By Michelle Rupiper
With technology evolving at breath-taking speed, we must prepare children to live in a future world that we can neither predict nor imagine today. Who knows what new advances and technologies will be available when today’s young children reach adulthood? To help young children become college and career ready, we need to encourage them to be deep thinkers and to approach problems with flexibility and creativity. Children will need to focus their attention on what is important while ignoring other distractions. It’s not just about knowing facts, we live in a world where facts are at our fingertips. It’s about being able to use what we know; to apply our knowledge to meet the demands of the current situation.
In short, we need to facilitate the development and use of executive functions. These functions help us analyze, plan, and reflect on our actions in order to achieve a goal. These skills combine our intellectual, emotional, and social abilities. Executive function skills are prerequisites for success in most facets of life. Many current studies indicate that executive function skills lead to greater academic success. Children who have strong working memory, better mental flexibility, and greater self-control make more academic progress than their peers (Kamkar & Morton 2017). Strong executive function skills in early childhood are linked to higher math, vocabulary, and literacy skills (Harvey & Miller 2017). In order to prepare children for the world of tomorrow, we need to focus on helping them develop and refine executive function skills.
While executive functions are important for academic and life success, it is clear that, unlike tireless machines, our brains need regular rejuvenation and care. It is easy to become weary in our fast-paced, digital world. Our hectic, frenzied lives may be the very reason we need to take time to connect with nature. Connecting with nature allows us to feel restored and enhances our mental performance (Bratman et.al 2015). There are also clear indicators that spending time in nature supports the development of executive function.
Increasing evidence shows that positive experiences in nature lead to numerous cognitive, emotional, and physical benefits. Children have better concentration, show improved academic performance, have less aggression, and are at a reduced risk for obesity when they have opportunities to spend time in nature (American Institutes for Research 2005; Faber Taylor & Kuo 2011). All of these factors underscore the importance of providing children opportunities to connect with nature on a regular basis.
Childhood is the time when lifelong relationships with nature can be built.In today’s world where children are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature, this is even more important. Childhood is often the time when lifelong relationships with nature are built. Taking part in relaxed, pleasant nature experiences builds positive feelings and happy memories for children. But there are other benefits as well. Spending time in nature helps children develop observation skills and enhances creativity (Crain 2001). The more attention we give, the deeper and richer our learning. When children learn to pay close attention to details, they are strengthening their focus and self-control, which are key aspects of executive function. Research shows that children with attention deficit disorder are better able to concentrate and follow directions after playing in an outdoor setting than they were after playing indoors (Martensson et. al 2009).
Playing in nature encourages children’s social interaction with one another and helps children improve their social skills by encouraging positive relationships and facilitating their language and communication skills (Pyle 2002). Children who regularly play in natural environments show better physical coordination, fitness, and motor skills than children who spend less time outdoors (Fjortoft & Sageie 2001). These findings are linked to academic success because children require a solid foundation of mental and physical health to build academic skills.
Spending time outdoors supports development of executive functions in several ways. Developing executive function skills is a combination of brain development and life experience, for this the early years are crucial. Nature play focuses on problem solving, creativity, and emotional and intellectual development. Children are natural scientists, experimenting and exploring to see how the world works. Providing time and opportunity to explore the natural world encourages children to focus their attention, utilize their working memory, and practice basic self-inhibitory control. Skills that are directly related to executive functions.
Spending un-structured time in nature reaps the most benefits. When children are allowed to engage in less-structured time outdoors, they are able to develop and carry out their own goal-directed actions. In fact, the more time children spend in less structured activities, the better their self-directed executive function (Barker et al 2014).
Here are some ways to support children’s development of skills related to executive functions:
Provide sensory experiences at the earliest ages, provide sensory experiences for infants to explore natural materials. Let them touch tree bark, grasses, and stones. Provide the language to further understanding of what they are experiencing. Talk about the coolness of the stones or the roughness of the bark. Enjoy the shared attention of gazing at the drifting clouds or the chirping of nearby birds.
Create spaces for discovery as children grow older they are motivated to more fully explore their environment, so creating a safe space for discovery is important. Take children on “adventures” by exploring nearby natural landscapes. These adventures don’t need to be extravagant or time-consuming. A simple walk through a wooded area or a visit to a nearby pond can be all that is needed. Provide children with a “treasure bag” to collect items while on a nature walk. Then examine and discuss what was collected. Create a nature bracelet using wide tape. Create a photo book of your adventures so your children can tell and retell the story many times.
