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Six Summertime Water Activities – No Pool Required!

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Summer is in full swing, which means it’s time to soak up the sun. When the temperature gets a little too hot, cool down with some of these fun water activities.

  1. Make a toy car wash. Break out a bucket of soapy water and the hose. Your little ones will love dunking their waterproof toys into a bucket of bubbles and then spraying them clean. They may have more fun playing with the hose, so make sure you’re wearing swim clothes. If you prefer not to use a hose, fill a separate bucket with clean water for rinsing the toys;2
  2. Water the garden. Children love to help, so why not enlist them to help water your flowers? Fill a child-size watering can and show your children how to water plants; 3
  3. Build a homemade water wall. Check out this DIY water wall from Happy Hooligans. You can make one from recyclable items found around the house;4
  4. Play with bubbles. Bubbles are just plain fun for children and adults. You can buy them or make your own using the recipe found in this article. Kick bubble-play up a notch with some experiments. Get your children’s hands wet and blow bubbles onto their palms. They’ll squeal with delight when the bubbles don’t pop;5
  5. Draw with watercolor sidewalk chalk. Drawing with sidewalk chalk is fun, but it’s even more fun with water. Let your children draw with chalk, then give them a bucket of water and a large paintbrush and have them paint over their drawings. They can also dip the chalk into the water first and then draw with the wet chalk. Ask them about the differences between drawing with wet and dry chalk;6
  6. Make mud pies. Let the children get their hands dirty by making mud pies. This simple activity is always a big hit. (“You mean I get to be wet and filthy?”) Create a make-believe outdoor kitchen where children can “bake” muddy delights.7

What are some of your favorite summertime water activities?

Five Ways to Ease the Back to School Transition

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Starting school can be scary for children and parents too, but with the proper precautions, it can be a fun, new experience for both your child and you.

1. Tour the school with your child beforehand.

Introduce your child to her future surroundings and show her that there is nothing to fear. She will feel more comfortable attending her first day if she has an idea of what to expect.

2. Practice the new routine with your child.

Your child will not be familiar with the routine of his new school. Collaborate with the school and find out what he will be doing during the day, at lunchtime, recess, naptime, etc. Start getting him into that routine at home by saying, “This is what you will be doing when you start school as a big boy!” If your child has lunch at home at the same time as lunchtime occurs in school, he will feel more comfortable eating lunch at lunchtime in school.

3. Talk to your child about getting along with classmates.

While we cannot imagine anyone being mean or rude to our little ones, sometimes children do not get along with others. It is important to explain to your child that he should not get upset if there are issues with other classmates such as not sharing or not being included. Talk to your child about proper etiquette with other classmates and tell him that he can and should always talk to his teacher if he is feeling sad or left out.

4. Discuss using the bathroom and practicing proper lavatory hygiene with your child.

A lot of children do not feel comfortable using the school bathroom. When starting school for the first time, your child may be afraid to go. However, having an accident can be very embarrassing for children. Before school starts, explain to your child that she will need to use the bathroom and wash her hands without your being there. Mention it a couple times a week so that she becomes familiar with the idea.

When you bring your child to the bathroom on her first day of school, ask her if she would like to use the bathroom before you leave. She will feel more comfortable in this unfamiliar bathroom with you there.

Explain to your child that he must approach his teacher and tell her when he needs to go to the bathroom. Seeing you clarify this with his teacher will make him feel comfortable about going to the bathroom with her. If your child is shy about needing to use the bathroom, inform his teacher of this so she can ask him periodically if he needs to go.

5. Listen to your child.

Before your child starts school, ask her questions about how she feels.

  • What does she think school will be like?
  • What are some of her worries?
  • What excites her about going to school?

Asking these questions will give you an idea of what your child is expecting and how to help her cope with her fears. After addressing her concerns, come up with solutions to help ease her nerves. End the conversation with what she is expecting. This will leave her cheerful about her first day of school rather than concerned about it.

