Learning through Play with Preschoolers

Learning through Play with Preschoolers

Between 2-4 years your child is experiencing many developmental changes and his play is becoming more complex.  You’ll notice your two year old start engaging in pretend play. As your child approaches 3 he’ll enjoy more playing with other kids. Their play begins becoming more complex and they start making up stories and rules for their games. They’re also using their imagination much more. Your child may no longer play with the broom to sweep a pretend house but instead use it as a sword in battle or a horse to ride. Your three year old is starting to understand sharing but may still find it difficult to share all the time and be patient. Children under 5 have a fairly short concentration span so don’t be surprised if your child decides to end a game suddenly.

Children experience two kinds of play, structured and unstructured (free) play. Unstructured play is the best kind of play for young children. It’s where they get to initiate what to do, choose freely, make decisions and explore. When children make up their own rules during play they learn critical thinking skills when they have to evaluate the situation or rethink rules when the game doesn’t work. It’s also a great opportunity to develop their social and problem solving skills as kids play together and figure out ways on their own to solve their problems.  Examples include pretend play, exploring parts of the house like cupboards or gardens, painting or dancing.

Structured play is usually led by a grown-up and has limited time and space like dance class, music class, sports, etc. In today’s world everything is organized to the minute it’s important your child gets enough time for free play not just structured play experiences.

There are many skills that your child learns through play.

  • Puzzles, memory card games, age appropriate board games and games with building and construction like blocks or Legos are great for developing your child’s thinking skills. Try making a homemade memory card game by printing out pictures and cutting the paper yourself. Simple and effective and you can make new ones easily.

 

  • Playing dress-up is great to develop young children’s creativity and imaginative skills. Have old clothes, scarves, hats or props available for your child’s imaginative play. Messy play with paint, mud or play dough allows your child to create and explore different textures as well as learn how different materials work together. You can make homemade play dough with flour, water and some food coloring. Invest in old fashioned blocks with allow for open ended play and let your child create and his imagination to grow. Use everyday item like empty milk containers or boxes to set up a restaurant or throw a sheet over two chairs to create a fort. Playing house or restaurant can help your child’s counting skills as he adds up how much things costs or how many items he has. It’s also a chance for your child to relive social situations and reflect on incidents that may happen in a real restaurant.  

 

  • Give your child opportunity to play outside and let out his energy. Outdoor play is also important for your child’s gross motor skills which develop his larger muscles. Include opportunities for jumping, climbing, throwing and running. Include puppets in your child’s toy box. They are great for allowing children to express their emotions as they pretend to be another character. You can make a puppet easily by using a sock, some buttons for eyes and nose and knitting string for hair. Let your child make his own as well!

 

  • Of course books are essential and crucial for every child’s toy box. Reading with children helps their language and literacy skills.  Children learn new words and may even start recognizing short words like cat or dog. Let your child pick out books on his on and sit and read them or look through the pictures. You’d be surprised how young children can sit and look through a book, retelling the events or even making up their own version! Keep books within your child’s reach to give him plenty of opportunity. If you’re worried about ruining his books then just keep board books close by and make sure you read the paper books with your child.

A final word about television, you’ve seen how important and rich all the daily play activities we take for granted are for your child. While most play may sound loud and exhausting which can be tough to handle after a long day, there are many opportunities for quiet play as well like puzzles or blocks. Child development experts recommend no more than 1 hour of screen time a day for children 2-5 years old. This includes computers, tablets and television. In fact research has shown that excessive TV time with young children had delays in language and cognitive skills. Excessive TV time takes away from all the rich play opportunities your child should be having which in turn affects the development of all these skills.

I hope this article helped show you how important play can be for young children and how this is their natural way for learning about themselves and the world around them.

  

 

 

Photo By sixninepixels, from freedigitalphotos.net

Staying in Touch with your Child while you’re Away

Staying in Touch with your Child while you’re Away

We usually think about a traditional family as mom and dad coming home to their kids at the end of the day. But what if one parent has to travel a lot for work and is away for days, weeks or even months at a time? How can you stay connected to your child during this time. I’ve put together a list of ideas that will hopefully keep you connected with your family till you’re back safely at home.

 

  • Make a Scrapbook: you and your child can each make a scrapbook while you are away. When you’re back you can swap scrapbooks and get to tell each other about every event that happened.

  • Record yourself: It can be great fun for young children to have a video recording of mommy or daddy reading a few stories. Your child can easily ask for the video recording and get to hear a story from you while you’re away/

  • Stay available: while you may be miles away, your child will still need the “live” version of you! Make sure you schedule time for a video call online so your child can tell you about his day. Video chats are now so stable and easy to use you can even share a meal or watch a movie together online! If you have an older child you can even be available for homework help.

  • Buy a book: Get your child a book about where you’ll be travelling. There are many children’s books that involve travel and new places. If you can’t find a book then you can use the internet to show your child where you’ll be going.