Give them something to talk aboutLanguage is closely related to executive functions. Provide children experiences in nature to give them something to talk about. Sit and watch ducks swimming across a pond. Encourage children to talk about what they observe and ask questions. Help them identify ways to find the answers to their questions. Engage in conversations with children about what they are experiencing and encourage them to express plans about what they want to do next. Let them take the lead during a nature walk by deciding what path to follow, and engage their working memory by encouraging them to retrace their steps on the way back. Provide the language for children to formulate and express their thoughts. Play games that involve cause and effect. Collect a small variety of natural objects and throw them in the water to see what happens. Compare the resulting splash of the different materials. Create mud pies and mud soup using different ingredients and discuss which make the best “recipe”.
Encourage gardening encourage children to help plan and create a garden. Let them choose what plants to grow and design the plot. You could focus on different colors, scents or textures, or plan with the end in mind and grow a pizza or salsa garden! Encourage children to help you weed the garden. Comparing and contrasting the weeds and other plants can be turned into a sorting and matching game. As children decide which plants are weeds, they are using the core features of executive functions: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory self-control. Use the garden produce to try out different recipes—you might be surprised at children’s willingness to try new foods that they grew themselves!
Provide physical challenges include lots of physical movement and motor challenges like climbing trees or creating a nature obstacle course. These types of activities provide opportunities for planning, problem-solving, and working together with peers. Children also feel an inherent sense of pride and accomplishment upon mastering such challenges. You can balance these active times with quiet activities like taking a listening walk through a natural area.
Inspire constructive play provide open-ended, loose parts like small tree branches or bamboo poles for children to use to create forts. In order to accomplish the task of building a fort, children must plan, work together, focus, and problem solve. These are important skills children will use again and again throughout their lives to accomplish their goals.
Connecting children to the environment and providing varied opportunities to spend time in nature can result in lifelong benefits for children. These benefits include better physical health, a sense of social connectedness, increased creativity, and reduced stress. Cognitive skills, including the development and refinement of executive function skills, are also supported by spending time in nature. There may be benefits for the teachers too. Teachers that regularly take their students outside report more confidence in their teaching, use more innovative teaching strategies, and are more likely to retain their enthusiasm for teaching than those who stay indoor (Suzuki 2014). A “natural” remedy for teacher burnout if you will. So do yourself and the children a favor and head outside! You’ll support children in developing a love of learning as well as a love for the natural world!
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Raising children in unsettling and often turbulent times can often seem daunting. It feels as though you can’t turn on the t.v., scroll through social media, or even walk down the aisle of the grocery store without someone giving their opinions. We fail to remember at times that through all of this your children are listening and seeing it all. So what do all of these images and conversations mean to your child? What do they understand? Most importantly what is their perception?
For most if you mention the word “racism” it hits a nerve. Do I talk to my child about racism? At what age do you begin this conversation? How can I relate this very heated topic in way that they can comprehend? Setting politics aside, Barak Obama reminded us all of a very poignant quote.
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion ... People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love... ...For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite," – Nelson Mandela
In the real world we have to accept that our children may make comments that come across as prejudiced. This doesn’t mean that your child is a racist. Often time’s children are simply repeating what they have heard others say. This as a parent gives you an opportunity to ask questions and open the door to conversations. I can’t stress enough that these conversations need to be age appropriate. Tailor the message to their age group. Children 7 and younger may take in everything that is said to them, including their own experiences. After the age of 10, your child’s own experiences matter more than what we say. When a child is young you can talk about diversity, and equality, but as children grow older you can encourage your child to interact with various ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. There are valuable lessons for your children to learn as they’re developing their autonomy.
There is no greater mentor for your child than you! Children often mimic and interpret meaning from behaviors they see from you. Their eyes and ears are always on you. This makes it that much more important for us as adults to become role models that exhibit behaviors that we want to see in our children. Let’s broaden our horizons by becoming more active in multicultural events in our community. Children want to know that they are safe in new environments so please be aware and respond to new experiences in a calm, thoughtful, and honest manner.
As it says by our front door “Share our similarities and celebrate our differences”. Don’t be afraid to talk about race. It does your child a disservice if we act as if we’re color blind. Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spellman College attributes awkwardness of the race talk to lack of communication about race in many of our own childhoods. “There are concerns about saying the wrong thing and sounding racist, even if that is not the intent. Talking about race with children does not cause children to notice race in a way that they did not before”.
Are you not sure about how to start the conversation? You are not alone! Try and find the natural openings when having conversations with your child. I read one example where a mother and her son were cooking and there were 2 different color eggs. When the last white egg was used the mother took out another carton from the fridge and this time the carton was filled with brown eggs. The son noted that the eggs were brown and as they cracked the egg the mother pointed out that both the white and brown eggs were the same inside. Just like people, they come in all different shades, but they are the same inside.
It’s important to remember to turn the t.v. off and take a break from social media sometimes. Children do not benefit from seeing dramatic and unsettling images; especially younger children. It’s important to find that artful balance of being transparent and not to over stimulate them with details. You may need to give them help in articulating what they’ve seen and how they feel. Remember, even if you have shielded your child at home children hear things at school and at the center. Simply by keeping your ears open to peer conversations and interactions you can get a pretty good handle on what your child may know.
