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Posts Tagged ‘Kindness’

Helping Children Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

This is the time of year when social media, magazine and news stories and blogs (like this one) encourage us to reflect on the parts of our lives that we are most thankful for and to express appreciation for those who make our lives full. As a parent, my thoughts go immediately to my children. I am grateful to be sharing the experiences of life with them, and I hope that the things I say and do show them how important they are to me. As I write this post, though, I wonder what am doing as a parent to help them develop an attitude of gratitude.   

One place to start is to use the upcoming holidays as a reason to think about how much we appreciate our family members and help your children come up with ways to show them how much we value them. Although gathering with family members may be tricky this year due to pandemic-related health concerns, we can be grateful for the resources of the modern worlthat provide us with many ways to stay connected, even from a distance. Here are some ideas for preschool-age children that might inspire them to feel and show gratitude toward others. 

Art with Heart – Making art for others is an enjoyable childhood activity – not only do children get to create art, but they get to enjoy someone’s enthusiastic response when they receive it. I’m a big fan of process-oriented art in which the focus is on using materials creatively in an open-ended way rather than producing a specific set outcome. Instead of asking children to make a leaf wreath, provide them with a variety of materials and invite them to create something they think Grandpa would like. As they think about Grandpa, encourage them to reflect on what makes him so special, and write down what they say.  You can send Grandpa the artwork in the mail, take a photo and send it to his phone or ask your children to show the artwork to Grandpa over video chat. Include a note in which you share why your children think he is so special 

A Week of Warmth – Print out pictures of family members, turn them facedown and pick a new face from your pile each week. Start a conversation about that special family member in which you help your children reflect on how this person shows care and interest, what they do that your children appreciate and how your children feel when they think about that family member.  Each day of the week, have your children send a short video or text that they think will make that family member feel special. 

Sweet Treats – Invite your children to think of a kind of treat they’d like to make and who they’d like to send it toThis idea is a two-for-one – it has all of the benefits of a fun cooking activity combined with a way to show appreciation for family member far away.  When the family member receives the treat, ask that person to call (or start a video chat) so that your children can explain why they’re thankful for that person in their lives. Pro tip – Make a double batch so you can also leave one out to thank the mail carriers for what they do for your community, or make a triple batch and give one to your children’s teachers. 

Activities like the ones above help children pay attention to what they value about their family members and engage in age-appropriate ways to say, “Thank you for being in my life.” Combining conversations about how children feel with activities they can do to show thanks is the secret recipe for supporting children’s capacity for gratitude 

Managing Gift Expectations

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

Why shouldn’t our children see the holiday season as the high point in a year awash in retail celebrations? It is in everything they see, hear, and taste, starting after Halloween. What’s a parent to do in the face of this tsunami of acquisition? Is there any kind of life jacket that is helpful as the tide of consumption rises around your family?

Spend a few moments in your own head about what you want to convey to your children through your own behavior about this event, especially the relationship between giving and receiving. Then share it with your partner and see where they are on this issue. Are there any values or beliefs about the holidays in your ensuing discussion that are not related to consuming? If so, that’s a good place to start an actual conversation with your kids.

Most holiday traditions mix sacred and secular elements which are sometimes hard to reconcile, but it’s worth a try if you are going to help your children (and you) keep their sanity in the coming weeks. Asking for their holiday wish list sets the stage for disappointment and budget-busting in most cases, often amounting to online retailers having more power than the parents. Asking if they need your help with their holiday giving lists helps set the stage for more of a balance, and is often a good place for them to learn from your behavior.

Five Ways to Teach Children about Gratitude

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

No matter how many place settings there were to accommodate three generations of Pruetts at our Thanksgiving Feast table, everyone had a seat at the grown-up or kids’ table. Every celebration I can remember began with my father−a pastor by trade−telling everyone to hold hands and, starting with the oldest, share one thing for which they were grateful on this day. It was hard to be patient, sitting there, mouths watering, and wondering what you were going to say when it was your turn. In this simple act, we learned that gratitude was what made this meal different from all others. I was amazed year after year by how seriously everyone took this charge. Answers ran from sacred to profane, but the lesson was clear; families thrive on gratitude.

