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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

International Civil Aviation Day

On December 7 of every fifth year, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) holds a special celebration of its anniversary. On this day, the ICAO Council creates a theme for each fifth anniversary. The theme they chose in 2014 for 2015 -2018 is “Working Together to Ensure No Country is Left Behind,” which means to keep all countries up-to-date on the current standards of safety, security and emissions.

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By celebrating International Civil Aviation Day, our children can begin to see the positive influence that ICAO has on the economic and social development of the participating countries. Talk with your child and brainstorm ideas about how your family, friends and community can get involved to help countries in need:

  • Think about starting an aviation oriented pen pal project and include your local school or library to help facilitate it;
  • Consider holding a charity drive to collect items needed in less fortunate countries, and explain to your child how aviation will deliver the items you collect.

What are some ways that you can convey the message of “Working Together to Ensure No Country Is Left Behind” to your children?

 

Screen Time Guidelines for Summer Break

Summer is here, which means children have more time to watch TV and play video games. To limit how much screen time your child has, you can institute a reward system.

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  1. Select readily available tokens that your child cannot not easily access, such as stickers or playing cards.
  2. Think of some helpful tasks that your child can do around the house. Tell her that she can earn a reward for each task she completes without being told to do it. Examples include cleaning up after herself, bringing in the mail, feeding the pets and setting the table. Explain the concept of exchanging the token for a prize or privilege. This system will also help your child learn and understand the concept of spending money to purchase a product.
  3. Explain to your child that each time she wants screen time, she must hand in one of her tokens. Set a time limit for each token that is suitable for the age of your child. For example, one token could equal ten minutes of screen time. You may want to set a limit for the number of tokens that your child can use each day. Write down these rules and explain them well to stop any arguments before they start.
  4. Let your child know that if she has no tokens, she will have to do more chores to earn screen time.

Your little ones will be so excited to earn their tokens that they will not realize how many helpful tasks they are completing.

Early Learning and Technology Part Five: Social Interaction and Collaborative Learning

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). 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 03/15/2015 on the 
HMH blog.

We know that relationships are essential to healthy child development. We can observe organic collaborative Girl at Computerbehaviors even in very young children, who often explore their worlds and gather information while they play independently, but then eventually come together to learn and share experiences with others. 

Technology offers unique opportunities to cultivate the innate human instinct to collaborate. Educators and developers have embraced these possibilities by creating platforms and projects designed to facilitate learning experiences and communication–between peer groups, teachers and students, and school communities and families–and to expand virtual space for cross-cultural education.

Let’s take a closer look at how technology can support collaborative learning:

1) Extending Access

In 2001, education researcher Dr. Sugata Mitra launched a unique experiment he called the “Hole-in-the-Wall.”Mitra installed a public computer in a remote village in India. Young children in the village quickly discovered how to scroll, seek out information, learn English and more. In short, Mitra witnessed young children teaching themselves and one another via the computer’s resources.

The Hole-in the Wall project cracked open the concept of a school “in the cloud” that children can access anywhere, anytime.  The community computer and its content enabled a natural learning environment to grow, complete with encouragement from mentors, teachers, family and friends.

As Dr. Mitra’s work demonstrates, technology’s potential to extend access to learning content far and wide is huge. In the last decade, partnerships between educators, ministries and organizations have helped to deliver content and training across the globe, from reading on mobile phones in developing countries to professional development seminars that can be viewed offline for communities lacking internet connections.

2) Creating “Blended” Learning Environments

An approach commonly called a “blended” learning model encourages classroom collaboration, and technology can provide a wonderful support system for the experience. For example, students may be organized into small clusters based on shared learning styles, abilities or interests. This organization allows teachers to focus carefully on individual students and to craft dynamic learning scenarios for an individual child or small group. Technology’s capacity to support personalized learning pathways allows for individually tailored pacing and practice, in turn promoting subject or skill mastery. As a result, students feel confident and are proud to share their knowledge.

3) Learning by Playing

Digital games powered by quality content can improve attention, focus and reaction time. Whether there are two players or many, gamers acquire pro-social skills through healthy competition, which then translate to other relationships and aspects of life.

Consult KQED’s Mindshift’s Guide to Digital Games and Learning for recommendations on digital learning tools.