Thumbprint Flag Card

Create a thumbprint flag card to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Materials

  • A red stamp pad with washable ink
  • A blue stamp pad with washable ink
  • A blank white note card
  • A note card envelope
  • Painter’s tape (optional)

Instructions

  1. Use painter’s tape or your envelope to cover the top left corner of the note card to save space for the stars on the flag.
  2. Use the red stamp pad to create the red stripes of the flag. Press your thumb onto the stamp pad, and then press it onto the bottom left corner of the note card. Continue pressing your thumb down in a horizontal row until you reach the bottom right corner, re-inking your thumb as needed. Move your thumb about half an inch above the red stripe, making sure to leave white space between the red lines, and repeat the process. Continue creating rows of red thumbprints until you reach the top of the card. Avoid the covered section.
  3. Clean your thumb and remove the painter’s tape or envelope from the top left corner of the note card.
  4. Use the blue stamp pad to create the stars on the flag. Press your thumb onto the stamp pad, and then press it to the top left corner of the front of the note card. Create a square border, and then add blue thumbprints to the center of the square, leaving some white showing through the blue to mimic the stars of the flag.

Once the ink has dried for a few minutes, open the card and write an appreciative note to a friend. Then, place the note card in the envelope, address it, stamp it and send it!

Five Ways to Introduce Your Children to Other Cultures Through Language

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On July 30, 2011, the U.N. General Assembly proclaimed this day to be the International Day of Friendship to inspire harmony between people, cultures, communities and countries, to generate new peace efforts and to increase understanding between communities.

A major part of getting along with people from other cultures is learning to appreciate and understand their differences. Children are highly influenced by their parents when it comes to understanding other cultures. What you teach your little ones about people from different cultures usually sticks with them for the rest of their lives. I remember my mother practicing French with me when I was very young. I still remember singing “Frere Jacques” with her. Now, I’m fluent in three languages. My time practicing French with her inspired me to learn other languages. Even if your children don’t become fluent in another language, introducing them to another language will open the door to their understanding of other cultures.

When I was teaching foreign languages, I used the following techniques for the children to have fun learning the new language. These activities will not only introduce your children to another language but introduce them to the culture of the people who speak that language. Be sure to choose a culture that you know about and stick to that language.

  1. Find a movement song in the target language online that your children already know in English, such as “Head and Shoulders; Knees and Toes,” which in Spanish is “Cabeza y hombros; rodillas y pies.” Do the movements and sing the song to the music with them.
  2. Do a word exchange with your children. Every week assign your children a new word in the target language and have them use it in place of the English word for an entire week. Reward them with praise every time they use the new word. If you choose to use the French language, you could have them say, la porte instead of the door, and when appropriate you can say, “Ferme la porte” instead of “Close the door.”
  3. Find a picture book in the target language that you and your child have read in English. You can google “children’s fairy tales in German” or you can find children’s picture books in other languages. Make sure your children already know the story and then read the book together with them while looking at the pictures. For example, you can purchase “Schneewittchen” (Snow White) from Amazon online.
  4. Take your children to a restaurant where the food is in the target language, such as a pizzeria, taqueria or gasthaus, and hopefully, the staff there will be familiar with the target language,
  5. And finally, talk to the enrichment teacher at your children’s School for some other excellent ideas to expand your children’s understanding of other cultures.

When you practice these activities don’t worry if your pronunciation isn’t perfect. You are not teaching them to be linguists; you are expanding their understanding of the world we live in.

Summertime Learning in Museums

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By Helen Shwe Hadani, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Summer is here, and for many families, that means a shift in their schedules.  Hopefully that shift is to more relaxed mornings, long afternoons by the pool and spontaneous outings to parks, beaches, zoos and museums, which are all great places for playful learning. Science centers and children’s museums, in particular, are perfect destinations for parents, caregivers and children seeking a break from the heat and a chance to learn something new.

While the term “museum” may not bring fun, hands-on, interactive experiences to mind, many children’s museums and science centers have reinvented themselves to provide these types of experiences for children as young as toddlers.  When visiting museums with your toddler, preschooler or older child, keep the following in mind to make the most of your visit.

  • Let your children take the lead. Child-directed experiences motivate children to learn because they are engaging in activities for the joy of the experience, (i.e., intrinsic motivation) not for a reward. Research suggests that making choices promotes intrinsic motivation, which boosts creativity. Additionally, letting your children play a role in planning your outing helps them develop important decision-making skills;
  • Encourage your children to take risks. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to let your children take risks, but letting them test their capabilities and push their limits are critical components of learning and other creative processes. Children can take physical and social risks in a museum setting. They might have the chance to climb high obstacles; use their fine motor skills to work with a new tool; or cut, shape and take apart objects in a museum program. They will also have the opportunity to share or collaborate with other children whom they have never met;
  • Allow time to explore and be creative. Research speaks to the value of providing opportunities for young children to experiment with a range of ideas and actions and then work out the consequences. Try to leave enough time in your museum visit for your children to engage in what researchers call exploratory play. Taking part in open-ended exploration and tinkering often lead to further questions. Museum activities are designed to be open-ended so children have time to generate, test and revise theories about how things work. Ask your children questions, such as “What do you notice about that machine?” or “How do you think that works?” to guide their learning and deepen their thinking.

10 Tried and True Tips for Traveling with Little Ones!

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By Kyle Pruett, M.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Many of you may worry about traveling in the summer with your little ones. It can be stressful, but it can also be fun and leave you with wonderful memories.

We debated whether to take our preschoolers with us on a rare opportunity: a work trip to Hawaii. It meant laying waste to the beloved routines we counted on to manage two working schedules and the endless demands of raising two little, active people. We decided to go for it and jumped in feet first.

Within days, our daughter was floating alongside me on a small raft with a see-through window in a quiet lagoon and watching turtles scuttle along underneath her in the waist-deep water. Excitedly, she raised herself on her hands, shouted, “Turtles!” and promptly upset her balance. Years later, after many retellings, all she remembers is the allure of the swimming turtles that inspired her to pass her open water scuba certification and nothing of her unexpected swim. Thank you, limits of childhood memory. We wouldn’t trade those times and are glad we chose to bring our children along on the trip.

The U.S. Travel Association surveyed 2,500 adults and 1,000 youth about family memories and found that the most vivid memories of family life were often centered on vacations, even when the details were fuzzy. The best way to enjoy a trip is to be prepared, relax, and enjoy the missteps along the way. Here are ten tried and true tips that can help:

  1. Plan the activities with your older children and share the plans with the whole family. When children know what to expect, they are less stressed, just like their parents.
  2. Bring familiar items in an activity bag. Include games, crayons, paper, and books. Try not to rely too much on screen time.
  3. Open itineraries rule; children can’t take ten steps on the beach without finding something dead that they need to investigate. Patience: scientists are at work!
  4. Take bathroom breaks everywhere you stop, which you should do frequently (unless everyone is happy).
  5. Talk, talk, and talk some more. Explain what you are seeing to your children. Ask them questions. Share stories that relate to what you are seeing and doing.
  6. For plane travel, walk the aisles and terminals, and bring along training pants for longer flights.
  7. Keep healthy. Pack sunscreen, bug spray, After Bite, bandages and more.
  8. Don’t go hungry. Pack small, healthful snacks in case someone’s blood sugar gets low, or the children decide they are hungry in the middle of an activity.
  9. Don’t over-plan activities. You will find you can enjoy the day more and stay relaxed. Long days of sightseeing aren’t recommended for young children.
  10. Take pictures and make memory books to share and look at with your children before bedtime when you get home.

 

When to Introduce Young Children to Chores

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By Helen Hadani, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

“Make your bed,” “Clean your room” and “Take out the garbage” are statements most parents have uttered more times than they care to remember. Chores get a bad rap, but if you think about them slightly differently, you can start your child on the path to becoming more helpful, perhaps even without having to ask.

While the word “helpful” doesn’t often come to mind when thinking about toddlers, research and everyday experiences show that young children are naturally inclined to help. We see this evidence in the caring behaviors they exhibit early in life, such as comforting people by patting them on the back. Young children are often eager to help their parents with chores around the house. Let’s be honest, though – toddlers and preschoolers can be clumsy and messy, so their offers to help may slow the work down. This raises a question: When is it appropriate to ask your children to help with chores? While you may be inclined to do the tasks yourself, giving your children the opportunity to assist you can cause them to become more helpful. You may have to re-wash the dishes your children just washed, but the experience of contributing to the family can help promote a sense of purpose and self-confidence.

Giving your children a choice of chores may motivate them to get started. Prompt them with a simple question: “Should we put away the clothes or set the table first?” Start with easy, fun tasks your child is naturally interested in doing, such as matching socks, cracking an egg or sorting the silverware. Watch for opportunities when your children are curious about what you’re doing and want to help. This may happen more often than you expect.

Dr. Maypole: Summer Outdoor Safety – Itchy Eyes and More

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While outdoor play is a great way to keep children active and happy (and learning!), there are some summertime essentials every parent needs to protect their children from the potential hazards of summertime.

Pool Eyes

Are your children’s eyes red after being in the pool? For many children, this may be a simple case of contact irritation from the chlorine or other chemicals in the water. Their eyes may sting, itch intensely or feel exquisitely sensitive to light. The best treatment is to remove the children’s contact with the irritant by having them take a break from the pool. Most bloodshot eyes will fade back to their normal color within a few hours. If the itchiness is causing a child minor to moderate discomfort, apply a towel wrapped around some ice cubes or a damp washcloth chilled in the fridge to the child’s closed eyes for a few minutes at a time, with breaks, to reduce the inflammation. The key lesson from the dermatologist’s playbook is that the feeling of coolness overrides itchiness. Applying a cold treatment may provide enough relief until the redness and irritation fade away. If the children insist on returning to the pool with fiery-colored eyes, they should use a pair of well-fitting goggles to prevent their eyes from coming into contact with the water. Eye protection may prevent inflammation altogether.

Sun Safety

The use of spray sunscreens remains controversial. Applying it so that children can’t inhale the unhealthy ingredients can be difficult. Spraying can also make it tough to get enough even coverage on exposed skin.

Following consistent commentary from the CDC and product reviewers, I recommend families avoid sunscreens containing nanoparticles. We simply don’t know enough about their effects on little bodies or the environment. Aim to use a product with an SPF between 30 and 50. Anything higher than 50 doesn’t offer any additional benefit and usually costs more. Buy more of the inexpensive stuff and use it liberally, about an ounce per person per application because you have to use enough product for it to work. Read labels, and avoid products with known or suspected health effects, such as oxybenzone, which is a hormone disruptor, and retinyl palmitate, which may increase the risk of sun damage.

To quote my dermatologist uncle and his wisdom for the ages, “Unless you need to use a flash on your camera and you can see the sun, then you need sunscreen.” Listen to Uncle Steve and apply sunscreen.

Foot Care

Athlete’s foot is a slow-moving, annoying-but-not-dangerous fungal infection of the skin. The fungi that cause it are ubiquitous in the environment, and developing an infection is not a sign that a child is unclean or went swimming in the wrong pool. In fact, knowing exactly where someone got athlete’s foot is nearly impossible because it can take up to 10 days to blossom into a rash. The rash is typified by itchy and burning bumps in the spaces between the toes. Tinea pedis, the fungus that causes it, thrives on children with damp feet. Encourage your children to dry their feet after swimming or bathing, to let their feet be exposed to the air when appropriate and to wear clean socks with shoes. If your children have itchy feet and are waiting for an antifungal cream to take effect, I recommend this classic and cheap remedy: apply a chilled, damp cloth or a small bag of ice intermittently to the itchy toes. The feeling of coolness overrides the itchy feeling, so while the cream starts to take effect, your children can chill until their toes feel better.

