The Great Outdoors Holds Great Opportunity for Your Child

Photo source: The Learning Child

As a child, I remember running around barefoot with my siblings,exploring woods, climbing trees, and building forts. Oh, the memories. I had scrapes, bruises, and even stitches at times, but they were worth it.In addition to the great memories made, did you know there are endless benefits of simply letting your child run outside and play? The next time you’re deciding whether to let your child play inside or outside, you might want to consider all the opportunities that come with the great outdoors.

Increased Physical Activity

Although it seems as if your child has endless energy, letting them play outside can help release some bottled up energy. Everything from walking, running, and jumping around, to climbing trees and carrying building supplies for forts, contributes to the development of strength, balance, and coordination. According to the Stateofobesity.org, Nebraska ranks 5th with a 2-4-year-old obesity rate of 16.9%. Yikes! Just think how our rates might decrease if children spent more time outside.

Development of Gross Motor Skills and Fine Motor Skills

Developing these skills directly affects the creation of strong, healthy, capable children. Gross motor skills help your child run, walk, and climb. Fine motor skills are used when they pick up sticks or make a nature bracelet with all of their outdoor treasures. Development of these skills requires lots of practice,and outdoor adventures offer just that.

Social Interaction

No matter if your child is playing with siblings, friends, or you, they are gaining social interaction. Being outside with limited toys can push children to expand their imaginations. When combining different imaginations, new ideas and brainstorming skills are created. Teamwork is also strenghtened. Whether they are ‘playing house’ or building something, your child will be working together with others, and learning teamwork young could benefit your child in their future endeavors.

Use of Imagination

I just mentioned that when your child is outside, it can force them to use their imaginations. Children need to experience boredom at times in order to create new levels of play. Once they do, they can see objects in new ways, such as using mud to make cake or pretending a stick is a mixing spoon. Also, when your child has free time, they have time to daydream, and that can lead to some of their most creative ideas.

It is the beginning of summer and that means it’s the perfect time for your child to go enjoy all of the benefits that the great outdoors offers!

LaDonna Werth, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Supporting Unique Interests of Children

Image source: Jody Green

I am a professional entomologist. I studied insects and spiders at the college level, and I educate people about how to manage and prevent bugs from bugging them. Though I have always had an appreciation for insects, I didn’t know urban entomology and pest management would be a career option for me, and I was an adult when I decided on a non-traditional career for a woman. Unfortunately, many children lack the role models, resources, and support to follow their passion.

A true story that is near and dear to my heart is the story of Sophia Spencer, a Canadian girl whose love for bugs brought out a negative reaction at school simply because bullies believed that girls should not like bugs. Seven-year-old Sophia was ready to give up her favorite things, until her mom jumped in to help her out. As a parent, I can understand the feelings of frustration and helplessness, not knowing exactly how to help your child. Desperate to encourage her daughter, Sophia’s mother wrote a letter to the Entomological Society of Canada and a post on Twitter was sent out to entomologists around the world like a red alert. As a woman entomologist, I responded immediately by sending one of hundreds of messages intended for Sophia. Little did Sophia’s mom know, she initiated a huge movement, which is now associated with the hashtag #BugsR4Girls.

So, what can we learn from Sophia’s experience?

HERE ARE 10 WAYS ALL ADULTS CAN SUPPORT LIFELONG LEARNING, DISCOVERY, AND THE SUCCESS OF CHILDREN:

1. BE KIND

Teach kindness, empathy, and respect for each other.

2. SUPPORT THE CHILD

Commit to learning with them, foster their curiosity, and support their interests, whether it be fleeting or lasting. Do some research, buy or borrow some books, find a podcast, or a video.

3. ASK FOR HELP

Reach out to an expert in the field through a professional organization or college directory. Passionate people love to share their passion with others.

4. TOYS AND PLAY SHOULD BE GENDER-NEUTRAL

Set aside conceptions of what boys and girls should play with and how they should play, so that all children can benefit from toys and activities.