4) Making Global Connections 

Increased connectivity can offer children real-world insight into communities and cultures around the globe. There are a number of exciting collaborative projects and platforms that create space for teachers, students and parents to communicate and learn from one another, regardless of geography.

For example, ePals uses web-based tools to bring diverse learners together in virtual classrooms. Over 4.4 million students and teachers are currently participating in cross-cultural exchange on the platform.

Look out for projects and competitions that bring kids together to reach common goals via online collaboration, like the Give Something Back Project’s Virtual Classroom.

5) Bridging Home and the Classroom 

There are also many free apps to connect teachers, parents and students in order to support timely and confidential communication. Check outGoogle Apps for Education. This free suite of productivity tools helps keep parents in the loop on their children’s progress in class. Parents can log into Google Drive and see what their kids have been up to in any class and communicate with teachers.

Whether you are encouraging technology-enabled collaboration at home or in the classroom, remember to balance screen time with face-to-face conversation and interaction.Encourage kids to think about digital citizenship and to act as positive role models for others in all social interactions, whether on-screen or off. Happy collaborating!

Technology and Early Learning: Part Four Grey Matter: Child Development and Technology

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). 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 02/25/2015 on the 
HMH blog.

At the beginning of this year, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center published Ten for ’15: Education Reform for a Shared Promethean BoardFuture, a list of ten takeaways and resolutions designed to give educators inspiration as they plan for a successful 2015.

Number five on that list is a call to rethink the brain. It may sound like a strange concept, but new, cutting-edge research on early brain development can help us gain a deeper understanding of early literacy and related behaviors.

So, let’s rethink the brain today.

First, some brain basics: Beginning in the prenatal period, the brain develops in a predictable sequence, accommodating a range of functions from the most basic to the most complex, from the birth of new nerve cells to the formation of intricate networks of transmitters that allow those cells to communicate.

The brain undergoes astonishing growth during early life. In fact, it doubles in size during a child’s first year, and by age three, the brain reaches 80 percent of its adult volume. We also know that genetic inheritance and interaction with the environment, including human interactions with family and others, profoundly impact the wiring of the brain. This, in turn, impacts a child’s developing sense of resilience and his or her cognitive abilities, achievements, health and happiness.

Dr. Patricia Kuhl, Co-Director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Science at the University of Washington, is currently expanding our knowledge about how young brains develop. She has been studying the period between eight and ten months of age — a critical time for early brain development — focusing specifically on language acquisition.

Her research confirms that by the time that babies are eight months old, they can discriminate all sounds of all languages. They are truly “citizens of the world.” Then, at around ten months of age, there is an important shift. They start to become “culture bound” listeners.

In a TED talk on the subject, Dr. Kuhl explains that as babies are busy collecting information about the world, human contact is essential for translating that data into language. Put simply, human interaction — the social brain function — plays a dramatic role in language acquisition. Very young children need human contact for learning and communicating. They won’t learn from a screen.

The research leads us to important questions: How exactly does technology impact developing brains, especially in the earliest years? What are the long-term implications as children grow? Is it too soon to tell?

Gary Small, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UCLA has noted that the brains of digital natives are “wired to use [technology] elegantly.”  But he also cautions that young people between the ages of eight and 18, many of whom spend 11.5 hours a day on digital devices, are lacking in ability to use human technology.  They may struggle with face to face conversations, non-verbal cues and eye contact – the same type of human interactions that are so critical for initial language acquisition.

Technology isn’t going anywhere. To ensure healthy developmental growth for little ones, balance is key. Here are a few tips to help families find that equilibrium:

  • Seek Expert Advice: The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests avoiding television and other forms of electronic entertainment for infants and children under the age of two.
  • Go Screen-Free: Create screen-free zones in your home, and use them! Create areas to read books, draw, play board games, dance and perform plays and music, and schedule time outside for physical activities.
  • Make Family Time Count: Avoid using digital devices during family meals, especially dinner; use family time for real-time, face-to-face communication.
  • Maintain a Digital Diet: Be thoughtful about the digital content your children consume. Check out our previously recommended resources to help select quality digital content.
  • Be a Role Model: Remember that children model YOUR behavior. Are you distracted by digital devices when you’re with your children? Do the majority of your family interactions include a screen? Plan an unplugged weekend! Be aware if you are using technology as a babysitter — such habits can creep in quickly.

