More than Counting: Incorporating Math into Daily Interactions with Preschoolers

Image Source: Pixels, Cottonbro

Many parents report that time is their biggest barrier to teaching their children. Because there are limited hours in the day, math is the topic that often gets left out. However, it is important to recognize that we do not have to set aside specific time dedicated only to math. Math concepts can be incorporated into activities and routines that you are already doing. These strategies can help you maximize your time, and also show children how math applies in real world settings. It takes intentional effort, but once you have made math engagement a norm, your child will initiate many of the interactions.

1. Eating

Help your child set the table. How many people are eating the meal? Each person needs one plate, one fork, and one napkin. Meal and snack time also provide a great opportunity to expose your child to mathematical language terms (Would you like more carrots? Who has the most bread?). You can also count small snacks like raisins or crackers and ask questions (How many will you have if I give you one more? How many will you have left after you eat two?).

Resources: One Gooey Layer after Another, Eating Up Patterns

2. Reading

While reading to your child, try asking math-related questions and initiating math-related conversations (How many ducks can you see? Let’s count the animals with two legs and the animals with four legs and add them up.). ,

Resources: Mighty Math Books, Maths through Stories

3. Driving

While you are in the car or on the bus, you can help your child count and compare the things that you see. Turn it into a game! “You count the red cars and I’ll count the blue cars. Then we can compare them and see if we saw more red or blue cars.” or “I noticed that car is stopped.  You look for a car that is moving.”

Resource: Get Ready for Road Trips with Our Math On the Go Printable!

4. Playing

Think about some ways that you can incorporate math into playing with your child’s favorite toys. Does your child like dinosaurs? Sort them (by color, size, etc.) and then count the groups. Which group has the most? Which group has the fewest? Then try sorting them by a different trait and compare the groups again.

Resources: Sorting Socks , NAEYC Math at Home Toolkit

5. Talking

Ask questions that prompt your child’s mathematical thinking. Sometimes your child will say things that surprise you, or respond incorrectly to a question. Rather than immediately correcting, try to find the right answer together. Ask follow up questions that help your child figure it out on their own. This is also a good strategy when your child responds correctly. Try prompting with “Wow! How did you figure that out?” or “Show me why you think there would be three.”

Resource: Talking about Math All Around Us! On-The-Go Cards The most important thing to remember when engaging your child in math is to have fun. Set an example that math engagement is a positive and enjoyable experience. The interaction should center on a positive experience with you, with math learning as an added bonus.

AMY NAPOLI, EXTENSION SPECIALIST | UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Linda Reddish, 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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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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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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EARLY CHILDHOOD — Addressing implicit bias

jaci implict bias

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“Grey’s Anatomy” is one of my favorite television programs. In January 2018, they had an episode which really stuck with me. The show started out with a 12-year-old boy (which the police referred to as a “perp”) coming into the emergency room with a gunshot wound in his neck and handcuffed to the gurney. We learned that the police found the boy questionably breaking into a house in a wealthy neighborhood. The police officer shot the boy when he reached in his pocket for what ended up being his cell phone.

Later, the boy’s upper-class parents arrived, and the boy told them he forgot his key again; which was why he was climbing in the window of his own house. The boy later died from his wounds. One of the actors confronted the police officers and said, “You see skin color. Bias is human. You’re using guns and your bias is lethal. Adjust your protocol. Fix it. Kids are dying.” Another actress then said “A little boy was at home when your fellow officer shot and killed him. You can’t shoot people just because you’re afraid.”

Kawakami and Miura (2014) define implicit bias as the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. Implicit bias can have both favorable and unfavorable assessments; they are mental shortcuts that affect our choices and actions. Sometimes these shortcuts are about age, appearance, race and ethnicity. In the case of the boy from the show, the mental shortcut was that a black boy was breaking into a nice house and didn’t belong there. Because of the color of his skin he was viewed as a threat.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights found that early childhood teachers are more likely to look for challenging behaviors among African American boys than any other group, which makes them more likely than their peers to be suspended.

Implicit biases can be positive or negative, and can be activated without you even knowing it. They operate unconsciously and differ from known biases that people may intentionally hide. These biases exist in all of us. We need to make ourselves aware we are having these thoughts, name it for what it is and determine how we can change our behavior, thoughts and feelings. Dr. Walter S. Gilliam, a leading researcher of implicit biases in early childhood education settings, says change begins with acknowledging our biases and then addressing them.