5. NATURE IS FOR EVERYONE

Encourage children, regardless of gender, to ask questions and use all of their sense to discovery the world around them. Nature play is beneficial for a child’s overall development, health, and wellbeing.

6. SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE USED FOR GOOD

Whichever outlet you prefer, set your boundaries, and follow through. Social media has a way of bringing people closer, but can also be intertwined with negative outcomes.

7. BE A MENTOR

If you have an expertise in something, you can inspire, nurture, and help a child struggling to find a role model.

8. YOU’RE NEVER TOO YOUNG (OR OLD) TO INSPIRE

Role models come in all shapes and sizes. Small voices can be heard, we need to elevate them.

9. FOLLOW YOUR PASSION

Children follow our lead and if we show passion for our work or hobbies, they will seek out the same for their own lives.

10. LEARN WHY INSECTS ARE IMPORTANT

Image source: Jody Green

Yes, insects at times can be challenge, but they are also a major pollinator supporter of crops and flowers. Introduce children to insects through art, music, literature, and simple observations.

Sophia not only found a community of entomologists to encourage her love for insects, but in the last few years has co-authored a scientific paper and wrote a children’s book. To learn more about her experience in her own words and voice, read and listen to the NPR story from 2017 or recent (2020) CBC Radio story. She definitely showed the world that bugs were for her and she continues to inspire others with her story.

Resources:

Arthro-Pod EP 71: #BugsR4Girls with Sophia Spencer. http://arthro-pod.blogspot.com/2020/03/arthro-pod-ep-71-bugsr4girls-with.html

Jackson, M. and Spencer, S. (2017) Engaging for a Good Cause: Sophia’s Story and Why #BugsR4Girls. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 110 (5): 439-448. https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/sax055

Spencer, S. and McNamera, M. (2020). The Bug Girl (A True Story). New York: Schwartz & Wade Books.

4-H. Entomology Curriculum: Teaming with Insects. https://4-h.org/parents/curriculum/entomology/

JODY GREEN, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | Urban Entomology

Peer Reviewed by Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Katherine Krause, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Temper Tantrums and Time-In

Image source: Reposted with permission  www.littleravenheart.com/

Say the words “temper tantrum” to a parent or childcare provider and it is almost guaranteed to elicit a strong response.  Picture this: A toddler wants his favorite Buzz cup for dinner.  Instead, he receives the Woody cup and plate.  In response, he kicks his feet and pushes his plate of food onto the floor, all the while arching his back, crying, and screaming.  It seems like we have all been there at one time or another, and felt frustration in trying to find a response that will not only help the child calm down, but will also help reduce the intensity and frequency of such melt-downs.

Understanding emotional responses (yours and theirs):

Adults often become distressed by a child’s intense emotional reactions and expressions, which in turn causes adults to want to scold, reprimand, lecture, ignore, or consequate such outbursts.  The problem is, people of all ages need permission and space to have emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant.  Young children need to learn how to experience and express all of their emotions.  They need a safe, secure, regulated (calm) adult to provide guidance and co-regulation. 

Three important components of emotion management:

  1. In humans, the attachment figure’s internal state also regulates the child’s internal state during most of the first THREE years of life.  It is important for the primary caretaker to remain calm, both as a form of modeling, as well as a form of supporting the co-regulation process.
  2. The health of the bond between child and primary caretaker depends on the caregiver’s attunement, emotional availability, continuity of care, and responsiveness.
  3. A child forms his primary attachment during times of distress.

Let’s revisit the scenario from the opening paragraph. A young child, age two, is throwing a temper tantrum because he did not receive the cup and plate he wanted for dinner. It is appropriate for the adult caregiver to correct the inappropriate actions, such as kicking, screaming, and throwing food on the floor.  However, while correcting the inappropriate actions, the adult caregiver may also inadvertently reprimand the emotion.  It is important to remember actions and emotions are two separate and distinct things.  Just like you, a child has every right to have emotions, including disappointment, frustration, and anger.   And who are we to say what a two-year-old can and cannot feel upset about?  (I think not getting his favorite cup at dinner is a perfectly appropriate reason for a two-year old to feel disappointed or angry.)  Our job as the adult is to help teach children how to handle such strong feelings.