There are 7 skills that are applied with this method:
5. Positive Intent
1) Composure – No one can make you angry without your permission.
The purpose is to remain calm enough to teach children how to behave by example. The brain functions optimally in safe environments. The way we choose to perceive a situation dictates our level of upset or composure. Composure is a choice that we make and can be signified by S.T.A.R. icon.
Smile. Take a deep breath. And. Relax.
Teachers who have mastered self-control and model the Skill Composure do the following:
A. Focus on what they want the child to accomplish.
B. Celebrate the child’s successes & choices.
C. See situations from the child’s perspective as well as their own.
D. Creatively teach the child how to communicate their wishes and frustrations with words, & in an acceptable manner.
E. Hold the child accountable to those teachings.
2) Encouragement – Power of unity; we’re all in this together.
Contributing to the welfare of others builds self-worth. How you “see” others defines who you are. Effective praise relies on describing not judging. Children need encouragement, especially when they have made “poor” choices. Problem children are typically removed from so as not to disturb the others; Out of sight out of mind. However, if you want others to change you must change first. You must be the person you want others to become. Possibilities, potential, and principles are all we have to guide our thinking. Room management must shift drastically; cooperation not competition is the key to any type of evolution. We need to embrace community not as a strategy but as an ideology that reflects the heart of humanity. Focus on others giving rather than getting. Encouragement affords a deeps sense of belonging. The following tips will help with success:
A. Notice tendency to judge instead make a comment that shows you have noticed a child.
B. Consciously notice and encourage; describe what you see, “Look at you”, “You did it”, “I noticed”
C. After a command, praise the child if they choose to listen. Even if it takes numerous times of telling a command to a child before they complied they still followed your command. Cooperation no matter how long it takes deserves a celebration.
Notice the following types of behaviors and encourage them:
3) Assertiveness – What you focus on you get more of.
Set limits and expectations in a respectful manner. Healthy boundaries are essential to healthy relationships. When you are upset you are always focused on what you don’t want. Children must learn that they teach others how to treat them. As teachers we must clearly define for ourselves what we want to happen. Focusing on what you want the outcome to be creates the opportunity for change to occur. Children like adults will always respond better to enthusiasm. To be assertive you must express your feelings thoughts and wishes without diminishing those of other people. You must value yourself. Shift your focus from what you assume others are thinking & feeling to being conscious of your mind’s content. To learn you must do the following:
A. Achieve self-awareness
B. Monitor your own thought patterns
4) Choices – Building self-esteem & will power
The only person you can make change is yourself. Choices can empower children while setting limits. With choices you can change the brain chemistry so that learning is optimized. Making choices builds willpower and self-esteem. When you reclaim your choices you are reclaiming your power. If you are in a power struggle with a child you have put the child in charge. You can reclaim your power by acknowledging you are free to choose how you respond to situations and free to choose how you initiate interactions with others.
“If you choose to throw uni-fix cubes, I will have to take them away. You can build with them if you’d like but it’s your choice.”
Power comes from choice not force. Offer children two acceptable choices. The following steps will help you deliver two positive choices:
· Breathe deeply. Think about what you want the child to do. Make a conscious decision.
· Tell the child “You have a choice” in an upbeat tone. Your positive attitude lightens the situation, especially if the child seems resistant.
· State the two choices you created to achieve your goal.
· Complete process by asking the child for a commitment. You might say “what is your choice”. Repeat options if the child hesitates.
· Notice the choice the child makes. Verbalize their choice in an encouraging voice. Be sure to make this final comment. Children who are aware of their choices will not only feel less controlled but will also have greater self-control.
Note that there will be times that children do not want to make a choice. If that is the case it may be because the child is afraid of disappointing you or they may have a fear of being wrong. Model acceptance of mistakes. Show them/tell them that everyone slips up.
5) Positive Intent – To see the best in others
Create those teachable moments especially with oppositional or aggressive children. With positive intent it can improve your self-image and builds trust. What you are offering to others you are strengthening in yourself. With these teachable moments you are transferring resistance into cooperation. Children cannot behave differently until they are seen differently. Children who make poor choices often feel poorly about themselves. If you see the best in them you are changing aggressive behavior into cooperative members at the center. Being determined to find fault in others simply means that we are unwilling to change ourselves. Negative intent assumes the child’s behavior is about you, while positive intent lets the child’s behavior be about the child.
Children are just mean
They are just trying to get my attention
They sure know how to push my buttons
He’s just hurtful for no reason
He keeps others from learning
She is disrupting the class
She is just lazy
Children need social skills
This child needs help in learning to focus
I must learn to stay calm
He needs help managing his frustration
He needs work he can be successful at
She is having trouble with this work
She must feel hopelessly unsuccessful
Even if you refrain from a direct attack your implication and tone can hurt deeply. Be aware of how you sound to others. Your intentions are more powerful than the words spoken sometimes.