Later this year, a new publication from Nebraska Extension will be made available, “The Development of Implicit Biases and Initial Steps to Address Them.” In this new NebGuide, you will learn how implicit biases emerge, and how our environments and experiences facilitate the development of the biases.

To address implicit biases in young children, you can find a collection of children’s books to address various topics related to gender, race, abilities and disabilities at http://www.childpeacebooks.org/cpb/Protect/antiBias.php. It takes more than mere exposure to address implicit biases. It is important to use these books with guided reflections. Ask children what they think about the content and what they observe in terms of how the characters or animals feel.

Source: Kawakami, N., & Miura, E. (2014). Effects of Self-Control Resources on the Interplay between Implicit and Explicit Attitude Processes in the Subliminal Mere Exposure Paradigm, International Journal of Psychological Studies, 6(2), 98-106.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
• “CIVIL RIGHTS DATA COLLECTION Data Snapshot: School Discipline,” https://ocrdata.ed.gov/downloads/crdc-school-discipline-snapshot.pdf
• “Teaching Children to Understand and Accept Difference,” https://lesley.edu/article/teaching-young-children-to-understand-and-accept-differences

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers, Assistant Professor/Early Childhood Extension Specialist, Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Nebraska Extension’s CHIME program Enhancing childcare professionals’ well-being with mindfulness

Jaci CHIME materials

Photo source: Jaci Foged

Have you ever walked across your classroom and forgotten what you wanted? Have you ever driven to work and not remembered the trip? Has your child or a child in your classroom ever said something you later struggled to recall? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may benefit from more presence and focused attention in your life.

WHY SHOULD EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHERS PRACTICE MINDFULNESS?
An exciting and growing area of research has highlighted contemplative practices, such as mindfulness and reflective functioning, as promising and practical ways to prevent and reduce the stress of teachers. Dr. Amy Saltzman defines mindfulness as paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity. Early childhood teachers who formally practice mindfulness report to have lower levels of depression and workplace stress and higher quality student-teacher relationships.

The field of early childhood is full of joy, laughter and making memories with a plethora of staff and families. It is also a field where teachers are subject to multiple stressors, including low wages, challenging child behavior, low occupational prestige and inadequate role preparation (Friedman-Krauss et al., 2013; U.S. DHHS et al., 2016; Whitebrook et al., 2016).

Programs close and new programs open. Families move their residence, children grow up and go to school and teachers search for new positions for reasons such as increased income, different hours or to care for their own children.

With 60 percent of U.S. 3–5 year olds spending an average of 36 hours a week in center-based childcare (Mamedova et al., 2015), teachers form a central part of many young children’s lives.

EXTENSION DEVELOPS CHIME PROGRAM
Cultivating Healthy Intentional Mindful Educators (CHIME) was created by Nebraska Extension to support and enhance the well-being of early childhood educators. In a 2017 pilot study led by Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers, assistant professor and early childhood Extension specialist at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 43 early childhood teachers from four programs in Lancaster and Seward counties participated in the initial development of the CHIME program.

Hatton-Bowers says, “It’s imperative that our early childhood workforce, particularly early childhood directors and teachers, are physically and emotionally well. Teachers who are well, who have better health, are going to have more supportive and healthier relationships with children and families. CHIME aims to support early childhood educators in enhancing and improving their well-being so that they can be more effective caregivers. The program is about facilitating thinking in being more present in one’s personal and professional life, and to find the space to care for children with joy, even during the most difficult and stressful moments.”

Results of the pilot demonstrated that practicing mindfulness and reflection led to less depletion of teachers’ cortisol, a biomarker of stress, as they progressed through the workday (Hatton-Bowers et al., 2018).

Extension Educators Jaci Foged, Carrie Gottschalk and LaDonna Werth contributed to the materials developed by Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers, and have facilitated CHIME sessions to participants. The handbooks and materials were designed by Karen Wedding of Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County and Mary Thompson of the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences’ Pixel Lab.

HOW DOES CHIME WORK?
Since the pilot, CHIME has been offered in Lincoln and Seward. An online class had participants from across Nebraska.

The CHIME program consists of eight weekly sessions.
• Session 1 – Introduction to Mindfulness
• Session 2 – Mindfulness in Breathing
• Session 3 – Mindfulness in Listening
• Session 4 – Mindfulness and Emotions
• Session 5 – Mindfulness in Speech
• Session 6 – Mindfulness and Gratitude
• Session 7 – Mindfulness and Compassion
• Session 8 – Setting Intentions

Participants in CHIME receive a participant handbook and journal which are used throughout the CHIME sessions. The handbook contains everything childcare professionals need to participate in the class — including handouts, readings and homework. The guiding teacher tracks completion of the homework assignments, so some of the pages are printed on duplicate paper. The participants use the journals in each session, as well as daily, for the duration of the program.
A guiding teacher manual was developed for facilitators to use throughout the program.

Participants who complete the full program (eight sessions) earn up to 16 Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services approved in-service hours.

GROWING CHIME
CHIME was recently presented to collaborators in Recife, Brazil and will be translated into Portuguese.

This fall, Extension educators from across the state will participate in an intensive eight-week training named Just Be, followed by a 2-1/2-day training retreat where they will be trained to facilitate CHIME in their area of the state. Hatton-Bowers, Foged, Gottschalk and Werth will develop and teach this new training. Personal practice in mindfulness and guided reflection is necessary to be able to successfully provide instruction to others.

CHIME will be delivered to early childhood educators across the state beginning in the spring of 2019. Nebraska Extension plans to conduct parallel studies for delivering CHIME as a means to learn more about various ways to promote the well-being of educators and the children for whom they care.

Jaci CHIME dice

Photo source: Jaci Foged;

Listening is an intentional act. During the Mindfulness in Listening  session, participants shake plastic eggs filled with various items to guess what is inside as well as consider how hearing the sounds make them feel. Interactive play is a wonderful way caregivers can teach children about different emotions. During the Mindfulness and Emotions session, participants build their own “emotions animals” dice.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about CHIME, or would like to have CHIME delivered at your program, contact Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers at hatttonb@unl.edu or 402-472-6578.

CHIME PARTICIPANT FEEDBACK
“I loved it! I looked forward to our class — always wanting to come. So many great ideas and information was shared.”
Childcare provider, Lancaster County

“I love the handbook and the ‘extras’ in it.”
Home visitor, Seward County

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed each and every class. Honestly, the best class I’ve taken! I appreciate everything you did for us.”
Family childcare provider, Gage County

“This (listening to understand) is a helpful thing, how much do I love to be listened to and understood, and of course we all do…. Changing my mindset is one more thing that this class has brought to me this past week.”
Childcare teacher participating in online class

“I use several mindfulness techniques in my classroom every day. It is a very helpful class, both professionally and personally. I walked away with skills to help me be more patient and a better listener. I experience moments more now, instead of always thinking of the next moment.”
Childcare provider for preschool-age children, Lancaster County — from 3-month follow-up survey

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Nebraska Extension has the following NebGuides:
• Self-Regulation in Early Childhood (G2288) http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2288.pdf
• Strategies for Helping Young Children with Self-Regulation (G2287) http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2287.pdf

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers, Assistant Professor/Early Childhood Extension Specialist, Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Carrie Gottchalk, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Creating Capable Children

LaDonna capable children

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We all know that children tend to take a little (or sometimes a lot) longer when completing simple tasks such as zipping up their coat, opening a jar, or sweeping the floor. We also know that it would be a lot faster to just do it for them rather than having to sit and wait until they get it done. However, that method does not develop self-sufficiency in your child. So, what approach does then?

Be patient

When your child is trying to zip up their coat, do you wait a couple seconds and then do it for them? Or do you wait until they figure it out or actually need your help? Instead of jumping in right away, try using encouraging words like “Almost!” or “So close!” You will be able to tell when they are ready to give up. If they reach that point, try asking if they would like your help, and if so, you could put your fingers over theirs and zip it up together.

Use examples, not just words

When your child is sweeping the floor, but doing more harm than good, simply take the broom for a moment, show them how, and say, “Here, if you do it this way, you’ll get the floor a lot cleaner.”

Don’t plan every minute of their day

There are a ton of benefits that come from boredom. When you plan activity after activity for your child or give them access to a phone or similar device, they don’t ever have a chance to get bored. If they do experience boredom, they will learn to fill the time up with something by themselves. Boredom is a restless state, and the brain, with practice, will find things to do to get out of it, such as daydreaming, imagining, and problem solving. If your child is used to being occupied, they will grow agitated when they’re not doing something and will look to you to fill their time. So make it easier on yourself, and let your child be bored every once in a while.

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

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

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Families Weathering the Storms

Family

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In lieu of the recent natural disasters that have impacted Nebraska and neighboring states, I felt compelled to write about my personal experience. Fifteen years ago on May 24, 2004, I saw firsthand how one’s world as you know it can crumble in minutes, without warning.  My family survived the tornado that destroyed our house in rural Clay Center, Nebraska and then went on to destroy the town of Hallam, NE.  I hope to share my experience as a parent, and some advice to our readers.

May 24, 2004 was a lovely summer day, the first day of summer vacation for my children. We were sitting down together at the kitchen table finishing our evening meal, when out of the blue, our power went out for no apparent reason. I got up to clear the table and stack the dishes at the sink. I remember looking out the window to the west, thinking how strange for the power to be out. I told the boys, Trevor age 9, Calvin, age 8, and Chase age 3 to go downstairs to play while I checked the radio. My husband, Terry went outside to look. As soon as I turned on the radio, the warning alerted us that a Tornado was heading our way and to take shelter.

Terry came running into the house and yelled to get to the basement.  We all huddled under a table and I placed nearby sofa cushions around the kids. As we rode out the storm, it sounded like an army with baseball bats were ransacking our house. I looked at Terry and said I think this is going to be really bad. The noise of wind, hail and our house ripping apart lasted for about 15 to 20 min. When the storm was over, water began to pour from the basement ceiling, as the house had been lifted off the foundation and all the water pipes had broken. As we made our way with the boys up the stairs, we were greeted by daylight, the roof of our home had been peeled away. There was debris and insulation everywhere. The bedrooms on the main floor on the southwest side of the house were hit the worse.  If we had been in bed, we may not have survived. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the tornado, there were two old concrete grain silos that stood on the acreage that were totally disintegrated into pieces no larger than a football.

They say, after you have been through a traumatic event, there are things that will trigger emotions perhaps for the rest of your life. I myself do not like that term, however I can attest that each spring and summer season as severe weather threatens, my emotions do resurface all over again. We were blessed to be safe and unharmed, but most of our belongings were destroyed. Thankful that we had each other and a community of family and friends that helped us to weather this storm and come out more resilient than ever.

Looking back, we as parents, did the best we knew how to do to help our boys  feel safe. One of the first questions they had was where we would live now, and if they would have to change schools. I didn’t know the answer, but confidently told them we would make sure we would not have to leave their school and friends. We ended up staying at Terry’s parent’s house 25 miles away, for about a month while trying to sort out what insurance was going to cover, and learning about depreciation of the value of your possessions, even though we had full coverage insurance.

Lessons Learned

This tornado taught me a few things.

After a disaster, it is important to help children to feel safe and to maintain as much consistency as possible.  Our boys had been involved in T-ball at the time and we maintained getting them to practices and games so they could be among their friends. Trevor was a 1st year 4-Her and he had already worked on many projects to take to the fair. Tornadoes can do strange things, but one of the first things I carried out of our house that day in May, was his prize insect collection he had spent most of the spring putting together. The house was destroyed all around it, but miraculously it came out unscathed.  It went to the county fair, and on to State Fair earning top honors.

The second lesson I learned is to take time to find joy in each day.  One of the best days after the storm, while still living at my in-laws came when my sister made a visit.  She brought the boys a box full of water toys, squirt guns and water balloons.  We had the best family water fight ever, I remember  laughing so much that my sides hurt. Don’t lose sight of the joy, even in the middle of chaos.

I also learned that it is important to give children a sense of closure for things that would be no more. We ended up finding a house to rent about 5 miles away from our old house.  As we began to put our new home together, we would take the boys back to the old place to tend to the potatoes and pumpkins that they had planted before the storm. They could see the destruction, but also that not everything was destroyed.

I believe my kids all came out of this storm pretty well adjusted, but I wish I had known about access to resources as a parent to help them through this disaster. I am now an Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension on the Learning Child team. I am very proud of all the wonderful and helpful resources that Extension has made available for families, farmers, and ranchers focused on natural disasters and recovery.  I encourage you to visit our websites, flood.unl.edu and https://child.unl.edu/. Here, you will find many tools to help you prepare for or weather the storm and to help with recovery efforts.  Additionally, if you have preschool age children, you can download this free NebGuide: How to Help Preschoolers Manage Their Emotions after a Disaster.  http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2261.pdf

Be prepared I suggest involving your children in creating a disaster preparation kit for your home. Check out this resource for tips on involving your kids in this activity, Lets Pack an Emergency Kit. Having an emergency kit ready will help your child feel safe.  Work together to determine what you need in your kit.

I also recommend having a detailed inventory of your possessions and personal property.  Our insurance agent told us to make a list of everything we lost.  Where do you start?  It would have been helpful if we had an inventory or at least a photo inventory or video of our possessions.  I suggest taking video of your property, opening closets and drawers, room by room, and making a time stamp on the video.  Store this in a safe deposit box and update it annually.

If you are a childcare provider, look for the new course, Emergency Preparedness for Childcare Providers.  I taught this course twice in 2019, and other educators across the state also offer this 6 hour course. You can check with your local Extension office in Nebraska for more information, or search the Early Childhood training calendar https://ecrecords.education.ne.gov/HomePage.aspx.

I hope that this advice is helpful and that you will feel comfortable to seek the resources you need to feel both safe and prepared to face life’s storms.

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Leanne Manning, 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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The Power of Being Present

LaDonna, power of being present

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Have you ever tried having a conversation with someone who continues to scroll through their news feed on their phone? Frustrating, isn’t it? Personally, I feel ignored, and I know they are not fully listening to what I have to say. Truthfully, you may deal with this with your own child. However, imagine how they feel when they are trying to tell you something, but you’re stuck staring at the screen on your smartphone. Now, we all do it so don’t feel that bad, but it is something to improve at because important opportunities could be missed.

Humans are social beings and need face-to-face interaction to thrive. Relationships are one of the most important aspects of life, and good ones are built with skills that are formed through face-to-face interactions. Your child learns empathy, communication skills, behavior and emotion control, and how to read nonverbal communication through those encounters. Interpreting body language, facial expressions, and gestures make up the huge portion of our communication that is nonverbal. It takes years for children to understand nonverbal communication and they master it when practicing with you, siblings, or friends. They can’t get that experience of reading people if one, or both of you are consumed by a device.

Now, I’m not saying we need to ditch our digital devices completely. However, it is important to consider how much of our time they are taking up in our life, and when and how we should use them. Being present and off your phone makes for more fulfilling relationships with your child, partner, and friends, and great relationships make for a great life. Besides, you don’t want to possibly miss out on a first step, first word, or any other monumental step in your child’s life. So, put your phone down, be present, and be happy.

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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To Be A Grandparent

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I am fairly new at this grandparenting thing.   And it has completely taken me by surprise!  I am delighted, thrilled, and absolutely love being a grandparent to my 6 grandchildren.  I love watching them grow, learn, and develop!  I also love observing that my adult children – the moms and dads- have grown and matured into the loving, capable, and understanding parents that they are.

In becoming a grandparent, it’s important to understand that grandparenting isn’t the same thing as parenting.  It is true that, as grandparents, we get to interact with grandchildren on a level that doesn’t require the daily routine and discipline that the parenting roles requires.  This results in a close, loving, and playful bond with the ‘grands’ that can lead to continuity and stability in a child’s life, opportunities to learn and play, and provide a feeling of connectedness.   Grandparents are important in strengthening the family bonds that are so important to children, parents, and grandparents alike.

So, I have learned that, in order to be a ‘good grandparent’, I support the parent’s role; be helpful when possible, totally enjoy being with my grandchildren, and revel in the pure love and joy that they bring to my life!  It’s a great time to be a grandparent!   What do you enjoy most about being a grandparent?

LESLIE CRANDALL EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Tasha Wulf, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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