Tag Archives: play

Sunday Morning Shout Out


Ah summer! -The sights and sounds of happy children and their families laughing, playing, and enjoying one another’s company, a virtual Rockwell picture is conjured up in your mind.  Ugh, summer! –Whining, fighting, bickering, too much together time.  While we all want a Norman Rockwell summer, perhaps the reality is somewhere in the middle.

Just in time to save the sanity of parents everywhere, but perhaps more importantly help us connect with and understand our children’s needs more, may I offer you a great article that is insightful and a good reminder to all of us parents.  In her article, “The Cure for Whining,” Dr. Laura Markham discusses why children whine and what can be done to stop it or even prevent it in its tracks.  She discusses how whining often occurs because children do not have the internal resources to cope with that is being asked of them.  Often, especially for younger children, this boils down to the fact that basic needs aren’t being met, such as: food, rest, down time, run-around time, and connection with a parent.  If you think of the typical situation where a child is whining while you are errand running, these contextual reasons make a whole lot of sense!

In fact, she stresses that “preemptive” connecting can do a great, great deal to ward off whining and other behavior issues in general.  Children need attention, connection, and support!  As the saying or experience goes, any attention good or bad is better than none at all.  If we meet our children’s connection, support, and attention needs positively, we will prevent or offset the “naughties” later.

She also underlines the power of empathizing to get to the bottom of whininess.  Children often whine because they feel powerless and do not know how to get their needs met. If we start with empathy and kind of deescalate the situation, that can also work to unplug whininess’ cord.  For example, if two siblings are bickering over a toy and your youngest comes in whining, complaining about his older brother.  Some sincere empathy and understanding over how unfair it can feel when someone has something we want, can dispel the whining.  It can also lead the child to the pathway of appropriately stating their feelings and needs , rather than whining about it.

Back to the example, whining for a turn can be replaced by a child identifying they would like a turn to play with the superhero figure ,and that they need to ask nicely , or that they need their parent to help them negotiate proper turn taking for their child.  So perhaps Joey gets the toy for five minutes and then he switched with Scottie.  That is a fair scenario for both parties. It is all modeling that starts with true empathizing.  Markham discusses how it is just counterintuitive to scold them for whining or refuse to listen to them, as it just makes them feel more powerless.  Read more about this at the website and try the other techniques instead.

Markham goes on to discuss how excessive whining may also indicate the need for a good cry.  Life is full of hurts for young and old. Having a good cry can release these feelings and help us move on.  She suggests gently offering you’re the child the chance, support, and time for a good cry ,to allow them to move onward.  Lastly, she describes how whining triggers instinctual feelings of rushing in and responding for parents.  She reminds us all to pause, take a step back, and calmly assess the situation for what it is.  Instead of rushing in to scold our children, she encourages parents to rush in to hug them instead.  This may just nip it then!

 

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


If you are anything like me, there are times when you leave the pediatrician’s office and want to kick yourself for not asking her the questions you had in mind.  Or perhaps you read about a topic or care deeply about a topic pertaining to child development, but are unable to have the conversation with your pediatrician.  Well aren’t you glad Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a noted pediatrician from Seattle Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine could join this blog!  This is courtesy of a question and answer piece that was at NPR website entitled “Q&A: Blocks, Play, Screen Time and The Infant Mind.

Dr. Christakis covers some big topic areas for today’s inquiring parents.  Perhaps you know that the small children who play with blocks have consistently been found throughout the research to have greater language development skills.  He relates it to the way in which blocks tend to facilitate play with children and their parent.  In particular, when there is adult child interaction over blocks, language development is greatly enhanced.  He talks about how this is true with not just blocks, but any toy that facilitate verbal interaction between parent and child.  When Mom or Dad talk to little Susie about what she’s building-the colors, the height, the interesting form, etc, Susie then has this in her comprehension and vocabulary. Blocks are also conducive to solo play.  Children love them and get absorbed by them, but are not left with the overstimulation that occurs with too much media.

Christakis fields questions about children and media use, and what is an appropriate time frame for use.  Certainly, he sees a oversaturation when it comes to media usage and children.  He reports that a typical preschooler today watches four and half hours of television, while they are only usually up around 12 hours.  Twenty to thirty percent of their time is spent in front of a screen!  He reports that within the last ten years, 90% of children under two are watching television.  This is a huge difference from ten years ago and flies in the face of guidelines given from the American Pediatric Association, that advise no television until after aged two.  Media saturation upsets the natural process of things in the body.  He says the research shows that watching quick sequences of television interferes with executive functioning.  While the brain will process the information, it taxes it and over stimulates the senses.  There is also an issue of which activities were usurped to make screen use a priority for the child.  Not condemning the digital age by any means, he encourages parents to make thoughtful and age appropriate choices for their children’s usage.  He encourages parents to ask themselves what is lost otherwise.  It is a whole lot more than language development…..

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


—So little summer and so many great things to do. This is how I feel when things are relatively balanced in our household.