6) Empathy – The power of acceptance.
Helping children accept and process their feelings to see the world from others’ perspectives. Empathy wires the brain for self-control, allowing children access to higher cognitive processes. Empathy is the heart of emotional intelligence; understanding and joining with others without taking on the pain of others as your own. Until you feel your feelings you will not allow children to feel theirs. Children have a right to all of their feelings. Feelings serve as our core system for discerning right from wrong. They are our moral navigators. We must teach our children how to handle disappointment and frustration appropriately. However, before you can empathize you must stop equating disobedience with disrespect. When you empathize with children they realize you care about their ideas and feelings. True empathy demands that you listen to their thoughts and feelings without needing to change them. This teaches them the following:
· Recognition and acceptance of emotions
· Knowledge that emotions can be expressed to others
· The ability to label feelings with appropriate words
· The understanding that feelings influence behavior
· The realization that relationships are based on mutual esteem and communication
School aged children experience what the method calls Reciprocal empathy because of your child’s growing cognitive maturity. A child will be able not only to be empathetic, but also to discern if the form of empathy offered is helpful to the recipient. They can fully appreciate situations from another’s perspective. They can now have the capacity to understand that no one persons’ perspective is right.
7) Consequences – Helping children learn from their mistakes.
Mistakes are opportunities to learn. Help children reflect on their choices and motivate them to make changes in their behavior. Teach them the value of responsibility. Your brain thrives on feedback for growth, learning, intelligence and survival. We are teaching children that consequences have a cause and effect on relationships. The principles of consequences are as follows:
· Mistakes are opportunities to learn responsibility
· Punishment and rewards rely on judgement. Consequences rely on reflection.
· Your intentions in administering consequences will determine their effectiveness.
· Consequences delivered with empathy allow children the opportunity to learn how to be responsible for their choices.
It is not in our human nature to feel bad about mistakes and good about accomplishments. We learn this mind set. When children see the connection between their behavior and the result of that behavior learning has occurred. At any given moment, you are either being responsible, or offering blame. The choice is ours. Being conscious of your intent when delivering consequences is the key to their effectiveness. With phrases like” You should have known better”, or “When are going to start thinking” the punitive position clearly states that the child should feel bad. It teaches the child to focus their attention on you, rather than to think about the consequences of their behavior. Rescuing children from their feelings created by their choices is another means of control. Parents run to school with forgotten lunches, permission slips, and homework. By doing this your actions are saying the feeling of disappointment is bad, and that they will overwhelm you. It sends a message that the adult knows best how to run the child’s life. Children learn to focus their intelligence and energy into manipulating adults to rescue and protect them from consequences of their behavior.
To help children learn responsibility we can use three types of consequences: natural, imposed, & problem solving.
1) Natural Consequences – nothing is prearranged. The consequences a child experiences are directly related to the child’s choice or behavior. If a child doesn’t tie their shoes they could trip. These consequences are possible and sometimes probable results of personal choices. However, adults tend to overdo the prediction of harm. These dire warnings send two messages:
· Adults are all knowing
· Children have no control over the events of their life. Children who internalize these beliefs grow into adults who give their power away to others and end up feeling victimized by life.
The following 5 steps will help you teach children to learn from the natural consequences of their choices by using the acronym G.A.M.E.S.
G – give Guidance and possible outcomes
A – Allow consequences
M – Model self-control
E – offer Empathy
S – new Strategies
2) Imposed Consequences – prearranged. The adult creates a set of behavioral expectations for the child. If the child doesn’t hand in their homework on time the consequences are prearranged by the teacher or class. Consequences do not teach children how to behave. They motivate children to use skills they already have or, motivate them to learn new strategies. These consequences can be developed at the spur of the moment.
Use the acronym C.I.R.C.L.E.
C – Choice of skills (old and new)
I – Imposed consequences for using old skill
R – Related to safety or logic
C – Child states back what was heard
L – Listen and clarify if needed
E – Empathy with consequences
3) Problem Solving – The logical consequence of creating a problem is solving a problem. The logical consequence of fighting with other children is to learn to solve problems without fighting. Unfortunately, often this is not thought of as a consequence. We want to help children reflect on their actions, to change and then make choices that bring successful outcomes. If the imposed consequence isn’t obvious, problem solving is the technique to use. When children are actively engaged in solving their own problems outcomes are peaceful.
Use the acronym P.E.A.C.E.
P – discern who owns the Problem.
E – offer Empathy to the child who made the “poor” choice.
A – Ask the child to think, “What do you think you are going to do”.
C – offer Choices and suggestions
E – Encourage the child to come up with their own solution.