The following table explains the unintended result caused by common adult responses to young children’s intense emotional outbursts.

Adult responseResult
Ignore the behavior   Put a young child in time-outChildren rely on their primary attachment figure for needed emotional regulation.  Without this option they do the best they can with what they have and know. This explains why so many young children escalate and become even more out-of-control when ignored or left in a corner alone.  They truly don’t know what to do or how to calm themselves and become even more anxious, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Children also internalize the belief that not all emotions are acceptable or can be shared with others.
Scold, yell, get angryA dysregulated adult disrupts the child’s internal regulation system, which can lead a child to withdraw or act out more.
  Lecture, rationalizeWhen humans experience strong emotions, they are primarily operating in their “emotion” brain and have difficulty accessing or using their “thinking” brain.  This is most certainly not the time for words or attempts at logic.In addition, young children are still developmentally “in the moment” and reliant on adult physical support and guidance, not a bunch of words.

Appropriate responses that provide connection and teaching: 

  • Validate feelings.  “Yeah, I know it’s sad, buddy.  You really like the Buzz cup.  It’s your favorite.”
  • Set boundaries by providing a time-in.  “Throwing food is never OK.”  Stay close and move whatever is still in close proximity to ensure he does not continue throwing more things on the floor.  If he calms and accepts your help, return his food – but stay there to intercept any additional attempts at throwing.  Intervening and simply preventing the ongoing misbehavior is the best consequence and strategy for teaching appropriate boundaries and behavior. 
  • Be real.  Children need some ways of expressing feelings; they are not robots.  What are you willing to allow?  He may continue to whimper.  He may continue to resist using the Woody cup.  He may sulk or pout for a bit.  These reactions are all developmentally appropriate, and a socially acceptable way for a toddler to show strong feelings.
  • Teach regulation through co-regulation.  If his strong emotions continue and have gotten the best of him, help him out.  Pick him up, offer comfort and attunement, and “download” your calm into him.  When he is ready, put him back in the highchair, stay close (time-in), and return to mealtime.

Time-in is an incredibly successful behavior management strategy for young children as it provides the co-regulation they need in order to establish their own, internal system of self-regulation.  Time-in puts you in a position to model, shape and teach appropriate behaviors (i.e., with you sitting right there, a small child is prevented from continuing to toss his plate, cup, etc. onto the floor).

Discipline and consequences are not synonymous with punishment.  Discipline means to teach, and a consequence is simply the result or effect of an action or condition.  You do not have to feel as if his wrong-doing needs to be punished.  Correcting a young child’s misbehavior by being present and providing guidance is sufficient.

References:

  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with Toddlers: Improving Attachment and Emotion Regulation by Cheryl B. McNeil, Emma I. Girard, Jane R. Kohlhoff, Nancy M. Wallace, and Susan S. J. Morgan
  • Managing Emotional Mayhem by Dr. Becky Bailey
  • Harvard Center on the Developing Child (website)

CARRIE GOTTCHALK EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Amy Napoli, University of Nebraska Extension Specialist, Sarah Dankenbring, Amanda Cue, Early Childhood Mental Health Therapist

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5 Tips for Working Remotely from Home and Caring for Children During COVID-19

Image Source: B Janning, Hastings, Nebraska

If we could press rewind and go back in time to mid-March, I wonder what you would have been doing.  The sudden and abrupt transition to working from home and having to juggle roles of employee, parent, and teacher all at once was certainly something most of us were not prepared for. Most of us had little time to plan how we would design our work space, daily schedules and balance work and family under one roof full time. If this sounds like your “new normal,” you are not alone.  I have found some helpful tips and words of encouragement I would like to pass along from a recent article by Holly Hatton-Bowers and Carrie L. Hanson-Bradley, Assistant Professors at the University of Nebraska.

