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Posts Tagged ‘Play’

How to Unschedule Your Child

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It’s come to this: Doctors are now being told to prescribe play. The American Academy of Pediatrics details the urgency of the matter in a policy statement. There is a play deficit in this country, and we know it, don’t we? In articles about parenting, it seems that there’s no breed dissected more than that of the bubble-wrapped child who’s shuttled from Mandarin to fencing to organic cheese making classes until bedtime. We love reminiscing about the days when we could hop on bikes and meander for hours with the neighborhood kids (few of whose names our parents ever took the time to learn), and yearn for our kids to have that experience. We’ve learned that play enhances brain structure, helps kids practice empathy and makes them more creative and innovative.

And yet it’s strangely difficult to crack some of the structure of children’s lives. I know that I feel some pressure to add more adult instruction to my daughter’s days when I’m handed an inch-thick packet of extracurricular activities by her school teacher (“Ooh, robotics fight club”), or when other parents ask me what her schedule looks like for the fall (“Um, we’ve got Halloween?”), or when I read interviews by musicians and dancers and athletes who mention they started their paths to mastery at age three (“Argh, we’re already too late!”). To back off, it takes some real willpower and planning. Here are some tips for unscheduling your child in today’s overscheduled world.

Be Realistic

You don’t need to move to the woods so your kids can frolic in streams all day to give your family more healthy play time. There are benefits of having scheduled activities—higher self-esteem, lower rates of drug and alcohol use over time and social bonds. Some parents of middle schoolers told me that having their kids deeply involved in extracurriculars they love is what has kept them mostly safe during a time of peer pressure and emotional disarray.

The goal here is simply to protect your kids’ downtime. Denise Pope, one of the authors of Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids, tells the New York Times that young children need an hour of play time (which does not include dinner or homework or baths) for every after-school scheduled hour. You might set a rule for your kids such as one sport or activity per season. (I’ve decided to put my daughter in another voice class, which she absolutely loves.) You have to find the right balance for your family.

Start With a Good Playtime Setting

Dr. Robert Murray, the lead author of the AAP report The Crucial Role of Recess, tells me, “Parents can absolutely help their child find safe, interesting environments for them to explore—but it’s important to let him or her self-direct.” He suggests playgrounds, beaches and streams, woods and parks, fields, the zoo, local farms or indoor spaces where kids can pretend play with peers. Wherever you choose to go, step back and give them some “BE Time,” which he describes as the antidote to parent-directed activities.

At home, give kids access to open-ended materials to tinker with, even stuff you might see as junk. Blocks are always awesome, but so are random pieces of string, aluminum foil, masking tape, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls and emptied shampoo bottles.

Prepare for the Suck

Realize that it’s sometimes hard to give kids downtime. On weekends, the first thing my daughter asks when she wakes up is “Where are we going today?” When I tell her nowhere, she whines and declares that is so boring. And then parent-friends will start texting me: “What are you up to today? Wanna bring the kids to library story time? Or princess ballet class? Or go watch a movie?”And I often want to say “Yes!” It would be easy to strap my kid into the car and do any one of those things. But it’s good to sometimes say no. I know that my daughter’s groans will eventually turn to silence, and as I do my own thing around the house, I’ll often find her cheerfully playing with her dollhouse or making something out of a cardboard box or drawing with chalk in the backyard.

Put white space on your calendar and prepare for some protests. Then find something to do and let your kids do the same.

Connect With Other Back-Off Parents

Some parents are finding that as much as they want to unschedule their kids, there’s a problem: Their children have no one to play with. Playgrounds are barren as every other kid is off at chess or tae kwon do at 3:30 PM. A project called Let Grow is addressing that issue, connecting local parents who want to give their kids more independence by doing less for them. You can sign up to find nearby families.

Once you find other likeminded moms and dads, you might consider setting up a play street, in which community members transform a residential city block a car-free space for children and families to play together, say, either weekly or monthly, or lobby schools to start their own play clubs, in which they keep their gyms or playgrounds open till dinnertime for self-directed free play.

