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Archive for the ‘Extending the Learning at Home’ Category

5 Easy Ways to Sneak STEM Lessons into Your Kid’s Day

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Creative ways to turn your child into a little scientist.

There’s a growing public conversation about the importance of getting kids more engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), to prepare them for their futures. Our economy, workplaces and society require more women and men who excel in these fields and can drive the innovations that will make our world a better place. Despite its obvious importance, it isn’t always easy to get children excited about STEM education.

That’s why I penned The Imagine It Book: Discover, Create and Invent Our Amazing Future, which offers some tips on fun ways you can get your children excited about STEM learning. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Encourage Curiosity

Kids ask a lot of questions, and sometimes we just don’t have the time to field them all in the moment. Buy a small journal or spiral bound notebook that you can keep with you when at home, in the car or out and about in your community. When your children ask questions that relate to science, technology or how things work, write them down. Set aside time each week to sit down with the book and a computer and find the answers to those questions. This experience not only informs children, but also helps them understand the research process so they can answer their own questions and fully embrace their curiosity and drive to discover new things.

2. Plan a Field Trip

We don’t all have the knowledge or experience to be informed STEM educators for our children. Luckily, most communities have institutions and experiences that can help with this process. Museums and libraries often have programs for children to help them experience STEM topics firsthand. Plan field trips to places or events in your community that your children will find interesting. Create fun research assignments for your kids prior to the field trip so they are flexing their curiosity muscles and preparing their minds to fully engage in the experience and understand the information being presented. Afterward, let them share pictures and stories from the experience with the family at meal time or when everyone is together.

3. Take it Apart

We don’t generally encourage the kids in our lives to destroy their things, but it can be a good exercise from time to time to let children really dig into how things are made and put together. Some examples of items that are fun to take apart include clocks, radios, typewriters, old computers, toasters or mechanical toys. For safety, make sure wires are completely cut off from electronic items and that there is no power source for the item. For ideas and guidance, search “take things apart” in YouTube for a ton of tutorial videos. Some kids may really get into watching these videos even if they aren’t disassembling the items themselves.

4. Make Them Reporters

Most children have someone in their lives who creates things or works in the fields of science and technology. Arrange for your child to interview one of these people. Help them do research on the family member or friend’s area of expertise and put together a list of questions. You can also help them video the interview so it can be shared with others via your social media or at a family event.

5. Make the World a Better Place

It’s important to help children identify issues that are important to them and develop a lifelong habit of giving back and making a difference. Help your children identify a cause or issue that is close to their heart like helping animals, the environment or developing cures to diseases. Then supervise them as they do research on the internet to find organizations that are working on the frontline of these issues. Most nonprofit organizations have interactive materials or videos that help explain how their research or innovation is making a difference in their area of focus. You can also help kids set aside a portion of their allowance each week to support the organization’s work so they can feel like an active part of the solution while they are learning.


Ellen Sabin is the founder of Watering Can Press and the author of a series of award-winning books that “grow kids with character.” Watering Can Press books are used widely by companies to support employees (through ERGs, Events, EAPs and other touch-points), clients (giving branded copies to connect with the family market for brand outreach, marketing and sales) and communities (through foundations, CSR, volunteer programs or donations to partner nonprofits). Ellen speaks at conferences and events to adults and hosts reading events with children on the topics of her books.

 

This article was written by Ellen Sabin from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Science Says *This* Surprising Trait Will Help Your Kid Succeed in School

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We all know kids who started reading (as in full books) at 18 months. Others had the gross motor skills to ditch their training wheels at four. One friend’s son plays Mozart on the piano and devours Harry Potter books. (He’s six.) And while all of these achievements are amazing—and debatably innate as opposed to parent-directed—they’re not necessarily concrete predictors of academic success. Want to know what is? Curiosity.

