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Archive for the ‘Toddlers’ Category

Preventing Screen Brain for Children Over the Holidays

Toddler Looking at Screen

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

young girl eating donut outside winter

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

Toddler trying new food

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!

Our Top 10 Toys for Children, Just in Time for the Holidays

town

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

This is the time of year when children are compiling or chatting about their wish lists. It is also the time when grandparents and other friends and family members need ideas for gifts.  The Goddard School has conducted an annual toy test for ten years. We thought we would put our top ten in a new list for you and your loved ones.

The top ten toys are for children in the early years, from infants to kindergarteners. These interactive, engaging toys will keep children’s attention. Your children may still play with the boxes they come in, which is great for creativity and innovation, but the toys will stand the test of time.

  1. Count Your Chickens from Peaceable Kingdom

Count Your Chickens from Peaceable Kingdom

Board games are perfect for social-emotional development. Children learn to take turns, cooperate with others and communicate. This colorful and easy game also supports the development of counting and problem-solving skills. Plus, it is a great deal of fun!

  1. Giant Roller Ramps from Lakeshore

Giant Roller Ramps from Lakeshore

We love toys that help our littlest engineers build and create in a big way. The ramp materials can be used in many different configurations so your children can stay busy designing their own ramp courses. After constructing the ramps, use a ball to test them out.

  1. Lite-Brite from Hasbro

Lite-Brite from Hasbro

This creativity tool is now a classic. Children use colorful pegs to design an image and then scream with delight when they switch the lights on. Children really enjoy making funny faces or silly expressions on the design pad. It is also great for collaborative play because you and your children can create something together.

  1. Baby Animal Sounds Pals from Learning Curve

Baby Animal Sounds Pals from Learning Curve

These lovable and huggable stuffed animals make wonderful sounds to engage our youngest learners. Animal sounds are some of the first sounds babies make. This is true across all cultures. These toys are also great to help calm babies at fussier times.

  1. On the Farm from HABA

On the Farm from HABA

Children love both the threading and stacking games. These are perfect for developing fine motor skills and understanding spatial relations. Children can work together to complete the tasks. We found that children make the animal sounds during play and build vocabulary while naming the animals.

  1. Take-Along Town from Melissa & Doug

town

The folks at Melissa & Doug really know children. The Take-Along Town is a terrific toy that goes indoors or outdoors for lots of imaginative play. This type of free play supports children’s application of skills and what they see in the world around them.

  1. Gymini from Tiny Love

Gymini from Tiny Love

These are our favorite baby gyms. The toys and gadgets in each gym keep babies in exploration mode. Older infants will can crawl in and out of the gym as they play with the hanging objects, which can be taken off the gym for more play as children get older. The guide is wonderful for giving new parents lots of ideas on using the gyms with their babies.

  1. John Deere Gearation Board from TOMY

John Deere Gearation Board from TOMY

Children love to tinker and explore how things work. Families voted the Gearation Board as one of the best toys to support these explorations. The gears can be moved with the on/off switch. Children create patterns while they develop fine motor and creative thinking skills.

  1. Railroad Pals Building Set from K’Nex

Railroad Pals Building Set from K’Nex

Did we say that children love building and construction play? Well, they do, and this is another interactive set that will keep children’s natural curiosity and creativity going for hours. Spend some time playing with these materials with your children, and you will get hooked as well.

  1. Star Diner Play Set from Melissa & Doug

Star Diner Play Set from Melissa & Doug

We love dramatic play toys, and this set is from our friends at Melissa & Doug.  Children use dramatic play to develop social-emotional skills and to apply what they have learned. Dramatic play is also important for language development as children learn to express themselves. Starting up their own diner allows your budding entrepreneurs to create their own restaurant.

 

 

How to Help Your Child Transition Back to School after Covid

Child sitting at desk writting

By Lee Scott and Helen Hadani, Contributing Writers and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Members

We have been asked by many parents how they can help their children transition with the changes at school this summer or fall. What happens when it will be a move to a new classroom or teacher? Things will feel strange enough after being away for so long. We suggest a few steps that may help you prepare. 

Get started by planning for returning to schoolSet up your schoolday routines – set a time for waking up in the morning, create relaxing bedtime rituals, select clothing at night, etc. Start these a few weeks before returning to school. Connect with the school before returning. Ask which classroom your child will be in and who will be his or her new teachers. You can also ask whether some of your child’s friends from the previous classroom will be returning. Share the details with your child.   