It’s true that unscheduling kids takes a lot more work than it did years ago. But after doing it, you may very well find that your family will be less stressed and happier. And plus, it’s the doctor’s orders.

 

This article was written by shared by Michelle Woo to Lifehacker and Michelle Woo on Offspring from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

6 Scientifically Proven Ways To Raise Smarter Kids

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These simple activities can improve your child’s intellectual development.

Setting children up for intellectual success later in life is high on the list of concerns for many parents, but amidst the everyday pressures of parenting, broad goals like “making your child smarter” can feel overwhelming and impractical. Fortunately, encouraging cognitive development doesn’t have to be complicated. Add a few of these proven activities to your child’s routine, and you’ll foster intelligence in manageable, positive ways.

1. Encourage playing outside.

Structured sports are wonderful for children, but making time for unstructured play is just as important, if not more so. Research has proven that unstructured play has an integral role in the development of social intelligence. As schools eliminate recess time, making sure your young ones have time to themselves outdoors is critical. Whether you usher them out the door to build an elaborate sledding hill, play hours of tag with their friends or head to the park for supervised play doesn’t matter; leaving them to set their own boundaries and interact with children their own age facilitates crucial prefrontal cortex development that they’ll draw upon in social situations for the rest of their lives.

2. Let them play video games.

When your kids do come inside, whether on a rainy day or a dark winter evening after school, don’t worry if they race straight to their gaming console. Moderating screen time is important, but as Cheryl Olson, Sc.D., asserts, video games—even those not made to be educational—offer myriad benefits to kids. From problem-solving to creative expression to social interaction with friends, video games challenge children and give them a rare sense of autonomy. After age 10, kids’ interpretations of complex games deepens and expands, but children under 10 aren’t exempt from the benefits of simpler games.

3. Make sleep a family priority.

If you need more motivation to set a sleep schedule and stick to it, let your kids be your inspiration. After the regimented sleep schedules of babyhood and the toddler years, letting bedtimes slacken when your kids reach school age is understandable. However, if those looser sleep schedules turn into patterns of insufficient sleep, your child will suffer, and unfortunately, many already do. Right now, as many as 20 to 25 percent of school-age children don’t get enough sleep.

That lack of rest affects their alertness, their attention spans, and their ability to concentrate in the classroom, which can have long-lasting effects on grades. According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids between the ages of 6 and 13 need nine to 11 hours, with older teens functioning best with eight to 10 hours each night. Consider limiting use of electronics before bedtime and creating a new nighttime routine with your child that takes their burgeoning independence and new hobbies into consideration.

4. Try music lessons.

Has your child ever expressed interest in music? If not, you may want to gently encourage it. Researchers at Northwestern University have found evidence of a link between music and literacy. The key, according to researchers, is that kids need to be active participants in music lessons. If children aren’t engaged with and creating music, they miss out on many of its benefits. Try talking to your child about enrolling in their school’s band or orchestra, or consider private lessons if they express interest.

Kids who do embrace making and learning music will gain “neurophysiological distinction” as they decipher differences between specific sounds. This heightened awareness of sounds carries over to improved literacy for many children, which is an indicator of intelligence both in the classroom and on standardized tests they’ll take later on.

5. Emphasize effort and hard work.

Decades of research on motivation and intelligence have led Stanford University’s Carol S. Dweck to conclude that for kids, an emphasis on effort and hard work has long-lasting, positive effects on intelligence. She asserts that praising children for being “gifted” or “talented” connotes an entitlement to success, leaving them lacking the motivation needed when concepts or good grades stop coming easily. Instead, recognizing your children for finding ways to solve problems or for following through on a difficult assignment teaches them that perseverance leads to positive results, and that success rarely comes easily—knowledge that will serve them well as they grow.

With a bit of strategy, you can introduce changes to your child’s routine that promote learning, problem solving, social skills and hard work—without replacing precious free time with flashcards and regimented learning. You’ll probably even find that many of these suggestions bring benefits to your child that go far beyond the classroom. Find an approach that works for you and your child, and remember that IQ is not the only indicator of future success.

—Kelsey Down

This story originally appeared on fairygodboss.com.