It’s important to note that chronic problems will not be solved with imposed consequences. They require problem solving.
Recently I have had many conversations with parents regarding the lack of motivation or sometimes even enthusiasm their children have. The constant dragging of the feet to school, or the high emotions of not being the best on the field can get to be overwhelming. It is not always easy to be the constant cheerleader either. Frankly, many of us run out of ideas in how to motivate our children. I know that we would like to be able to do it all for them; but we aren’t doing them any favors by doing this. We need to be able to give them the tools to achieve success. Children have an immense strength and power all of their own. So how do we tap into that and encourage our children to be self-motivated? Below is a great article that I came across that can give parents the tools to help foster this trait in their children.
Eight Ways to Encourage Self-Motivation in Your Child
by Tracy Enright | on September 30, 2015 | in Child Development, Dad’s Corner, Learning, Mom’s Corner, Psychology
Self-motivation is a trait that is often underrated. It’s more than just getting out of bed in the morning; it can have a huge impact on how well your child does in school. Children are naturally motivated to learn until they’re about 7 years old. After this time, they’ll need the ability to motivate themselves, a vital skill if they are to succeed. It’s true that self-motivation can only come from within, but there are ways you can help your child nurture it, giving them an advantage that will pay off in later life. Here are eight ways you can help.
Focusing on solutions to problems rather than dwelling on setbacks, combined with having a positive outlook on life. This will encourage your child to adopt the same approach.
Reward effort rather than just success. You will help your child to develop the resilience they’ll need to face failure and to keep trying until they do succeed.
Deal With Failure
Teach your child to accept that sometimes they will fail. Showing them how to lose or win gracefully, will give them the ability to deal with, and move on from, setbacks later in life.
Children who have a range of interests will be exposed to different opportunities. Combined with a good work-life balance, this will make the less-interesting tasks they face less demoralizing and easier to face.
Knowing how to celebrate and enjoy success, both their own and others’, will give your child something positive to aim for.
Make Success Possible
Give your child the opportunity to be successful and experience the positive emotions that go with it. Supporting and guiding them will help build the self-esteem that is vital to self-motivation.
Foster Their Interests
Encouraging a child to learn about things that interest them will allow them to better understand the concepts they learn at school, especially if you’re creative about the way you link their interest to learning. Pacing out the length of their favorite dinosaur or measuring ingredients for baking will help them understand size or volume without it feeling like another math lesson.
Adapt to Their Learning Style
Some children will sit and listen to new information. Others want to pick things up and use them straight away. Adapting to their preferred way of learning will keep learning fun and not a chore.
Parents want to help improve their child’s chance of success at school, and later, as adults. By starting early and encouraging your child in the right way, you can help them develop a trait that will be useful to them for the rest of their lives.
In an effort to continue to educate ourselves & our families, we have assembled a Parent Library. This library is composed with numerous books regarding subjects like discipline, nutrition, changing bodies, and philosophies in bringing up your child in today’s environments. We encourage our parents to stop by the front counter and use this library as a resource. All we ask is that if you want to take a book home, you write your name on the card located inside of the front of the book, and put the card in the card catalogue box under the title of the book. Listed below are just a few of the books that we have recently added to the library.
Parenting can be such an overwhelming job that it’s easy to lose track of where you stand on some of the more controversial subjects at the playground (What if my kid likes to rough house—isn’t this ok as long as no one gets hurt? And what if my kid just doesn’t feel like sharing?). In this inspiring and enlightening book, Heather Shumaker describes her quest to nail down “the rules” to raising smart, sensitive, and self-sufficient kids. Drawing on her own experiences as the mother of two small children, as well as on the work of child psychologists, pediatricians, educators and so on, in this book Shumaker gets to the heart of the matter on a host of important questions. Hint: many of the rules aren’t what you think they are!
Screaming, swearing, crying, hitting, kicking, spitting, biting...these are some of the challenging behaviors we see in kids who are having difficulty meeting our expectations. These behaviors often leave parents feeling frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, and desperate for answers. In this fully revised and updated book, Dr. Ross Greene helps you understand why and when your child does these things and how to respond in ways that are non-punitive, non-adversarial, humane, and effective.
Conscious Discipline is a comprehensive self-regulation program that integrates social-emotional learning and discipline. This approach has become a long time leader in the integration of classroom management with social emotional learning, utilizing everyday events as the curriculum and addressing the adult’s emotional intelligence as well as the child’s. Conscious Discipline empowers adults to consciously respond rather than to react to daily conflict, transforming it into an opportunity to teach critical life skills.