Practice and roleplay. Walk your child through security or safety protocols such as handwashing, taking temperatures and wearing a mask. Explain what your child will do when he or she gets to school. Roleplay the sequence at home. What will you do? What about the teachers and your child? The Goddard School has a short video you can watch with your childTalk about the routines with your child. 

Make sure you connect with what your child is feeling and support helpful behavior. Research shows that when parents encourage children to talk about mental states including emotions, they are more likely to adjust to change and be helpful to others. Look for opportunities in your daily activities such as reading a book or watching a movie to highlight how characters are feeling (e.g., “How do you think that character was feeling?” or “How would you feel if that happened to you?”). This may help children talk about how they are feeling when they get back to school and hopefully lead to them helping their peers who may be struggling more with the transition.  

Help your child adjust to the changes by managing expectations. One way to help your child adjust is to create a play plan. Tools of the Mind is an early childhood curriculum for preschool and kindergarten designed to promote executivefunction skills through playful learning activities. For example, children start their school day by drawing or writing activities they envision for their day. Those plans help children to think and act purposefullyEncourage your child to create a play plan before he or she goes back to school to get in the habit of thinking about the day. It could help ease fears about what to expect and build excitement around doing favorite activities at school. When you are sharing a play plan, you can also talk about your child’s new classroom and teacher. Ask your child what he or she might expect from the new classroom or new routine. 

Reconnect with friends a few at a time. For some little ones, seeing peers in large groups might be a bit overwhelming since they have spent the past several months with their families and maybe only seeing one or two friends at a time. Set up a time to get together with a friend. Plan a simple activity, such as a ball game outside or a board game or puzzle. Your child might not know what to talk about, so thinking of a few things to share could be helpful. Parents can ask their child to think of three things that the child has enjoyed (or not enjoyed) about staying at home (e.g., having more family movie nights, not being able to visit grandparents). 

Following these steps and building expectations will help your child make a smooth transition. Try not to worry and remember that many others are having the same experience.    

Children’s Books About Inclusion and Diversity

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

good way to begin a dialogue with young children about inclusion and diversity is by listening to and reading stories. Engaging young children with stories of people from diverse cultures, backgrounds and races helps extend their understanding of familiar emotions and social behaviors by presenting them in new contexts, as well as providing them with opportunities to encounter emotions and social behaviors that they may not be exposed to in their everyday interactions within their families and communities. This helps promote critical thinking about bias, and it develops children’s ability to stand up for themselves and others in the face of bias 

The following is a compilation of books selected by members of the Educational Advisory Board as well as families who also sent us book ideas that they feel support the understanding of inclusion and empathy. Here is a list of 15 books to help launch important conversations: 

Infants and Toddlers

Who Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim is a tickle and giggle book with beautiful baby’s brown toes.

Whos Toes Are Those Book CoverTen Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox is a wonderful celebration of babies from all over the world.

Ten Littler Fingers and Ten Little Toes children's book cover

Dream Big Little One by Vashti Harrison shares the inspirational stories of powerful black women in history.

Dream Big Little One Children's Book Cover

Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora is a cheerful book that all babies will enjoy. 

PeekABoo Morning Children's Book Cover

Who? A Celebration of Babies by Robie Harris is just that, a wonderful book featuring babies’ first words. 

Who? Baby book cover

Preschoolers to Kindergarteners 

We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Kates (Sesame Street) supports young children’s understanding that although we are different in many ways, we are all the same inside. 

6-different-the-sameLovely by Jess Hong is a celebration of what makes everyone unique and how we all are lovely. 

Lovely child book coverThe Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson supports children as they work through the challenge of not feeling that they fit in or are fearful of new environments. 

The Day You Begin children's book cover

The Family Book by Todd Parr, focuses on how families, although often very different, are alike in love and caring for each other. 

The Family Book children's book cover

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, explores how children accept cultural differences such as names unfamiliar to them and learning acceptance and friendship. 

The Name Jar book cover

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët is a heart-warming story about caring for others and standing up to bullying. 

I walk with Vanessa book cover

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman sets the stage for understanding inclusion with a wonderful story about the children in a school. 

All Are Welcome book cover

Say Something by Peter Reynolds shows children how their voices are valued. 

Say Something Children's book cover

Skin Like Mine by LaTishia M. Perry celebrates diversity in an entertaining way for early readers. 

Skin Like Mine Book Cover

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester is a great book to help parents begin the dialogues with their children. 

Let's Talk About Race book cover

Check out more book recommendations from Goddard parents!

