Monday, October 15, 2018

Five Ideas for fast connection to your kids and the great outdoors!

Five Ideas for fast connection to your kids and the great outdoors!

Hi there, I am really passionate about a lot of things when it comes to children. One of the things I am really passionate about is getting kids away from the screen and outside.

As a teacher I saw children in my class who could not socialize, were unable to engage in dramatic play, and sometimes they did not have the fitness to join others at play.  We all are busy, we sometimes think that the educational games on the iPads and phones are helpful, and we sometimes forget how long we, ourselves, spend on screen time. There is a lot of research coming in about the negative effects of screen time, including language delays and later problems in school with math, reading and bullying.

Alternatively there is also a lot of research about the benefits of nature and connecting as a family. Some research shows that children who regularly go outside are healthier and slimmer, have greater imaginations, and are better able to handle stress than their counterparts (see below for more information on that).

So this summer take a break and have fun, here are 5 ideas to connect with nature and more importantly, your child! Every day or on the way home from work, activities, or even from your weekend trip, stop at a park (no playground needed) or natural area.

1.     Play Tag. Children love to be chased; it is actually a developmental need. Children will often run away from adults as a psychological way of asking, “am I important enough for you to come find me?” In addition, playing tag is good for cardiovascular health, agility and there is no age limit.

2.     Play Follow the Leader and take turns leading. This promotes following directions and creative thinking. When children are following they must see what you are doing and then do it too, this increases critical thinking skills and body awareness. When they are leading they must think of what to do, do it, then see if you are doing it. Lots of multiple learning modalities in this simple game. You can also introduce balance, hoping, and skipping; all higher level movements.

3.     Roll down a hill or Spin in circles until your dizzy. Not only is this super fun, it also stimulates the vestibular system in the brain. The vestibular system is responsible for giving our brain information about movement. It allows us to keep balance, and stabilize during movements.

4.     Lay in the grass. Look up and watch the clouds, make pictures with the clouds. Look down and see a whole world under the grass, look for bugs, imagine trails, hear what your child tells you. Slow down and enjoy your child’s wonder at the world.  

5.     This last tip is for those who don’t have time or access to a park. Pull off the road, safely, to a parking lot or other place. Park where there are no other people parking, like the back of the mall or something. Turn your radio or phone to your favorite song; turn up the sound and dance like no one is watching. Or better yet, as I recently saw on Facebook, dance like a toddler because they don’t even care if there’s music! I used to call this a dance break and did it whenever the kids started getting cranky.  Just one song and then race back into the car, usually much happier than before. Showing kids your silly side can really help you connect and having fun is what being a kid is all about!

Be prepared for lots of giggles and a special bonus to these simple and fun activities is that they are mostly also recommended activities for longevity by aging research.  Love those dual benefit, win-win activities!

Here are some links to research and other information for those of you who want more information on this topic:

Screen time and children
This is a summary of actual research and what it showed researchers. The Mayo clinic is a favorite go to for answers. 
More good information and lots of links to other resources

Connecting with children and nature 
Lots of information from the same people who brought us Ranger Rick!!  More tips from National Wildlife Federation 
Richard Louv brought us the book Last Child in the Woods a favorite book of outdoor enthusiasts who love children.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

30 Million Word Gap and Five Tips to get your kids talking!

I recently found a new article that looked at the 30 million-word gap. For about 20 years we (educators and politicians) have based interventions and curriculum on this study originally completed by Ms. Hart and Mr. Risley. They followed 42 children starting at 7 to 8 months of age until 3 years of age. They determined that there was a strong correlation between the number of words heard by children and their vocabulary at age 3.

This research is very interesting to me because it often is used to compare the middle class with the poor. This is actually beyond that, research shows that it is not the vocabulary you have but rather the way you use the vocabulary you do have.

New research shows that it is so much more than just hearing words. Making baby Einstein videos obsolete!  It is actually the conversations, or turn taking, children engage or are engaged in with caregivers that increase vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Here is a video about this:

Add video:
John Tulenko of Learning Matters reports on Providence Talks

With video 4 min

Here are 5 tips to increase vocabulary and conversations with your child

1.     Talk to and sing with your baby. From the very beginning, as a newborn, talk to your child about what you are doing. Sign songs and play rhyming games.

2.     Point to objects and label them with names, for example look out your window and point out the birds, talk about what you see them doing.  Talk through diaper changes and bath time.

3.     Give choices. Giving a limited number of choices to young children is a great way to boost their vocabulary and their critical thinking skills. Even before they can answer you, ask them, “Do you want the striped onsie or the Polk a Dot onsie?” “Do you want Oatmeal or eggs & toast for breakfast?”

4.     Have conversations with back and forth exchanges: This can start when your baby is babbling, mimic what they say and add something new, see if they call it back t you. Also act as if they are saying real words, this has been linked to positive outcomes for children. Later ask them questions about what they notice, or what they see, hear, feel, think…

5.     Give time: Give plenty of time for children to process the information and formulate an answer. One training I went to shared research that it takes 45 seconds longer for children to process information. Ask a question or pose a topic for debate and wait, count to 10 or 15 before saying anything more.

It is amazing to hear what your children come up with when you talk to them and they are given the space and time to answer. It is very rewarding to talk to young children and the best part is building that relationship. The extra benefit is that when your baby turns into a teen they will still talk to you.

Here is more information about this topic:
This article is where I got the above video
more information about the study and an intervention program that is making a difference
a Module for teachers, caregivers or those interested in learning more about promoting vocabulary.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

RE-invention of myself and my vocation!

What is vocation? The Merriam-Webster dictionary states:

"Definition of vocation

  1. a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action; especially 
  2. a divine call to the religious life : an entry into the priesthood or a religious order
  3. the work in which a person is employed : occupation : the persons engaged in a particular occupation
  4. the special function of an individual or group"

My vocation has changed, my special function has been recreated. I am now on a new path.

I have spent several years now recreating myself, reinventing who I am and how I define myself. I am, and always will be, a work in progress. The turning point for me was becoming a guardian grandparent of my amazing and sweetest little one! forever our lives were changed, turned upside down and I have been trying to stay above water since.

Becoming the guardian of my grandchild is a challenging adventure, one in which I must succeed at while not knowing the goal. I had to overcome many obstacles, such as guilt because maybe I did it wrong the first time, learning how to juggle raising a young child again, and maybe the hardest giving up the roll of grandmother and all the fun that comes with that.

I do think I have found a balance, and in the interim I have learned a lot of new information and skills that I want to share with the world, parenting skills, grandparenting soul searches, and Community Resiliency Model skills. I have launched a new business and started a mission of bringing health and whole food to the children and families of the world.

My hope is that you will follow along, maybe some will join my mission and together we can make a better, loving community for our children and our future.