For a new study conducted at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, pediatricians with expertise in developmental behavior analyzed data collected from 6,200 children over the course of their lives, from nine months old through kindergarten. They conclusively found that “greater curiosity was associated with greater kindergarten reading and math academic achievement.” Regardless of gender or socioeconomic background, added the researchers, “Curiosity may be an important, yet under-recognized contributor to academic achievement. Fostering curiosity may optimize academic achievement at kindergarten.”

Interestingly, the kids’ efforts and their ability to sit still and listen in class had less to do with academic success than you might guess. (PSA to the parents of kids who run around like crazy during circle time: Now is your cue to rejoice.) Explains Science Daily: “U-M researchers factored in another important known contributor to academic achievement known as ‘effortful control,’ or the ability to stay focused in class. They found that even independent of those skills, children who were identified as curious fared well in math and reading.” Clarifies lead researcher Dr. Prachi Shah: “These findings suggest that even if a child manifests low effortful control [or in-classroom focus], they can still have more optimal academic achievement, if they have high curiosity.”

So the next time your kid fires off “why?” faster than you could possibly formulate answers (Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs sweat from their tongues? Why do I have two eyes instead of one? What are s’mores? Can I have one? Can I have 10? Why?), celebrate it like the sign of genius it surely is. Then take them to a museum or library to investigate, stat. Curiosity! It won’t kill cats. And it just may land your kid on the honor roll.

RELATED: The One Thing This Mom Does to Cross Items Off Her To-Do List

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

6 Ways to Motivate Your Child For Good

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It can be a challenge to motivate children to do hard tasks whether it be schoolwork or chores. Too often, these interactions turn into power struggles or flat-out bribery. Receiving the right motivation and attention will transform your child’s attitude towards difficult tasks. As a parent, you can help your child develop intrinsic motivation that will allow them to become driven and resilient adults.

If your child is having issues at school or around the house, check out these tips for some ways to motivate your child without yelling, bribery or meltdowns.

1. Focus On Mastery

It’s completely understandable that parents want their children to succeed in school, including getting good grades. However, it’s important to understand that grades are a poor reflection of actual knowledge. Children and students quickly get in the habit of learning something just until the test, then forget it once the test is over. This is counter-productive for learning and curiosity and frequently results in poor motivation.

As a parent, you can combat this by focusing on mastery and learning instead of grades. Ask about something they learned that interested them that day instead of asking what score they got on their spelling test. Engaging your children in the actual material of the lesson, appealing to their innate curiosity about the world, develops a lasting, internal motivation that lasts.

2. Always Encourage

What comes naturally to adults takes time to develop. In other words, rather than being nit-picky about how smooth the bedsheets are, take time to thank and encourage the child for going as far as making the bed.

By focusing on encouragement, your child develops initiative when it comes to work that needs to be done. Eventually, sloppiness will sort itself out as your child gets older and learns.

3. Have Clear Expectations

Let’s be honest: kids today have more on their plate than previous generations. From ridiculous amounts of standardized testing to social media to helicopter parenting- children often feel as though a million things are being thrown at them at once. Even children burn out.

To help your children remain focused and motivated, be clear in your expectations for them. Don’t say you’ll be proud of them for trying so hard in school but wrinkle your nose at a B. Nothing frustrates a child more than constantly moving goal-posts. Instead, be consistent with your expectations so your child knows what to do.

4. Competition Without Comparison

Competition can be an extremely motivating force. Encourage these feelings in a healthy way to make children feel pride in their accomplishments by rewarding success and giving feedback.

Just a note: try to avoid competition and comparison between siblings or other family members. Family is a place where each child is accepted just as they are, so never compare one’s strength with another’s weakness. Competition can create motivation- just don’t go too far.

5. Create The Right Environment

In terms of schoolwork, sometimes the materials in the classroom just aren’t right for your child. Everyone has a different learning style, but in a classroom it’s downright impossible for the teacher to cater to each student.

Consider tutoring and specialized social studies textbooks that focus on making content engaging to children who struggle in those areas. Focusing on making learning accessible and fun reduces any resentment or frustration a child feels that might cause them to misbehave.