When it comes to screen-time for kids, the choice of apps, games and films may seem endless. But just a little knowledge about the developing brain provides a golden rule – above all, human interaction and connection are the greatest learning tools we have.

Technology and Early Learning: Part Three Bridging the Digital Divide
Practical Resources for Educators

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). 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 02/05/2015 on the HMH blog.

Just over 30 years ago, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates shared a vision for a society with “a computer on every desk and in every Girl at computerhome.” We’ve made great progress since then – over 80% of the American population now has a home computer and more people than ever now use the internet. From smartphones to Skype, digital resources shape much of our daily lives.

Today’s edtech landscape is exciting, with adaptive technology, learning management tools and interactive content designed for students on-the-go. However, we still have work to do when it comes to digital equity and closing the digital divide — the Pew Research Center reports that digital access varies drastically by state and geography.

Furthermore, educators report a number of barriers to smooth tech integration in the classroom, from budget challenges to low-bandwidth internet connections to lack of professional development, and many have also observed that their classroom’s use of technology remains basic – word processing, video projection or simple research.

We’ve explored the concept of “too much” tech and the importance of a digital diet in the last post, but what’s at stake when learners do not have access to digital learning resources?

Here’s some food for thought about the digital divide and education:

  • 72% of public K-12 schools and the majority of public libraries do not have sufficient broadband to support 21st century learning.
  • 30% of households do not have high-speed internet, making it difficult for students to benefit from digital learning tools at home.
  • Teachers and students in underserved areas disproportionately carry the burden of these access issues.
  • 85% of teachers surveyed by the Pew Research Center seek out their own opportunities for professional development around effective use of tech; 75% say digital tools have added new demands to their lives.
  • 84% of teachers worry that access to new technology is leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools and districts.

Comprehensive digital literacy and advanced technology training has become more essential than ever to career development and college-readiness. We can’t afford to have some students using microblogs, creating podcasts and communicating with instructors via social networks, while others struggle with outdated hardware and limited internet connections. Without holistic action to bridge this access gap, many young people (and educators) will be left behind. 

Digital equity is a complex systemic issue that stretches beyond the education space, but it is not insurmountable and individual actions will make a difference. So, what can educators looking to increase access and sharpen skills within their own classrooms and communities do to move forward? There’s plenty:

Look To Your Greater Community

  • Explore creating technology alliances with civic organizations such as the YMCARotary, and Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Local community colleges, colleges and universities have some of the best technology resource centers around. They also often have services for the greater community, like volunteer mentoring programs and free or inexpensive workshops.
  • Children’s museums offer age-appropriate technology centers for teachers, parents and kids. See if there is an Intel Computer Clubhouse in your community and encourage students to join.
  • Create relationships with local businesses. Many are interested in community investment and can offer professional development for teachers and/or resources for students.

Utilize Complimentary Tech Support 

  • Stores that sell computers often hold workshops for people that have recently purchased equipment. Sales people can be very knowledgeable and eager to help you better understand the technology landscape.
  • All tech companies provide tutorials, videos and product information for their products. Increasingly, customer service support is available by online chat in addition to toll-free phone calls and is reliable and real-time.
  • Internet and telecommunications providers routinely have school and at-home programs available for communities and families that do not regular have internet access. 

Visit Your Local Library Network

  • Make a standing appointment with a local resource librarian. Libraries often offer free courses or seminars. You could even provide questions prior to your appointment to maximize learning time.
  • Most public libraries now offer computer and internet access. Don’t be afraid to ask the librarians for information about access – what are the rules or guidelines for young users? Are there times when the computer stations are used for classes, or are very busy? Are there branches of your local library network that are especially well-equipped?
  • Check out a book! There are many great print resources on technology for beginners looking to enhance their digital skills and expertise.

Technology is best learned through practice. If one thing is certain about the tech boom, it is that the digital landscape is constantly evolving. It is easier to gain confidence when you understand that learning new things is an inherent part of using and benefitting from technology. And don’t be scared to learn from your students – they make great teachers, too!

Technology

As we know, technology is changing at an unbelievable rate. When we were little, modern devices were just a dream.Smart Table Now, technology makes more inventions possible, and it is constantly changing. Technology is very exciting, but have you ever asked what it is?

