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Posts Tagged ‘Parents’

Choosing Toys for Little Ones

testing-blog-graphics-6By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

When I was a boy in my home state of New Jersey, we often stopped at roadside diners where I would stare gobsmacked at the delights posted on menus that went on for days. “Your eyes,” my dad liked to say, “are much bigger than your stomach.” He was right, of course. I’d order some big special, take only a few bites and leave piles of food behind.  

So it was when I became a parent. This was AFTER I had finished pediatric residency, mind you, so I was supposed to KNOW THINGS about choosing the right toys for my oldest when he was born. Going to the toy store or looking at listings online was like the diner all over again. I was inclined to buy the things that LOOKED great, without really thinking whether they were the best choices. So, when I showed up with a really cool LEGO Star Wars setup for my 18monthold, my wife was very much in the right to give me some sideeye. I reflected that I may have brought home a kit far past his developmental level and, even worse, might have allowed him to swallow up to 148 separate small pieces. Indeed, what was I thinking?  

Let’s learn from my mistake. When choosing a toy for an infant or toddler, it pays to keep a few simple ideas in mind   

  1. Keep it simple.  
  2. Build on what they love.  
  3. Go age appropriate.   

Of note here for this pandemic year, I am not inclined to recommend that folks buy additional tech or screenbased gifts for children, as I think we should be inclined to get our children outside, off the couch and away from screens to the extent that it is safe and possible.  

Keep ISimple.  

If anything, many households suffer from an overabundance of toys and playthings. I recommend gift shoppers avoid buying items for children at any age that might lead to what we might think of as the LEGO problem: toys with too many pieces or toys that are too complicated for the child. Do you really want the parents of the giftee to be stepping barefoot upon an item from a science kit at midnight? Remember, we often muse as adults that children love to play with the boxes of pricey items more than the toys inside them. Let us learn from that example and seek to offer up toys that tend not to have accessories that can be lost, misplaced or swallowed.  

Instead, consider a teething toy for an infant, a simple box with a latch a toddler can sort and dump stuff from or even an oldschool Nerf hoop for a preschooler. Ask yourself how easy it is to use and how much it will add to the clutter factor. This leads us to our next guideline. 

Build on What They Love. 

Think about the ages and stages of the apples of your eye. What enchants them and might keep them delighted over a long period of time?  Babies are easy. It is hard to go wrong. The world is full of things they love to grasp, squeeze and use to make noise. As a parent, I advise wellmeaning uncles and aunties to go light on the battery-operated stuff or noisemakers. They become annoying before they are out of the box. If it is a child you know well, then think about items that would allow the child to pursue a passion, such as sorting and packing activities for toddlers (consider a series of measuring cups or resealable plastic bins) or balls and wheeled carts for any active startingtowalk children. For children approaching their second birthday, think about simple items that will allow them to engage in pretend play. Consider kitchen items, sidewalk chalk and play cars and trucks. Don’t forget an often overlooked item in the 21st century: books. Therein lies a trove of opportunity as these gifts will go on giving long past the holidays as children reread them and share them with their families (or steal moments under the covers with a flashlight). 

Go age appropriate. 

Don’t be seduced by the grandeur or wow factor of a big purchase. I have made these mistakes in my parenting career. Just as you would not buy a twowheeler for a twoyearold (I hope), we should be guided by the recommended ages on the box or packaging of any toy. These recommendations are made with careful consideration for the safety and appropriateness of the ages and stages of each child. Buying a puzzle recommended for children five and up for a threeyearold may lead to frustration or even a child choking on puzzle pieces. Fortunately, that leaves PLENTY of room to run for the toy shoppers out there. I do find that reviews on Amazon and other sites (e.g., ToyInsider.com) can be helpful as you do your diligence about the safety, quality and suitability of many toys. 

In addition, one can do some additional reading, including materials from the wellregarded authorities at the American Academy of Pediatrics (one such example ishttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/What-to-Look-for-in-a-Toy.aspx). For further inspiration and insight about what makes a toy both desirable and timeless, make your way to the Toy Hall of Fame and get lost there (https://www.toyhalloffame.org). 

When you have made the right choice, the gift wrapping is off and the new item is there on the living room floor, why don’t you get down on your knees with your sondaughterniecenephew or best buddy and share the fun?  

 

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.

5 Ways to Calm Holiday Stress

stressed mom holding new born baby

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

It seems a given that the holidays will be overdone yet again this year. Kids are only young once, right? After the year many families have had, who wants to cut back? Furthermore, parents have their own ideas and images about how the holidays should or should not go, and if there are two parents, it is unlikely that they are identical ideas and images. Throw in a limited budget and visits with extended family and things can get pretty exciting/tense pretty quickly. Most of us tend to focus on keeping our kids and their schedules – especially of the young ones – under some kind of control to limit the damage and hurt feelings that frequently accompany this overdoing. But the most effective way to calm holiday stress is to manage our own. Kids will learn far more about staying calm when we get there first.

1) Manage your own expectations. Perfect holidays do not exist in real time. So expect some happiness, delight, surprises, disappointments, fatigue and the occasional meltdown. Tell your kids to expect the same. Families are just like that during the holidays, even when they are at their best.

2) Make a list. Well ahead of time, sit down and make a list of holiday things you’d like to do or achieve, then cut it in half and proceed. One or two special events spread out over two days, with a generous dose of hanging out and ‘just being time’ (as our teenagers labeled such inactivity), is a pretty good pace. Get some sleep with the time you save instead.

3) Accept help from others. Remember, you have already yielded on perfection as a goal. So let people bring some food and distribute chores on the bigger events. People old and young typically love being useful, even it adds to the chaos.

4) Watch the sweets, fats (kids and grown-ups) and fermented spirits. Your (and your kids’) tensions can all be exacerbated by lousy dietary indulgences, not to mention the guilt and the weight gain, which only add more stress. Having fewer of them in the house or apartment to begin with tips the scales toward success.

5) Get out of the house and exercise (kids and grown-ups). It helps to repair the damage to routines and relationships by freshening the internal and external environments. Once, when I was in 5th grade, my parents (who were not typically jokesters) actually faked a power outage between the main holiday meal and dessert, just to get everyone away from the TVs and out of the house for a while. It was one of our favorite holiday gatherings ever. Lesson learned.

Preventing Screen Brain for Children Over the Holidays

Toddler Looking at Screen

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

As in changing any behavior, one might anticipate howling protests prior to separation from devices from children or teens. The equivalent of the primal yawp, or NOOOOO!. I advise parents to be steadfast and clear, and define the limits (no screens means…zero screens), and make these borders non-negotiable when possible. Pushback from the peanut gallery may amount to carryings-on, kvetching, complaining, loud grousing, grumblings, mumblings and bitter statements meant to be overheard. I’d recommend meeting these with the professional cool of an airline attendant sharing a long delay. “We apologize for the hardship, but let’s do the best we can to work together to make the journey enjoyable…” is the vibe I’d go for. Whinging is best ignored, quote the law and move on. Kids will eventually follow.

Card play, board games, or lively ‘parlor game’ type activities, like pictionary or team based activities can get kids out of their grouchy headspace and distracted (or dragged) and into the shared activity. In the case of my kids, this could sometimes take a round or two of play,  to clear the cobwebs and distraction of getting back to their device. Like many kids, they didn’t always want to, but they should be committed to a reasonable amount of time to engage that feels sufficient (15 minutes), and soon enough they moved on and got lost in the game. During such evenings, I’d argue, that ALL screens are best valet parked for the duration, and at least for the evening.

 

Dad’s Important Role in Parenting

Dad holding preschool daughtor on sholders with her arms stretched out

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

Fathers don’t mother, just as mothers don’t father. It is obvious from the start; they are less likely to use baby talk, choosing real words instead. They like their babies activated when they are interacting with them, while mom is more likely to comfort and cuddle tight. Play and surprise are more common in dad-infant interaction than with mom, who often prefers a soothing and regulating routine. Even the way a dad holds his baby, more commonly facing out than when mom does, hints at feeling his job might be different than hers – more of a let’s see what the world has for us today than I’ve got you safe and secure right here over my heart.  

Safety and security are huge concerns for today’s parents, both at home and in the wider world. So, which approach is more likely to raise a secure child? Both are, especially when woven together. Secure attachments between mothers and children seem most uniquely effective in providing comfort when the child is distressed. While fathers are committed to comforting their distressed children, there is a unique component to their interactions with their children. Fathers often provide security using shared, controlled excitement through sensitive and sometimes challenging You can do it! support as the child’s exploratory system gets stimulated by novelty. That roughhousing that is so common between men and their children serves a purpose; while it is fun and stimulating to both players, it also helps the father teach the child where the edge between play and trouble lies, No fingernails!  When the father lets the child wander off a little further than the mom might at the park, he’s allowing the child exploration and novelty, retrieving the child when something looms to threaten the security of such adventure. 

That distinction is worth celebrating this Father’s Day. It’s why dad is not just a stand-in for mom, who so often bears the weight of being the real parent. Helping children feel comforted when distressed is incredibly important to their sense of security and so is the support they feel from being fathered when they start looking for the world beyond mom’s arms.  

SoMoms and Dads, here are two tips to help you as you parent together: 

Moms – Support the fathering figures in your children’s lives with your appreciation and respect. They are not just subbing for you; they are your tag team in keeping your children secure and safe, not just from the world, but in it. 

Dads (biological and otherwise) – Turn off your devices and be in the moment with your children. They need to know, trust and feel the real you. Take your unique role as the securer of exploration seriously; they do. 

How to Make Cardboard Tube Animals


You can make these adorable cardboard tube animals with items most people already have around the house. While this tutorial provides instructions for making an owl, a cat and a dog, the possibilities are endless!

Materials

  • Paper tubes (toilet paper tubes are the perfect size)
  • Yarn or shoelaces in assorted colors
  • Paper scraps
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue dots
  • Scissors
  • Markers

Instructions

  1. If you are using a larger tube, cut it down to the size of a toilet paper tube. Push down the top edge. Add a glue dot to the edge before folding down and securing the other top edge. This will make your animal’s ears.
  2. Secure the end of a piece of yarn or a shoelace to the bottom edge of the tube with a glue dot. Then, wrap the tube about three-quarters of the way up the tube, leaving enough room to make a face. Secure the other end of the yarn or shoelace with a glue dot.
  3. Cut out pieces of scrap paper to make additional animal parts.
  • To make an owl, cut out two wings, a beak and two colorful circles where the googly eyes will go;
  • To make a cat or a dog, cut out four paws, a nose and a tail.
  1. Glue the paper pieces and googly eyes onto your creation. Then, use the marker to draw any finishing touches, like whiskers or smiles.

Your Child Can Have a Virtual Playdate!

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

In these swiftly changing times, recommendations for whether and how to maintain social connections require daily updates. If I had written this response a week ago, my advice would have been different than it is today. But our current situation is that in many places in the United States and globally, the governments have issued shelter at home orders requiring families to limit physical and social contact to immediate family members. In areas where these orders are not yet in place, they are likely to be soon. This means no playdates, no trips to the playground, no planned bike rides and no hikes or neighborhood walks with other families. Even maintaining six feet of separation is just too risky. Children are motivated to share and help, and they’ve practiced this for years. If a friend falls, the other friends will reach out their hands to help their friend up. If they have a delicious pack of gummy bears, they’ll give one to their friend. An equally important reason for not being flexible about seemingly low-risk outdoor outings with other families is that planning these outings sends children the wrong message about compliance with critical public health mandates. As parents, we must model best behaviors, set limits on behaviors and follow-through. Being clear now saves you from responding to endless pleas for playdates as time goes on.

All of these no’s are difficult to hear but the rationale is a strong one. We need to break the chain of contagion, and the only way to do that is by being united in our commitment to being physically separated. Given this new (and temporary, if we all do our part) parenting context, I’d like to offer an essential reminder: physical distancing does not have to mean social distancing. We’re lucky to live in times where technologies exist to help us connect in real time through our phones, tablets and computers. Social interaction is critical for the development of social skills, cognitive ability and mental health. Children of all ages can benefit from spending some virtual time with others during the upcoming weeks that they’ll spend at home.

Here are some tools and tips that can help you support your children’s need to maintain their relationships with others through the use of virtual playdates:

  • My favorite apps for children to use to connect in real time are Caribu (zero to eight years) and Houseparty (school-age);
  • Houseparty allows children to see multiple friends at once in a virtual hangout and even play games together, such as versions of charades, trivia, Pictionary, and Apples to Apples. Playing games requires some reading skills. My daughters spend hours on this app with their friends. Hearing their laughter fill the house reminds me that children are children, and they will find ways to have fun and play even when they’re not together;
  • Caribu is a subscription-based video chat app that recently won a Time Magazine Best Invention of 2019 award. This app combines video chatting with numerous choices for game playing and contains a library of books so that children can engage in book reading together or with distant relatives.
  • Video chat apps like Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Google Duo and What’s App offer opportunities to see each other’s faces and chat, but they also can be used to encourage children to share their non-digital activities. Children show each other new dance moves, LEGO projects and artistic creations. Just last night, my daughter made cupcakes with a friend over facetime. They each made cupcakes at their own houses but followed the same recipe together in real time. This was their idea and they had an absolute blast! The use of video chat apps can also be supplemented with traditional games like 20 questions, Simon Says and charades;
  • Netflix Party is a Chrome browser extension that lets children watch their favorite movies and shows together. When one person pauses to get more popcorn, the show pauses for everyone. For children who can read and write, there is a chat option so they can comment on the program or anything else as they watch. For non-readers and writers, they can use video chat applications on another device to encourage.

A word about infants and toddlers Babies are naturally drawn to look at human faces, especially faces that are familiar to them. Research is clear that video chatting is a positive screen-based experience for infants and toddlers. For this age group, no additional materials are needed. Just let the children see one another and respond to each other’s facial expressions and emerging efforts to talk. Although research hasn’t investigated peer relationships, when infants and toddlers regularly see distant family members on video chat apps, they form and maintain positive relationships.

Note – Before handing over your phone, be sure to turn off notifications and lock the screen by selecting Screen Pinning on Androids or Guided Access on iPhones so that your child’s experience isn’t interrupted by accidental swiping or button pressing, and of course, give that phone a good sterile wipe down before and after allowing your child to play with it.

11 Free, Fun and Safe Learning Resource Websites for Young Children

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With so many apps and online programs for young children, choosing the best ones can be difficult. We have compiled our favorite trusted resources for you and your family to enjoy.

  1. Google Earth Zoom in to ANYWHERE in the world! Children will love seeing different places across the globe (ages 3-6+)
  2. PBS Education  Lots of fun, educational games with children’s favorite characters (ages 3-6+)
  3. Explore.org  Livestreams of various animal habitats, which children love watching (ages 3-6+)
  4. Common Sense Media Families’ and Schools’ go-to ratings resource for children’s apps and movies (ages 3-6+)
  5. Go Noodle Movement, dance, yoga and mindfulness activities for children (ages 3-6+)
  6. National Geographic Kids Wonderful games and videos all about animals and the world (ages 3-6+)
  7. NASA Kids Club  The best space and engineering site for children (ages 3-6+)
  8. Creativity Catapult A curated library of activities to promote creativity (ages 3-6+)
  9. Storyline Short stories, images and sounds to interest children in the world around them (ages 4-6+)
  10. Boston Children’s Museum – Parent & Educator Resources  A curriculum and activity resources focused on STEM and hands-on learning (ages 3-6+)
  11. Children’s Museum of Pittsburg – Museum at Home Maker activities to do at home (ages 5-6+)

 

Here are 5 Tips for Working from Home with Children

balancing-working-from-home-with-children

Have you ever wondered whether it would be fun to homeschool your children? (Confession, I have not.) But I imagine it could be satisfying and enjoyable if you don’t have another job on the line. Yet, here, we are parents, working one, two or more jobs on top of raising our precious, loud, energetic, no napping, computer touching, toy breaking, bundles of joy. At this point, my son thinks I’ve changed his name to “Don’t Touch That!”

Raising children is a rewarding but tough job. Working at home and raising children is impossible, am I right? Well no, not necessarily. It may not always be easy, but I’ve got some great tips to share with you. They’re curated from my experience and some of my colleagues’ experiences.

So, before you hear “Alexa, play Baby Shark” one more time, check out these work-from-home parenting ideas.

  1. Maintain a routine.

Now more than ever, children need a routine. If your children attend a Goddard School, you’ll have a good idea of what their days entail. Try following this routine to keep consistency in their lives, maintain your sanity and help ease the transition back into a structured learning environment. Even though we don’t know when schools and businesses will reopen, it will happen.

Don’t forget your schedule. You also benefit from following a routine. Get up, get dressed (even if it’s just putting on another pair of sweatpants) and start your day how you normally would when preparing for work.

As you navigate your new normal, stay in touch with your manager and team and let them know you’ll have time to complete things when your children are napping or after they go to bed. Open and transparent communication with your team and managers is the key.

  1. Take breaks!

A twin mama at GSI said she takes breaks to spend time with her children. She does crafts with them or takes them for a walk where they practice number recognition on mailboxes, learn about the local flora and fauna (mostly just squirrels) and play in the mud. Of course, she has plenty of work to do, but she carves out time to be with her twins.

Right now, toddlers through early elementary-school-age see that their parents are home and don’t understand why mom or dad can’t play. My son is beside himself whenever he can’t come into my room. He can be rambunctious and not on his best behavior. I end up feeling frustrated, but when I finally let him in the room, I hold him for a while. It calms him down and he goes on his merry way to play with toy bugs. I continue to underestimate the importance of being present for my little guy. I’m torn in two directions: I want to be a great employee and a stellar mom, regardless of the quarantine and work from home situation. It’s hard to do both but taking breaks to focus on your kids will help.

  1. Share responsibilities with other adults at home, if possible.

During these unprecedented times, hundreds of thousands of American workers are figuring out how to work from home for the first time. If you have a partner at home, sit down to discuss your upcoming week. Share your work schedules so that someone is watching the children while completing smaller work tasks, such as checking emails, giving the other time to be on the phone or join meetings. Then switch! This requires flexibility and juggling, and there may be some mishaps – especially when your littlest co-workers didn’t get the schedule memo – but this method will alleviate some of the stress for adults working from home.

If it’s just you and your children at home, follow tips one and two. When talking with your teammates and manager, be firm and let them know that you may need to work odd hours to complete tasks. Reassure them that your work will get done, just on a different timetable than some of your peers.

  1. Have go-to activities that require little supervision for your children.

A west coast colleague of mine has two children under the age of four. Both she and her husband have been working from home for weeks and are getting the hang of their new normal. She created a visual schedule for her children, using simple pictures that they can recognize and understand. Depending on the day, she typically takes the morning shift with her children and her husband takes the afternoon shift.

Because her children are young, someone must be present with them 24/7. To help ease the stress of juggling little ones and work, she created simple, fun activities that require less vigilance, allowing her time to check and respond to emails while supervising playtime. Here’s one of her ideas.

If the weather is nice outside, have a car wash! It doesn’t have to be a big car, either. It can be just about anything that is waterproof. If the weather isn’t great outside, bring everything inside to the kitchen sink or bathtub.

In an upcoming blog article, we’ll have a list of simple fun activities for children to do while you’re working at home. Stay tuned!

  1. Be kind to yourself.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed on any normal day, but when you throw in working from home and being a stay-at-home parent, everything is magnified. Mistakes may happen and that’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up over this blip in time. To avoid being crushed under the weight of divergent responsibilities, make things easier when possible.

Yes, you may be relying on screen time and fast microwave meals more often. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Your children won’t remember that they ate SpaghettiOs for lunch every day for a week. And the extra screen time won’t suddenly transform them into YouTube Kids zombies. Right now, things are tough – and that’s an understatement.

In the end, your children will remember that mommy or daddy got to be at home with them. They’ll remember the extra time you got to spend together even if both of you were looking at different screens.

 

At-Home Learning Activities

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