6. Communication Is Key

When I was in middle school, report card day was a day of panic. I remember classmates passing around a bottle of white-out, frantically trying to forge grades to avoid punishment for getting a B. Unfortunately, that attitude is all-too common today.

For parents, that type of underhanded behavior hurts but try considering it as a symptom of a larger problem. You need to create trust and kindness towards your child. To keep your child motivated, try to reframe failure as a way of learning rather than a harsh punishment. When a child feels safe coming to you when they’re having issues, you encourage a resilient attitude towards failure and a lasting motivation.

 

This article was written by Natalie Bracco from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

6 Scientifically Proven Ways To Raise Smarter Kids

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These simple activities can improve your child’s intellectual development.

Setting children up for intellectual success later in life is high on the list of concerns for many parents, but amidst the everyday pressures of parenting, broad goals like “making your child smarter” can feel overwhelming and impractical. Fortunately, encouraging cognitive development doesn’t have to be complicated. Add a few of these proven activities to your child’s routine, and you’ll foster intelligence in manageable, positive ways.

1. Encourage playing outside.

Structured sports are wonderful for children, but making time for unstructured play is just as important, if not more so. Research has proven that unstructured play has an integral role in the development of social intelligence. As schools eliminate recess time, making sure your young ones have time to themselves outdoors is critical. Whether you usher them out the door to build an elaborate sledding hill, play hours of tag with their friends or head to the park for supervised play doesn’t matter; leaving them to set their own boundaries and interact with children their own age facilitates crucial prefrontal cortex development that they’ll draw upon in social situations for the rest of their lives.

2. Let them play video games.

When your kids do come inside, whether on a rainy day or a dark winter evening after school, don’t worry if they race straight to their gaming console. Moderating screen time is important, but as Cheryl Olson, Sc.D., asserts, video games—even those not made to be educational—offer myriad benefits to kids. From problem-solving to creative expression to social interaction with friends, video games challenge children and give them a rare sense of autonomy. After age 10, kids’ interpretations of complex games deepens and expands, but children under 10 aren’t exempt from the benefits of simpler games.

3. Make sleep a family priority.

If you need more motivation to set a sleep schedule and stick to it, let your kids be your inspiration. After the regimented sleep schedules of babyhood and the toddler years, letting bedtimes slacken when your kids reach school age is understandable. However, if those looser sleep schedules turn into patterns of insufficient sleep, your child will suffer, and unfortunately, many already do. Right now, as many as 20 to 25 percent of school-age children don’t get enough sleep.

That lack of rest affects their alertness, their attention spans, and their ability to concentrate in the classroom, which can have long-lasting effects on grades. According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids between the ages of 6 and 13 need nine to 11 hours, with older teens functioning best with eight to 10 hours each night. Consider limiting use of electronics before bedtime and creating a new nighttime routine with your child that takes their burgeoning independence and new hobbies into consideration.

4. Try music lessons.

Has your child ever expressed interest in music? If not, you may want to gently encourage it. Researchers at Northwestern University have found evidence of a link between music and literacy. The key, according to researchers, is that kids need to be active participants in music lessons. If children aren’t engaged with and creating music, they miss out on many of its benefits. Try talking to your child about enrolling in their school’s band or orchestra, or consider private lessons if they express interest.

Kids who do embrace making and learning music will gain “neurophysiological distinction” as they decipher differences between specific sounds. This heightened awareness of sounds carries over to improved literacy for many children, which is an indicator of intelligence both in the classroom and on standardized tests they’ll take later on.

5. Emphasize effort and hard work.

Decades of research on motivation and intelligence have led Stanford University’s Carol S. Dweck to conclude that for kids, an emphasis on effort and hard work has long-lasting, positive effects on intelligence. She asserts that praising children for being “gifted” or “talented” connotes an entitlement to success, leaving them lacking the motivation needed when concepts or good grades stop coming easily. Instead, recognizing your children for finding ways to solve problems or for following through on a difficult assignment teaches them that perseverance leads to positive results, and that success rarely comes easily—knowledge that will serve them well as they grow.