TIP 1: Acknowledge Emotions:

Emotions are normal and healthy and give us clues to what we may need to feel better.

Dr. Dan Siegel says that it is helpful to “name it to tame it.”  We often feel emotions in our bodies first, such as tightness in our chest or a stiff neck. Siegel advises us to stop for a minute, pay attention to what we feel in our bodies and then name our emotion. The authors recommended saying, “My body feels…and the emotion I am experiencing is…”

Keep in mind that emotions are not forever, “name it, tame it” and move on. Judging ourselves for having emotions only makes us feel worse.

TIP 2: Manage Expectations:

It is difficult to juggle all of one’s roles at the same time, so do not expect to be able to fulfill all the roles you play at the same level you did before COVID-19. It can be helpful to understand that each individual manages change differently; and this is particularly true as families adjust to the newness of working from home, parenting, and teaching at the same time.  Some will embrace it as a new opportunity for creativity while others can feel overwhelmed.  

What about Parenting Expectations?

Daily routines will be different for each individual family.  Whether it be educational activities, or family time together, young children need more than ever right now is time to connect, cuddle, have a routine with some flexibility, and to feel safe.

Can you find ways to make every day activities fun for your child? Perhaps the family meal time could turn into a picnic on the floor.  Maybe you could make a game of sorting socks when doing the laundry. Try and be intentional about when you need to work and when to play or be with your children.  It’s like putting deposits in the bank, when children receive moments of our undivided attention, then they are more likely to feel okay when parents need to move away to focus on work.

TIP 3: Create a Schedule:

Sit down and create a schedule that works for your family.  Keeping in mind it is good to allow for flexibility. Schedule in work time and time for household chores. Time for children to play and do chores and school work too.  If there are two parents in the home, the adults could alternate work hours so as to keep children safe as well as giving them the parent connection time they need most.

Image source: Sara Gavin, Sacramento, California

TIP 4: Practice Self Care                                                                   

It is healthy to take time away to focus on what you need as an adult. Yet, when we are under stress, self-care is one of the first things that gets pushed aside. Here are a few strategies:

  • Listening to music
  • Taking the time to virtually connect with friends and family
  • Spend time in nature
  • Exercise
  • Practice deep breathing or meditation
  • Eating healthy
  • Reading or drawing,
  • Getting adequate sleep and waking up at the same time each day
  • Practice positive thinking, and/or practice gratitude

TIP 5: Be Gentle with Yourself

We are collectively experiencing a worldwide crisis, and crises trigger our brains into fight, flight or freeze mode. That means our brains are focused on surviving, not thriving. So it is normal to feel like you aren’t functioning at your peak level. Have you felt forgetful lately, not as motivated, or find yourself not knowing what day it is? It may be your brain’s way of protecting you in this time of stress.

Soon, we will be able to look back on this time and process what has happened, but in-depth processing happens only after one feels emotionally and physically safe. So in this time of crisis, be gentle with yourself (and with others). Self-compassion creates space where mistakes are viewed as valuable learning opportunities, tiny victories call for huge celebrations, and we can acknowledge our suffering without criticizing ourselves for being human.

More Resources Related to this topic:

Zero to Three – many resources of activities to do with children and tips for managing stress and being with the family during COVID-19.