The Holidays are an important opportunity to affirm values that most parents hope (or wish) their kids were developing naturally. The bounty of family life−so obvious on the dining room table−is less obvious to our younger children, and most of them need a little help seeing the connections between what we share as a family and how we feel about belonging to that family. While children seem to have a natural drift toward empathy, even compassion, feeling grateful for what they have is a harder sell. Grown-ups need to place this high on their agenda, along with plenty of patience for this sapling graft to take hold. Before you start, think about why this matters to you and how you got that way. Share those thoughts with your partner, and make a plan about how to sell gratitude as a family value to your children, as it is one of those desired human values that does not always unfold naturally, as our children grow.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Regularly express your own thankfulness verbally. (We are very lucky to have grandma nearby. I’m thankful to have a son like you in my life. Your dad made that so easy for all of us.)
  • Express gratitude behaviorally. (Take a casserole to a neighbor who has been kind or needs some extra help for whatever reason−even better if the children help you make it. When the hand-me-down toys end their cycle, make a Goodwill run with the children in tow.)
  • Make generosity part of your family’s routine. (When seasons change, collect clothes from everyone’s closet to donate or take canned goods to the local soup kitchen.)
  • Take the children along on community fundraising activities, runs, walks, etc. Explain to them why this matters to you. (Make sure they meet the organizers and understand the purpose; if it’s personal, it’s remembered)

Consider this: regularly planned simple activities can make children feel useful and appreciated as givers, not takers, which is the antidote to gratitude). These are the roots of self-esteem, not reward or praise.

Five Books That Teach Children About Caring And Giving

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

Educators have long known that storytelling is an essential part of learning. Stories help children absorb information and connect the story to their experiences. Here are five books that teach the lessons of caring and giving in an engaging manner:

  1. Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

2. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Author), Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

Extra Yarn children's book cover

3. Boxes for Katie by Candice Fleming

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4. When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

5. Random Acts, More Random Acts, –and– Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

Random Acts, More Random Acts, --and-- Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

 

Three Approaches to Teaching Your Child to Be Kind

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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. 

 

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!

Goddard Parents’ Recommendations for Children’s Books about Diversity and Inclusion

We asked Goddard parents to send us their favorite books about diversity and inclusion to feature alongside the recommendations from our Educational Advisory Board. Here are some of their top picks:

*I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët is a heartwarming story about caring for others and standing up to bullying.

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*The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi explores how children come to celebrate cultural differences, such as names that are unfamiliar to them, and learn about acceptance and friendship.

The Name Jar book cover

The Little People Big Dreams series includes books about notable black men and women in history, such as the volumes Martin Luther King & Harriet Tubman by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Pili Aguado and Rosa Parks by Lisbeth Kaiser and Marta Antelo.

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Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel and Shane W. Evans is a book filled with joy and the freedom of expression in a young girl’s life.

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*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

I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo supports children in overcoming bullying and loving who you are.

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It’s Ok to Be Different by Sharon Purtill and Sujata Saha encourages young children to be kind and embrace the uniqueness of one another.

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

Say Something Children's book cover

A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara teaches the alphabet by highlighting the importance of standing up for what you believe.

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Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw is an engaging tale of two pen pals from different cultures who share similar lives.

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*Also recommended by The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board

Click here for more book recommendations from our Educational Advisory Board.

Here’s What Your Child Will Learn in Kindergarten

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Are you ready? Kindergarten is just around the corner. A few months of summer, and it’ll be here.

I am frequently asked what will my child learn? Usually, this was followed by what can I do to help my child succeed. Let’s tackle each question.

What will my child learn?

All states and school districts have a list of skills and objectives for each grade level.  You can find these on the school’s or school district’s website.