With a bit of strategy, you can introduce changes to your child’s routine that promote learning, problem solving, social skills and hard work—without replacing precious free time with flashcards and regimented learning. You’ll probably even find that many of these suggestions bring benefits to your child that go far beyond the classroom. Find an approach that works for you and your child, and remember that IQ is not the only indicator of future success.

—Kelsey Down

This story originally appeared on fairygodboss.com.


Kelsey Down is a freelance writer in Salt Lake City who has been featured on publications including Elite Daily, VentureBeat and SUCCESS. She’s covered fun stuff like why TV reboots need to stop and how to hack sleep as a workout, and she also writes about personal and family wellness. Follow her on Twitter @kladown23.

 

This article was written by Fairygodboss from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The (Proven) Best Activity You Should Be Doing with Your Kids

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There have been numerous research studies demonstrating that one of the most beneficial activities you can do with your children is consistently eating dinner together. The benefits of eating dinner together as a family are wide-ranging and important.

Eating dinner together helps improve the vocabulary of young children because the children are exposed to a wider and more difficult set of words than in their usual environments. To be fair, the study included all family meals together, not just dinner. It also showed that frequent meals together boosted vocabulary even more than being read to aloud. Young children were exposed to more than 1,000 rare words at meal time, compared to only 143 from parents reading books out loud. As an added benefit, kids with larger vocabularies start reading at an earlier age and with less difficulty than other children. Mealtime talk, especially during dinner:

“often incorporates discussions and explanations of current events, world knowledge, and even abstract general principles…mealtime talk constitutes an opportunity for the problems of everyday life and proposed solutions to be discussed, often in the context of stories.”

Older children also benefit intellectually and emotionally from family dinners. Enjoying regular family dinners is a powerful predictor of high test scores – it’s a better predictor than time spent in school, doing homework, or time playing sports.

Most importantly, it’s also hugely beneficial to the emotional state of adolescents and teenagers. There are a number of studies demonstrating regular family dinners reduce a number of high risk teen behaviors. In one study, entitled Family Dinner Meal Frequency and Adolescent Development: Relationships with Developmental Assets and High-Risk Behaviors, there is a significant reduction in high risk behaviors – alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, sexual intercourse, depression-suicide, antisocial behavior, violence, school problems, binge/purge eating, and excessive weight-loss – all from consistent family dinners. Another study demonstrated a lower rate of depression and suicidal thoughts is associated with regular family dinners.

Aside from the prevention or reduction of negative behaviors, there is a strong association between regular family dinners and good behaviors, such as a strong association with good moods in teenagers, an optimistic outlook of the future.

Now that we know how important family mealtimes are for children, what’s the best way to institute this in a household with working mothers or a household where both parents work? The key is to cut down on time spent preparing the meal and cleaning up after the meal is over, in order to maximize the time and quality of the meal.

One of the best ways to save time preparing the meal and cleaning up, and maximizing the time spent actually enjoying dinner with your family, is to look at the large catering platters and party platters from grocery stores. For example, Walmart party tray prices are extremely reasonably priced when looked at on a per-meal basis. A typical party tray will feed my family for 2-3 dinners, and has a wide variety of items so no one gets bored. The cost per person per meal can be as low as $1-2.

The best part is that there is almost no cleanup and no preparation time. This helps create a stress free environment where I can focus on listening to my children and learning about their lives, while sharing stories at dinnertime. On days where I do cook dinner, I usually end up being stuck in the kitchen and missing out on most of the conversation, and at the same time, it takes much longer for me to prepare the food and then cleanup afterwards.

For health conscious mothers, Costco offers similar party platters and has recently become the world’s largest seller of organic foods, prime meats and other high quality food products. I’ve spoken to Costco staff and it’s clear to me that they use the same high quality ingredients in their platters as they sell on their shelves.

