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Posts Tagged ‘Early childhood development’

Three Approaches to Teaching Your Child to Be Kind

women holding preschool child

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

We all want our children to be happy, well liked and good to others. How do we support our children in learning to be kind? This topic often comes up in fall as children make new friends at school, and it is part of the National Bullying Prevention Month messages. This year, we will want to use same approaches to online interactions since so many children are interacting with classmates, friends and family members through video chats.  

Children develop social-emotional skills in many ways. The three approaches that make the most impact are modeling role playing and playing games, and storytelling. Parents can help to build a foundation for their young children by incorporating these approaches in their families’ daily activities.   

Modeling – Act kind yourself. Modeling is by far the best way to instill kind behavior in your children. Children love to imitate us, and if we act in a kind manner, they will, tooPraise your children when they exhibit kindness, and explain why you thought what they did was a kind thing to do. It’ll become a habit. When you see kindness in others, share your thoughts with your children. “That was so kind of Jane to share her snack with you at school.” In an online situation, compliment your child (i.e., “You waited your turn to speak.  That was great!”). When our children hear the praise we give others, they will want to exhibit the same behavior. Try not to be negative, and redirect your children when they act unkindly. For example, explain how the other person may feel, talk about what your children could have done differently and help your children apologize.  

Role Playing and Playing Games – Create opportunities for your child to play. Your child will act out reallife situations while playing with stuffed animals, robotic toys and dolls. Interacting in unguided play with other children also supports learning to get along with others. Playing games can be part of dramatic play, tooGames help children learn to take turns and develop sportsmanship. Try games where your children need to collaborate with another player to win. Relay races, parachute games and family scavenger hunts are several good choices.   

Reading and Sharing Stories – Read stories where the characters must make decisions about their behaviors. Talk about the consequences of both kind and not-so-kind actions. Children learn through the stories by relating to the characters and the events. Here are some favorites that focus on kindness to get you started: 

  • If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson 
  • I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët 
  • Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton 
  • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace 
  • Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter 

You can also share stories from your childhood or from your family’s experiences. These are important to young children and can help them learn life’s lessons. 

 

Dealing with the Ups and Downs of a Preschooler

mom holding preschool daughter

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

Last evening, our neighborsparents of three children under seven, were sitting out on their porch steps, masked and full of coffee. They said hello as I (masked and at a distance) walked byI paused and asked, How’s it going? Kids asleep? and heard, Thank God” in unison. The mother continued, sometimes it’s been sweet and sometimes sour – very sour. I feel kinda hollowed out in the middle. I really love, both of us love, simply being together with them for more than just a snippet of the weekend, and other times, I feel bottomed out, discouraged.” I thoughtthere is the pandemic family anthem in a nutshell. 

Our young children are feeling much the same these dayskinda hollowed out in the middle, caught between the highs of being together and the lows of losing so much of their active physical and social life. That’s why they can go from angelic to demonic in a few hours or minutes. Parents wonder at such times if they are being good parents in the way they handle these huge swings. Their children know how clueless they feel about how to helpDisappointment is around every cornercan’t do this or that, can’t see your friends or grandma, have to wear that itchy, annoying face covering. As adults, we’ve learned something about coping with disappointment by now, but for our preschoolers and young children, this may be the first time they have had to confront it in such a huge dose. No wonder they and we are upset. They are missing out on some things that we know they need to keep growing up well. Helping them cope requires as much compassion and patience as we have ever mustered on their behalf.  

Advice:  

  1. When they are upset and need us to fix something, most of us just rush in with a tool or solution as soon as we can think of one. Don’do that, at least not right away. 
  2. Listen carefully through the tears for what is wrong. Say it back to them in your own words and ask if you got it right 
  3. Confirm that you get what’s so upsetting without judgment or even if you think it’s a bit ridiculous and that those kinds of feelings do hurt and make us sad. This compassion is less likely to soften your children than it is to strengthen them. It validates them and their feelings as more important to you at the moment than correcting some injustice. 
  4. Limit the amount of pandemic-focused information flowing at them through screens (especially back-ground TV) and from other sources, such as over-heard adult conversations. The most menacing, toxic force in the pandemic’s arsenal other than the obvious mortal threat to our health is its mystery; this scale of not knowing what’s coming is unfamiliar to most of us 
  5. Running on empty,emotionally and physicallyis very hard on everyone in the family. There are many replenishmentout there if you look. A favorite for families with pre-k children is Common Sense Media’s list of 26 Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Families to watch together. Turn off your phones, kick off the shoes and grab healthy snacks. Then snuggle up and let someone else do the entertaining for a while. Don’t forget to breathe. 