—-So little summer and too many /?%! things to do.  This is how I feel when there is too much going on during the summer; it’s whizzing by; and I am frazzled by its frenetic pace?  I think how can this be summer when there seem to be too many demands to meet.  Where did laid back, slow paced, and my “Hallmark” card moments, in which our family is playing baseball on the lawn (in the middle of a familial love fest) go?  I know I am out of whack when I feel tired, grumpy, and feel like it’s effort to do the normal things nicely.  I know the children are out of whack when they are acting tired, grumpy, and are having great deal doing normal things nicely.  When this occurs, I have to take a step back and retreat.

For me, this means saying no to many things, and yes to some quiet in our home.  It means dramatically limiting activities outside our home and keeping a realistic pace.  This pace doesn’t leave me or the children gasping for air in the summer.  It returns laid back to the equation and us to grounding activities around our home.  This looks like quiet play inside; reading and crafts for the girls; trains and the toy basket for the boy; some rambunctious play outside; sprucing up our house, by doing some extra organizing and cleaning; catching up with correspondence; baking; and a few “snuck” minutes of reading during the day for me.  It’s nothing dramatically exciting or over the top. It is just things we find grounding.

When I am calm, my children are calm.  When I am more rested, the children also tend to be more rested.  When I am satisfied, the children seem more satisfied.  When I feel more comfortable and at ease, the children seem more comfortable and at ease.   Where I go emotionally, my children tend to follow.  Instead of no thank you, thank you, no!

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Fredonia Blue DevilsA few weeks back, my dear friend Yumiko and her children stayed with us for a weekend. Yumiko and I have been friends for over 20 years, a friendship that harkens back to SUNY Fredonia.  We were both there studying English.  That first year, she celebrated Christmas with my family and my new boyfriend who is now my husband.  I still have origami that she made for us, for our Christmas tree during that visit and that we in return have used every year since.  I had the fortunate experience of visiting her in 2002 and seeing her culture first hand; meeting her family, friends, and colleagues; site seeing, and getting a first person perspective, that could not be replicated by any organized tour.  Who would have thought that 20 years later she would be coming to the United States, for an annual spring visit with her English students, from the college she teaches at in Nagoya?

In the last few years, her husband and children have accompanied her for part of her visit.  This was year two of our children being together and playing together. This was year two where the culture of pure childhood blended wondrously and purely in our home.  Within minutes of seeing one another, the children were communicating in the seamless way it seems only children can do, over a loom and rubber bracelets.  The children carried on in both English and Japanese about the bracelets, as our daughter explained what to do and Yumiko’s children tried it out.  Yumiko’s son and our oldest daughter broke the ice once more over some computer games that had them both laughing hysterically.  Other games with balloons; timeless games of chase; playing outside in the snow; and time spent together at the incredible children’s museum “Explore and More” were also times and instances that illustrated for me the ways in which the nature of childhood knows no bounds. It also once again demonstrated for me how the beauty and richness of diverse cultural traditions makes us all more enlightened especially when experienced.  From shared meals and conversations about family and our societies to lessons in sushi making and collecting gold chocolate coins from leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day, the warm embers of friendship were rekindled once again. We have next March to look forward to, to do this once again, and Skype and Facebook to hold us over.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Sometimes you come across something and it’s like a gift.  There are the days that I believe all of us have as parents where we feel like we have fallen short.  At the end of the day, have you ever asked yourself if you’ve connected with your child?  Have you regretted that you did not play with them for even a few minutes?  Do you feel like there is a continental divide between you and your teen, tween, or even littler one?  Do you feel like there is a galactic divide between your two children and each other or that each person is an island in your home?  Enter Dr. Laura Marhkam, Clinical Psychologist, and some wonderful tips/”games” she suggests for connecting and reconnecting with your child and family in her article titled Playing with Your Child: Games for Connection and Emotional Intelligence.”

First of all though, Dr. Markham reminds parents that play is children’s work. Children work through and process their different feelings from the day through play. Markham states that in particular, children need physical play to work out all their pent up feelings. When their bodies are charged up emotionally, they need a healthy release for it.  Physical play with children and all the giggling, sweating, and screaming that come with it, help them release negative stress hormones.  Otherwise, this is where tantrums come into play or other negative activities. As children also learn through play, the lesson or message of these games that will soon be discussed, are learned.  Lastly, when parents and children play everyone feels closer and more connected for it.  So while at the end of the day, the last thing you might feel like doing is playing a game, Markham offers a variety of games that can be played in 10 minutes or less.  Rather than feeling more exhausted by them, her experience has found more parents energized by them.

Dr. Markham has ideas for a variety of situations.  For the child who is being very “in your face” with her parent or plain annoying, she states that the parents could grab her child and ask them if they are out of hugs and state they need to do something about it.  Hug them and hug them more!  Tell them you never want to let go and that you love hugging them.  Tell them how much you needed that. Bring on the hug fest and the attention fest for this attention and affection craving child and see the annoying behavior disappear.  She offers a suggestion for the parent who is experiencing a child who is excessively whining.  While some experts state that parents should tell their child they do not hear her until she uses her proper voice, Markham states that this will just make the child feel more powerless.