UNBORED Games has all the smarts, creativity, and DIY spirit of the original UNBORED ("It's a book! It's a guide! It's a way of life!" -Los Angeles Magazine), but with a laser-like focus on the activities we do for pure fun: to while away a rainy day, to test our skills and stretch our imaginations-games. There are more than seventy games here, 50 of them all new, plus many more recommendations, and they cover the full gambit, from old-fashioned favorites to today's high-tech games. The book offers a gold mine of creative, constructive fun: intricate clapping games, bike rodeo, Google Earth challenges, croquet golf, capture the flag, and the best ever apps to play with Grandma, to name only a handful. Gaming is a whole culture for kids to explore, and the book will be complete with gaming history and interviews with awesome game designers.
Children’s play is focused, purposeful, and full of learning. As children play, they master motor development, learn language and social skills think creatively, and make cognitive leaps. This (un)curriculum is all about supporting child-led play, trusting children as capable and engaged learners, and forgoing packaged curriculums and prescribed activities. Let Them Play explains the guiding principles of an (un)curriculum and how it gives children the freedom to play, includes suggestions to create spaces that promote healthy development and learning, and supports those who believe in the learning power of play.
You already know how to give your children healthy food, but the hard part is getting them to eat it. After years of research and working with parents, Dina Rose discovered a powerful truth: when parents focus solely on nutrition, their kids - surprisingly - eat poorly. But when families shift their emphasis to behaviors - the skills and habits kids are taught - they learn to eat right. Every child can learn to eat well, but only if you show them how to do it. Dr. Rose describes the three habits - proportion, variety, and moderation - all kids need to learn, and gives you clever, practical ways to teach these food skills. With It's Not About The Broccoli you can teach your children how to eat and give them the skills they need for a lifetime of health and vitality.
For two decades, this universally acclaimed book on sexuality has been the most trusted and accessible resource for kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and anyone else who cares about the well-being of tweens and teens. Now, in honor of its anniversary, It’s Perfectly Normal has been updated with information on subjects such as safe and savvy Internet use, gender identity, emergency contraception, and more. Providing accurate and up-to-date answers to nearly every imaginable question, from conception and puberty
Knowing how to keep children amused through the school holidays can sometimes be daunting for parents. Especially when there are a million things to check off on that never ending “list”. I think it’s important for parents to make sure that their children should always be at the top of the list. The quantity of time that you spend with your children matters just as much as the quality of that time. One day each week, squeeze your schedule into your family life, rather than your family into your schedule. Find things that you can do together as a family. Make sure that you give each child individualized attention. Talk to your child; find out how they’re doing. Make yourself responsible for having a finger on their pulse. Be accessible, even when you’re busy. Listed below are links & ideas to help find different activities around the bay. Give the gift of time to your children this holiday season! - XOXO Jaime
Staying at home
Of course, on some days, you will find yourselves stuck at home, but that doesn't mean anyone has to be bored. You could take the opportunity to spend some time sharing a favorite game. Not sure what to do? Check out a few of these activities below:
The great outdoors
Sunny days are great for simple activities like picnics and games. Kids never grow tired of the amazing parks in our backyard either!
Don't try and fill every minute of every day. Encourage your children's imagination and independence - let them play in their rooms too!
I came across a helpful article on the Child Development Institute website this morning. Having open communication is a struggle for most. Let’s help teach our children positive steps to feeling like they are being heard!
Good communication is an important parenting skill. Parenting can be more enjoyable when positive parent – child relationship is established. Whether you are parenting a toddler or a teenager, good communication is the key to building self-esteem as well a mutual respect.
Basic Principles of Good Parent/Child Communication
Words of Encouragement and Praise
Children thrive on positive attention. Children need to feel loved and appreciated. By selecting and using some of the phrases below on a daily basis with your child, you will find that they will start paying more attention to you.
Great job controlling yourself
I like the way you ______
I noticed that you _______
Keep it up
I had fun ______ with you
You are improving at ______ more and more
You showed a lot of responsibility when you ______
Way to go
I appreciate the way you ______
I like the way you ______ without having to be asked (reminded)
I’m glad you are my son/daughter
I love you
You can SHOW them how you feel as well as tell them:
Pat on shoulder, head, back, knee
Signal or gesture to signify approval
Laugh (with, not at)
I wanted to welcome everyone to the lively, hectic, and unyielding time we call back to school! Walnut Acres Day Care has been a part of my life on and off for the past 27 years. As a kid who attended after care here, a teacher, and now Director, I’m thankful for the children, families, and staff that are all part of our environment. Our philosophy as a center is simple. We are a home away from home and comprise a critical piece of the village made up of Walnut Acres School, Parents, and Teachers. We truly are fortunate to have the help and support of this community. On that note, I want to take a quick minute to say thank you to all of the families who have been patiently waiting for space to become available. I assure you we are doing everything we can to provide space for as many as we possibly can!
The Director’s Chalkboard is meant to be a great platform to share some educational tools & helpful insights. If nothing else, this blog can let you know that we are a community that shares many common experiences. After talking with many of you, I hear that getting back into the “swing of things” is stressful! I came across an article on www.schoolfamily.com that I thought could be helpful.
