Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Fun

Even if you can't be on vacation all summer, some of these activities will entertain your little ones.
1. "Paint" with water and a big, wide brush on outdoor surfaces like the sidewalk, steps, or fence.
2. Fill up two kiddie pools, one with water, one with beach or play sand. Give your child some plastic containers to measure or pour with.
3. Buy some inexpensive sidewalk chalk and let the sidewalk be your child's easel.
4. Ok, you have to be adventuresome for this and you might want to save it for a rainy day. Make a road out of uncooked rice and let your child use it for his or her cars. Then vacuum it up.
5. You could also make a road with masking tape or blue painter's tape. Actually, that would probably be a lot better!
6. Spread a sheet over a small table or card table. Use it as a fort or a tent. Get inside and read books to your child. Sometimes this is a great place for napping.
7. Make Rice Krispies Treats with your child. It's simple, takes only three ingredients and can be eaten right away.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Environmental Print

"Look Mommy, that says McDonald's." That statement will probably be the first your child will say to you that lets you know he or she recognizes the letters or words that spell McDonald's. The next may be, "Look Mommy, that says WalMart", if you are a WalMart shopper. These moments of enlightenment mean that your child is recognizing environmental print......print that exists in the environment of commercialism.

This is an important developmental milestone in your child's development and is a pre-cursor to reading. When your child begins to notice commercial signs that are familiar, you should reinforce the statements with responses such as, "Yes, that means McDonald's. That is an M." Later, you can reinforce the recognition of the entire word. When you take your child shopping with you, point out signs that indicate the names of familiar places such as Publix (if you are from the south), or Trader Joe's (if you are lucky enough to have one of those around), or Burger King and Wendy's.

As your child begins to make connections between words in the environment and words in books, he or she will begin learning that words and word meanings are also connected. The environment of commercialism is the first place your child will begin "reading". Encourage it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thought For The Day

It only takes one caring adult in the life of a child to make that child's life meaningful. That person can be a parent, a friend, a teacher, a sibling. Isn't that astonishing? It only takes one. I hope you are that person for a child that you know.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Room of One's Own

When author Virgina Woolf wrote, "A Room of One's Own", I doubt she was speaking of children. However, I think that title is appropriate for my topic today. Children need a space of their own.....whether a room or simply an area of the house that they know is theirs, that no one else will violate. Setting boundaries such as this helps children develop boundaries of their own. If there is a space for them, they slowly begin to learn to respect the space of others.

In a classroom, boundaries are established by assigning a desk or table and chair to each child. Sometimes, a teacher will define personal space for each child by tape on the floor or by having each child sit on a colored mat. This is important because children feel very chaotic if they do not know where their space is. And adults feel this way also. I know when I enter a room, I want to know "where I'm supposed to go". I want someone to tell me where my space is. Children are the same. They need predictability and they need to know "where they fit".

Some children have more difficulty with personal space than others. But it is a two way street. If the child's space is not his or her own, the child will not respect the space of anyone else. If a child does not have defined space of his or her own, then everyone's space becomes their space.
Children learn appropriate boundaries by the way adults model their own setting of boundaries.

stablishing boundaries early in childhood will help as your child becomes older. It may not seem significant that your little three year old goes into your purse without permission to find a pencil; it will be much more significant when that same child is a teenager and goes into your purse without permission to look for money.

Begin in small ways. Set up a system of toy storage so that your child knows where to find and store his or her playthings. Define a place at the dining table where your child sits to eat. Do not allow your child to go into your purse without permission. Remember that predictability is the key. Boundary-setting is about respecting space--physical space, personal space, emotional space. And remember that as the parent, you are the key. You are the role model.

And finally, Happy Mother's Day to all of you wonderful, hard-working mothers out there.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Developmental Milestones

Today, I want to talk about developmental milestones, a term not heard much anymore. Developmental milestones are those markers in a child's development that let you know your child is developing normally and at the correct rate. If you don't know to watch for these markers, you won't know if your child is having a problem. For example, if your child is six month's old, he or she should be able to do the following:

Motor Skills

  • hold head steady when sitting with your help
  • reach for and grasp objects
  • play with his toes
  • help hold the bottle during feeding
  • explore by mouthing and banging objects
  • move toys from one hand to another
  • shake a rattle
  • pull up to a sitting position on her own if you grasp her hands
  • sit with only a little support
  • sit in a high chair
  • roll over
  • bounce when held in a standing position

Sensory and Thinking Skills

  • open his mouth for the spoon
  • imitate familiar actions you perform

Language and Social Skills

  • babble, making almost sing-song sounds
  • know familiar faces
  • laugh and squeal with delight
  • scream if annoyed
  • smile at herself in a mirror
Now there will be differences in the rate at which each child develops. Do not expect your child to be able to do all of these on the exact day that he or she is six months old. However, be aware of your child's progress so that you spot a problem early on. With regard to children and their development, the earlier you spot a delay, the earlier you will be able to intervene and get help from a professional.

