in less mega quantity than wholesale brands would have you think you need. And, for the day or two that friends and family are about, set some ground rules and ease up a little. Perhaps if a child finishes a reasonable portion, then they earn a reasonably portioned dessert. Keep it conversational, and children will engage–and even cherish–times when the treats are allowed, and they are given a little liberty to indulge. Done thoughtfully, perhaps sharing that ‘special rules apply’ on these special days, children will understand. Limits will be set. Goodies will be had!

Bon appétit!

How To Get Your Little Ones To Try New Foods

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

Getting toddlers and preschoolers to try new foods, or say, eat their vegetables (gasp) is about as easy as getting a newborn to sleep on a schedule or getting a teen to do her chores without being asked a second time. Until they’re 10-12 months or so, children will usually try foods of all types and tastes and textures with gusto, having little fussiness or particularity about texture or taste. In truth, some families have toddlers who are excellent consumers of what is put before them and will hoover up whatever morsel of protein or carbohydrate put within reach. For a lot of parents, however, they find their children, around 12-15 months old, tend to become picky or even avoid healthy foods they previously ate with relish (the condiment or the enthusiasm, as it were). So how do you get your little ones to eat their fruits and veggies before they subsist wholly on the orange food group (mac ‘n’ cheese, cheese puffs, chicken nuggets, etc.)?

Children do require some number of fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, there are great articles (with tables and grids!) to help guide you on your journey. Toddlers should eat two to three servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Portion size for this age group should be about a quarter to half what the grown-ups at the table are served. Toddlers and preschoolers should be offered about a quarter to half a cup of canned or fresh fruits and the number of tablespoons of vegetables for every year of their age.

Correspondingly, children should be served protein two to three times a day and carbohydrates (think snacks!) up to six times a day.

How do you get children to eat broadly, though? In my practice, I counsel parents expressing concerns about picky eaters in their family to offer one new food with two well-established foods to their child’s regimen. For example, if you know your daughter likes pasta and chicken, serve those as usual and add a portion of a new vegetable to her plate. We established early in our house that you at least have to try it, one bite or taste. Research shows that most children will take to a food after up to about a dozen tastings (for some super picky or rigid eaters, such as those on the autism spectrum for example, it may be many, many more times). Set kids up for success by discouraging snacking or tanking up on beverages before mealtime, and try not to feed them when they are too tired or too hungry. Also, keep mealtimes positive by involving kids in food prep and getting enthusiastic in the craft and presentation of food. This may cultivate interest and curiosity which can lead to the development of a more adventurous palate.

Never force feed or go to war about making your child eat. Everyone loses. Don’t hesitate to contact your child’s primary care provider if you have concerns that he or she has issues around eating. It happens. It can be a quirk particular to your child, a temporary age and stage issue that will be outgrown, or it can be a marker (rarely) of a child with extra sensitivity to food tastes or textures, or food allergies. If you aren’t sure, ask. Best to be reassured and unstressed. Food is an everyday thing best enjoyed and not worried over!

Should Your Child Be Reading by Now?

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

Parents are very concerned during these days of virtual learning or limited school time with what their children are actually learning. This is especially true of parents of preschoolers and kindergarteners. They are asking, “Should my child be reading by now?  Should my child know numbers and be able to count?”

Put away the flashcards, and relax.  Children begin learning letters, numbers and shapes at varying times. You may find a toddler who can name all the letters in the alphabet and a four-year old who does not seem interested at all. How they demonstrate these recognition skills will vary from child to child. The natural curiosity of most children between the ages of three and four will begin to nudge them into pointing out letters and naming them or counting a few items and naming the numbers.

Here are five easy, fun and stress-free things to do to support your children’s learning:

  1. Read to your children every day, and they will begin to make the connections between letters on a page, sounds and meaning.
  1. Sing together. The alphabet song is a classic that helps children make connections to letters and sounds.
  1. Count out loud as you are setting the table, or count the few steps you take from room to room. Have your children join in the fun.
  1. Play the I spy game with the letters of your children’s first names. Try saying, “I spy something that begins with the letter S.”
  1. Put some sand or rice on a tray, and encourage your children to make letters in the sand. This helps support early writing skills.

Most children will recognize letters, numbers and shapes by age five. They may be starting to write their own names. If your children are not, it is fine. If you feel they are truly struggling, and then you may seek help with an assessment. Remember, children learn at their own paces. Research does not say that the earlier children learn these things, the more advanced they will be later in school. Enjoy this time with your children, and have fun talking, reading and singing together.

 

How to Set Up a Child’s Room for Playful Learning

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

Setting up a child’s room can be so much fun, but it can also be overwhelming. Don’t worry – you likely already have more than you need. Do not stress over how educational each toy is or feel like you need to fill up the room. I recall my nephew as we were setting up his room. He lined up all his trucks on a shelf and announced, “Auntie Lee, just leave the blocks and trucks. You can sell the rest.” He was four.