Eating family dinners together as frequently as possible is clearly one of the best activities you can do with your children. As a working mother, it’s critical to prioritize and maximize high quality activities with the family. In the case of dinner time, the most important activity isn’t food prep or cleaning, it’s actually sitting down with your children during the meal, chatting with them and listening to them. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to do this is to shop in the catering isles at large grocers.

 

This article was written by Natalie Bracco from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Bill Nye’s Tips for Getting Kids Excited About Science

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Bill Nye, the ‘90s television icon, the teacher who helped kid-me understand topics like buoyancy and momentum, the man whose mission it is to help make science more accessible to the masses, is back. (Not that he ever left—he’s always been really, really busy.) These days, Nye is teaming up with Nintendo to help promote the just-released Nintendo Labo and is getting ready for the premiere of the third season of his Netflix show, Bill Nye Saves the World. At a time when science instruction time is quickly declining in elementary schools, I asked our favorite Science Guy what parents can do to get kids excited about the subject he loves most.

Don’t Wait

When it comes to catching the science bug, that incessant hunger to understand how the natural world works, Nye says there’s a cut-off age. “When we did the Science Guy show in the 1990s, we had very compelling research that 10 years old is as old as you can be to get the so-called lifelong passion for science,” Nye says. “And I think its about as old you can be to get a lifelong passion for anything. When did you want to tell stories?” The motto in his business: “Science every day in every grade.” There’s really no such thing as “too young.”

Know the Power of Algebra

If your middle school math teacher didn’t quite make the message clear, let Nye tell you again: Algebra is important. “Here’s one thing that has been shown: Algebra is the single most reliable indicator of whether or not a person pursues a career in math or science,” Nye says. “It’s not clear that it’s cause and effect. It seems to be. Learning to think abstractly about numbers apparently enables you or encourages you to think abstractly about all sorts of things and so one change we could make in education is getting people interested in letters representing numbers earlier in their academic careers—that is to say, third grade rather than seventh grade.”

Focus on the Why

It’s not enough for a teacher to stand in front of a classroom and make kids recite the words “Molecules are made of atoms …” Kids learn through stories—they need to know why science is important in their lives. In all sorts of everyday situations, explain to them how science is at work. “I don’t have polio because I got the polio vaccine,” Nye says. “I am alive because my grandparents did not die of the Spanish Flu in 1918. I really like calling a car from my phone rather than wandering around looking for a pay phone to call a taxi. This is all brought to us by science.”

He goes on. “I was just talking the other day to this guy about his tires. Tires now are guaranteed to go 60,000 miles or 80,0000 miles. When I was a kid, tires would go 15,000 miles and then my parents would have them thrown out and have new tires put on. We feed 7.5 billion people because of agricultural technology. It’s extraordinary. Science, people!”

For whatever career your kid might be interested in, talk about how science will be necessary—there’s just no skipping it. “Suppose you were at a party and people are standing around talking and someone says, ‘I never learned the alphabet. I thought it was arbitrary.’ Can you imagine? In the same way, we want science to be part of your education no matter what you end up doing, whether you become a lawyer or a venture capitalist or a plumber or an electrician or a care provider or a circus performer.”

Work With Video Games, Not Against Them

Nye has been hearing the question for years: “Are video games messing up my kid?”

“There’s always concern expressed about video games,” Nye says. “These kids todayWhen I was young, doggone it … Look, the video game is going to be in your household.” Believing that video games can help kids get excited about STEM, has teamed up with Nintendo to promote the Labo, a series of DIY cardboard kits for the Nintendo Switch. It ingeniously melds gaming with making—the screen guides kids as they build real toys they can play with, from a fishing rod to a piano to a robot suit. “It is inherently hands-on,” Nye says.

“I became a chemical engineer because I’m a tinkerer,” Nye adds. “I tink.” He remembers playing with cardboard boxes as a kid. “There’s nothing better,” he says. “The refrigerator would come in a huge box. I mean, oh my God, come on, that’s living. You could crawl inside and it became a tank. And all the forts you could build! Monsters cannot penetrate cardboard. It’s very well documented.”

Let Kids Play

To help kids learn and gain confidence, sometimes moms and dads need to get out of the way.

You can provide them with materials to experiment with—perhaps a pair of socks for them to test their nerves or a penny, eye-dropper, glass of water and some dish soap to explore cohesive force. And then see where they go from there. “Kids love science,” Nye says. “The people who have trouble with science are the parents. Let kids be fearless. Let them mess around. Let them find out how the world works for themselves.”

 

This article was written by shared by Michelle Woo to Lifehacker and Michelle Woo on Offspring from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

This Mom’s Clever Hack May be the Perfect Way to Teach Your Kids About Money

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It’s never too early to learn about financial responsibility.

Working moms already do a great job in leading by example and teaching their kids about the value of hard work, but one mom took things a bit further by actually giving her daughter imaginary bills and checks to teach her some key financial lessons.

Lynn Brooks, a working mom of two from Birmingham, AL, posted her parenting hack on Facebook where it has since been shared more than 150,000 times. In the post, she says wanted to teach her child important life skills. “Not only is my daughter learning responsibilities, she’s also learning her math in the process,” she wrote.

Every week her daughter Londyn is given a paycheck for all of her “work,” such as going to school, and even gets a bonus for good grades. The official paycheck is of course signed off by Mom.

However, Londyn also has some “bills” she is responsible for paying. She is billed every week for using water, power and Internet. Lynn puts all of the money her daughter pays into a savings account for her.

Londyn’s mom even creates a work and payment schedule every week to help her keep track of everything.

The money that Londyn earns is kept at the “bank” for safekeeping. Londyn has to fill out withdrawal and deposit slips, which also double as extra math lessons.

She can even shop at a little store her mom set up, where treats can be purchased using the saved wages.

In her original post, Lynn encourages other parents to do something similar with their own kids—especially since they may not be receiving these types of lessons in school. “Schools are not teaching this much-needed aspect of life,” she wrote. “[There are] so many kids—even young adults and teens—that only know how to use a debit card. So parents, guardians, friends and family, by all means find your structure and create saving magic.”

Lynn also added that her daughter is definitely learning some serious financial responsibility because of it. “My daughter is confident, learning and is improving,” Lynn wrote. “It’s borderline bribery, however, we ALL feel great when we get rewarded and being acknowledged for doing a great job. Make this project your own. It’s fun.”

 

This article was written by Joseph Barberio from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Family Traditions From Around the World Worth Trying

Celebrate the first day of school, the German way.

The kickoff to first grade is a big deal in Germany, as my American family learned while living in Berlin. The weekend before our daughter started first grade, we joined a celebration called Einschulung. Her school welcomed students with an assembly; afterward, families gave the children Schultüten—large paper or plastic cones filled with school supplies and sweets. When we moved back to the United States, we replicated Einschulung for my son. We invited our family over and asked them to bring a small school-related gift, like a notebook or pen. We made him a Schultüte, and the older kids put on a play about what school is like. It makes the children feel responsible, grown-up, and proud to be going to school.

Sara Zaske is the author of Achtung Baby: An American Mom On The German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children. She Lives in Moscow, Idaho.

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Honor your ancestors, the Japanese way.

Traditional Japanese homes have a small family altar, or butsudan, as a sign of respect for elders who have passed away. When I go back to my family’s home in Japan, I still feel a spiritual connection to my ancestors as I make offerings at the butsudan—a bowl of rice, flowers for my grandmother, a can of beer for my grandfather. It feels truly healing. To set up a memorial, pick a quiet spot, put out photos, flowers, and other offerings, and tell kids about their ancestors. If we don’t mark our history, we may lose an important part of who we are.

Candice Kumai is a chef and the author of Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art Of Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Share your culture through stories, the Trinidadian way.

