Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Keep On Talking To Your Toddler


Language acquisition is such a miraculous process.  An infant enters the world using his/her cries to garner understanding from parents.  And in a few short years, I hear my preschoolers use complex, multi-syllabic words to artfully craft sentences.  There are developmental differences readily apparent within my classroom.  But it is quite easy to tell the children that come from verbally rich environments vs. not.

What should a parent be doing?  Here are some simple suggestions to help your child develop an early and diverse vocabulary.

  • Slow Down:  Speak to your child with a calm, slow and clear voice while performing normal, everyday tasks.  
  • Talk About Everything:  Help your child make the connections to new words that are involved in cooking, grocery shopping, following directions while traveling, or noticing the natural world around us. 
  • Draw Pictures Together:  By using art to express your ideas, you will help your child learn to express his/her ideas that are represented through drawing and art work.
  • Turn Off The TV:  Research has shown that exposure to television does not increase a young child's vocabulary.  (See Link below)
  • Inform Caretakers:  If your child has a nanny or is in daycare, make sure that your child's nanny or daycare professionals are providing a language filled day and stimulating environment.
 I like to think of a child's brain as a garden filled with rich soil.  By using colorful and expressive language, you are planting the seeds to allow your child to develop a beautiful garden of rich and expressive thoughts.  And by ignoring this precious time, you are allowing the garden to lie dormant and barren.  Which do you choose for your child?

 Link:   www.helpyourchildspeak.com 
Research has shown that the number of words a child has heard spoken directly to him by another person* by the 4th birthday has a lasting impact on his or her intelligence level and ability to learn academics. If your child is younger than 4 years, this is the time to act and not to wait any longer to provide positive assistance by learning to increase the quantity and quality of your language input.  If your child has already blown out those 4 candles, every gain you help him or her make as soon as possible is of great importance.  
(*Hearing people on TV, radio, or talking to others has been proven not to benefit the child; it is essential to have social engagement with speech and language input.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Dozen Kid's Birthday Party Ideas!

I have hosted a lot of kids' birthday parties.  My four children (like in most families) are very different from one another and therefore the parties that we have planned over the years are quite varied.  I compiled a list so that you may benefit from my family's experiences and feel free to leave a comment about your birthday party experiences.

Venue Parties:

  1. Indoor swim party--great during the doldrums of winter.
  2. Chuck E Cheese Party--doesn't everyone do one of these at some point?
  3. Ceramic Painting--at a local art studio
  4. Necklace Beading--fun for middle school and older girls
  5. High School Sporting Event--this party was one of the all time best.  Picture a group of 5th grade boys attending a high school football night game.  First, we decorated our van, did face painting, shirt decorating, and took them to the game where they were filmed by the local cable station and ended up on TV!
  6. Dance Party--at a local dance studio
  7. Roller Skating Party--fun for all school age kids.
  8. Bowling Party--good for older grade school age or middle school.

At Home Parties: (Usually more work, but much more memorable and affordable!)

  9.  Dying Tie Dyed T-Shirts-older grade school or middle school.
10.  Teddy Bear Tea Party--for preschool or kindergarten age.
11.  Obstacle Course--This was a party for preschool boys.  We set up a course around our yard
       and then our whole family helped the children race through it.  Loads of fun and lots of family
12.  Photo Scavenger Hunt--This idea is for middle school or high school age kids.  The idea is to
       photograph their group at certain locations around your neighborhood that they find by solving
       clues about the locations.

The excitement and anticipation about the planning of a party is such a wonderful thing to experience with your children.  Be sure to plan it early and allow them to play a role in the decisions about party favors and activities, etc.  Some parents dread these events, and if that describes you, maybe you need to take a year off and focus on a small, simple family celebration.  Then next year you can put positive energy toward planning a wonderful celebration.  The childhood years fly by, so enjoy these special, memory making occasions that celebrate your children and bond your family.  Please share your successful party ideas with all of us, too!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Five Birthday Party Secrets

A retro birthday party celebration with me in the pig tails!

I have organized a lot of birthday parties.  My four children, who are now teenagers and beyond, hopefully have wonderful memories of their special days.  In this post I want to share my birthday party philosophy some of which you may find quite shocking and controversial.  Think of me as a birthday party guidance counselor.  Here are my recommendations:

Birthday Party Secrets

  1. Birthday Parties with friends are held every other year.  This makes them more special and allows the child to appreciate the even in a greater way.
  2. Friend Party Guest Lists should include roughly the number of guests that match the age of the child.  More isn't better when it comes to children's parties.  If the guest list gets out of hand, the child usually spends the party overwhelmed and paralyzed by who to be with and where to focus.
  3. In the interim years, a birthday celebration should be about celebrating with family members and extended family members.
  4. A child should have a voice in the planning of any of their parties.  
  5. Home parties trump destination parties.  I have thrown many of both, and the fun and satisfaction your child gets from being involved in decorating and planning the party activities usually trumps spending a few hours with a mouse in a suit eating mediocre pizza.
Next week I will share the actual party themes that were a huge hit with my kids.  Until then, please feel free to share your Birthday Party Secrets with me and my readers.  We can all help each other tackle these important celebrations and make them fun and meaningful for our children.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Use What Works" A Lesson From Preschoolers

Preschoolers Know To Use What Works!

We had a fantastic day at preschool yesterday.  It was the letter "B" day and we kept ourselves busy with boxes and beads and baby dolls, while eating bagels with blueberries and bananas.  It was one of those utterly engaging and triumphant days that keep teachers enthusiastic about teaching.  But in the midst of all the cooperative play and self motivated creativity, I found myself momentarily frustrated with one of my students who was choosing not to follow my verbal directions.

Upon reflecting what might have been going wrong with our interactions, I remembered hearing one of the boys telling another as he was building a chimney on the cardboard box house he was creating--"Timmy, we need to use what works!".  AHAH!  Light bulb moment for me.  I had been giving directions to the non-listening little boy, as I was engaged in toasting and distributing bagels to four children at the snack table.  The little non-listener had his back to me and was selectively ignoring my instructions--or was the problem with me?  I was not using what I know works!

In order to have the little boy listen to me, I needed to go over to him, bring my face down to eye level for him, and after establishing eye contact, calmly and clearly let him know what I expected him to do.  Shame on me not him!  I know this is the effective method and yet I needed the other children to remind me what to do!

Parenting can be like this, too.  Sometimes we fall into patterns that are not working, and for some unknown reason, we continue to repeat the non-effective behavior and continue to frustrate ourselves in the process.  And usually we are actively blaming our children for the distress.  I challenge you to think about an issue you are struggling with in your family and then actively search for a fresh approach to the situation.  Think about ways that you can positively change your behavior to impact the situation.  Often times, the behaviors in our children that are most frustrating to us, can be vastly improved by our reaction to them.

So in honor of "B" day--Be the Best parent you can Be, and Better your family by Breaking patterns of Bad Behavior and Bettering your approach to your Babies!

Please feel free to comment or share your experiences with me and the other parents who follow this Blog!