According to Merriam-Webster, technology is the “practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.” (“Technology,” 2015) Technology makes things so much easier and more convenient. Think of the items that have been created in science to make life easier and better. Devices, such as pacemakers and bionic legs, have been invented to improve our quality of life. Devices can also help make car rides with children more pleasurable or calmer, and other devices can make cooking easier. As technology improves, schools will include more technology at every level of education. These may include interactive boards, computers, digital cameras and tablets just to name a few.

However, remember that even though technology makes things easier, real hands-on experiences cannot be replaced. Technology cannot replace the feel of hugs, dirty hands, paint, and the wind in your hair; the sights of the brightness of the sun or a child’s smile; or the smell of hot dogs cooking on the grill. Therefore, remember to use technology to enhance learning at home, not to replace real-life experiences.

Technology [Def. 1a]. (2015).  In Merriam-Webster., Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology.

Technology and Early Learning: Part Two
Building Blocks for a Nourishing Digital Diet

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). 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 01/22/2015 on the HMH blog.

The more I think about it, the more I love the analogy of a “diet” when considering children’s digital media iPadconsumption. Just as calories from the most wholesome foods nourish and strengthen our bodies, the right mix of high quality, engaging digital content can nurture intellectual growth and spark curiosity.

So what does a balanced digital diet for young children look like? And how do we assess the appropriateness, quantity and quality of digital channels and tools – from games and apps to eBooks – especially when there are so many choices on the menu?

Some media – for example pedagogically sound, research-based education apps – are naturally more nourishing than others. And just like food, not all digital content should be consumed at the same rate. Increasingly, specialists from pediatricians to educators are providing essential information and guiding principles to inform our choices about digital content consumption for children.

Regardless of a diet’s particular nature—whether a protein-light Mediterranean Diet or the protein-dense Atkins Diet—nutritionists generally draw upon the five basic food groups to ensure balance. In the same way, I find it helpful to organize digital content for kids into five “building blocks,” each one providing a different learning experience or outcome.

1) Educational Media

This includes digital tools designed to support a specific learning path or engage children in a particular curriculum. Educational media also helps children acquire knowledge and practice skills in order to gain mastery, and inspire further exploration of concepts or topics. Keep in mind that if digital media claims to have educational value, it should be backed by vetted research so take some time to research the media’s development. Great examples are Curious George and the Firefighters  (Ages 4+, eBook) and Endless Alphabet  (Ages 5 and under, App).

2) Practice and Skill Development Tools

These are really a subset of Educational Media (with all the same benefits described above), but because many parents and teachers are interested in tools that support specific skill development, they are worth considering separately. Today, there are a wide variety of digital tools for kids of all ages and abilities, that target individual skills and needs, whether spelling, hand-eye coordination or vocabulary. I’d recommend apps like Slice Fraction  (Ages 6-8, App) and Cursive Writing Wizard  (Ages 6-8, App).

3) Creative Media

This building block provides dynamic, interactive experiences around music, art, videos, architecture and more. Of course, technology is not a replacement for the hands-on knowledge that children gain from painting, building, making and playing music. However, the digital arena gives children opportunities to stretch themselves in a fun environment and save iterations of their creations digitally. Get your child’s creative juices flowing with tools like Minecraft (Ages 8+, Web, Desktop, Tablet) and Toca Band (Ages 5 and under, App).

4) Entertainment Media

The proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is as true for young children as it is for adults.  Entertainment can stimulate the imagination and provide inspiration for a child’s hopes and dreams, ultimately supporting learning goals. Playful stories, apps and games introduce children to adventure, the drama of human interaction, relationships, conflict resolution, and often, areas of life that can capture a child’s interest for a lifetime, providing great fulfillment. Have some fun with LEGO’s The Hobbit (Ages 8+, Video Game Consoles) or Little Red Riding Hood (Ages 6-8, eBook).

5) Data Collection Tools

This building block is for teachers, parents or any adult working with young children. Data collection apps and programs allow us to collect data so that, as caregivers, we can ascertain areas where a child needs extra support and where they are excelling. With this information, caregivers can rearrange the other building blocks to create a nourishing digital diet that is personal, balanced and flexible. For example, HMH’s own Curiosityville helps teachers and parents keep track of kids’ progress and they play in the program’s interactive environment.