She reminds parents that this is what whining is all about for the child. Instead, she has a game in which the parent and child look for the child’s strong voice throughout the house. With an engaged child, who by now should be talking in their normal, strong voice, compliment them on their strong voice as you look through the house. Say to them, I love your strong voice! Then ask them again what they initially wanted in the first place. Another great game idea she had was to encourage two squabbling siblings to come to the center of the stage. In your best announcer voice, ask them to fight in the ring. Give the play-by-play commentary about your prizefighters, hopefully illuminating the ridiculousness of the situation and providing levity.  There are many other great ideas in the article that she has to address typical familial issues between parents and children.  May I close with the quote she used at the top of this feature?

Play can be the long-sought bridge back to that deep emotional bond between parent and child. Play, with all its exuberance and delighted togetherness, can ease the stress of parenting. Playful Parenting is a way to enter a child’s world, on the child’s terms, in order to foster closeness, confidence, and connection.” — Lawrence Cohen, Playful Parenting*

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Holiday Season Cooking Class


 

GingerbreadTeaching your child to cook is a valuable life skill to pass on and a great family fun activity.  Gingerbread people are a holiday tradition that helps your student to learn to bake, measure and follow written instructions while giving them the opportunity to exercise their creative side.  Gingerbread people also make great gifts from young students to friends and family members.

When children follow recipes, they get invaluable practice that will stand them in good stead in the lab. Scientific experiments are very much like recipes.  Students learn to read the instructions through from start to finish first.  Then follow each step.  They also learn to measure and add ingredients one at a time, just like they would in a scientific experiment.
Children also learn how to follow a recipe and basic baking terms like stirring, folding, sifting etc.

Here is a basic gingerbread recipe:
Ingredients:
• 5 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1 cup unsulfured molasses
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until creamy. Add the egg and beat for another 30 seconds. Add molasses and beat for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and beat for 30 seconds.
Take one cup of dry ingredients at a time and add them to the butter mixture. Every time you add a cup of dry ingredients, stir until well mixed. When you have added all the dry mixture, stir until you have a stiff dough. Use your hands to roll the dough into a big ball. Press down with your palm onto the dough to flatten it. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour your countertop and your rolling pin. Roll out the dough until 1/8 inch thick.  Use cookie cutters to cut out your gingerbread people.  Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

Take the cookies out of the oven and let them cool completely.  Now decorate with icing and candy.

You can use the same recipe to make gingerbread houses.  Put the dough on floured parchment paper and then roll it out.  Cut out squares or rectangles that are the same size for the four walls and two sides of the roof.  Bake in the same way and leave to cool. Use icing sugar to secure the four walls to each other and then put the roof on.  Decorate with candy and icing sugar.

Note: Originally published 11/26/2012 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Themed Birthday Parties: Great Ideas For Elementary School Students


Theme Birthday Little RedParents have to deal with so much pressure when it comes to birthday parties, that we thought we’d help you out with some fun, easy and sometimes educational birthday party themes.

Mad Scientist Party
Lab coats, goggles and wigs make this a fun dress-up affair. You can use dry ice to create smog (keep this out of reach of the party attendees) and use food coloring to make weird colored drinks and snacks. Let the children do their own experiments like Mentos in Cola, baking soda volcanoes and make your own homemade slime (recipe here.) You can also make your own lave lamps for a great take-home gift (see post here.)

The Amazing Race Party
You can play this amazing party game in park or your backyard. Start by showing students how to tell direction. Do this by looking at the sun, at a compass or at signs that you put up. Then hide clues in a scavenger hunt which each team has to find. Whenever they find a new clue, the team gets treats or small gifts. The winners get a grand prize to take home. Use a traveling theme for the rest of the party. A traveling theme can include games like piñata safari, pin the traveller on the world map and food from all over the world.

World’s Best Chefs
Most children enjoy getting their hands dirty in the kitchen. This party can be as sophisticated or as simple as you like. You can divide the party guests into teams and get them to make all the party snacks or you can keep it simple and decorate cupcakes, cookies or make gingerbread houses.

Teaching children how to cook and bake is a valuable life skill and while it takes planning and coordination, at least you won’t have to make any party snacks!

Magic and Mayhem
Black cloaks and witches hats are all you need to make this Harry Potter party theme work. Get each student to decorate their own capes with stickers, glitter and stars. Have a couple of broomsticks for riding and balls for playing quidditch. Hang a piece of crepe paper or wrapping paper that is printed with a brick pattern over the doorway and cut into wide strips. This will be platform 9 ¾ that students can run through every time they go out. You can also get each student to make their own wands and decorate them with craft supplies and paint.

Charity Bash
If your child loves volunteering, you can invite friends and family members to participate in a fun charitable event. You can plant trees, do a nature clean up, or raise funds for charity by bringing old items and toys for a group garage sale. Students can also help out at a local soup kitchen or food bank.

Maker’s Fair
Get children to make cool items from upcycled or recycled goods. Make bike lights out of deodorant sticks (see plan here) or a vibrating robot bug (see plans here). They can even make simple LED throwies which are perfect for birthday party decorations.

Note: Originally published 11/1/2013 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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