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5 Ways To Support Children’s Healthy Eating Habits

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How do adults unknowingly overfeed children? Research has shown that adults are concerned if the child is eating enough, and a straightforward approach to alleviate this concern is to pressure children to eat.

“Do you need a snack?” “Can I get you another helping?” “Eat just one more bite. You will be hungry later!”

Research has shown that children up to 5 years of age can self-regulate their energy intake, or will eat or not eat based on their hunger and fullness signals. Why then, do we feel compelled to insist children eat everything on their plate? Why do we mandate children eat all of their green beans and drink all of their milk? By requiring that children meet these conditions for eating (and more), adults are actually teaching children to follow our cues for being full rather than their own.

Have you said to your child, “If you eat all your veggies, you can have dessert”? Most of us have used food as a reward in an effort to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables. However, such controlling practices (such as pressuring children to eat or offering food as a reward) negatively impacts children’s eating habits and is a risk factor for obesity.

Sit Down At A Table Together

Children are also more likely to put food on their plate, which increases the chance they will actually try a new food when they see their friends, teachers or another adult with a particular food on their plate. If you are a parent or child care professional you might not get another chance to sit down, connect with the children and relax, so don’t miss out – this is your excuse to take a load off and enjoy a meal together!

Turn Off The Television

What is so important on the television that can’t wait until after dinner? Television is jam packed with commercials that have my kids saying “I want that”, “Mom, can we get those.” Plus, commercials about food make us hungry! It doesn’t matter if we just ate –seeing commercials advertising food often leave us feeling famished.

Ask “Would You…” Or “Are You…”

Parents and professionals should focus on asking rather than telling when it comes to meal times. Rather than, “You need to try the asparagus” consider, “This asparagus tastes fresh and yummy. Would you like to try it?” Positive peer pressure occurs when a child tastes the food and then asks a friend to try it.

As the meal time is winding down you might say, “Boy my tummy is full, I don’t think I could eat another bite”. If children are still eating you could say, “You ate all of your peaches, if you are hungry you can have some more”. Research has shown that when you use the terms hunger and fullness you are supporting children’s internal cues. Just asking if they want more may override a child’s internal signals. Since children can recognize their internal signals of hunger and fullness, it is important to support and cue them by asking if they are hungry, when offering them more food.

Practice Family Style Dining

Research shows that children learn over time to take the right amount of food based on their internal cues for hunger and fullness. There are plenty of times for you to wait on your little ones hand and foot – the dinner table doesn’t need to be one of those times.

A great way to practice with children serving themselves is to add kitchen items to the dramatic play area. This will give children an opportunity to balance trays of food and pour milk and tea. For actual meal times, consider using or purchasing small serving bowls, and a small pitcher for the milk. Items like table spoons, ¼ and ½ cup measuring spoons and cups are also great to use to teach not only appropriate serving sizes but math at the same time!

It is perfectly ok to state that children can have 2 chicken strips, or 3 brussel sprouts to start out with, and more if they are still hungry. Sometime children get overly excited about being able to take their own food so I recommend stating a number before the bowl starts going around.

Serve milk last. It never fails that no matter how careful kids are, milk inevitably spills – don’t cry over it (or yell), simply ask the little one to grab a towel or paper towels and clean up their mess. The littler ones may need some assistance at the end, but should still be given the opportunity to learn that they need to clean-up their spills.

Childcare Professionals And Parent Communication

Parents and child care professionals should be in constant communication about meal times. Child care providers should mention if the child didn’t eat anything and in turn parents should mention if that matters to them or not. Communication about food is a must.

Research has shown that children will eat when they are hungry, so you do not need to pressure them. I am not suggesting you withhold food. It should be made very clear to the child that lunch (or whatever meal you are currently eating) is all they get until snack which is served at a specific time. Communicate to families and with family members and friends that this is how you work meal times and ask for support before this comes about.

Remember, no matter how innocent your intentions are with your children or the children you serve, they should be making the decision about how hungry or full they are. Children will eat when they are hungry – make the most of your meal and snack times and enjoy these early years. They will be over before you know it!

To learn more about effective ways to support healthy eating habits in children, check out Dr. Dev’s Other Work 

Dr. Dipti Dev, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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How To Get Children To Do Chores

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 1.57.14 PMHow do I get my child to do chores?

We hear that statements from parents all the time! One main reason that children don’t respond is when parents make the chores “no fun” by nagging at their children to get them done. Getting your children to get their chores done can become a battle. When parents nag, nag, nag, children will stop listening. The conflict can sometimes turn into an even a bigger battle. Some parents feel that “chores” is a negative word and they should be called “tasks”. Either is fine, it depends how whether you use the word negatively or positively. Here are a few steps to get the chores done!

Make A List

Take a look at all the chores in the house and make a list of chores your children could do that would fit their age. Listing chores that mom and dad do helps let children know that their parents do chores too. Children can do chores from 18 months or older.

An 18-month-old child may need guidance each time to help them keep on task and learn when they need to do their chore. Many times for young children it is a privilege to help mom and dad. At age three children can have regular chores that they need to do each day.

Teaching Children How To Do Chores

Kids will need help till they can learn the tasks and be able to do it right. You might say, “Clean your room!” What does that mean? The task may need to be broke down into steps so they understand. “Let’s make the bed first, then pick up the books, then etc…” Now and then there also might need to be reminders now to do the task. If children have not done any chores, start out with one or two tasks till they are able to do these on a regular basis.

Charts and Check Lists

Charts and check lists are great for kids because they can see when a chore is done and they can see how many times it is done in a week, a month or whatever the time schedule is. All children need to know that chores will always be a part of being a family. Chores are definitely a family affair.

Time Limit

Set a time the chore should be done. For best results have it relate to a time in the child’s schedule, such as breakfast, dinner, bedtime, or after school. This helps the child remember when it should be done. It also can be set for a specific time to be competed, if the child is old enough to understand time.

Make Chores Fun

It should be an enjoyable time, so you may want to make statements like, “Let’s see how fast you can get the table set! Remember you have to do it right.” This way you are giving your child positive comments to motivate them to do better.

Consistency

Consistency is also the key. This can be a hard task because many times your days are really busy or daily schedule changes. Just remember when you are home it is very important to keep the chore list going. Both parents need to be clear what the chores are for each child and when they are to be done, otherwise the child will figure out fast who is going to make them do their chores and who is not. This is where consistency breaks down. It has to become part of the daily or weekly routine.

Rewards

It is very important to reward when your child does their chores without being told. This is one thing parents don’t do very well. If the child is doing the right thing we have a tendency to overlook the good behavior.

It is better to reward for completion of tasks, but sometimes there should be consequences if the chore doesn’t get done. Consequences can come two ways: taking things away or introducing extra tasks to be done.

You can also reward kids after they have completed so many days of chores. For very young children this may have to be daily at first and work your way to weekly. I would suggest extra privileges or special activity in place of gifts and money. You might say, “You now can stay up 20 minutes longer tonight since you got your chores done.” As a child gets older giving an allowance is okay because that is a great way to start teaching the use of money.

Remember parents to do your chores too, because children learn the most from what they see you doing, than what you are telling them to do.

Gail Brand, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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No More Whining

No More WhiningWhining – it’s got to be the most aggravating thing a child can do. It definitely gets the attention of adults – parents and caregivers alike. And that’s why children whine – to get an adult’s attention!

Toddlers and preschoolers haven’t yet learned words or vocabulary to express their feelings, needs, and wants. But they can vocalize. When a child gets frustrated because they are not being understood by the parent or caregiver, they often resort to whining.

Most often, this age of child doesn’t know they are whining…..it is not a conscious strategy. What they do know is that this behavior usually results in attention from the adult, thus making it a learned behavior that parents and caregivers have actually (although unintentionally) help to reinforce.

How Do You Stop Whining?

Keep in mind that when a toddler or a preschooler begins to whine, it usually indicates that the adult has not focused attention on the child when they are behaving appropriately. To avoid whining, parents and caregivers want to be responsive to the child’s first bid for attention.

Have Patience

As children, then, begin to whine, the most important part of a response from a parent is patience. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the child is not trying to be irritating, but is asking for attention.

Use “I” Statements

Respond to their whining with “I” statements and the way you would like your child to speak. For instance, “I don’t like it when you whine. If you want your teddy bear, please ask like this….” then model the words and tone of voice you would like the child to use.

Or you can make a game of it! Say “Whining sounds like this…” and model how your child sounded. Then you can say, “Saying it like this sounds better, don’t you think?” Not only have you taught your child another way to ask for things, but you have provided focused attention and maybe laugh together. Please be very careful not to ridicule your child for their behavior.

In the long run, parents and caregivers need to reflect upon the underlying reasons for the whining. Has there been changes in routines, your schedule has become busier, other aspects of your life needing your attention? Children who whine are often sending the message that it is time to re-connect to you.

Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.

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

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Enhancing Emotional Literacy: Tips For Early Childhood Professionals

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 10.24.43 AM.pngWe know that supporting children’s social and emotional development is key to school readiness and overall healthy growth and development. One critical component of a child’s social and emotional development is their ability to experience, regulate, and express emotions in socially and culturally appropriate ways. We call this emotional literacy. According to research, children who have a strong foundation in emotional literacy:

  • tolerate frustration better
  • get into fewer fights
  • engage in less destructive behavior
  • are healthier
  • are less lonely
  • are less impulsive
  • are more focused
  • have greater academic achievement

On the other hand, children who don’t learn to use emotional language have a hard time labeling and understanding their own feelings or accurately identifying how others feel.

There are many strategies you can use as an early childhood professional to help support children’s emotional literacy.

Indirect Teaching

One technique that works with infants, toddlers and preschoolers is indirect teaching, which would be when a teacher provides emotional labels – “you’re happy” or “you’re frustrated” – as children experience various affective states.

Teachable Moments

Another example of indirect teaching is building on teachable moments. When children are in the dramatic play area and acting out a scenario, comment on the character’s feeling. For example, the children are “playing house” and the child being the baby is crying. You may then respond, “Why is the baby crying? I think she is sad. What do you think?”

Modeling

Also you are a model for helping children identify and appropriately express their emotions. Therefore, model your own feelings when you are talking with children: “I’m excited that the fire fighters are coming tomorrow in their truck to visit us!” “I’m sad that Melissa is leaving our group and moving to Maine.”

Want to learn more about how to enhance children’s emotional literacy? Visit our website and our Emotional Literacy Lesson

Lisa Poppe, Extension Specialist | The Learning Child

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Enhancing Children’s Emotional Literacy: Tips For Families

Mother soothing young childDid you know that a child’s social and emotional development is key to school readiness and overall healthy growth and development? As a parent of an infant, toddler or preschooler, you are your child’s first teacher on how to regulate and control their emotions. Young children look to you for guidance on how to respond when they are angry, happy, surprised, frustrated, fearful and so forth. In early childhood education, we refer to this as helping young children to develop emotional literacy.

Emotional literacy is the ability to identify, understand, and express emotions in a healthy way. It is also is the capacity to recognize, label, and understand feelings in oneself and in others.

Emotional literacy in very young children develops as a result of having respectful, caring, supportive relationships with adults. When children have a strong foundation in emotional literacy they tolerate frustration better, engage in less destructive behavior and generally have greater academic achievement.iStock_000012707089SmallSpecial Note two month.jpg

On the other hand, children who don’t learn to use emotional language have a hard time labeling and understanding their own feelings or accurately identifying how others feel.

How can you help your child develop his or her emotional literacy? One technique is to verbally acknowledge and label emotions expressed by your child. A gentle positive tone of voice communicates to children an understanding and acceptance of whatever emotions they are exhibiting. Check out how the mother assist her child in regulating his emotions:

“Oh Ethan, sweetie, you bumped your head and it hurt. Let me hold you for a few minutes. Aw, it hurt, didn’t it, and made you mad. We will go away from that counter and find something else to play with. Are you feeling better?”

To learn more ways you can help support your child’s emotional literacy, visit our website and The Pyramid Model.

LISA POPPE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.

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

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Cultural Diversity Tips For Teachers

10986943_895728893796197_7564530064451823380_o.jpgEarly learning environments that are culturally and developmentally appropriate enhances the educational achievement and success of young children and encourages them to become citizens of the world who respect and affirm the many ways individuals are diverse.

Children, who become citizens of the world, are empathetic to others. They seek to understand and value the diversity of our community and world while maintaining their own sense of cultural pride and values. Children who become citizens of the world learn to think and act with an anti-bias lens. This means a child will

  • demonstrate awareness, confidence, family pride and develop positive social identities
  • express comfort and joy with human diversity
  • develop deep, caring connections with others
  • recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts
  • demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions

Creating an environment that helps children become citizens of the world starts with creating culturally responsive educational experiences that promote cultural diversity and inclusion. For example, if a visitor was to walk into your early childhood program would they find materials such as books, crayons, and play items that are non-stereotypical and represent affirming and positive images of diverse cultural groups (i.e. a book about a woman firefighter or an educator in a wheel chair)? Would children be speaking their native language and also listening to music or learning another language as well?

As you think about ways you are helping children to become citizens of the world and creating culturally responsive learning visit our website and explore the Cultural Diversity topic area for additional topics and resources. 

Dr. Tonia Durden, Extension Specialist | The Learning Child

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Cultural Diversity Tips For Parents

iStock_000005787060SmallSpecial Note Six months.jpg

“Dad! My skin matches your skin”, four-year-old Mitchell grabs his father’s hand as they wait in line at the local supermarket. “But look, dad!” Mitchell shouts, “His skin is like chocolate milk!”

If you are the parent of a preschooler, like the dad in the scenario above, you may have experienced your child’s natural observations and curiosity about cultural diversity. Although children’s observations and questions about the ways in which we are diverse maybe embarrassing or uncomfortable for you as a parent, know that children’s curiosity is developmentally appropriate and should be welcomed with open conversations and opportunities to explore together their interest and questions.

Children today live in communities that reflect the diversity of our American society. They interact with other families and children who are from different cultures, speak different languages, or may have a special need. Children also see images of diversity each day in books, toys, and cartoon characters. When you consider how diversity in gender, ability, language, culture, and ethnicity is all around us, it is not unexpected that young children, are very curious and excited about learning from the diverse world and people around them.

For this reason, parents have the opportunity to support children’s natural interests and curiosity by exploring with them their own unique culture as well as those represented in the local community.

Cultural Diversity In The Family

Start first with your own cultural diversity within your family. Create or share a family photo album with your child, discussing your heritage and places around the country or where members of your family are from or have traveled to.

Cultural Diversity In The Home

Complete a visual scan of your home environment. Does your home reflect the diversity of the community and country in which you live? Try a new recipe from another culture, listen to a different musical genre, or expose your child to books, toys, and puzzles that are non-sterotypical and represent affirming and positive images of the cultural group.

For more information on ways you can enhance or spark your child’s curiosity about cultural diversity visit our website and explore the Cultural Diversity topic area.

LISA POPPE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.

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

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Tips To Manage Holiday Stress

Managing holiday stressHundreds of dollars in spending and calendars overloaded with extra events and commitments can turn the holiday season from merry to miserable for many Americans.

Families are dynamic and they aren’t perfect. The holidays are a high-stress time due to more obligations, the blending of families who may not get along, overwhelming financial stress, and high expectations for traditions.

Families need to practice communication techniques before the holiday season gets busier. Small things can make a big difference, and playing games together can be one way to find that quality time. By playing games together, family members get to know each other better, talk, laugh and be silly.

Tips For Managing Holiday Stress

  • Try to celebrate one good thing each day, whether it’s getting out the door on time or taking a few minutes to chat about school or work.
  • Talk with each person in the family, including children, and let them know about changes in schedules or upcoming events.
  • Remember that kind words and acts go a long way. A hug or heartfelt “thanks” are meaningful and simple ways to express appreciation.
  • Show self-respect and be nice to family members who may be struggling with changes to routines or health behaviors.
  • Be realistic and communicate up-front about what the family can do. Identify which traditions are most important and which can be skipped or delayed, whether kids or adults can help with chores or events, and when the family plans to stay home and relax.
  • Take a slow, deep breath at multiple times throughout the day.
Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.

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

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Activities To Help Children Grow

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Question: I want to help my child learn and be ready for school, but sometimes I feel like the day is so busy I can’t fit in one more thing! Do you have ideas for activities we can do together that won’t take extra time?

Answer: Every day errands and chores are a great time to involve your child and help them learn and grow.  Parents and caregivers often think they need to use computer software, videos, or workbooks for “learning” but actually, young children learn from every day experiences and learn best when they are involved in hands on activities. Plus, they love to help and be part of what you are doing.

Here are some ideas to help you get started with suggestions for different ages of children.

Talk about what you are doing

It may feel funny at first, especially with a small infant or toddler who cannot talk back to you or ask questions. Try to pretend you are on a cooking or “do it yourself” show while your infant or toddler is watching you or playing by your side. You can describe the actions you are doing while cooking or working in the garden. Describe what you see around you as you are driving in the car or at the grocery store. Your child is learning new words and concepts just by hearing you talk.

Read signs and words around you

Children learn that printed words carry a message from the signs and words that are in their world. Try pointing out the signs of familiar stores, traffic signs, and signs with information. You might be surprised at how quickly your child learns to point out “S-T-O-P Stop!” Through these experiences, children learn that letters come together to form words and these words carry a message…key things for readers to know!

Laundry time as math time

Even toddlers can sort out all of the socks from a basket of laundry. Preschoolers may be able to match the socks into pairs. Young children can fold simple things like pillow cases, washcloths, and towels. Try giving your child their own little basket and asking them to sort or fold a certain type of laundry. They are learning early math skills of classification, shapes, fractions, (learning to fold in halves and quarters) and building their sense of competence as they help you.

Dusting, picking up, and direction following

Try giving your child a damp rag and asking them to dust certain surfaces. Make it a game by giving interesting directions… “Can you dust three things that are green? Can you pick up all of the purple blocks and put them in the basket?” Then encourage your child to look for furniture or the toys that you have described. Being able to follow directions and use clues are both important early learning skills.  Children may be motivated when you make a job a game.

Let’s watch things grow together!

Your child will enjoy working by your side in the garden. They may enjoy planting seedlings or flowers with you. They can learn important science skills about their natural world when working by your side. A small child sized rake can be fun to use in the fall. Children can help bag leaves, pickup sticks, and dig up weeds in the garden if you show them how to identify plants that are weeds.

Work and play side by side with your child and they will be learning every day!

Author: Rebecca Swartz, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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