Innovative digital tools have great potential, but like many tools, they are complex. We need to think carefully about how, when and why we are using them to enhance our children’s learning and growth. By considering which building blocks meet your goals, you will find it easier to balance options and choose tools for your individual child’s age, interests and needs.

And it’s worth noting that each building block is often better suited to certain forms of media. For example, games (which may be available via an app or in other forms) may provide better opportunities for cognitive skill development, while a nature video may be the perfect choice to get your child thinking about the environment.  Apps are flexible, mobile, and interactive, providing families with resources that are engaging and accessible at a moment’s notice, while both eBooks and videos offer caregivers opportunities to share the digital experience by reading aloud together or co-viewing content.

To help evaluate specific digital tools, Claudia Haines (author, librarian and media mentor for young people) has created a fantastic rubric to help you understand the power and impact of every digital tool. The following sites also offer quality recommendations for eBooks, apps, videos and games, along with recommendations on how to ensure that screen time is also a valuable shared experience with your child.

And don’t forget to consult your local librarians! They can be a bridge between the best of the digital world and your family. With these resources and some menu planning, you’ll be sure to provide your child with a healthy, balanced digital diet.

Technology and Early Learning: Part One
A Healthy Digital Diet – Three Tips for Balancing Screen Time for Kids

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 01/07/2015 on the HMH blog.

It’s a blizzard out there […]! I’m referring to the astounding number of new eBooks, apps and websites now available for young children.

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Experts estimate that there are hundreds of eBooks, story apps and learning games for children released every week. With such a deluge of digital content, it can be difficult to distinguish what is truly educational and developmentally appropriate.

The good news is that there are excellent resources available to guide the way and help you make informed decisions about what to include in your child’s “digital diet.” In this series, I’ll take a closer look at these resources and share thoughts on how to harness the power of technology to enhance your child’s learning experiences.

While there are no definitive rules to help caregivers decide how much screen time (and screen type) is best for their children, the American Pediatrics Association recommends that kids spend no more than two hours per day.

In today’s post, we’ll discuss how to make sure that the time your kids do spend interacting with screens is age-appropriate, positive and educational.

Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation was one of the first to put a stake in this ground on the issue of “how much is too much?” In her seminal book, Screen Time (2012), she approaches the topic as a mother concerned about the influence of television.

Given the wealth of digital content on tablets and devices, the TV may seem like an antique, but Guernsey’s insights remain extremely valuable. Guernesy coined the “three C’s” – Content, Context and the individual Child – to provide families with framework for informed decision-making about screen time.

Content
This one seems obvious, especially when thinking about television or video content, but once you enter the digital space, choosing the right content can become more complicated. Buried advertisements, inappropriate distractions and dead ends, as well as the limitations of some apps, can frustrate little ones or undermine the potential learning experience.

Takeaway Tip: Preview all digital media and don’t be afraid to be picky!

Context
Context is about what happens before, during and after screen time, particularly what’s happening in the child’s environment. Are there competing devices within earshot? Is the child in a distraction-free environment? Most importantly, context also includes your own interactions with your child during screen time.  In fact, devices present a great opportunity for parents to play and learn along with their children, ensuring the experience is positive.

Takeaway Tip: If you are joining your child in an interactive game or app, try to be undistracted. Make an effort to put your personal, digital devices aside, and minimize background noise by turning off the television and other media. When sharing the interactive experience, don’t let the device dominate the experience. Often, adults end up focused on directing the use of the device or software, rather than experiencing and exploring the content together.

The Individual Child
The ultimate objective is to help provide children with experiences that will enhance their curiosity and pique interest in themselves and the world around them.  It pays to be thoughtful and seek out those games or apps that are most appropriate for your child, his/her age and interests.

Takeaway Tip: Check out some trusted resources to find the best fit for your child, and to help you navigate the digital terrain!

Bottom line: A reasonable “digital diet” is essential for child growth and development. Just as we choose a balance of foods for nutrition, energy and wellbeing, we can also choose appropriate digital content and determine how we can interact with it to provide the best experience for kids.

Stay tuned to this series for additional resources about creating a healthy digital diet and using technology to promote positive, fun growth experiences for young learners.