Child Mind Institute – https://childmind.org/coping-during-covid-19-resources-for-parents/ (they have live Facebook video chats with clinicians

https://www.nebraskachildren.org/covid-19-information-and-resources.html

UNL A Beautiful Day website – ideas for engaging children (0-8 years) in learning and play activities https://cehs.unl.edu/abeautifulday/

Sesame Street have excellent resources for engaging children in learning at home activities during COVID-19, http://www.sesamestreet.org/caring

Tips for Managing Screen Time: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/parenting/manage-screen-time-coronavirus.html

Be Kind to Yourself https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201802/be-kind-yourself

Self-Care Tips During the Covid-19 Pandemic https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/self-care-tips-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Staying Active at Home https://food.unl.edu/article/family-food-fun-home#stayingactiveathome

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Holly Hatton-Bowers, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska and Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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High Level Questions for High Level Thinking

Most children have a “Why” stage where they ask why to literally everything a person says. Sound familiar? Despite how frustrating that can be at times, answering those “whys” is really beneficial to the child’s curiosity. Do you know what is also really beneficial to the child? Asking THEM questions! Tables have turned and now it’s their turn to think hard for the answers.

However, we’re not completely off the hook because we have to put a little thought into our questions. To really expand our children’s thinking, we have to ask more high-level questions. A high-level question is never a yes-or-no question (“Do you have siblings?”). It isn’t a question that only has one answer (“How old are you?”). Nor is it a question that has an obvious answer (“How many wheels does that bicycle have?”). Answers to these kinds of questions can show the child understands language, pays attention, and can count or identify colors, numbers, and shapes, but the questions don’t push the child to think deeply. High-level questions are always ones that will foster unique answers from each child. If the question is effective, the child is usually excited to give you a very detailed explanation. Now, you don’t necessarily have to ask a question to encourage thinking because statements such as “Tell me about…” or “I wonder…” get the job done as well. Now that you know what a high-level question is, it is time to start trying them out.

So the next time you see a child playing in the mud and pretending sticks are something else, rather than asking “Are you using that stick as a utensil?”, say something like “Tell me about what you are making.” Try it out and see what kind of interesting conversations come out of it!

Source: Big Questions for Young Minds by Janis Strasser and Lisa Mufson Bresson

LA DONNA WERTH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Benefits of Reading Aloud

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Parents want what’s best for their children, and many ask what expensive toys they should buy, what extracurricular activities they should be involved in, or if they should be playing classical music at home to advance brain development. 

Jim Trelease, the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, has a straightforward answer in regards to what’s best for children.

He says, “Read to your children.

Starting at birth, reading with children puts them on the path to success. In fact, researchers determined that reading aloud to young children is the single most important thing that parents can do to prime children for school success.

Here are three benefits of reading aloud with children.

Benefit #1: Increased Vocabulary and Sophisticated Language Patterns

When it comes to prekindergarten skills, vocabulary is a prime predictor of school success or failure. When you read aloud to children, they hear words that do not ordinarily come up in conversations. Because of this, it expands a child’s vocabulary faster than anything else does. 

The value picture books play in vocabulary development should not be underestimated. Many of them are written grammatically correct and include sophisticated writing that is rich in content and meaning. As children listen to these stories, their vocabularies strengthen without effort. 

Benefit #2: Ability to Make Connections

Reading comprehension is critical. We take the work of decoding out when we read aloud. This lets children use their mental energy to enjoy and make connections, which improves reading comprehension. 

Children need to understand what they read and apply it to what they know. That is making connections. Children connect the information they encounter for the first time with other facts and ideas they have already encountered. They compare it to other stories they’ve heard, personal events they’ve encountered, and to the world beyond themselves. 

Without even intending to, children make connections every time a book is opened. Stories allow them to slip into another world, think deeply, bond with characters, and educate their hearts and mind.   

Benefit #3: A Love for Reading

More important than teaching children, the actual skill of reading is to cultivate natural curiosity and love of reading. When we focus on nurturing children’s love of stories, we get both kids who can read as well as kids who do read. A healthy reading life has a tremendous impact on children’s academic success.

In a world full of noise and the hustle and bustle, pulling a child on your lap and reading is one of the best uses of your time and energy. It may seem simple, but being fully present and sharing good stories makes a huge and lasting impact because a childhood filled with stories inspires and nurtures children. Therefore, read widely to spark that ember. Author Linda Sue Park said, “A book can’t change the world on its own, but a book can change readers. And readers? They can change the world.”