Transitioning Back to School After COVID-19

balancing-working-from-home-with-children-3

Returning to School after COVID-19 may be an anxious time for both parents and their children. Getting back into preschool and daycare centers may bring up big emotions from even our youngest students. When age-appropriate, let your children know that soon they will go back to School and be with their friends again, but things may be a little different when they return.

Here are some steps that parents and families can take to help their children make a smooth transition back to School:

  1. Drive to their School to familiarize your child with the setting. Seeing the School building will help jog your child’s fun memories of the building and all of their beloved friends and teachers inside.
  2. Communicate with your children. When age-appropriate, explain to your children how things may be different when they return, such as a smaller class size or teachers wearing masks.
  3. Assess your feelings.Young children can pick up on their parents’ nonverbal cues. If you feel guilty or worried about your child returning to School, he or she will sense it. The calmer and more assured you are, the more confident your child will be. If you are struggling with the idea of your child returning to School, think about the reasons why. Reassess your feelings. Don’t do something if you’re uncomfortable. Consider calling the School’s owner or director to learn about the new health and safety protocols put into place for children, families and faculty members.
  4. Establish the partnership.When you enter the classroom or meet teachers in front of the building for drop-off and pick-up, be sure to greet your child’s teacher warmly by name. Because of enhanced safety policies, parents may not be allowed to linger, so to ensure you’re doing all you can to keep children, families and faculty members safe, call in advance to find out. Then, let your children know about these new rules to help them understand and be prepared for these changes. If your child clings to you or is reluctant to participate in the class, don’t get upset because this may only upset your child more. Follow the guidelines described by the teacher or School and go at your child’s pace.
  5. Say goodbye. Saying goodbye may be hard for young children who have adjusted to being at home with their parents every day. As tempting as it may be to stick around, you should follow a predictable farewell routine to make leaving easier. Also, keep in mind that most children do well once their parents leave. Some parents wave from outside a certain classroom window, sing a goodbye song or make a funny goodbye face. It’s important to be consistent and do the following:
  • Always say a loving goodbye to your child and reassure him or her that you will be back to pick him or her up later. Once you do, you should leave promptly. A long farewell scene might only serve to reinforce a child’s hesitation about this experience.
  • Never sneak out. As tempting as it may be, leaving without saying goodbye may frighten a child.

If you would like more information about how Goddard Schools are responding to COVID-19, please click here.

Simple Activities to Practice Thoughtfulness and Empathy for Others with Young Children

balancing-working-from-home-with-children-2

Increased amounts of time spent as a family at home provides a great opportunity to help your children understand their roles within your family as well as in the larger community. This article will outline three simple activities that can help your children practice thoughtfulness and empathy both within and outside your home.

Activity One – Messages for Your Community

Have a conversation with your children about members of your community who are essential to our everyday life, such as the sanitation workers, healthcare workers, grocery store workers and postal workers who deliver your mail. Then head outside with some sidewalk chalk and assist your children in creating messages that essential workers from your community might see as they head to work or do their jobs. Your children can leave messages for the mail delivery people near the mailbox or a note for the sanitation workers by where you set out your trash cans. The message could say, “Thank you for all you do” or “Have a great day.” They could draw uplifting pictures, such as smiley faces or sunshine and flowers. This will help your children consider other members of their community and how they can play a role in thanking them for all that they do.

Activity Two – Daily Chore Charts

Talk with your children about taking responsibility for some daily tasks while they’re at home all day. This might include chores, such as making their beds, getting dressed on their own, helping to care for a family pet or assisting with outdoor yard work. Take time to explain why each task might be helpful to another family member or help your children have a better day. Work with your children to create a chart that outlines the daily tasks that you have discussed. Set aside time each day for your children to complete their daily chores. This can be especially helpful during times that you might need to get something done and need your children to be occupied. You can create a goal for them, such as completing all the assigned chores for a full week earns them a reward, like a special dessert or an allowance.

Activity Three – Daily Reflection Art

Set up a space in your home with art supplies where your children will be comfortable working independently. Toward the end of each day, ask your children to draw or paint their favorite and their least favorite activities or moments of their day. Once your children are finished, discuss their artwork with them and why each moment was their most favorite or least favorite. This is a great opportunity to help your children feel comfortable discussing their emotions, understanding how their behavior affects others and discovering how to improve their behavior and their experiences day after day.

Encourage your children to consider their well-being and actions and the well-being and actions of others, which are important factors in fostering their social and emotional growth. In all activities, practice listening actively and being truly present with your children as you navigate your new daily routines together.