  • Send a gift: If you are a parent who travels for months away from your family it might be a nice idea to send your child a spontaneous gift with a little note telling him you’ve been thinking of him. Gifts don’t have to be expensive or frequent, just something small that tells your child you thought of him when you saw it.

  • Be predictable: let your child know in advance when you’ll be travelling. Mark the days on the calendar to countdown. This helps prepare your child for your travel date. Your child can also mark your return date on the calendar and mark the days till you arrive. For younger children having a visual option makes it easier for them to understand. Your child can mark each day on his own when he goes to bed.

  • Be honest with your child: If you can’t be available to video chat or call  then let your child know in advance and  explain the reasons.Children respond better to clarity  and honesty than vagueness.

  • Send a postcard: Yes! be old fashioned and send an old fashioned postcards from where you’re from. If you travel a lot your child will start collecting postcards from your travels. Some post-offices in Europe even offer the possibility of making a postcard out of a picture and sending it all via your phone!

  • Involve your spouse:  your spouse back home can be active too! He/she can help your child make their own video to send to you or maybe send a picture of his latest drawing.

  • Make the time: whether you choose email, postcards, video chat or a phone call the important thing is to make the time and be available for your child! With today’s technology there are so many ways to stay in touch. Taking a picture and sending it takes seconds! You can even video chat from your phone! So make sure you include time for your child in your travel plans as well.

    Have you tried these or other methods of staying in touch? Let me know your thoughts. 🙂

Developing Young Children’s Emotional Security

Developing Young Children’s Emotional Security

Developing young children’s emotional security is a process that starts at birth. Even before we think they can realize their surroundings or have an opinion, babies are already learning about what they can expect from the world from the experiences they have. Babies learn to feel either secure or insecure in the world based on the relationships they have with the people who care for them. Babies who know they have an adult they can rely on for comfort and care are more likely to be secure unlike those who experience inconsistent or unresponsive care.

Why is it important to care about a child’s emotional security? Children’s social emotional state is connected to other important aspects of their lives, such as their ability to explore and learn. It also involves their ability to make friends, play and face difficult situation later in life.

What you can do:

Children who experience a pattern of responsive and consistent care from their parents and caregivers are more likely to develop a positive sense of self, of others and the world around them. They are then more likely to have self-confidence, trust others and explore and learn new situations. On the other hand, children who experience unresponsive treatment from parents and caregivers are likely to have behavior problems, act out and have feelings of mistrust and low self-esteem.

Here are some ways to help your child develop a positive feeling of emotional security.

  • Be Responsive

Contrary to popular belief you can’t spoil a child by being responsive. It’s how you respond that makes a difference. Your baby is sending you signals and cues all the time. Take time to observe your baby and find out what she wants. Let your child know you see her cues for help and attention. Just by giving her attention that you know she needs something is a great first step. Next it’s important to respond appropriately to what she needs. Is she pointing to a toy to play with you? Is she hungry? Does she need to sleep? Does she need a hug?
Remember that no good comes from leaving a baby or young child “cry it out”. All young children have difficulty controlling their emotions your baby needs your help to calm down. Not responding to a cry sends a signal to your baby that she can’t count on the adults and caregivers around her. On the other hand when children feel understood and responded to they learn to develop trusting relationships and good self-esteem.

  • Support your child’s development

Almost everything young children experience is new for them. That’s important to keep in mind when your little one is struggling to put on his jacket or spills while pouring his juice. These and many more are skills your little one needs to learn and learning never happens without mistakes. What’s important is that these mistakes are met with encouragement, positivity and a solution. Not criticism and punishment.

  • Try to find a balance between giving your child independence and support. Your child needs to know you will be there when she needs help. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while letting him know you are there to support if things get too tough.
  • Try not to be over intrusive with your child’s initiatives. Avoid taking over your child’s activity and being over involved. This will just push your child away from exploring new things.
  •  Letting your child do things on his own and learn through trial an error can help him feel more independent, self-reliant and confident in approaching new or tough situations.
  • Communicate with your child

Communication is extremely important even with young children who can’t form full sentences of their own yet. While your child might not be able to fully express himself verbally, he can understand you very well. Let your child know what to expect to increase his feeling of security by communicating with your child and explaining things. Tell him why you will leave him at daycare? Mommy has to go to work. Where will you go? Mommy will go to work. When will you return? I’ll pick you up after snack time.  Make sure to put your words in terms your child can understand and to  stick to what you say! With repetition your child will develop a sense of trust and confidence.

  • Mistakes are opportunities to learn

Remember that your child is experiencing things for the first time and has not yet mastered basic skills. How you respond is important to how your child views himself and his abilities. Mastering a skill can only come by practice. Give your child opportunities to do things on his own and be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence, positive self-esteem and encourages him to try again.  The same applies when resolving conflict. Give your child a chance to explain, propose a solution and try it out. If it doesn’t work out then discuss why he thinks things went wrong and what he could do instead. It can be quite surprising the smart answers 3 and 4-year-old come up with once given a chance.

These are just a few ideas to help your child feel confident and emotionally secure. I hope they help you out in making your parenting experience as happy as can be.