In Trinidad and Tobago, where I grew up, storytelling happens anytime, anywhere—not just at bedtime. We might be driving to the beach or walking to my grandmother’s house. People often tell folk stories about mythical creatures called jumbies to help explain things people don’t understand, such as a sudden illness. Regardless of where you come from, there is a benefit to telling traditional stories. At some point, I realized my kids, who were growing up in the U.S., had no idea what our folklore was, so I started telling them jumby stories. Telling these stories helps the children preserve their culture.

Tracey Baptiste is the author of Jumbies, part of a fantasy series for middle schoolers. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, she now lives in northern New Jersey.

Care for all animals, the Indian way.

To show gratitude to animals, families in southern India feed cows and birds during the annual Hindu harvest festival of Thai Pongal. Children learn that all species are interconnected and interdependent. I’ve followed this tradition in both India and the United States with my daughters. In Bangalore, I used to take my young daughters to a nearby shed to feed the cows. We also fed birds by placing fruits and grains on banana leaves and putting them out on our terrace—something we also did surreptitiously at our New York City apartment. Pick a day for an annual visit to a petting zoo, butterfly garden, family-friendly farm, or horse stable where you can feed the animals or help care for them. It’s a way to teach children about having compassion for all beings.

Shoba Narayan is the author of The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure. She lives in Bangalore, India.

Exchange personal poetry, the Dutch way.

In the Netherlands, families exchange not only gifts but also poems during Sinterklaas, the Dutch winter holiday season. Older children and adults each draw a name and write a poem about the recipient. The poem usually has puns and is funny—the more mischievous and personal, the better. On “gift night,” people sit in a circle with hot drinks, and everyone reads the poem they receive out loud. I’ve learned that the real gift is the love that goes into the poem. You’re taking time to compose something special, letting someone know what they mean to you.

Rina Mae Acosta is a writer, photographer, and coauthor of The Happiest Kids In The World: Bringing Up Children The Dutch Way. She lives in Doorn, The Netherlands.

 

This article was written by Betsy Rubiner from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Easy Ways to Expand Your Toddler’s Vocabulary

From baby talk to reading aloud during infancy to walking around the house pointing at and describing inanimate objects (“Look! Mommy’s coffeeeeee”), there is almost nothing you can do that won’t help a baby develop speech. Still, for proactive parents looking to expedite the process—or anyone worried about a speech delay—we asked speech pathologist and pediatric social communication expert Kelly Lelonek for tips on how to recognize a need for early intervention or simply enhance childrens’ language skills. A precocious chatterbox on the first day of nursery school? Now you’re talking.

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Element 1

Q) What’s the age that kids should typically be moving from one-word utterances to two?

 A) Most children start to combine words between 18 and 24 months. They start to use two- and three-word combinations (“Pet the bunny” or “Wow, big dog!”) around this age. By 24 months, most children use between 50 and 200 words.

Q) Does birth order impact on how fast or slow a child may be to speak? 

The effect of a child’s birth order on emerging language is still under debate. There is no evidence of language delays being seen more often in later-born children. Birth order likely creates different language learning environments for each child, none of which are detrimental.

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Element 2

Q) Without being alarmist, what could be some of the reasons a child’s speech isn’t “exploding” between 18 months and two years? 

Developmental speech and language disorder is a common reason for speech and language delays in children. A child’s hearing should always be tested. Intellectual disability could also cause speech and language delays. [Ask your pediatrician for a referral to an early interventionist if you suspect any of this is at play.]

Q) What are some of the easiest ways parents can improve their kids’ vocabularies and help them express longer, more complex thoughts?

First, a parent should determine what is missing in the child’s vocabulary. A child must have 50-plus words before they will start to combine them. Check to see if your child has nouns, verbs, adjectives, possessives, negatives and question words. Then, use the strategy of “expansion.” This is when you take the words your child says, repeat them, then add a missing word. For example, the child says “Dog” and you repeat back, “Big dog.” You can do this multiple times and add different words each time. A parent’s goal should be to help the child reach just the next level of complexity.