Check out the following website for other developmental markers as your child advances in age: And if your child is not developing at a normal rate, talk to your pediatrician. Early intervention is the key and can make the difference between success or failure in your child's school career.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Trip To The Store

I have been watching Jamie Oliver's show on the Food Network in which he is working with a school district in West Virginia to provide healthier school lunches. In the course of his educating the children on better food choices, he spent time in a kindergarten class. He brought in foods such as celery, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes to see if the children could identify each one. You guessed it. They could not. Why is that? One reason is that no one had talked to these children about these foods. Perhaps there was not money in the family budget for fresh vegetables. Or maybe processed foods have taken over our society to the point where families don't cook fresh vegetables anymore. Or maybe these kiddos just needed a little instruction.

Once Jamie had attempted this lesson with the class, the teacher decided to teach the children about vegetables. Within two weeks, when Jamie went back to the same class, all of the children could identify all of the vegetables. It was a beautiful thing to see.

To help your child identify fruits and/or vegetables and to develop vocabulary, do the following: when you are in the grocery store, have your child name each item you are adding to the cart. To help with letter and sound recognition, a pre-cursor to reading, sound out the first sound in the word and name that letter sound. Or you can say, "Let's find a vegetable that begins with B". Pick up broccoli." Yes, broccoli. Broccoli begins with B."

Even your older children will benefit from this exercise. You can greatly expand their vocabulary by choosing vegetables or fruits like artichokes, cauliflower, pomegranate, or mango to talk about. All children love to learn new words, especially if they are big words that are fun to say. Who knows, your child may even ask to sample some of the food you talk about.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sticker Shock

I have spent considerable time over the years watching parents and children. In particular, I watch to see how carefully children are supervised when out in public. I do this because I am a self-confessed fanatic where the safety of children is concerned. That being said, I developed a mental exercise several years ago to help me determine whether a child is being supervised properly.

I imagine myself with a pocket full of round stickers that say, "This child could have been kidnapped today". These stickers would be about the size of a silver dollar. If the child were close enough to me and far enough from their parent so that I could have placed a sticker on that child or handed the sticker to the child , then those parents were too far away from that child and there was too great an opportunity for tragedy. I have never really done this because of the liability involved. However, it is an interesting thing to contemplate.

I am discussing this subject today because I spent last Friday on Disney property and had many opportunities to think about my "sticker project". A particular situation occurred at the Disney Ice Cream Parlor in EPCOT. My daughter and I wanted a sundae but there was a very long line inside and very few tables available outside. She stood in the line and I went out to save a table. As I sat outside on the patio, I noticed three young children at a nearby table. The oldest child was about ten years old and the other two were about seven or eight. There were saving a table. However, there was no adult anywhere in sight. There were alone for at least ten minutes, perhaps fifteen.

I suppose it is possible that the parent of these children could have been watching them from inside the ice cream parlor. I suppose that if a stranger had approached the children, the parent would have noticed. I suppose that if someone had tried to lure these children away, they would have not gone. But I'm not sure.

My point is that many parents assume their children are safe from all harm in certain locations. Disney is one of those locations. There is an atmosphere of safety, nostalgia, and worry-free living at Disney. I believe that it lulls parents into a false sense of security and that can be very dangerous.

In all fairness to Disney, however, my sticker project emerged far away from the theme parks. Children are unsupervised all the time in store, malls, movie theaters, and parks.

I challenge you to notice unsafe situations for children and I also challenge you to be certain you keep your own children safe. This does not only apply to very young children; older children are at risk also. I wish this were still a world where children could be children; where they could run and play alone outside or go to the mall alone at ten years old like I used to do sixty years ago. But that is not the case. And you are responsible because you are the parent. Could someone put a sticker on your child today?