Kelsey Down is a freelance writer in Salt Lake City who has been featured on publications including Elite Daily, VentureBeat and SUCCESS. She’s covered fun stuff like why TV reboots need to stop and how to hack sleep as a workout, and she also writes about personal and family wellness. Follow her on Twitter @kladown23.

 

This article was written by Fairygodboss from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Bored During The Week: Fun Activities for Family Night

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In this busy world, there seem to be fewer and fewer times when a family has the opportunity to assemble all in one place. When a Mom has to work as well as take care of the kinds, these times seem to be even harder to come by. Kids often are burdened by extracurricular activities when they’re not in school, or else they’re out spending time with their friends. Sometimes even when they are home, it’s impossible to carve time out to get everybody in the same room to do something together. The kids might have homework, or you might have to bring some work home with you. You might all even get caught up in your cell phones.

Yet it’s been proven time and again that the benefits for families who spend time together are numerous. It might even require you to demand a certain night be ordained each week as Family Night. Whatever gets you and the kids together in the same room in the house together for a couple of hours with no distraction is clearly worth it. Once you’ve got everybody corralled and ready to have some fun, you need to be ready for some fun activities to keep their attention. You can always fall back on things like movies or board games, but why not come up with something different than the usual? That will make them crave Family Night instead of dreading it.

If you’re looking for a new location for Family Night because your old residence doesn’t cut it anymore, there are new homes for sale for just about every budget that will meet your family’s needs. Once you get there, consider these activities with your kids to make it a night they won’t forget.

Get Out of This

One of the most exciting new entertainments to come around in the past decade or so are escape rooms. They require people to unite to solve problems in order to get out of a locked room. You can come up with some way to incorporate this into Family Night. Create the puzzles yourself, and then make the kids work together. If they get out in time, have a reward waiting.

The Family That Cooks Together

It can be a lot of fun to have everyone in the kitchen pitching in together for a family meal. Have the kids get together to agree upon a fun recipe which everyone will like. Even if it’s a sugary dessert, give them a break on the nutrition for a night so they can have a little fun.

Looking Back

Instead of just popping in a video or streaming a movie, you can create entertainment for the kids by cueing up a bunch of home videos, whether they’re on tape or on someone’s phone. Or you can pull out old photo albums. You’d be surprised at how nostalgic kids can be.

Remember that kids will react to new and exciting activities that are different from the norm. Use your imagination to make Family Night at your home the place to be.

 

This article was written by Natalie Bracco from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The 5 Best Outdoor Family Activities for the Most Time-Pressed Moms

Outdoor family activities don’t have to require a lot of planning or trips to the store. Here are five easy, low-cost ideas for working moms.

For any mother, time with your family is extremely valuable, especially when balancing that time with a career. You want to plan fun, entertaining activities to do with your children, but you also need ideas that don’t require a lot of time or an unwanted trip to the craft store.

Now that spring is in the air, you’re likely looking for ways to have fun outside as a family. These five outdoor activities are perfect for working moms who need simple yet creative ideas that don’t require much preparation.

1. Sidewalk chalk art

 

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Take the coloring outside! Sidewalk chalk is a great item to have on hand for when your children get bored. You can take turns tracing each other, turning yourselves into superheroes and other fun characters. Develop your child’s gross motor skills by playing hopscotch together. You can also use sidewalk chalk to build your child’s knowledge of shapes, letters or numbers. For example, try having your little one run or jump to circles, squares, triangles and rectangles as you name each shape.


2. Sensory scavenger hunt

 

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This can also be an opportunity to teach your kids about nature.

Turn scavenger hunts into sensory scavenger hunts! Identify the smells and sounds of nature together. It’s a simple way to have a scavenger hunt without requiring time to develop clues or buy additional resources. See what your children can find, whether it’s birds chirping or flowers blooming. If something sparks their curiosity during the scavenger hunt, let them explore and ask questions.


3. Car wash

 

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A fun activity that checks a chore off of your To-Do list.

As a working mom, your to-do list may be a mile long, so get the whole family involved with chores like washing the car. Your little ones will enjoy splashing in the water and playing with bubbles! They can also wash their trikes, bikes or toy cars! Car washes are fun, and doing them together is a great way to check something off your to-do list.


4. Bubbles

 

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Kids of all ages love bubbles.

If your children love making bubbles during car washes, they’ll love blowing bubbles too. The best part? You don’t even have to purchase bubble solution, which can go quickly with accidental spills. Homemade bubbles are fun to make and may save you a little bit of cash.

The simplest recipe only requires one part liquid dish soap to 15 parts water. Combine the soap and water in a large dish or bucket and stir gently. Dip your favorite household wand like a slotted spoon or coat hanger. Have some fun cookie cutters available? Those are great for making bubbles into different shapes!


5. Evening walk

 

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Going for a walk is also great exercise for the whole family.

After a work day, get outside with the children for a walk around the neighborhood. You can even grab a couple slices of bread and walk to a nearby park to feed the ducks.

An evening walk is a great way to release the stress of the day and let your children get rid of excess energy before bedtime. Take this time to catch up as a family and learn about each other’s day. You may notice this quality time together becoming a treasured family ritual.

Activities that are engaging don’t have to be complicated or expensive. After a long day of work, you’re ready for quality family time. Make it fun and easy with these activities.

Leslie Marley is the Director of Education and Curriculum at U-GRO Learning Centres, a premiere provider of early childhood and preschool education in Central Pennsylvania. Marley has worked in the field of early childhood education for more than 20 years. She is passionate about serving and empowering children and families.

 

This article was written by Leslie Marley from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The Super-Easy Secret to Making Any Playdate a Success

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Playdates are, in a way, like any other kind of date. When they go well, you (as the parent) want to sing a little song and do that move where you jump sideways and kick your heels together in mid-air. (There will be no eating lunch alone in the library for your kid!) When they go badly—like when one child hurls insults at, hits or openly despises the other in front of the woman who gave him life, it kinda feels like you’ll be scarred for the rest of yours.

But we have a genius antidote to all the social awkwardness (courtesy of our son’s seasoned former nursery school teacher): Cap the playdate at 45 minutes. Max. “End on a high” were her exact words.

Even if the kids are midway through constructing an elaborate Lego skyscraper and begging to stay for just one more minute, yank the one that belongs to you the eff outta there and get gone. Count your blessings, know when to fold ’em and cash out. Leave before things go bad, because—your kid is not an outlier—they almost always, inevitably do. “Keeping playdates short will help avoid meltdowns, squabbles and other misbehaviors,” say the parenting experts at Understood.org. “Giving fair warning by announcing that the playdate is nearly over and initiating cleanup time increases the likelihood that the playdate will end on a high note.” See, almost everyone can keep their game face on for the first 45 minutes. As the experts at Parents advise: “When in doubt, leave ’em wanting more.”

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Encourage Outside-The-Box Thinking in Your Preschooler

A fantastic way to get your little one to think outside the box is with cooking.

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For example, you can make numerous different croissant dishes with a simple roll of the dough. Unfold each section from the packaged roll and form it into an individual triangle. Once it is face open, ask your child what to add to the middle. There are a ton of possibilities; following are three examples:

  1. Add a piece of ham and a piece of cheese, and then roll the dough for a delicious ham and cheese sandwich.
  2. Add pepperoni and cheese, and serve with a tomato sauce dip to create a mini-croissant pizza.
  3. Add shredded chicken and bacon and serve with ranch.

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Another way to encourage your child to think outside the box is with riddles.

  1. A man went on a trip riding his horse. He left on Friday, stayed in town for three days and came back on Friday. How did he do it?  Answer: His horse’s name is Friday
  2. What has three hands, but cannot clap? Answer: a clock

Increasing Self-Esteem

Encourage self-esteem in your children so that they grow up to make confident decisions. Being confident will allow your children to get back up after being knocked down by something not going their way, such as not making a sports team or getting a bad grade on a test.

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Here are some tips to help boost self-esteem:

  1. Give your children options. Choosing from options helps children learn to make their own decisions at an early age.
  2. Assign age-appropriate tasks. Ask your children to help around the house to teach them to contribute to their team.
  3. Let your children dress themselves. Let them use their skills to complete simple tasks like picking out an outfit or buttoning and zippering their clothes.
  4. Refrain from praising your children. It’s great to let them know when they do something awesome, but instead of telling them how great it was, tell them why it was great. Include the details of why their painting is spectacular or why you appreciate how they did their chores.
  5. Let your children see that you enjoy spending time with them. We all have busy, hectic lives, and sometimes we forget how important our affection is to our children. Plan weekly time with your child and plan the things you will do together each week. Consider visiting the local library, going on nature hikes or cooking a new recipe. Planning a specified time will give you and your child something to anticipate each week.

What are some ways that you try to boost self-esteem in your child?

Play in the Park

Parks are a great place to encourage outdoor play. Instead of sitting inside watching television or playing on a tablet, plan a day at the park with your little one. Bring lunch, water and snacks so you and your child can enjoy the outdoors all day.

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A few activities to get you started for the day can include playing Frisbee, playing catch and jumping rope. Try to gather a group of children and their parents for a friendly game of whiffle ball. If your park has a walking trail, bring a notebook and ask your child to draw things that you see along the way. Take photos of unique animals, flowers or trees and research them at home for a nice cool-down activity.

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What are some activities you and your children do at the park?

National Fossil Day

Today, October 11, 2017, is National Fossil Day! Many little ones love playing with dinosaur toys. What better time to learn through play than on National Fossil Day? Many children may see dinosaurs as fantasy characters since the creatures lived millions of years ago. You can have a prehistoric blast by teaching your child what fossils are and how we use them to research past time periods. Here’s a great way to help your child visualize fossils instead of looking up photos of them in books or online.

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Take out your favorite sugar cookie recipe and gather some small toy dinosaurs. Together with your child, prepare the cookies, and while they are baking, clean the toy dinosaurs. Once the cookies are out of the oven, while still soft, press the toy dinosaurs into the cookies to leave a dinosaur imprint. Then, carefully remove the toy dinosaurs, and set the cookies aside to cool and harden. The imprint of a toy dinosaur will allow your child to see what a fossil looks like.

collecting fossils. get coral fossil out of a chalk rock.

What are some ways that you and your child can learn about fossils?

Five Benefits of Imaginative Play

Imaginative play benefits the growth of the cerebellum. This part of the brain is “responsible for key cognitive functions such as attention, language processing, sensing musical rhythms, and more” (Brown & Vaughan, 2009, p. 34). Here are five other benefits of imaginative play for children.

1. Play fosters the development of imagination. Imaginative play encourages children to be anything they want to be. This anything-goes thinking allows them to come up with ideas that they might not think about in a more structured environment.

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2. It encourages the development of problem-solving skills. Problem solving requires the ability to think creatively. Imaginative play involves experimenting with different activities, such as building with blocks or sculpting with modeling clay (White, 2015). Engaging in these playful activities helps children become more creative, which gives them the ability to solve different problems (Roskos & Christie, 2000).

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3. Play allows a child to fail without consequences. For example, when children play house, they imagine themselves as parents or spouses. They learn from those scenarios without dealing with negative consequences. Imaginative play, in other words, gives children the freedom to fail and try again without feeling defeated (Lillemyr, 2009).  

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4. It encourages social-emotional development. When pretending to be, say, a mother or a father, the child must imagine being in that person’s shoes. As a result, the child learns to interact and think about things as a parent, which helps the child become empathetic and practice language that is more in a parent’s vocabulary than a child’s.

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5. It helps children unwind. Unstructured imaginative play gives children the opportunity to be in their own world for a while without worrying about anything except playing and having fun.

 

References

Brown, S., & Vaughan, C. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York, NY: Avery.

Lillemyr, O. F. (2009). Taking play seriously: Children and play in early childhood education—An exciting challenge. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Roskos, K. A., & Christie, J. F. (2000). Play and literacy in early childhood: Research from multiple perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

White, R. E. (2015). The power of play: A research summary on play and learning. Retrieved from http://www.childrensmuseums.org/images/MCMResearchSummary.pdf