You can also ask your child’s teacher for a list. But learning goes beyond the list of standards or skills. Children are naturally curious and kindergarten nurtures that curiosity into exploring the world around them.

Beyond the early reading and math skills that include learning letters, numbers, shapes and colors, children will learn the following:

  • Social skills – how to get along with others, follow rules and ask for help;
  • Executive function – self-regulation (taking turns) and cognitive flexibility (testing ideas and problem-solving);
  • Health and well-being – sportsmanship and playing with others;
  • Creative expression – learning through dramatic play, the arts and self-expression;
  • Family and community – understanding what rules are for and how people work together in communities.

All of these skills help your child to become a motivated learner and build a foundation for success in school and in life.

How can I help my child?

Here are a few ideas of things you can do at home to continue to motivate your upcoming kindergartener:

  1. Read, read and read – Select favorite books every day and read one before bedtime. Help your child pick out letters and words.  Have your child read to you, even if he is just saying what is in the pictures.
  2. Learn something everywhere, so use a trip to the grocery store to practice math skills, such as counting the fruit that goes in the bag or reading the numbers on the price tags.
  3. Keep a school box at home. Place a box within easy reach that contains crayons, paper, markers, stickers and more. Encourage your child to use them and practice writing letters and numbers or drawing whatever he or she wants.
  4. Play games and put together puzzles. Not only will this be fun, but your little one will be learning problem-solving, taking turns and how to strategize.

Once School begins, engage your child with the following support:

  1. Ask questions about the school day. Instead of asking a broad question such as, what happened today, be more specific. What was the most fun thing you did today? Who did you play with today? What did you do outside?
  2. Build on your child’s answers. If your child mentioned a game they played, suggest he or she teach you the game and play it together. If it was a book your child read, suggest you get that book out of the library to read it together. Building on your child’s interest will connect School to home in a meaningful way.
  3. Look around the classroom when you pick up your child or plan a visit now and then. Read the daily or weekly reports from your child’s teacher. Ask about something you read in the report. I see you built a ramp in class today. How did you do that?
  4. Connect with your child’s teacher. Ask her or him for specific ideas, and keep the lines of communication open.

You’ll soon adjust to the idea of your little one being a kindergartner, and you’ll be posting pictures to your friends and family of milestone events.

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

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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.

Be Kind to One Another: Encouraging Children to Embrace Diversity

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by Katie Kennedy, Ph.D., Research Consultant, Bay Area Discovery Museum, colleague of the Goddard School Education Advisory Board 

Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, I was exposed to very little diversity. Most of the diversity I saw was on televisionand to be honest, television wasn’t even that good at representing diversity in the 90s.  

As I got older, however, I became interested both in working with diverse populations and studying children’s understanding of diversity. Through these experiences, it became evident that in spite of the common notion that opposites attractpeople often stick close to others who are like themselves.  

Although parents may find it somewhat concerning that children seem to prefer to play with peers who are similar to themselves, it is important to recognize that there is a natural tendency for boys to play with boys and girls to play with girls. It’s instinctive to want to group people by social categories like gender and race, and individuals are often most comfortable staying close to those whom they find most similar to themselvesA rich body of developmental psychology research has documented that even young children are aware of social category divides, and they use these groupings to make decisions, such as which children to befriend, help or trust as sources of information 

The world today is filled with a melting pot of people, and children should be urged to spend time with those who are different from themselves along such dimensions as beliefs, behaviors and appearanceThis is critical because, as research has shown, contact with people from different racial and ethnic groups is associated with less adverse beliefs about diverse others. 

As adults, we need to provide children with opportunities to have positive experiences interacting with diverse people, such as traveling to new places, going to ethnic restaurants and viewing television shows that promote foreign language learning like Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao Kai LanIn a world where it is much too common to see people being unkind to individuals who are unlike themselves, we can inspire the next generation to have open hearts and minds. We can learn a lot from one another if only we are willing. As Ellen DeGeneres says at the end of every show, “Be kind to one another.”