Understanding Toddler and Preschooler Emotional Development

eab-todder-and-preschool

By Kyle Pruett, Jack Maypole and Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Little ones all develop differently, and it is a bit of a roller coaster. One day they are walking, and the next they go back to crawling again. Another child may be consistently using the toilet, and then when a baby sister arrives he goes back to wetting his pants and asking for a diaper. We often see children who are confident going to school one day and then suddenly cling to a parent when separating the next day. Some will cling to one parent while acting confident with the other.

Early childhood is an amazing time since our children are growing and changing daily.  It is normal for them to struggle with anger and fears that arise as they grow. They can find many situations challenging, such as being separated from a loved one, moving to a new classroom, coping with having a new baby join the family or just things they see on television or hear from older children. Many of these fears are hard for little ones to articulate, so they may act out, cry, have a tantrum or suddenly become very quiet. The key is to recognize a change and support your children by exploring what is upsetting them and by reassuring them by reinforcing the things your children know. (E.g., “When you go to school, you know we will be there at the end of the day to pick you up.”) You can explore more from there.

It is also important to take a measure of how your child is doing physically. A behavioral change may be caused by the impact of physical issues ranging from coughs and colds to constipation. Does your child appear to feel unwell or is your child acting differently from her baseline? Assure yourself your child is in good health (without fever or other signs of physical illness) and that she is acting within usual schedules and rituals and needs (eating, sleeping, pooping). Finally, are there any other identifiable ongoing factors (new meds, a new diet, etc.)? Other times, issues of sleep changes and clinginess can be common responses to common things, such as a nightmare or a reaction to stress in a sibling or family member.

In addition to making adjustments within their world, young children also begin to test their independence. How many times does your toddler say “no” during the day?  This is all part of how they experiment with the world, to test their locus of control on the environment and to see what happens.

All of these adjustments and reactions to transitions and situations in life are normal.  It is how we react and support our little ones along their paths in development that is important. Our goal is to calm children’s anxiousness and at the same time support the development of essential skills they will need later in life such as resilience, self-regulation and working memory.

Resources:

The Emotional Life of the Toddler, by Alicia F. Lieberman, is a wonderful resource that looks into this roller-coaster ride of being a young child (from one to three years old). “Anyone who has followed an active toddler around for a day knows that a child of this age is a whirlwind of explosive, contradictory, and ever-changing emotions,” Alicia Lieberman writes. The book offers an in-depth examination of toddlers’ emotional development and supports parents and educators with ideas on how to support young children’s development.

Zero to Three is an organization focused on ensuring that babies and toddlers benefit from the early connections that are critical to their well-being and development. They provide a great deal of support in a Q&A format to guide parents through the developmental stages of young children. Check out this article on responding to toddler fears on their website. This section describes natural fears for young children and how to react as parents and educators.

Literature Resources:

Books can often help you talk with your children about their fears. It is through the characters and their situations that the children can begin to understand what they are feeling. Here are a few books we use in our classrooms:

  • Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jane Dyer
  • Little Panda by Renata Liwska
  • Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
  • Lots of Feelings by Shelly Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
  • When Mama Comes Home Tonight by Eileen Spinelli and Jane Dyer

KidsHealth is a trusted resource for physicians, educators and parents, providing information on both physical and emotional development of children. The section for parents provides developmental charts as a reference for children’s growth.

How to Survive Holiday Travel with a Toddler

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By Jack Maypole, M.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Are you going on a trip and looking to pass the time while you pass through security or over the river and into the woods? Screen time has its limits in helping kids cope with long trips or stretches in airport lounges, and there may be some opportunities that allow even pre-literate kids to engage in the joy of the travel adventure, even if the lines are long or you aren’t even there yet.

Consider making the journey a game, and use the time-tested scavenger hunt or bingo board to liven up your passage. If you are traveling by air, for example, you can use waypoints in your trip (the parking shuttle, the TSA, the airport gate, a food court or the passenger-assistance staff) as boxes or pictures to be marked off as they are seen. You can use simple images off the web for toddlers and preschoolers or brief titles and make a small grid before you leave.

Bigger families might break up into teams. Longer trips might mean double-sided lists of items and sights to hunt for. Everybody gets to pitch in. Who knows? Maybe the winner gets the window seat!

Finally, remember the healthy stuff. Keep tissues and hand wipes handy. Make sure there are snacks for everyone and plenty of water. Whenever possible when in long lines or a waiting area, keep your family in a contained area, away from the potentially sniffling crowds. If there are two adults traveling with children, consider having one stay in line as long as possible while the other stays with the children in a nearby, less-crowded area until it’s time to get back in line. Wash your hands and wash surfaces on planes and trains. These few steps will maximize the chance of staying healthy during the trip.