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Element 3

Q) When is the ideal time to “work” on this?

During bath time, feeding time, while reading books or playing. Really, anytime throughout the day!

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5 Easy Indoor Activities to Promote STEAM Skills in Your Kids

Simple ways to get your child thinking critically.

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Turning everyday tasks into learning opportunities with your children can greatly benefit them in the classroom. And STEAM education, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, is a great way to get your kids to brush up on their critical thinking skills. Here are five ways to incorporate STEAM (or STEM) into fun activities without having to set foot outside.

1. Make soup together.

Science: Through this activity, children will become early scientists as they compare and contrast how the texture of vegetables changes throughout the cooking process.

Technology: Ask: How does heat cook soup? How will you time the cooking? How do you keep veggies fresh before cooking? Have the kids think of the everyday uses of technology that help them and you make soup. In addition, have the children come up with different ways they might cook their soup if they didn’t have a stove.

Engineering: Using a knife can promote an early engineering experience of a simple machine, such as a wedge. The discussion alone around the process of cooking is a wonderful form of engaging engineering skills.

Art: Follow your soup-making process by reading a story! Our favorite is the story of Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. After storytime, invite children to draw a picture of their favorite part of making homemade soup.

Math: Through cutting vegetables, children may learn halves or fourths, exploring fractions or simply counting and measuring. Adding spices and measuring the vegetable stock also provide opportunities for children to begin to understand the properties of measurement.

Play with bath toys.

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Make bathtime educational.

Photo: Pixabay

Gather various water-safe objects that sink and float through exploring, observing and predicting.

Grab plastic measuring cups and spoons, plastic bowls and other water-safe items and toss ’em in the tub. Ask:

  • Why do some things float and some sink?
  • What do you notice about the shape, weight and feel of the objects when they’re in the water? How does that change when you take them out?

Bake together.

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The science of turning raw ingredients into something mouthwatering.

Photo: Pixabay

Make prepping a treat even sweeter with these tips and questions to incorporate into your kitchen adventures.

  • Talk through measurements as you mix dry ingredients together.
  • What do we predict will happen when dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet ingredients?
  • What makes the batter change color?
  • What do you think might happen when we bake the batter? What makes the batter go from wet to baked and delicious?

Ease into a bedtime routine with flashlight shadows.

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Nothing like old-school entertainment.

iStock

Grab your flashlight and small objects, like a favorite stuffed animal, toys, or even a shoe, and see how many different ways you can make shadows move and play across the room.

  • Place objects or your hand in front of the light and observe how shadows change and move around the room.
  • Create a story about the object’s shadow.
  • How do you make the shadows dance?
  • How can we make the object look bigger or smaller?
  • How many different ways can you make a shadow disappear and reappear in a different place?

Build a shadow theater.

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Bring the inner director out of your child.

Photo: iStock

Materials: Shoe boxes or pieces of cardboard, tape, white or waxed paper, flashlight, variety of objects to cast shadows

Cut off the top and bottom of the boxes. Help the children to tape paper across one of the openings. Ask: What else could we use to attach the paper? Place different objects in the box and light them from behind. Allow the children to select objects and have others guess what each object is while viewing from the other side. Encourage the children to experiment with moving the object and the light.

  • Can you make the object look bigger? Ask children to think of other ways to make a shadow theater.
  • What else could we use to let the light shine through? Do we need a frame?

Allison Wilson is the Director of Curriculum and Innovation at Stratford School, a leading independent private school founded on the belief that education is a significant influence in the life of a child. She is passionate about developing teachers and students, bringing more than 15 years of experience to the early-childhood sector through teaching, school leadership, teacher training and innovative curriculum development. Stratford offers an accelerated, balanced curriculum from preschool through eighth grade with an emphasis in the areas of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) that incorporates music, physical education, foreign language and social skills development.


 

This article was written by Allison Wilson from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.