So, the next time you spend time reading with your children, just remember, each time you turn the page you just might be changing the world.

Resources:

Mackenzie, S. (2018). The read-aloud family: making meaningful and lasting connections with your kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1998). Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/PSREAD98.PDF

TEDxBeaconStreet. (2015, December). Can A Children’s Book Change the World? Linda Sue Park. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/40xz0afCjnM

JACKIE STEFFEN, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Healthy Habits

LaDonna Healthy Habits

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It has been quite a few months since New Year’s Day was here, and by now most of us have already failed at our New Year’s Resolution of eating healthier. However, that does not mean we have to wait all the way until next New Year’s to try again to reach our goals. Your children need a healthy, balanced diet and so does the rest of the family. I know it can be super challenging to change the routine, so here are some things that might make staying on track and reaching your goals easier!

Fresh Produce

Summer is here, and that means there is more local, fresh produce in stores, and the farmers’ markets are open again, supplying your family with great-tasting healthy food! The less preservatives, the better, and let’s be honest, fresh ingredients just taste better!

Pressure Cooker

You can basically cook any meal in less than half the time it would take if you were to make it a different way. There’s only so much time in the day, and I understand that quick, convenient meals are the way to go, especially when you have children. The last thing I want to do is cook and clean for hours at the end of the day, and that is exactly why one of these handy appliances should be a staple in your kitchen!

Blender

A good blender can make a world of difference. From fruit and vegetable smoothies, to various sauces, and everything in between, it can do it all.

Meal Prep

It’s not always possible to cook a meal every night, and sometimes it’s just “one of those days”, so that’s why cooking in bigger batches is so beneficial. Cook once or twice a week, stick it in the fridge/freezer, and warm it up when you want to enjoy a home-cooked meal without all of the hassle.

Who needs a New Year’s Resolution when you can start working toward your goals right now? Hopefully these tips will help you crush your goals this summer!

Source: Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow

LA DONNA WERTH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Making Mindfulness a Priority

Photo source: The Learning Child

In the last decade, practicing mindfulness has been acknowledged more since people have been recognizing the benefits of it. Being mindful can be beneficial to everyone, but we are going to focus on how it can help your child. But first, let’s start with the basics.

So, what exactly is mindfulness?

It is simply being present in the moment, which is different from thinking about the present moment. Mindfulness means being aware of what is going on around you, openly accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without thinking about the pressures of life.It requires some effort and intentionality.

Why is mindfulness helpful for kids?

Since children are naturally curious, they are more apt to learn, live in the moment, and be attentive. However, they are often too busy just like adults. This causes children to be tired, distracted easily, and restless. Practicing mindfulness helps kids learn to pause for a moment and be present. Mindfulness helps with attention, patience, and trust which will help your child to grow up and be themselves.

Do certain kids benefit more?

Yes, actually they do! Although mindfulness exercises are great for all children five years and older who want to calm their busy minds, feel and understand their emotions, and strengthen their concentration, they suit specific children even more so. Children who have low self-esteem truly benefit from practicing mindfulness because it helps them realize it is okay to be themselves. Other children who are diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and autism spectrum disorders also gain from these exercises. Now, these cannot cure the disorders and it is not considered a form of therapy, but it can help children approach the very real issues they’re dealing with in a different, calmer way.

Since mindfulness exercises are great for parents as well, practicing them with your child is a perfect way to spend time together!

Source: Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel

LaDonna Werth, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Empathy Over Sympathy

LaDonna Empathy Sympathy

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Sometimes it can be easy to intertwine empathy and sympathy, but they do not mean the same thing nor do they lead to the same feelings. When in an emotional situation, using empathy will result in a more positive response because it means to enter into one’s feelings, and it leads us to a deeper understanding. Sympathy usually sounds something like, “Well at least…” For example, let’s say a mother is frustrated that her son is not getting the grades that she was hoping for. Her friend then proceeds to say, “Well at least your daughter is excelling in school.” The friend’s response does not come from a place of understanding, and in turn does not comfort the mother. It’s easier to just respond with sympathy because it doesn’t require us to put ourselves into another’s shoes. However, with your child and partner, the best outcome will come when you use empathy.