Dr. Maypole, member of The Goddard School’s Educational Advisory Board, is a well-respected pediatrician, associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine and director of the Comprehensive Care Program at Boston Medical Center.

How Does a Garden Grow?

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Combine family fun with learning about nature and developing a healthy lifestyle.

Spending time gardening with your children can be fun and help them learn about how things grow. Most children have an inborn desire to explore and understand their world. Gardening is a perfect way for them to explore nature while learning about life cycles, nutrition and the environment. By gardening, your children will begin to develop new skills and ideas. They will learn new plant-related words, practice math skills by counting the number of days the seed takes to grow roots and learn about procedures and sequences by tracking the stages of the plant’s growth.

Begin your adventure by reading a book about gardening, such as The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, which will whet your children’s interest and cultivate their imaginations. After the introduction, you can talk about the basic steps involved in starting a garden.

  1. Plant a seed
  2. Count the number of days until the root, which is hidden under the soil, comes out of the seed.
  3. Look for the shoot to emerge from the soil.
  4. Watch the seed coat drop off displaying the new leaves as the shoot emerges.
  5. Observe how the seedling forms.
  6. Appreciate how the baby plant grows.

In your local garden store, you can find seeds, decomposable pots and topsoil. Let your children fill the pots with the soil and help them plant the seeds in the soil. After the seedlings grow large enough, the whole family can till the garden. Your children will develop a healthy lifestyle by working outdoors and eating the fresh food that your plants produce.

Outdoor Play for Infants and Toddlers – Lee Scott

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Goddard School Educational Advisory Board member Lee Scott gives six outdoor play ideas for infants and toddlers.

Summer is a great time for playing outside with your child. Many fun outdoor activities support sensory integration, language development and fine and gross motor skill development. Of course, you will also be out in the fresh air and sunshine. Here are six activities to enjoy in the summer sun.

  1. Use water and sand for sensory play. Provide plastic buckets, and let your child mix and handle water and sand. She will love the textures. Sing a song as you play to describe what your child is doing. Try “Here We Are Playing in the Sand” sung to the tune of “Here We Go ‘round the Mulberry Bush.” Singing and talking while playing is terrific for early language development.
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  1. Go for a walk. You can walk in the backyard, in your neighborhood or in a nearby park. As your child looks around and points to things, talk about his observations. Pick up flowers, leaves, stones and sticks. Let him feel the items, but be careful not to let him put them in his mouth. Children learn by observing and experiencing new things. Your descriptions of the items will help your child build language skills.

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  1. Enjoy early science activities without the mess. Show your child some ice cubes and watch them melt while asking your child what is happening to them. Place ice cream in a sealed plastic bag and let your child play with it until it melts. Remember to talk about what is happening and repeat the activities a few times.

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  1. Set up a station for messy art. With finger paints and paper, encourage your child to use her hands and feet to create a design. The best part is that you can clean up with a hose while she enjoys playing in the water. Let your child hose you off, too.

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  1. Create an outdoor obstacle course. Start with big cardboard boxes, blankets draped over a chair and other large objects. Include your child’s favorite stuffed animal or a ball. He can then explore the course by going in, under and around the items. Give simple directions, such as “Roll the ball into the box” or “Let’s have Teddy go through the hoop.” Your child will build language and listening skills while working on his gross motor development.

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  1. Let your little one crawl, walk and run. My nephew took his first steps when we were playing outside with a few balls and he stood up to get one that had rolled away. Luckily, we got a snapshot before he sat down again.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset