Santa, Please Stop Here! 4 Santa Faux Pas and How to Avoid Them

Image Source: Katie Krause

I love the holidays. I love the traditions I grew up with – that I continue with my own family – like cutting down our own tree each year. I love the new traditions we have started, like taking my birthday off at the end of November to put up Christmas lights and decorate. Being able to share these traditions our young children (2 yo and 4 yo), makes this time of year seem even more magical. While all families have their own magical moments that are important to them, I thought of one I’d like to share that has shifted for me over the years – Santa. Not every family believes or celebrates this tradition, but for those that do I wanted to take a few minutes to share some thoughts about some of the Santa-related issues I’ve been asked my perspective on by others

Scared of Santa

One of our children’s favorite traditions is to visit Santa, multiple times! Since the photos are free, and it’s nearby, we usually go several times in December. While the screaming baby on Santa’s lap may bring a few laughs, consider what that experience is like for the child. When an adult places a child on a stranger’s lap and leaves them there when they are clearly upset what message is that sending? Did you know that the brain wires for trust and mistrust during the first years of life? We want our children to be able to trust that we will keep them safe, be responsive to their needs, and honor their feelings. Is this really a big deal? Well, when children have their needs met (like, being comforted after a scary situation) routinely, it ensures the wiring in the brain will be laid down for trust. Dr. Pam Schiller says it best, “One way or another, the brain is going about its work of wiring.”

“But you do not understand, it’s a tradition to get that photo.” I hear you. Here are some other ways to still get that photo, without reinforcing a negative experience.

  • Let your child sit on a bench next to Santa (very common now), or stand next to Santa at a comfortable distance.
  • Join in – rather than handing off your child to Santa, hop in the picture too, keeping your little one safely in your arms.
  • Visit multiple times – The place we go offers a basic photo for no cost. If we go after school, there is never a line. If needed, we could probably spend a few minutes to get the kiddos a bit more comfortable.
  • Try to keep calm– the more stressed or frustrated you get, the less comfortable your children are going to be.
  • Ask your child what they prefer, “Would you like to sit or stand next to Santa? Do you want me to go with you?” Even children that are not yet verbal are able to make choices like this.
  • Prepare your child for the experience in advance. Show them pictures or videos and talk to them about what will happen. When you arrive, continue to narrate the experience for them.
Image Source: Katie Krause

Presents from Santa

Ever wonder why Santa brought you underwear, but he brought your neighbor a Nintendo?  Research has shown that children as young as four years old notice differences in social class (Heberle & Carter, 2020).  So children that are still young enough to believe in Santa may very well be able to notice the differences between the cost and quantity of presents ‘Santa’ has brought their friends. A great suggestion is that ‘Santa’ only brings one (not expensive) present and maybe fills the stockings.  Help your fellow families who might not be able to splurge over the holidays and give yourself the credit for that awesome present.

Santa is watching

We have been struggling with this one in my house lately. My husband has been doing a lot of the Santa threats, and I’ve been joining in. It might sound something like this: “Santa isn’t going to bring you presents if you don’t do xyz”, “Santa only brings presents for good kids”, “I’m going to tell Santa not to bring you a present this year”.  I even started singing ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town” the other day….yuck! What was I thinking?! I love Christmas…why on earth would I want to turn Santa into someone that can’t look past a bad day, or cancel Christmas?!

While these threats might produce a quick result, the Santa threats don’t work for long, and are often empty threats. They can also leave children feeling scared, sad, or confused. Are you really not going to give your children the present you bought them? And even if you did, young children are not old enough to connect a behavior they did a day, a week or even a month before Christmas to not getting a present Christmas morning. 

Is it not ok to cry, or be upset, or feel frustrated during the holiday season? Remember that negative behaviors are way children communicate a need and how they show us they are struggling with something. Also keep in mind, as an adult, you probably feel sad, frustrated, mad, scared, and a range of other emotions that we often view as ‘bad’ when children feel this way. You’ve had a bit more time to learn how to appropriately cope with those emotions (or sadly…how to punch them back down and put on a happy face, which is certainly not what we want to teach our children). 

Check out our other blog for some great tips on handling your kiddos Temper-tantrums and try to use Time-In J  https://learningchildblog.com/2020/05/01/temper-tantrums-and-time-in/

Is Santa even real?

There are lots of opinions for families and even from the experts regarding the idea of Santa.  Some of us just love the magic of Christmas, and Santa is a big part of that. I’ve got some friends that go all-out moving that darn little elf Every. Single. Day. However, some families are very much against the idea of Santa. Families feel that they are lying to their children if they include Santa in their holiday traditions. 

The key here is to really do what feels right for your family. Yes, some adults look back on their childhood and may have felt lied to or deceived by their parents about Santa. Others look back and have amazing memories of the magic. I’ll never forget being amazed the year I got a wooden desk with my name on it. Santa was truly magical if he could get in my house without a chimney, bring this huge thing along with him and he really did know my name!

We have no way of knowing if, or how, our children will remember these early years. We cannot stress out over trying to create ‘perfect memories’ of our children, or ourselves.  Each family needs to focus on what is meaningful for us, and be mindful of what our intentions are for the various activities we do – or do not – decide to participate in.

At the end of the day, or the end of the holiday season, the thing our children are going to remember the most is the love of their family and time spent together.

Here are some ideas you and your family might enjoy doing together.

Sesame Street: Kids Talk About Holidays

Sesame Street: The Power of We Holiday Party

4-H Holidays at Home

I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

KATIE KRAUSE EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Kara Kohel, Linda Reddish, and Lynn DeVries, Early Childhood Extension Educators

Resource: Heberle, A. E., & Carter, A. S. (2020). Young children’s stereotype endorsement about people in poverty: Age and economic status effects. Children and Youth Services Review108, 104605.

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Gratitude is Always in Season

Image Source: Lynn DeVries

What is Gratitude

Let’s pause for a moment to examine the definition of gratitude. The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, practicing gratitude supports social emotional learning competencies for social and self-awareness.

Research has shown there are many benefits to practicing gratitude. In a study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, they asked participants to journal on specific topics over the course of 10 weeks. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). The people who journaled about gratitude were found to have improvements in health and well-being, including increased energy levels, improvement in sleep quality, lowered blood pressure, less symptoms of pain, and feeling a greater sense of joy. Click here to read more on how Practicing Gratitude Can Increase Happiness.

Gratitude as a Mindful Practice

Practicing mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally (Jon Kabit-Zinn). Another definition states, “Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention here and now with kindness and curiosity, so that we can choose our behavior” (Dr. Amy Saltzman). Practicing gratitude can bring you to a more present-moment awareness and similarly, gratitude can lead to living in the present.

Mindfulness in Gratitude is the topic of the week for a class I am teaching for childcare professionals, Cultivating Healthy, Intentional, Mindful Educators (CHIME). The CHIME Program provides education and guidance on how to incorporate mindfulness and reflective practice into your daily routine, teaching and care giving. Engaging in mindfulness and reflective practice has many benefits for health and well-being of both providers and young children — including reduced stress, improved emotion management, better sleep quality, increased focus and attention, and enhanced relationships.

In my CHIME class, participants kept a gratitude journal for two weeks. After the two weeks, the early childhood teachers also noted a sense of greater happiness amongst themselves and others in their workplace. Another activity I modeled in the CHIME class was to make a gratitude necklace or bracelet. We selected beads that resembled a person or thing we are grateful for and shared among the group as we strung the beads. For example, I chose the blue bead as I am thankful for the fair weather and clear blue skies. The teachers will replicate this activity with preschool children.

Harvard Medical School suggests Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier and “Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.

WAYS TO NURTURE GRATITUDE

Writing Thank-you-Notes or Emails

This practice can cultivate your relationships with others and help you to feel happier too. Don’t forget to send or deliver the message personally. I keep a bulletin board in my office, and it has pinned to it the special thank you notes that others have written to me. This little gesture of gratitude is a gift to the heart.

Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal

Keep the journal where it is handy to reach at a specific time each day, perhaps in the morning or in the evening. Write down 1, 2, or 3 things you can be grateful for each day. The things you write about do not have to be grandiose things or events, it can be the little things, hidden often in plain sight. It is important to stop and reflect on how this practice is going after about 2 weeks. What do you notice about your health and well-being?

Pray or Consider Thanking a Higher Power

Consider the practice of thanking a higher power to cultivating gratitude.

Mindfulness Meditation

Find a Gratitude Meditation Practice centered on what you are grateful for.

GRATITUDE PRACTICES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN


Julie A Reiss, author of Raising a Thankful Child from NAEYC says, “Teaching manners is a fine art of modeling but not always the making of meaning. Raising thankful children is a fine art of helping them make their own meaning.” We can model manners and ways to say thank you when appropriate, but it may not have meaning for children until later. Reiss suggests that learning to say thank you is not the same as being thankful, and that our role as caregivers is to model appreciation and reflect those genuine feelings back to the child.

What Does Modeling Gratitude Look Like for Young Children?

Here are some suggestions from Rebecca Parlakian and Sarah S. MacLaughlin, Nurturing Gratitude (Zero to Three, 2020)

  • Show appreciation to your children. Slow down and observe more closely. You’ll see things you appreciate about your kids—then tell them! Appreciation can be an even more powerful motivator than praise. Sharing appreciation is a strong way to feel connected to one another.
  • Show appreciation for others. Never underestimate the power of your words and actions. Your children are paying attention to the way you treat others, whether it’s friends, neighbors, a teacher, or the cashier at the market. They hear your tone with the salesperson on the phone. You set a great example when you model kindness, generosity, and gratefulness in your own everyday interactions.
  • Use the word “grateful.” Children need to learn what this new word means. Explain that being grateful is noticing something in your life that makes you happy. “I’m grateful that it’s sunny today because it was raining yesterday.” Mention gratitude when you’re doing an everyday pleasant activity, like hanging out at the playground or eating watermelon on a hot day. Pause and say, “I’m so grateful for this day!” or “Wow, this is fun!” Your enthusiasm will be contagious.
  • Make a Thankful Tree. Cut a tree trunk from cardboard or construction paper. Tape to a wall or window and cut out some leaf shapes. Ask your child to think of something they are thankful for and write one on each leaf. Then tape the leaf to a branch. Add your own “thankful things.” Have your child ask family members what they’re grateful for and add them to the tree.
  • Share stories of thankfulness, gratitude, and generosity.

As with any mindfulness practice, mindful gratitude practice does take time. The benefits may not emerge immediately, but rather gradually occur over time, and children will need to be exposed to genuine appreciation and to feel appreciated themselves. How do you practice gratitude?


LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Amy Napoli , Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist and Kara Kohel Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Sparking Interest in STEM through Animals and Literacy

Image Source: Jackie Steffen

What sparks your curiosity?  What sparks the curiosity of your children?  I would venture to guess that nature and animals might rank pretty high on the list of interests for you and the children you work with every day.  Using animals and nature with children is a wonderful opportunity to teach empathy, conservation and environmental stewardship.  Fortunately, Nebraska Extension has an exciting early childhood resource to share with you this year around animals and their habitats.  This year, we are thrilled to provide eight guides highlighting habitats such as the tundra, rainforest, and desert.

Image Source: Sarah Roberts

Nebraska Extension has created this great resource for parents, early childhood professionals, care takers, grandparents, and anyone who loves to read with young children that ties directly with local libraries’ summer reading programs.  Summer reading programs are taking place right now and the theme across the state is Tails and Tales.  Our STEM Imagination Guides are designed to provide several opportunities to connect with each year’s theme by featuring:

  • Familiar storybook suggestions:
    • The stories that have been selected for each guide are well-known stories and often children’s favorites.  It is okay if you child has already heard the story prior to taking part in the lesson.  Sharing a story multiple times helps children develop language and listening skills. 
  • Conversation starters:
    • When a two-way conversation is initiated with children during story time, participation in dialogic reading is encouraged.  Open-ended questions are provided in each lesson to foster dialogic reading which has tremendous academic and social-emotional benefits for young children. 
  • STEM connection experiments:
    • Children love finding out how things work through fun, hands-on projects.  The experiment included in each guide relates to the featured habitat and teaches a variety of STEM concepts that are engaging and educational.
  • Sensory explorations:
    • Sensory play stimulates children’s senses and is important for brain development.  During the suggested sensory activities, children use multiple senses which allows them to learn more from their experiences and retain more information.
  • Music and movement activities:
    • Research shows that music ignites all areas of child development and enhances skills for school readiness.  Not only is singing songs and playing games fun, but these activities also encourage self-expression and physical activity. 
  • Creative arts investigations:
    • When children create pictures of stories that they have read, comprehension improves and often motivates children to want to read and interact with books even more.  Art is an early form of communication.  Creative art suggestions allow children to express themselves and make meaningful connections with the stories.
  • Additional related readings:
    • Since each of the Imagination Guides focus on a different habitat, children often have additional questions and are interested in learning MORE!   Supplemental fiction and nonfiction books are suggested so children can expand their knowledge.
Image Source: Jackie Steffen

The STEM Imagination Guides can be utilized in a variety of ways.  No need to panic if you do not have access to the featured storybook.  Consider listening to the story online or sharing the story orally from memory.  Each Imagination Guide has a variety of options and can be customized to meet the needs and interests of the children in your care.  Incorporate all of the activities or just a few.  It is up to you!  The shared reading experience and creative play opportunities are sure to create an excitement for animals as well as foster a joy for reading.   

All of these resources are free and available for download and print at https://go.unl.edu/imagination.  This website also houses the previous year’s resources focusing on fairy tales.  This website is like a treasure chest of great literacy and STEM resources right at your fingertips.  All Imagination Guides, whether from this year or previous years can be utilized at no cost.  Enjoy this year’s habitat exploration!

SARA ROBERTS AND JACKIE STEFFEN, EXTENSION EDUCATORS | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Amy Napoli, Assistant Professor & Early Childhood Extension Specialist and LaDonna Werth and Lynn DeVries Extension Educators, The Learning Child

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Counting Coins

Young mother teaching her daughter about money managementWant your child to learn the difference between the various coins we use and the value of each? This activity is a great way for children to discover the differences between various coins and learn that different coins have different values.

What You’ll Need:

  • A pile of mixed coins making sure to have at least one of each type
  • Paper
  • Pencils (colored or regular) OR clay
  • Animals crackers or other “store items”

Learning Activity:

  1. Have the children separate coins into like piles by type, all the pennies in one pile, all the nickels in another, etc. Have them count the number of coins in each. If the kids are older, have them total up the amount of all the coins.
  2. Have the kids select one or two coins and do a coin rubbing by taking a sheet of white paper and placing the coin beneath it. Using a colored pencil or regular pencil, lay the lead flat against the paper on top of the coin and have the child rub it until the image of the coin appears. You may also use clay and mold it around each coin. Discuss the difference between the coins asking some of the following questions:
    1. What color is the coin?
    2. Does it have a rough edge?
    3. Which coin is largest or smallest?
    4. What do you see on the coins (presidents, buildings, trees)?
  3. Give the child five pennies and one nickel. Have the child “buy” five animal crackers together with the nickel and then singly with a penny each. Set up other play store opportunities at home where children can buy different items using different coins.

Other Money Teaching Ideas:

  • Visit the store and give the child 50 cents or a dollar and let the child purchase an item.
  • When shopping with your child, have them count items as they are put into the cart to understand how much money is needed for all of them.
  • Save money in clear containers so kids can see it increasing.
  • Conduct a treasure hunt for coins in a room at home. Sort into like piles and count.
  • Read a book!

The Coin Counting Book

The Coin Counting Book by Rozanne Lanczak Williams is a unique book that offers the kids the opportunity to see the coins in detail and to appreciate their value. This book is a good way to introduce simple math to children.

My First Book of Money: Counting Coins

 

 

My First Book of Money: Counting Coins from Kumon Publishing is a great book if your child can add numbers up to 100, and is familiar with the concept of money. This workbook will build on that foundation and is a fun and easy introduction to coins and their value, which will help strengthen your child’s mathematical skills.

 

 

What are your tips for teaching children about money at school or at home? Let us know what you do by leaving us a comment below or tweeting us at @UNLExtensionTLC!

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

(This post has been used with permission and adapted from a previous publication of this article by Leanne Manning from Nebraska Extension IANR)

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Look Who’s Hatching

Look Who's Hatching ProjectWritten by Alice Brown. Brown is a recent graduate from Tennessee State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and Family Relations and was an intern for Jaci Foged.

Baby chicks for Look Who's HatchingDuring the first month of my internship I worked with three preschool classrooms implementing the “Look Who’s Hatching” embryology project. Working with the children was my favorite. As a future teacher, I love to see the passion and joy in kids eyes when they learn something new or see the outcome of a project.

The classroom had 10 eggs that were placed in incubators until they hatched. Each visit we did activities of different Oviparous Animals (animals that lay eggs) with the classrooms. We kept the fact that we had chicken eggs a secret from the students so they could explore every possibility of what could hatch. Their guesses were adorable and funny!

Frozen Dinosaur Eggs

My favorite activity was the frozen dinosaur egg excavation. Before the activity, we froze toy dinosaurs inside balloons. When we arrived at the center we gave the frozen dinosaur eggs to the kids so they could help the dinosaur hatch. The kids were given a spoon and salt and had to melt the ice to “hatch” the dinosaur. The determination to help free the dinosaur was a sight to see, especially after seeing one of their friends already playing with their dinosaur.

At the end of the project sadly only 10 chickens hatched out of the 30 eggs we delivered to the classrooms, but the excitement from the children was still the same. They were able to name their chicks as they hatched and were excited every time they saw the Egg Lady’s (what the kids called us) come to their classroom.

Are you interested in have the “Look Who’s Hatching” project at your center? Contact Katie Krause at katie.krause@unl.edu for more information!

Alice Brown | The Learning Child

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Can Allowances Be A Teaching Tool?

Family teaching little girl about money

Why Consider An Allowance?

  • Children learn about receiving a fixed income and they can begin to make decisions about how to use it.
  • Children receiving allowances may learn to set financial goals.
  • Children experience and learn the results of poor money management.

When Is The Best Age To Start Giving An Allowance?

Many parents wonder this! The answer is that is really depends on the child. An allowance can be started as soon as a child grasps how money works (i.e., that we use money to buy the things we want and need.) Some experts say children as young as age 4 or 5 can be ready to learn how to use money and can be started on an allowance. Others say 6 or 7 may be a better age. Children with older siblings usually are ready for an allowance at an earlier age than only or first-born children.

Allowances and Chores

Many financial experts agree that it is important to keep the idea of an allowance separate from being paid for doing chores. Children have responsibilities within their families which they should fulfill without expecting to be paid for completing them. Paying children for chores also encourages the attitude that everything has a price and they should get paid for what they do. Chores are a part of belonging to a family.

To see how paying for chores can get out of hand, let’s suppose Maria makes her bed only four days out of seven. Do you pay her the usual weekly allowance? If her allowance depends upon chores being completed, someone has to keep track of what’s done and decide upon a pay scale. What if Maria decides one week she doesn’t need any money, so she doesn’t do any work? An allowance usually includes money to buy certain items as agreed to by the parent and the child.

Children Should Decide How They Use Their Allowance

Here are some suggestions for what children might be expected to purchase using their allowances at different ages:

  • Under age 6: candy, gum, ice cream, small toys, gifts for others, books, paints, crayons.
  • 6-9 years old: in addition to the above, movies, amusements, lunch at school, magazines, gifts for birthdays and holidays, contributions, club or activity dues, Little girl receiving an allowancehobbies, special sports equipment, school expenses.
  • 9-12 years old: in addition to the above, fees for activities such as swimming or skating, some school supplies or trips, some clothing, and upkeep of items like sports equipment.
  • 13-18 years old: all of those mentioned previously plus money for dates, grooming, cosmetics, jewelry, school activities, travel and savings for college. The needs and wants of teenagers rapidly outgrow the family’s ability to pay for everything. So the opportunity for earning money outside the family becomes essential.

In addition to the needs of the child, the actual amount of an allowance should fit with the family’s financial situation. The lower the family’s income or the more people in the household, the smaller the amount of each child’s allowance compared to families with higher income and/or fewer family members.

How Much Should Be Paid As An Allowance?

Consider family income and financial commitments, the age and ability of the child to manage the money, what the child’s friends receive as an allowance, and the cost of items the allowance will cover. The allowance amount should be enough to cover specified items with a little extra for saving and some for fun spending. Yet it also needs to be small enough that it forces the child to make financial decisions. Develop a trial amount by keeping track of the child’s purchases for a month or two. Then track what happens with the allowance for a couple of months to see how it works. Change the amount of the allowance only when really necessary like when the family’s income drops or a child’s expenses go up. Build-in regular increases such as on birthdays or at the beginning of a school year. Decide the amount of the increase by checking with other parents or look online or in publications at the local library.

Tips

Check with the parents of a child’s friends. What amount do the friends get as an allowance? Giving him either much more or much less than what friends receive may create problems for him.

Sit down and discuss expectations with the child before an allowance is started. Establish what allowance is to pay for and any limitations on what can be bought. For example, what limits are there on the amount of candy they can buy? Will you say “no” to certain movies they buy or go see? If her bike tire needs replacing, will you help out or will she be expected to pay for the repair with her allowance?

Pay an allowance on the same day each week. The child should not have to remind or beg for an allowance to be paid. Paying at the beginning or middle of the week may help younger children learn to stretch their money until the next allowance is paid. Do not rescue a child when he runs out of money. He needs to learn there are consequences for not spending wisely. He might not get to go to the movies with friends if he’s spent all his money early in the week. If she asks for more money for what the parent thinks is a worthy cause, consider giving her a chance to earn it by doing one of those special jobs like cleaning out the attic.

Paying the allowance with various kinds of coins or bills may help younger children learn the value of each coin or bill. It also makes it easier to divide the allowance into spending, saving, and sharing amounts according to a previously-set money plan.

An allowance basically is money that would be spent on a child anyway, just given in a different form. Instead of paying for things at the time when he wants them, parents pay him an allowance and let him decide how to spend the money. The goal of an allowance is to teach children to distinguish between wants and needs and to prioritize and save — difficult lessons that will pay off throughout life.

 

How do you use allowances in your family? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us at @UNLExtensionTLC.

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

(This article was originally published as a NebGuide by Manning. It is re-published her with permission).

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Don’t Banish The Booster Seat!

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.25.22 PMI was doing it again; talking out loud to myself in my car about other drivers. “Why isn’t that kid in their car seat?” I mumble. My daughter sitting safe in her own booster seat in the backseat of my truck asks who I am talking to. “That driver in the red car didn’t have their child buckled in their car seat” I tell her. My seven-year-old sits shocked in the back…” That’s not safe!” she exclaims. “I know baby; she should be buckled up” I tell her.

You will want to keep reading if you:

  • have young children,
  • transport children under age 18 in a vehicle, or;
  • wish to avoid penalties for failing to follow Nebraska law.

How It Used To Be…

In my childhood we often sat in the bed of a pickup truck rolling down the dirt road without a second thought. If you go back even farther to my father’s childhood, he remembers they would stick six children and two adults in a five passenger car (clearly the math does not add up). My dad talks about riding in the back window ledge or sitting on pillows to see up and over the dashboard while sitting in the front seat. You would think the need to add height would be a clue the child shouldn’t be sitting up front; don’t even get me started about the back window — my how times have changed. Many cars now sound audible warnings and flash lights reminding you to secure your seatbelt. We now have digital signs over highways reminding us to “buckle up” for safety.

But, What About Our Children?

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, road injuries are the leading cause of unintentional Girl in Booster Seatdeaths to children in the United States. Nebraska does have laws which mandate protection of children in cars:

  • Children birth to age 6 must be secured correctly in a federally-approved child safety seat.
  • Infants should be placed in a rear-facing infant or convertible car seat in the backseat of the vehicle.
  • Toddlers can be turned forward facing (still in the backseat) and should be in a five-point harness until the child reaches the limits for height and weight of the seat.
  • Booster seats are used when children outgrow the five-point harness. Booster seats can be tricky. These seats should be used until a child is 4 feet 9 inches tall or 57 inches. Fifty-seven inches is the average height of an 11-year-old.

Booster Seats

I know, you’re thinking your 11-year-old would never want to sit in a booster seat that long. The bottom line is booster seats help a seatbelt fit properly. The seatbelt should fit snugly across the upper thighs — not across the stomach and the shoulder belt should not cross the neck or face. Parents and caregivers should also ensure children under the age of 12 ride only in the backseat of vehicle.

Licensed child care providers are required to take transportation training if they transport children on behalf of their employer. Providers must complete the “Safe Kids Buckle Up” program within 90 days of hire and repeat the training every 5 years.

Installation

Car seat installation can be tricky. You should refer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions as well as your vehicle’s owner’s manual for guidance on the proper installation of your child safety seat. Lancaster County has a couple child safety seat inspection stations you can visit to see if your car seat is installed correctly and learn how to properly secure a child into the seat. Visit Safe Kids Nebraska to see their calendar for car seat check events — appointments are required.

Nebraska law mandates driver and front seat passengers must wear their seat belts. Nebraska has defined this as a secondary law — this means you cannot be cited for not wearing a seat belt unless you have already been cited for another violation. The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt is $25. However, children up to the age of 6 are required by law to be in approved child safety seats. Anyone in violation of this can be cited, even if they are not cited for anything else.

Be a good role model for your child, buckle up every time you are in the car and talk with your child about why buckling up is important. Make sure your child is 57 inches tall before you banish the booster.

Jaci Foged, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

(Originally published in NebGuide by Foged. Republished here with permission.)

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Schedules And Routines

Little girl waking up routinesDay after day we get up, get ready for work, drive to the office, work all day, go home and do it all over again tomorrow… Some adults do not like their routine life but if you are a toddler or preschooler, routines and schedules are one of the best things in the world!

Routine ChartThe terms routines and schedules are interchangeable. Schedules represent the big picture and routines represent the steps done to complete the schedule. For children, routines can influence a child’s emotional, cognitive and social development. Children feel safe and secure knowing what is going to happen next in their day. Schedules help them understand expectations and can actually reduce behavior problems along with having a higher rate of child engagement in activities.

If you are having some challenging behaviors with your children. Take a step back and look at their daily routine. If you are not seeing some consistency then a change may be in order for your family. Children thrive on simple daily routines. Check out these tips from eXtension on Establishing Predictable Routines in a Child Care Setting.

Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Back To School Transition Tips

Two young children going back to schoolBack to School time is upon us and for our youngest learners, a well-planned transition will get them off on the right start. Transitions can help build the bridge from one stage of a child’s education to the next, and caregivers who work together in this hand off have the most success.

Transition Strategies For Caregivers

Plan an open house at your center or classroom a few days before school starts, inviting parents and children to visit together. If there are classroom supplies that families are to provide, this is a great time for them to bring them to lessen the load on the first day.

Consider sending an at home activity that families can do with their child and bring to the open house. Another option is to plan a parent/child activity at the open house such as a classroom or building scavenger hunt to help the child to feel more comfortable in their new surroundings and to know where to locate supplies and other areas such as the restroom, lunch room, gymnasium, nurse’s office, and school office. Be sure to invite school personnel to participate in this by greeting families at their station. Perhaps you could have something for the child to collect at each destination on the map, ending up back at the classroom to get their family photo taken by the teacher. This also gives the parent an opportunity to meet other building staff.

Children will feel a sense of belonging if they can see their name on their own coat hook or cubby. For elementary school children, they might put items in their desk. Later you can use the photos from the open house for a bulletin board to welcome the children. This is also a great time to discuss how you will communicate daily/weekly with parents regarding classroom information.

Transition Tools For Parents

Dad taking young son to preschoolFamilies also play an important role in smooth transitions to school. If you have the time, take each child individually to shop for their school supplies. One-on-one time, especially in a household of siblings can be a special way to ease you both into the new routines. If it is your child’s first day of pre-school, you may have many emotions as you separate from your child too.

Parents can help their child by establishing practical bedtime routines several weeks before school. Think about packing lunches, selecting clothes and setting out items you’ll need the night before. This will make morning routines go so much smoother. You may find these tips for easy transitions from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) helpful as you prepare your family for back to school.

What back to school transition ideas have you had success with?

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Cultivating Cultural Competence In Children

Culturally diverse childrenIf civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships-the ability of all people, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. –Franklin D. Roosevelt

The first step to cultivate human relationships starts in the home. Children tend to exhibit the behaviors and attitudes that they observe. If parents want children to value diversity, it’s imperative that parents model respect for all people. In addition, parents must make a conscious effort to provide their children with the skills and tools necessary to grow up to become culturally competent adults.

Research Tells Us…

  • Parents are the primary influence on children’s attitudes toward other cultural groups.
  • Between ages 2 and 5, children become aware of gender, race, ethnicity, and disabilities. They are aware of both the positive and negative bias.
  • Biases based on gender, race, disability, or social class creates obstacles and a false sense of superiority for children.
  • Racism attacks the self-esteem of children of color.

Make Diversity Part Of Your Daily Life

  • Create an environment that reflects diversity. Include toys, literature, artwork, etc. that represents all groups of people.
  • Interact with others that are different. Provide opportunities for your child at school,Different hands together daycare, play-dates, or try attending cultural events together.
  • Talk about diversity. Listen to and answer your child’s questions about what they are experiencing in the world. Talking about their experiences helps them learn from different perspectives.
  • As your child gets older teach him/her how to challenge stereotypes appropriately and what to do when witnessing a bias.
  • Most importantly, parents must model acceptance and open-mindedness about diversity.
  • Make certain that the school your child attends as well as community and religious organizations you belong to promote respect for diversity.

Family Activities

  • Research your own family’s heritage. This will help build a sense of pride and understanding of your cultural heritage in your child.
  • Discuss issues you may hear. Children are going to hear things about diversity and other issues in the media or in the classroom. This brings up a great opportunity to talk to your child about how to respond in an appropriate manner.
  • Learn a second language. Children can start learning another language with simple words like numbers, colors, and naming objects around your home. Our blog post Culturally Responsive Teaching And Environments has great tips on how to introduce other languages in the classroom which can also be used in the home!
  • Explore foods. The cuisine of other cultures introduces children to something different. Try preparing ethnic recipes together at home or dine at an ethnic restaurant.
  • Attend cultural events. Museums, concerts, plays, dances, and attending festivals or celebrations of other cultures are great ways to introduce children to diversity. If you’re a bit apprehensive about attending a cultural celebration/festival for the first time, you might want invite a friend from that community to accompany you and your family to the event.

What are your tips for encouraging cultural competency within your children at home or in the classroom? Leave us a comment!

Jackie Guzman, 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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