Here’s What Your Children Are Learning While They’re at Home

man teaching preschool girl sitting at table with him teaching her math and letters

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

Many parents have expressed concerns over what their children may have lost in terms of education while schools have been closed. The parents fret that they haven’t had the time or experience to ensure their children are learning. Rest assured that learning doesn’t begin and end at school. There is a great deal of value in what you have been doing at home. 

A new survey by MumPoll of British parents reported four in five say their families have formed a closer bond during this time. The survey also revealed some parents are engaging in new activities with their childrenFor example, 28 percent of families reported picking up family gardening. Parents also said they are playing more games and puzzles together. 

Think about all of the learning taking place in those activities listed above. For example, puzzles and games help support mathematics, self-regulation, communication and science skills. Gardening supports science, develops motor skills and requires planning and organization. These may not be formal school lessons but they are definitely learning opportunities. 

In our Goddard At Home activities, we have focused on fun and engaging experiences that cover a variety of learning areas instead of one or two skills. We have purposely made it easy for families to select activities that work for their routines. Parents do not need to try to recreate school but rather focus on following their children’s interests and enjoying the activities. 

Parents have reported to us that they are seeing positive changes in their children over the past few months while they’ve been at home. This is especially true in language development, taking on more responsibility and being more self-confident. These skills will help children cope with change and be better prepared when they do return to school.  

The simple acts of reading a story, taking a walk or cooking together are all learning experiences building language, math, science, executive function and other skills. 

When you think of what your children are learning in this context, it can be a lot less stressful. You got this and your children are learning.  

 

 

How to Foster Creativity Amongst Your Young Learner

balancing-working-from-home-with-children-4By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

May is Inventors Month. Who knew? Our little ones are always inventing and testing.  This is how they learn to interact with the world around them. Encouraging creativity is essential to supporting our young learners. National Inventors Month began in 1998 to help promote the positive image of inventors and their contributionsInventors affect every facet of our lives, and we want to encourage children to be creative and learn to become problem solvers. How can we help our young learners to become creative? 

Creativity is often described as the action you take after imagination. In other words, it is not imagination alone but how you put your imagination into action. In the business world, we call it insights into action. The combination of imagination, creativity and problem solving becomes innovation.  

 We can nurture creativity and innovation in our children by allowing them to try new things, providing a lot of time for free play and creating an enriched learning environment at home.   

  • You don’t need a mountain of toys and devices to create an enriched learning environment for your child. A variety of toys that are changed often will provide your child with cognitive stimulation and promote curiosity and exploration. The toys don’t need to be fancy. In fact, toys that require imagination, like cardboard boxes and old clothes for dress-up, are often the most stimulating! 
  • Access to books is also important, and the public library can help keep the selection varied. We love Rosie the Riveter, by Andrea Beaty and My Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.     
  • Explore how things work by taking apart old equipment, such as a toaster or computer. Before you throw things away, think about how they can be recycled for play. Children will be fascinated by all of the parts. 
  • Explore your community. Trips to the zoo, different local parks, museums, and even grocery stores add valuable variety to your child’s experience. 
  • Limit screen time and encourage physical activity. 

 Enriching your home in this way will help your child tdevelop creativity skills and tap into his or her innovative spirit! 

Supporting Children’s Positive Behavior While They’re at Home

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By Rorie Wells M.A., CPSI, Education Facilities Specialist – Playgrounds

Why more time outdoors might be the answer that you have been searching for.

Parents are being asked to juggle work responsibilities at home with caring for their children full time. It’s a lot to manage, but there is a simple solution to help cope with the stresses created by these new at-home scenarios while supporting positive behavior from your children. Head outside!

While restrictions have been put on many everyday activities, the CDC continues to recommend that children spend time outdoors as long as they are practicing social distancing procedures. This is for good reason, as time spent outdoors:

  1. Lowers stress levels.
  2. Improves mental health.
  3. Helps reduce hyperactivity.
  4. Promotes healthy development and physical fitness for children and adults.

Perhaps the most relevant benefit of spending time outdoors is that your child will come inside with an increased ability to focus on learning, allowing you to return to your other responsibilities. Here are a few tips for making the most of the outdoor time.

Go with the Flow

When heading outdoors, you don’t have to worry about a concrete plan for activities. Let your children lead the way in exploring their environment. You can introduce loose parts such as buckets, balls, toy cars, trucks or sidewalk chalk, or you can get creative with building, stacking and drawing with your children. Pose questions like, “What will happen if we do this?” or “Can you build a tower as high as your belly button?” or “Can you draw a picture of our family?” Follow your children’s interests for what to do next.

Observe Nature

If you feel you need a more concrete plan when heading outdoors, consider taking a nature hike and observing the world around you. Ask your children what they hear as you walk and discuss what they think is making those sounds. If you don’t have a trail nearby, you can head into your backyard or a nearby outdoor space and listen for different sounds.

Indoor Activities Can Go Outdoors

You can also take some of your children’s favorite books outside and have an outdoor story time or create a nature scavenger hunt and ask your children to find different natural items like something green, something rough, a piece of grass as long as their fingers, a piece of tree bark or a smooth stone. Simple questions and prompts open the door to more involved investigations and learning opportunities for you and your children.

The next time you feel overwhelmed with your dual responsibilities and your children’s behavior is becoming a little more difficult, head outside!

 

Why You Should Be Reading WITH Your Child and Not TO Your Child

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by Kyle Pruett, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Three-quarters of middle-class parents read to their preschool children at least five days a week. To many, it’s as important and routine as personal hygiene. Yet many parents need encouragement to keep at it because their children don’t always seem tuned in to the activity. Parents believe that regular reading leads to higher reading – and eventually writing – achievement, and research supports them, just as it supports their belief that it engenders positive attitudes toward reading as an activity and as a motivator in learning to read. However, a parent reading to you is not the same as a parent reading with you. Shared reading (sometimes called lap reading), where the parent and child engage together in a conversation about how to understand and mutually enjoy what is on the printed page with the ultimate goal of turning the printed word into its spoken counterpart belongs to the larger and more productive world of family literacy where language is taught wherever and whenever it matters. It starts with joint attention to illustrations and leads straight to phonemic awareness of what is in print. 

Here are my favorite reasons to read with your child every day: 

  • Literacy promotion  From tactile books to first chapter books, parents can edit and customize the text to fit the child’s interest, mood and curiosity about what is on the page. That is how they support the child’s innate interest in the printed symbols we use to capture meaning and intent in our written communication; 
  • Focused social interaction – As the child sits on the parent’s lap, the parent feels the child settle, become alert, get bored, get back up and lean in, which is all part of the reciprocal conversation the child and parent have in the moment. This serveandreturn learning is the favorite of the growing brain, which prefers it over other kinds of stimulation because being connected emotionally and synaptically allows the parent to use that information to tune in precisely to what interests the child about what’s on the page; 
  • Intimacy – The physical and emotional closeness of shared reading and attention lowers levels of stress hormones (especially in the grown-up) and settles down both generations. Try to name a healthier moment of the parent’s day; 
  • Entertainment– The delight that comes with the turn of the page, the echoing of an intentional sound, the desire to repeat a particular page, the search for a favorite illustration or the closing of the book with a slap (our son’s favorite) all guarantee shared enjoyment for a few moments of every day; 
  • Stimulating cognitive growth – In those first thousand days, the brain grows faster than it ever will again, and regular manageable intellectual stimulation encourages the growth of connections between the parts of the brain responsible for memory, emotion, problem-solving, thinking and behavior regulation. Shared reading reaches across each of these growth centers, connecting them for good. 

Why Family Storytelling Is Important

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

We all love to share stories from our childhood or our parents’ childhoods. Remember the time Dad tried to fool us with the Santa outfitHow about the one from your grandmother on cooking in her home country or the one about a traditional family celebration? 

Family stories are important to share with our little ones. It is never too early to start.   

They provide children with a sense of belonging – a connection to the family and the world around them. Research has shown that family storytelling helps children develop a better understanding of people’s emotions and supports the development of social intelligence (Duke, Lazarus & Fivush, 2008). Children who feel connected often have higher self-esteem and stronger self-awareness. 