Five Fun Ways to Limit Screen Time for Your Preschooler

Guest Post
by Amber O’Brien, on-site owner of The Goddard School located in Forest Hill, MD

I am an onsite owner of a Goddard School, an education-based franchise preschool, and my faculty and I recently noticed that one of the three-year-old students had become increasingly tired in the morning and started having frequent meltdowns in the classroom. She had also become more difficult to wake after naptime. Communication between the parents and the teachers produced the reasons for the child’s change of behavior. The parents revealed that they had recently started giving an iPad to their daughter at bedtime and were letting her put herself to sleep. We explained the negative effects of too much screen time, especially at night, and encouraged the parents not to hand their child a device at bedtime.

In our increasingly technological world, devices are here to stay. Set boundaries and limits now so Preschool Computerdevices become teaching tools instead of detracting from precious interactions with family members. The introduction of smaller devices creates more opportunities to increase children’s screen time and a greater temptation for tired parents to hand their children a device. In parenting, the easy thing is often not the best thing, and we must always think about the long-term results of our choices.

As a parent of three teenage children, I know firsthand how difficult it is to stop devices from slowly creeping into our home life. My advice is to set boundaries now, because when your children are older and have cell phones, it will become increasingly difficult to monitor how much they use their devices. Habits children learn as preschoolers can pay dividends long into the future. Setting boundaries that you and your spouse both agree on and providing many fun and enriching alternative activities may be the key to a happy home where the children are not overtired and healthy relationships can grow.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I already know that too much screen time is not healthy, but what I need is some practical help. How can I limit my child’s screen time, and what are some fun activities we can do with our preschooler at home?” I believe the answer is balance. At The Goddard School, we provide a variety of interactions for the children so screen time does not distract them from other fun and stimulating activities. Consistency between the home and school is very important, and the expert and professional teachers in our classroom environments can teach us all a lot.

  1. Limit your child to only 15 minutes of screen time.

    Students at The Goddard School receive a limited amount of screen time. The tablets and computers in the classroom are teaching tools and only contain educational apps and games. Since students must take turns in the classroom, the students quickly learn that they cannot use the computer or tablet for more than 15 minutes.I suggest setting your phone timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, or a few minutes before it goes off, remind your child that he or she should be finishing the game. Setting a 15-minute limit teaches your child that individuals are in control of electronic devices and not the other way around. Remember that these educational games are great teaching tools, but they should never replace the human interaction of snuggle time at night, and you shouldn’t use them to end a tantrum or to babysit a child.

  2. Make bedtime the most special time of the day.

    Not only was using the tablet depriving the above-mentioned three-year-old of enough sleep at night, but it also deprived her of precious snuggle time and the experience of sharing books with a parent. While educational games are a wonderful supplement for helping your child learn basic skills, they can never replace the joy of sharing a funny or touching book.Studies have recently shown that the blue light on computer screens interferes with the melatonin that helps people drift off to sleep. A sleep-deprived child is not a happy child. According to Charles Czeisler from the Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts, “Children become hyperactive rather than sleepy when they don’t get enough sleep, and have difficulty focusing attention, so sleep deficiency may be mistaken for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”1

    Ensuring that your child has enough sleep will give him or her a better chance for a more successful day with better behavior. Spend a little extra time at night to ensure that your child receives a warm relaxing bath, a chance to debrief and lots of snuggle time, which may help encourage a happier morning the following day. Make bath time fun with lots of bath toys and foam letters, and make story time special by asking questions and use different voices as you read to your preschooler.

    Don’t allow a TV in your child’s room, and take away all devices before bath and story time. Bedtime should be a time to unwind and slowly prepare for a deep refreshing sleep.

  3. Create an imaginative play area in your home.

    At The Goddard School, the students have so many fun, hands-on activities available that they are excited to start the next activity when their tablet or computer time ends. Look around your child’s classroom and take mental notes. Try to include similar materials and activities in an accessible area of your home to encourage your child’s imaginative play.Collect costumes, clothing and accessories your child can use to play dress-up. Create a play kitchen where your child can imitate you as you prepare dinner. Include clean boxes, containers and utensils from your kitchen. Add an easel and art supplies to a craft area. You could also create areas with a cash register so your child can learn about money, matching sets of cards for playing memory games to increase concentration, coloring books, clay or kinetic sand.

    Provide bins with different types of manipulatives, such as puzzles, LEGO, Lincoln Logs and other building materials. I would often give my children old magazines and child-safe scissors, and then I would watch as they happily cut out pictures and letters while developing their fine motor skills. Just as your child’s teachers put out different centers each day, take out new items and put away other items to pique your child’s interest. The more non-electronic activities you have available, the easier it will be for your child to hand over the tablet or turn off the TV.  If an adult comes down to the child’s level and plays with the child, the chances of a tantrum-free transition increases.

  4. Make meal times meaningful.

    Meal times should be about more than putting nutrients in our bodies. They should also be a time to reconnect with our family members and talk about one another’s days. At The Goddard School, teachers sit at the table with the children and eat with them. The children are encouraged to wait until everyone has their food, and they learn good table manners from watching their teachers.Make sure you read the daily activity report and use this information to ask your child about his or her day. Ask about the book that the teacher read, the fun outdoor activity or the messy process art activity. By asking questions about your child’s day, your child simultaneously learns lifetime lessons about communicating and extends the learning of the school day. Some families have each member describe a high and a low for the day. This enriching exercise helps all the family members learn to listen and share the successes and challenges of their days. I often ask my family, “What was something good that happened today?” I want my children to realize that each day has some good in it.

    At meal times, turn off all TVs, cell phones and other devices and give all of your attention to one another.

  5. Use physical touch and exercise.

    Preschoolers need touch and fun physical interactions with the people who love them. Children, like adults, receive and perceive love partly through physical touch and quality time.For our monthly icebreaker at our last PTO meeting in January, I asked the parents to describe their favorite non-electronic activity to do with their preschoolers. Parents smiled while describing playing hide and go seek and tickle monster with their children. One parent has set up tunnels to create an obstacle course in the basement, and the entire family goes downstairs to run races and play together.

    Children love to dance, so try putting on some dance music and dancing together as a family after dinner every night. Try playing a variety of musical genres as we do at school. The children’s favorites include “Let It Go” from Frozen, the dance song “I Like to Move It” and, of course, the chicken dance and the hokey pokey. A fun game of freeze dance, where everyone freezes when the music stops, teaches concentration and produces lots of giggles and smiles.

    Play classic games, such as duck, duck, goose; ring around the rosy; and London Bridge. All of these games include physical touch and whole body movement, and they provide valuable social interactions.

One of our most important goals as parents is to build healthy, close relationships with our children that will last a lifetime. We want our children to have more memories of reading bedtime stories and playing hide and go seek with us and fewer memories of us texting on our cell phones. Show your child that you are in control of all media and devices, provide alternate activities and choose to set boundaries, especially for meal times and bedtime.

 

1 Czeisler, C. (May 23, 2013). Perspective: Casting light on sleep deficiency. Nature, 497, S13. doi:10.1038/497S13a

Three Easy Science Experiments Your Child is Sure to Love

IMG_2672_philly_00429Children have a natural curiosity in STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). You can encourage your little scientist’s interests by conducting the following easy experiments at home.

Milk Fireworks: Pour whole milk into a baking pan. Add drops of red and blue food coloring. Add a “squirt” or two of dishwashing liquid, and watch the colors burst and swirl! When the “fireworks” slow down, add another couple of drops of dishwashing liquid to get them going again. Explanation: The soap separates the fat from the other liquids in the milk, causing patterns to appear.

Dancing Raisins: Put raisins (or dried corn or macaroni) in a clear cup. Fill the cup with lemon-lime soda. Watch how the raisins bob and sink in the cup. Ask your child what makes the raisins do this. Explanation: The gas bubbles in the soda lift each raisin up, and when the bubbles reach the surface and pop, the raisins sink.

Salt & Vinegar Pennies: Put ¼ cup of white vinegar into a clear plastic or glass bowl. Add one teaspoon of table salt and stir until the salt dissolves. Dip a dull, dirty penny halfway into the liquid, holding it there for 10 to 20 seconds. Remove the penny from the liquid. What does your child see? Explanation: Salt and vinegar create a weak acid that dissolves copper oxide, which is the tarnish on a dull penny.

*An adult should oversee all activities. Activities may not be appropriate for all ages.