Empathy actually calms the body, and in emotional situations, having relaxed conversations tend to lead to a better ending. In relationships, whether it’s with your partner or your child, disagreements occur and there isn’t always a resolution because of different opinions, values, points of view, etc. If you use empathy during those conflicts, it shows that you understand what they are feeling and where they are coming from, even if you don’t exactly agree with it. That is exactly why empathy is so powerful.

It is pretty simple to understand why empathy is the best response, but it is not the simplest to start using it over sympathy because it takes a conscious effort. Whether you have a newborn that won’t stop crying, a toddler that is crabby because they didn’t have a nap, or a teenager who is driving you up the wall because they are self-conscious about the changes they are going through, there is always a place for empathy. If you haven’t yet, try using empathy over sympathy, and watch how it changes your relationships for the better. I know it did mine.

Source:

Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow

LaDonna Werth, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Keeping Routines is the Secret to a Calm Holiday

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Photo source, Lynn DeVries

As I sit in the warmth and quiet of my home, I see the posts, advertisements, and the excitement of Black Friday shopping. And it starts, the traveling, special programs, shopping, parties and holiday gatherings.  It can take a toll on us all, especially our young children.

Children are even more sensitive to disruptions in their routines. However fun the activity or event may be, parents may observe more displays of behaviors or moodiness from their children during the holidays. Structured routines help children to feel safe and predict what is happening around them. Children learn how to control themselves and their surroundings when they live in a structured, secure, and loving environment. This feeling of security fosters healthy social and emotional regulation in young children.

Tips for a healthy holiday:

Sleep well

A regular schedule will help children sleep better at night and they are less resistive to transitioning to going to bed. Parents can help by sticking to routines and bedtimes that are as consistent as possible during the holidays. Perhaps reading a bedtime story to children after bath time.

Regular meal times

It is best if children eat at predictable times to avoid those “hangry” moments.  Offer a healthy breakfast and small healthy snacks between meals. Eating at the table instead of in front of the television, will reduce overeating, as children can focus on how hungry or full they feel. I recommend family style meals where caregivers sit with and eat the same foods as children.  When children are ready, allow them to serve themselves. They will be more likely to try new foods if given choices.

Traveling

For those long car or airplane trips, bring along a comfort item like a stuffed animal or a busy bag of books, paper and crayons. Mornings seem to be better for children, consider traveling in the morning, and making stops for meals at regular times. I recommend scheduling extra time on road trips to stop and allow children a break from their car safety seats.

Active times

If children are home from school or childcare over the holidays, remember to keep them active.  Build in time for outdoor activities so children can be physically active. If the weather doesn’t allow outdoor time each day, be sure some indoor time allows for physical activity.  Have an indoor paper snowball fight, or build a fort with blankets. Planning out a specific time each day during winter break for an activity will become part of their routine while children are at home.

Limit Screen time

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states, “Today’s children are spending an light tableaverage of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. To help kids make wise media choices, parents should develop a Family Media Use Plan for everyone in their family.”

I recommend focusing on laps instead of apps. Instead of reaching for a digital “babysitter,” offer more of your time and attention.  What might be seen as attention getting behaviors, could simply be your child’s attempt at wanting more connection with you.

 Photo source, Lynn DeVries

Screen time recommendations:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

Check out this Media time plan and calculator by the American Academy of Pediatrics, to help you set your own family guidelines.

Transition back to school

As the holiday break ends, if you did stray from routines, help your child adjust by gradually getting back on schedule to similar meal, and bedtime schedules that they will have at childcare or school.

In closing, my wish for you is that you have a safe, happy and healthy holiday with your family. Take time to enjoy the little things and laugh together.

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, , Lisa Poppe, and LaDonna Werth, Extension Educators, The Learning Child

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