Until next time…
Ease Back-to-School Stress
If back-to-school time has your child wound up, you can help him adjust. Slowly switching to an earlier bedtime and displaying a calm, positive attitude will help.
by Christine McLaughlin
Change may be good, but it’s not necessarily easy. Switching from the laid-back fun in the sun of summer to rules, homework, and routines can be a big jump for parents and children alike. But with a little preparation and the right attitude, it doesn’t have to be so hard.
It’s normal for a child to have a little flutter of anxiety about going back to school, according to Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a clinical psychologist and coauthor of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential. After all, they’re getting themselves ready for a lot of newness: a teacher, classmates, tasks, and challenges.
Students may have trouble sleeping at the start of the school year, but that’s nothing to worry about, Kennedy-Moore says. More uncomfortable symptoms might include continued trouble sleeping, decreased appetite, or irritability. Severe cases can involve tears, tantrums, and even refusing to go to school.
Susanna DeRocco’s older son, Ben, was one of those severe cases. Every year from kindergarten through 2nd grade, he struggled with separating at back-to-school time. In the morning, tears would start flowing. He would often cling to his mom and refuse to go to school, including not boarding the bus. “As much as my heart was breaking for him, I had to put on a strong front and say ‘I know you can do it. I’m not worried about you at all. You’re going to have a great day,’” says DeRocco, of Towson, Md. “‘And I can’t wait to hear about it when you get home.’”
DeRocco used a lot of strategies with Ben, including role-playing school with stuffed animals, driving the bus route, riding on the practice bus provided by the school district, and visiting the playground and the classroom before the first day of school. They also practiced a farewell where DeRocco would say “See you later, alligator.” Ben would reply with “After a while, crocodile,” and know to break from his mom and get on the bus. The more he practiced, the easier it got, and the anxiety he felt was soon behind him.
A parent’s attitude has a strong influence on how children view the beginning of school, says Kennedy-Moore. Children pick up on their parents’ feelings, react to them, and often magnify them. “You have to have faith that they’ll be able to get through [changes], even if it’s hard. It’s a powerful message to give kids,” she says. “We don’t want to dismiss their feelings, but we do want to normalize them and say ‘Everyone feels a little nervous going into the classroom, but I really think you’re going to be fine.’”
Kennedy-Moore has asked her own four children a question at back-to-school time: “Somewhere in your class is a child who is waiting to be your friend. How will you figure out who that is?” This sets a positive expectation about the school year, and it helps children notice and be ready to respond to friendly overtures.
Emphasize to your children that anxiety doesn’t have to be a stop signal, she says. “It’s really just our body getting us pumped so we’re ready to handle a new or challenging situation.”
Establishing daily routines at home at the start of the school year (or even before) can also help children adjust. Doing this directly benefits their work in the classroom, where their day is full of routines, says Traci Matturro, a reading specialist at Luxmanor Elementary in Rockville, Md. “Routines need to be modeled to kids no matter what age. They need to be shown what to do, not told what to do,” she says. “And parents need to let their kids know their expectations daily.”
Matturro suggests creating a checklist or flowchart to help children get organized and stay on schedule. “It helps ease anxiety with rushing to get out the door, especially,” she says.
Chris Gay, a mom of 7-year-old twins from Walnut Creek, Calif., did just that. Her two 2nd graders had to be out of the house by 8:10 every morning, but at 8 a.m. they still wouldn’t have brushed their teeth. “I was so frustrated,” she says. To ease the morning stress, she created a laminated checklist that hangs on the refrigerator and reads “Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Take vitamin. Brush teeth. Get backpack.” Ashley and Ryan check off each item before they head out the door.
“It’s been so great. They actually enjoy it,” says Gay. “It helps them feel in charge and that [getting ready is] their responsibility.”
For the afternoon, consider scheduling a routine for homework, snacks, and extracurricular activities. Matturro suggests having children help create the schedule as a way to get them to buy into it.
At night, when setting bedtimes, keep in mind that children between the ages of 5 and 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Setting an early bedtime at the beginning of the school year may not work as well for older children who can handle being up later. In this case, Kennedy-Moore suggests expecting them to be exhausted the first week when they come home from school and planning for low-key afternoons to give them a chance to decompress.
Establish Fun Traditions
Because attitude matters, if you’re excited for school to start, your children will follow your lead. Having an annual ritual can help ring in the new school year and can be a treasured tradition for years to come. For instance, every year the night before the first day of school, the DeRocco family sits around the backyard fire pit, roasts marshmallows, and talks about their “joys and concerns” for the upcoming year.
And then there’s the red plate surprise. On the first day of school, one of the two DeRocco boys will get the cherished red plate and be able to choose what he wants (with approval) for breakfast. At dinner, the red plate appears at the other boy’s place setting and he gets to pick the meal. “They get excited even when their brother has the red plate,” DeRocco says.
Spending time just hanging out with your children before the start of the school year helps with transition. A parent’s simple presence is comforting and soothing to children and gives them the opportunity to talk if they want to, says Kennedy-Moore.
Once school starts, of course parents want to hear all about it, but it’s important to follow your child’s lead. Some children are chatty and want to discuss every detail. Others will feel overwhelmed with too many questions. They may need to relax first and talk later, or they may only tell you about bits and pieces of their day. Either way, it’s fine, Kennedy-Moore says. “If your child seems calm and reasonably happy, you can assume the start of the school is going well,” she says. “One of the most precious gifts we can give our children is our confidence that they will find their way.”
During the holiday season it’s important to remember the words above. We are all so busy trying to get to this place or that, wrapping presents, baking cookies, trying to find that gift that your child really wants that we are STRESSED out. We forget about what the holiday season should truly be about. This should be a time for family when you get to take time to be with one another. For many of your kids they just want to spend time with you. They really don’t care what you do as long as you are giving them your full attention. So back away from the computer; put your phone down, put away the iPad and play a board game or cards with your kids. Ask them to teach you how to play James Bond, SPIT, or Egyptian War (these are all card games). Do an activity with your child that encourages conversation.
Kids are always longing to feel included; being a part of something is important and fundamental at this age. Having traditions is important no matter how small or big it may be. Since the time I can remember my family has had the same tradition on Christmas Eve. The youngest child keeps watch for the first star in the sky. Once the star is spotted everyone gets to open 1 present. It’s always the same, pajamas! Everyone from grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, and parents all put on their new pajamas and wear them for the rest of the night. It’s great when I look around the dinner table on Christmas Eve and see everyone being a part of this tradition. I look back at all the pictures with great affection and a good laugh! Some of those pajamas were never to be seen again. No matter what you celebrate it’s important to do something with your kids that everyone can participate in.
As the end of the year comes to a close I wish all of you a fun and safe holiday season. Please remember this season shouldn't be about what your children get but what the family did together. Make that extra time for them. It makes a difference!
As the holidays are quickly approaching I thought I’d take a moment and talk a little bit about being thankful. We as a community are fortunate than most; a roof over our head, food on the table. Many of us try to make sure that our families are not wanting for much. As adults we are thankful that we are able to provide our families with the latest electronic, fashion, or toy. I challenge you to take a minute and ask yourself, does my child come to expect these perks? Are they grateful for the things that they have? Gratitude and thankfulness go hand in hand. Why should a child be thankful for something if we don’t stop to take the time to show them what they have?
The definition of gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. In order to instill these values into our children we need to make sure that we are allotting enough time to show them. You can’t expect children to understand the concepts of gratitude and thankfulness overnight. As I’ve told many parents you may not see the fruits of your labor in weeks, months, or in some cases years but if you are persistent and reinforce positive behaviors that day will come!
Children model their parents in almost every way. As adults we know to use “Thank You” as a form of showing good manners. Proper etiquette says when a gift is given to us or if someone does something nice for us we are supposed to show our thanks by saying thank you, or writing thank you cards. Of course we want our children to have good manners but wouldn’t we like them to intrinsically feel thankful? Kids generally have a greater grasp of the feelings behind thankfulness. They are much more spontaneous when giving out thanks because they are more sincere and enthusiastic. When you see their eyes light up and the smile across their face you truly know that they mean the words. Finding the balance between that feeling of thankfulness and showing good manners is what we all strive to teach our children.
Here are some simple steps that we can use to teach thankfulness to our kids.
1) Work gratitude into your daily conversation. When you reinforce an idea frequently it’s more likely to stick.
2) Have kids help. If you give your child a chore please, please let them complete the task. Let’s be honest, there is always a temptation to step in and do it yourself but the more you do for them, the less they appreciate your efforts.
3) Find a goodwill project. This doesn’t mean you have to help out in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. It simply means find something that you and your child can do to be selfless, whether it is to bring in the trash for an elderly neighbor or pick up homework for their friend who is sick.
4) Encourage generosity. The day care center has a community service project almost every month. This month we are donating new and gently used children’s books to those who don’t have books of their own. Sit with your child and go through some of your books and together decide what books you’re willing to donate.
5) Practice saying no to your child. It is impossible for a child to feel grateful if they have everything they’ve ever wanted.
6) Be patient. For many this will be the hardest thing to do. With our full schedules and rushing off to this or that activity. I can’t stress enough that positive reinforcement goes a lot further. As a good friend tells me often, “you catch a lot more bee’s with honey”.
Until next time…
Jaime Gonce has been working at Walnut Acres Children's Center for over 10 years and is now Director of the center. She has a masters in Child Counseling and attended San Diego State and California State University, East Bay.