The two most important things are safety and fun. The learning part will come as your child explores, imagines and plays. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Use colorful bins or tubs and sort toys your child can easily access;
  • Create a reading nook by placing books on a low shelf or bin. Add a soft place to curl up and read;
  • Place a small plastic mirror on the wall at ground level – it’s a wonderful addition for infants and toddlers;
  • Add art and science or math spaces in an area that can be made messy and then easily cleaned up again. For art projects, have a variety of papers, paints, crayons and other materials on hand. For math and science discovery, measuring cups, bowls, rulers, dried foods like pasta and even food scales are wonderful resources for hands-on learning;
  • Think about what toys are safe for your children at their current age levels. Place those within easy reach and let your children dump them out and play away;
  • Create a dramatic arts area where your children can dress up, play pretend and use recycled food items to expand their understanding of the world around them;
  • Add new items and rotate older ones out occasionally. Later, bring some of the older ones back;
  • Blocks, puzzles, board games and stacking toys are always a hit;
  • Introduce new toys one at a time and add items that might give your children a challenge. For example, if they can do a 10-piece puzzle, add a few 15-to-20-piece puzzles into the mix;
  • You don’t have to create a designated space for technology since it should enhance other learning experiences. Instead, take a tablet outside for a photo or video-making session, help your child create an e-book in your reading nook or look up steps to create a robot in your science area;
  • Avoid clutter as it can be overwhelming and inhibits creativity and exploration.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun as you set up this space, and be sure to keep an eye out for what fun learning experiences your children have there!

“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.

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.

Here’s What Your Child Will Learn in Kindergarten

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Are you ready? Kindergarten is just around the corner. A few months of summer, and it’ll be here.

I am frequently asked what will my child learn? Usually, this was followed by what can I do to help my child succeed. Let’s tackle each question.

What will my child learn?

All states and school districts have a list of skills and objectives for each grade level.  You can find these on the school’s or school district’s website.

You can also ask your child’s teacher for a list. But learning goes beyond the list of standards or skills. Children are naturally curious and kindergarten nurtures that curiosity into exploring the world around them.

Beyond the early reading and math skills that include learning letters, numbers, shapes and colors, children will learn the following:

  • Social skills – how to get along with others, follow rules and ask for help;
  • Executive function – self-regulation (taking turns) and cognitive flexibility (testing ideas and problem-solving);
  • Health and well-being – sportsmanship and playing with others;
  • Creative expression – learning through dramatic play, the arts and self-expression;
  • Family and community – understanding what rules are for and how people work together in communities.

All of these skills help your child to become a motivated learner and build a foundation for success in school and in life.

How can I help my child?

Here are a few ideas of things you can do at home to continue to motivate your upcoming kindergartener:

  1. Read, read and read – Select favorite books every day and read one before bedtime. Help your child pick out letters and words.  Have your child read to you, even if he is just saying what is in the pictures.
  2. Learn something everywhere, so use a trip to the grocery store to practice math skills, such as counting the fruit that goes in the bag or reading the numbers on the price tags.
  3. Keep a school box at home. Place a box within easy reach that contains crayons, paper, markers, stickers and more. Encourage your child to use them and practice writing letters and numbers or drawing whatever he or she wants.
  4. Play games and put together puzzles. Not only will this be fun, but your little one will be learning problem-solving, taking turns and how to strategize.

Once School begins, engage your child with the following support:

  1. Ask questions about the school day. Instead of asking a broad question such as, what happened today, be more specific. What was the most fun thing you did today? Who did you play with today? What did you do outside?
  2. Build on your child’s answers. If your child mentioned a game they played, suggest he or she teach you the game and play it together. If it was a book your child read, suggest you get that book out of the library to read it together. Building on your child’s interest will connect School to home in a meaningful way.
  3. Look around the classroom when you pick up your child or plan a visit now and then. Read the daily or weekly reports from your child’s teacher. Ask about something you read in the report. I see you built a ramp in class today. How did you do that?
  4. Connect with your child’s teacher. Ask her or him for specific ideas, and keep the lines of communication open.

You’ll soon adjust to the idea of your little one being a kindergartner, and you’ll be posting pictures to your friends and family of milestone events.

10 Ways Families Can Honor Memorial Day This Year

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

Children often think about Memorial Day as a time when the family gets together for a barbecue. Parents have an extra day off to play, and some homes have the flag flown in the front yard. It is also a special day to remember and honor those who have fought for the country since the 1800s.

This Memorial Day may be a little different since parades may be canceled and the large family barbecue may be smaller. There are still ways we can share the value of honoring Memorial Day and those who served. Here are ten ideas to mix up the day with your family.

  1. Share the story of why we have Memorial Day. It began in 1866 to honor soldiers from the Civil War and was at first called Decoration Day. People decorated graves with flowers, flags and wreaths. You can make decor at home in red, white and blue and display your decorations inside and outdoors. Have your children plan and make the decorations.
  2. Raise the flag. Fly the flag at half-staff until noon and then at full-staff until sunset. If you don’t have a flag, make one. Your children can count the stars and stripes as they create the family flag.
  3. Share stories. It is often easier to explain a concept like Memorial Day through storytelling. Share your family’s stories or read one of our favorites:
    1. The Wall by Eve Bunting
    2. Hero Dad and Hero Mom by Melinda Hardin
    3. The Impossible Patriotism Projectby Linda Skeers
  4. Take an afternoon break. Honor the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time with a moment of peace.
  5. It is the unofficial start of the summer. Plan something fun outdoors, such as a lunch outside or a backyard camp out.
  6. Seven billion hotdogs will be eaten between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Wow! Encourage your children to plan the Memorial Day meal. What is necessary to include – ice cream, hotdogs, chicken?
  7. Honor those who are still serving by bringing a little joy into their lives. Create cards, drawings or a care package to be sent overseas to a soldier, marine, airman, sailor or coastguardsman actively serving. Visit the site anysoldier.comto discover how and where to send your special items. You can extend this to your children’s teachers or people who are working in the hospitals.
  8. Sing songs throughout the day. Start the day with “America the Beautiful” and end the day with the national anthem.
  9. Get out the pots and pans, cardboard tubes and other materials that can become instruments. Have a family parade around the house. Video the parade and share with friends.
  10. Connect with a family far away by video chat. Share a favorite recipe, read a story together or sing a song such as the national anthem.

Travel Without Traveling: How to Explore the World With Your Family From Home

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

I recently received a text in which I was prompted to do a series of calculations, and the resulting number would determine where I would travel on my next vacation. The list included exciting destinations near and far, but number nine on the list was Stay Home. With the magic of math, everyone ends up with number nine. Funny but frustrating!  I really enjoy traveling, and I know that experience with travel helps children learn about other places and people, helps them develop important skills like self-regulation and problem-solving and contributes to their growing confidence and curiosity. Unfortunately, the current global health pandemic limits tourism, but with a little creativity and planning, families can stay safely at home while still reaping many of the benefits of actual travel. In the example below, I share an approach to planning virtual vacations in a way that will provide your family with powerful learning opportunities and cherished memories.

Imagine a trip to San Francisco in which you visit the Exploratorium, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown and Ghiradelli’s chocolate factory all without leaving your home: no stress, no meltdowns, no expense, and no packing! This type of travel is exactly what a friend of mine is doing with her children, and we can all do it too! Here’s a sample itinerary for a trip to San Francisco. Your family can adapt it or create your own travel plans to other destinations. For example, my friend invited her older children to help with planning activities, and they’ve gone to London, Japan, Paris and San Francisco all in the last month.

STEAM Project Day: The Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge – Look at pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge online. Talk about how they are similar and different. Set out a variety of materials, such as paper towel rolls, popsicle sticks, Legos, cups, paper and whatever else you have for children to use to make their own bridge. You can find ideas online to inspire you at https://preschoolsteam.com/bridge-building-activities-preschoolers/. Measure how long you can make a bridge before it collapses. Put pennies on your bridge to see how many it can hold before it starts to sag. If your bridge falls, ask your children why they think that happened and what ideas they have to make it stronger. These types of questions engage children in science practices which support their inquiry and critical thinking. Science practices are a core component of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Cooking Day: Dinner in Chinatown – Watch a short video about Chinatown, such as this read-aloud of a storybook at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dQVcX6sASA ).  Plan a menu for a dinner inspired by Chinese cuisine and cook it together. Lee Scott, Chair of the Goddard Educational Advisory Board, recently wrote a fantastic article about cooking with children that will help you get started. You can find it here: https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/why-cooking-with-kids-is-worth-the-effort-and-how-to-get-started

Museum Day: The Exploratorium – This science center is chock full of hands-on, inquiry-based science exhibits. Their website offers an alternative experience with a menu of science snacks that provide ideas for interactive activities that families can do online or with common materials from around the house. Explore options together, or pick out a few in advance to do with your child. These activities will help children learn science principles, as well as engage in science practices. Best of all, they’re fun to do together!

Pretend Playday: The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park – Gather your stuffed animals, dolls and family members and have a tea party in your own Japanese tea garden. Find a tranquil spot in your yard or a neighborhood park, and lay out a blanket. Serve tea or juice, and talk about the things you notice in the nature around you. Spending time in nature promotes better mental health for both children and adults by reducing stress. This positive impact is found even with small doses of time outdoors.

Treat Yourself Day: Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory – Watch a video about how chocolate is made here: https://www.pbs.org/video/kidvision-pre-k-how-chocolate-is-made-cfvz1o/). Make yourselves chocolate sundaes or brownies, and celebrate the fun of exploring San Francisco from your home. One of the most well-known benefits of family travel is the strengthening of family bonds. As you eat your treat, start making plans for where you’ll go next!

At its best, travel fills us with wonder and offers quality family time, and at its worst, it exhausts us. Thanks to technology and our own creativity, we can indulge our wanderlust by visiting exciting new places without leaving home. Have fun and share your adventures with us by posting your trips to Facebook and Instagram and tagging The Goddard School.