Listening to and sharing stories are as important as reading to your children. Storytelling helps your children develop their imagination and creativity. Learning through storytelling also supports language development, listening and criticalthinking skills.   

You can start sharing stories about things that are familiar to your child, such as your first toy or favorite game, and how it was similar to or different from your child’s. Children love to hear stories about their babyhood.   

When your family gets together, try this simple game. Put your family members’ names in a bowl. As each person draws a name, that person will tell a story about the person whose name was drawn.   

You can also use your photo albums or look at the camera roll on your smartphoneTalk about the picturesexplain what the event was and tell the story about it. Don’t let the snapshots sit in a box or in the cloud. Share them and talk about them. Your children will love the connection and learn a great deal along the way. 

 

References 

Duke, M.P., Lazarus, A. & Fivush, R. (2008, June). Knowledge of family history as a clinically useful index of psychological well-being and prognosis: A brief report. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training45(2), 268-272. 

Five Ways to Help Your Child Develop Pre-Reading Skills Early

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

I remember a child in the third grade looking up at me and saying, “If you can’t read, you can’t do anything.” She was an adorable redhead, eager to learn and very curious about everything.   

We often think of learning to read in the early years as learning the alphabetrecognizing the letters, understanding the sounds the letters make and putting sounds together to make words. The most critical element in learning to read, however, is comprehension. It is the ability to understand and analyze what is being read. It is the joy within reading.  

Students with poor reading comprehension skills struggle not just in reading but also in every other subject and in reallife situations. Fortunately, young children can begin to develop comprehension skills even before they learn to read. When your infant is babbling while holding a book, those noises have meaning as the child looks at the familiar images. Early scribbling is a child’s way of telling a story on paper. All of these early skills and experiences lay the foundation for all later learning. 

Whave gathered five ideas for how to help your children develop those pre-reading skills early. 

  • Attend local plays, story hour at the library or puppet shows. 
  • While reading the story, ask thoughtprovoking questions. “Why do you think Goldilocks went into the bears house?” “What could she have done instead?” Talking about the story while reading it helps make a stronger connection to the story for your children.  
  • Before you open a book, look at the cover. Ask your children what the story might be about based on the picture on the front of the book. 
  • Make simple stick puppets related to a favorite book or fairy tale. Help your children roleplay the story. Point out that the story has a beginning, middle and end.  
  • Read nonfiction books that relate to your child’s interests. Children especially love books about animals, the outdoors and people. 

You can also get out crayons and paper and each draw pictures of the characters in the story. Find a few minutes each day for reading, and not only will it help your children’s development but it will also create special moments for your family.   

Understanding Toddler and Preschooler Emotional Development

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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 Develop Your Child’s Social-Emotional Learning Skills Through Literature

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By Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

“The early years of life provide the foundation for what is to come in terms of social, intellectual, and moral development. A child’s capacity to think out problems, built from ‘lived experience’ is indicative of social skills, moral reasoning, and intelligence,” writes Darcia Narvaez. This is a critical time for ensuring a strong foundation for what many call the “essential skills,” as social and emotional learning is shown to support the development of attitudes and skills that impact lifelong academic performance and interpersonal skills.

You will find that one effective method to help your children develop these skills is through reading high-quality literature. The stories help children extend their understanding of familiar emotions and social behaviors by presenting them in new contexts, as well as providing opportunities for your children to encounter emotions and social behaviors that they may not be exposed to in their everyday interactions. The characters within each story give children a framework for developing many essential social skills – cooperation, collaboration, listening and taking turns. For example, connections to characters such as Curious George, Sesame Street characters and classics (e.g., The Three Little Pigs, The Little Red Hen) help children learn about how things work and how people react to different situations while they are building vocabulary and developing emotional literacy.

Here are 10 of our favorite books that you and your children will enjoy while learning valuable social and emotional lessons on friendship, collaboration, fears, mistakes, risk-taking, resilience and more:
1. Me First (Laugh-Along Lessons) by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
2. The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord
3. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
4. Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jane Dyer
5. Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
6. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
7. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton
8. My Mouth Is a Volcano! by Julia Cook and Carrie Hartman
9. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
10. Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley