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Posts Tagged ‘Kindness’

National Cuddle Up Day

Family cuddling on sofa

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

National Cuddle Up Day encourages us to snuggle up with someone for the health benefits and more.

I’m not sure that I was prepared sufficiently in the run-up to adulthood to understand the lasting importance of a simple act families do every day, nor did I appreciate the science behind it. This involves parents interacting with their children of any age, sometimes with specific intent, and other times intuitively or unconsciously. However and whenever it happens, it has many important short- and long-term benefits for physical and emotional health and, can I add, it is wonderful. As we snuggle in for National Cuddle Up Day this January 6 and beyond, let us reflect on the shared benefits of cuddling with our children.

To count as a hug or a snuggle and to have the desired emotional effect, you must make physical contact and give a loving, nurturing squeeze for about 8 seconds or more, according to research. For the recipient (and very likely, the giver), a loving hug promotes the release of oxytocin, known variously as the ‘feel-good’ or ‘affection’ hormone. Indeed, we know that oxytocin promotes several important biological processes that are immensely important to a growing child. It promotes the release of hormones that boost growth, bolster immunity and lower inflammation. Quite literally, cuddles can help your child get bigger and stronger.

In turn, frequent cuddles and snuggles in families are associated with children who have less anxiety during their childhood and teenage years. This may be due, in part, to the unspoken messages hugging and handholding can convey, including the love, appreciation and feeling valued by their family and loved ones. We know that in children who receive little or no nurturing contact, a lack of hugs and snuggles over time leads them to have lower cognitive scores and a higher risk of behavioral and emotional problems.

Snuggling promotes health, and it benefits everyone involved most when it is engaged in on a regular basis and in a loving manner. Snuggles are not a chore but a joy. Find ways to connect with your little ones and, if it helps your reluctant tween or teen, get the family dog or cat involved. Plunk down on the couch and hang out. Hold hands and take a walk. Sit side by side and scratch your child’s back as you read a story together. Do whatever works for you and your crew.

Over time, children who find snuggles to be comforting may be more likely to develop some inner resilience, and that helps them appreciate the importance of connection and contact with their loved ones. Snuggles may last only moments, and you may need to make time in your busy day to make them happen. However, this National Cuddle Up Day, feel inspired by the fact that the goodness of hugs can make an impact over a lifetime.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging – In Recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

As we reflect on the events of 2020, the recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes even more important. How can we help our children live in a world that represents his dream?  Many parents of our youngest learners ask us where they should start. 

Children learn social behaviors and attitudes in many ways – through observing others, using dramatic play, modeling the behaviors of adults and siblings, and considering stories and their characters. Sharing books and bringing the narrative into the forefront supports children in applying the lessons they learned to real-life situations.We thought we would help you get started by selecting five engaging books for infants and toddlers and five for preschoolers and kindergarteners. It is never too early to build a fountain for understanding others working toward anti-bias and inclusion. 

Infants and Toddlers 

Babies around the World by author Puck and illustrator Violet Lemay 

Babies around the world children's book cover

Wonderful images of friendly babies from across the world are seen throughout this book. The book shows children in New York, London, Paris, Cairo, Beijing, Tokyo and more. The added feature of greetings in their language is fun for our littlest learners to repeat.  The English translations are a bonus as well.  Babies around the World is a great place to start viewing the broader world.  

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by author Mem Fox and illustrator Helen Oxenbury 

Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes Children's Books

The images in this colorful book will bring a smile to all children.  It helps children connect to who they are and builds awareness of how similar we all are. What a wonderfully visual way to begin to show how while we may look a bit different from one another we all have ten fingers and ten little toes!  

 Everywhere Babies by author Susan Meyers and illustrator Marla Frazee 

Everywhere Babies

In Everywhere Babies, rhythmic and rhyming language takes the reader through the everyday activities of babies. Depicting a diverse range of families, the book shows babies in all their glory:eating, playing, moving and, ultimately, showing they are valued for being just who they are. 

 Who? – A Celebration of Babies by author Robie H. Harris and illustrator Natascha Rosenberg 

Who-a-celebration of babies all babies

Who? provides a terrific way to engage babies and toddlers in the relationships with people around them.  The rhythmic verse and beautiful images make the book one they will want you to share over and over again.  

 Baby Faces by author Margaret Miller 

Baby Faces All faces

What do the expressions for yucky, yum-yum, stinky, uh-oh, boohoo and yippee look like? This book provides reallife, closeup pictures of infants with a bunch of different facial expressions that infants can make along with simple wordplay expressions to support language development. This is a simple yet effective book for helping infants learn about themselves and have positive reading experiences.  

 Preschoolers to Kindergarteners 

Same, Same but Different by author and illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw 

Same Same but different

Two boys explore each other’s lives while becoming pen pals. They learn what they have in common and what might be different. They soon learn that they have become close friends even though it might seem they live in different worlds at first.Same, same but different becomes different, different but the same. 

 My Two Moms and Me by author Michael Joosten and illustrator Izak Zenou 

My two moms and me different families

This story follows various children and their two moms. Each child describes what the moms do and compares their interests to what the child likes to do. It is fun to see how self-confident each child is. As you follow the children throughout the day, the children highlight their own talents. The story is full of the love within each family. 

 All Are Welcome by author Alexandra Penfold and illustrator Suzanne Kaufman  

All are Welcome Inclusion

School is a wonderful place to gather with friends, learn new skills, play and have fun. Everyone is welcome and everyone has a place in this delightful rhyming story about a multicultural school. The focus is on helping children understand that everyone can be welcomed and accepted for who they are.

The Day You Begin by author Jacqueline Woodson and illustrator Rafael Lopez 

The day you begin Children's Books

This beautiful story shows children how interesting their lives really are. It is okay to be different.Even though it may feel awful at times, you will soon find your way. The story highlights the interactions of a variety of children and how they cope with changes in friendships. The day you begin is the day you start to find similarities and celebrate differences. 

 Be Kind by author Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrator Jen Hill  

Be Kind Children's Books

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better and wonders,What does it mean to be kind? From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, the choices highlighted in this moving story explore what kindness is and how any act, big or small, can make a difference or at least help a friend.

How Small Children Can Make a Big Difference

children's hands playing piano

By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

In my last blog, I wrote about ways to help children cultivate an attitude of gratitudeDr. Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti, a colleague who studies positive psychology, recently told me that people who are more grateful also tend to be more optimistic, be more hopeful, have higher life satisfaction and be more empathetic. I hope that you’ve been trying some of the ideas that I shared! As it turns out, focusing on the good in our lives is only one way to reap these positive social-emotional benefits. Another way is to give to others in ways that support them without expecting anything in return. Today, I’ll share some ideas for how to get children of all ages involved in giving back to help their communities. 

Intergenerational Caring and Sharing  Now that families are traveling to see each other less often, seniors may be feeling especially lonely and disconnectedMake it a family goal to add cheer to the year for neighbors who may be struggling. Sara Bartlett is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on the benefits of intergenerational relationships for mental health and well-beingShe has shared some ideas for how families with young children can bring joyful moments to seniors who must socially isolate during this time 

  • Letters and Drawings  Encourage children to write letters or draw pictures, and mail them to local nursing homes or drop them off in older neighbors’ mailboxesYou may even spark a penpal relationship and receive letters back;  
  • Performances – Invite your children to play musical instruments, dance or perform a short skit from the driveway or porch for an older adult who watches nearby; 
  • Shared Storytelling  Ask children to practice their storytelling skills by sharing a story with an older adult over Zoom or FaceTime or, perhaps, invite the older adult to read with the child;  
  • Surprise Packages  Involve children in creating care packages with puzzle books, catalogs, jigsaw puzzles, art supplies or other items to be placed safely on someone’s stoop or delivered to elder care facilities. 

Caring for Others in Outdoor Places and Spaces – An abundance of research links developmental benefits to connections with nature. Although the pandemic limits visits to indoor spaces, families can still safely engage in outdoor activities, and they can do so in ways that help others in their communities.  

  • Community Clean Up – Cleaning up litter in your neighborhood or local parks can be safe and fun for children – just bring a plastic bag and gloves. Be sure to set rules in advance about what can and cannot be touched safely;  
  • Encouragement Rocks!  Invite children to spend some time painting rocks to scatter around the neighborhood for other people to find. Older children can paint encouraging words and phrases on their rocks, and younger children can paint with colors that they think will make others feel cheerful; 
  • Good Deed Day – Offer to do your neighbors a favor by pulling weeds in their yards, planting a small garden or making and hanging a bird feeder near their windows. These easy and fun activities will leave your children feeling like helpers and make other people a little happier during this difficult time.   

Pro tip – If you want your preschool-aged children to be enthusiastic about helping others, start by calling them helpersIn a recent study, children were more likely to offer spontaneous help to others when researchers told them, Some children choose to be helpers,” than when they said, “Some children choose to help.” This wording helps children begin to think of themselves as the kind of person who helps, and this encourages prosocial behavior. 

I hope you enjoy these ideas for how to engage in being thankful and giving!

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

child with gifts

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

grateful child

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

Boxes for Katje Book Cover

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

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 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.