Image from onemorephoto/flickr

When Young Children Start Using Bad Language

When Young Children Start Using Bad Language

This article was featured in Arabic on Supermama

Every parent knows that kids have a tendency to say the strangest things at the most inappropriate times. But what happens when your child picks up on some bad language? Young children can be exposed to inappropriate language from several sources; an older sibling, TV or even their own parents who may occasionally slip up.  Usually young children don’t understand that a given word is “bad” or “good”, they just repeat words they hear because that’s how they get to learn about social interaction and develop their language skills. If a word gets attention (encouragement or punishment) that sends a message that your child is doing something right he’s most likely to repeat it to get your attention.

If your child has picked up a few inappropriate words don’t guilt yourself. Children are exposed to so many sources of language and information it’s quite rare that a child won’t hear any bad language while growing up. There are many things you can do to prevent your child from acquiring bad language and redirecting him to more appropriate words.

What you can do:

  • Be a role model. Watch out for your own language in certain situations. Words can slip out when we’re angry or frustrated like when we’re stuck in traffic or someone cuts us off while driving.
  • Monitor what your child is watching on TV. Avoid shows that could contain inappropriate content so that your child isn’t exposed to inappropriate language.
  •  Don’t give extra attention when your child uses a bad word. As we mentioned children often repeat inappropriate words because of the attention they get. Calmly but firmly let your child know that this word is not OK and show him how to better express himself if he’s feeling frustrated or upset.
  • Let your child know that words can be hurtful when he/she calls someone a bad name. Try to help your child understand that some words can make people feel bad.
  •  Avoid labeling your child as bad when he uses inappropriate language. It’s important to make it clear that it’s the language that is bad not your child. Always give your child an alternative. It may be obvious to us as adults but remember that your child is still learning all the Dos and Don’ts of social interaction.
  • Give an age appropriate response. Young children most often repeat words without knowing their meaning. To them repeating bad language holds the same value as repeating any other word that got attention. Don’t over react by punishing your child or shouting, this will only make your child focus on these words and let him know this is an effective (although negative) way of getting your attention.
  • Praise more appropriate words and actions done by your child. You don’t have to go overboard but giving your child a smile or saying “that’s nice of you” lets her know she’s on the right track and that what she’s doing is encouraged.

 

These are just some suggestions to help make your life easier. You have to decide what works best with your child and family. Remember to follow through and be consistent. Patience is important especially when you change your behavior, it will take time for your child to respond and get used to the new pattern.

Photo by Mindaugas Danys

Why Spanking Doesn’t Work

Why Spanking Doesn’t Work

This article was featured in Arabic on Supermama

                 You may be very familiar with this situation; your child is doing something you explicitly told him not to yet again! It seems that communication and negotiation just don’t seem to work with your child. The solution? you resort to spanking. Spanking might seem to stop your child’s misbehavior, for now, but it isn’t helping in the long run! Spanking may have short term effects in stopping your child’s misbehavior but it certainly doesn’t have any positive long term effects. In fact, research has shown that the use of physical punishment such as spanking can have negative long term effects on your child.

           Studies have found that children who experience physical punishment may experience low self-esteem and lower self-worth. There is a risk they may perform worse academically and socially than children who never experience physical punishment. They tend to be more aggressive with other children and may have more behavioral and conduct problems.

             The use of physical punishment with your child sends a message that it’s OK to use physical aggression when interacting with other people instead of giving him tools for effective communication. Research has shown that children who experience physical punishment are more likely to be aggressive themselves. Which may mean the use of aggression with friends at school, later spousal relationships and with their own children.

            So far science has shown that no good can come from using physical punishment with young chidren. On the other hand, positive methods that include parental warmth and sensitivity seem to be more effective in reducing conduct problems than harsh parenting. Children who tend to misbehave seem to be less sensitive to punishment but more sensitive to reward in terms of parental warmth.

So, what should you do to deal with your child’s misbehavior instead of spanking?

 First, find out why your child is misbehaving:

  • Does he get attention from you when he does positive things or is it only when he misbehaves? Is he trying to get attention from a younger sibling? Is there a reoccuring pattern where your child’s misbehavior seems to escalate?
  • Understanding the reason behind your child’s misbehavior is a crucial first step. Remember that your child isn’t out to get you, the reasons most likely have to do with getting your attention.
  • Children at this age might easily get frustrated if they don’t get to do things for themselves. A need for independence is for young children and is a healthy feeling to encourage.
  • Know that impulse control is extremely difficult for young children. That’s because the part in their brain (prefrontal cortex) in charge of controlling their impulses has not yet developed, this makes it hard for young children to think about what they’re doing in advance or making decision.

Second, there are alternatives to physical punishment when dealing with your child’s misbehavior:

  • Start with yourself: Always give yourself a few seconds before reacting to your child. If he is not harming himself or others you can afford a few seconds to assess the situation and decide how to react calmly. A calm reaction can have a more effective impact than an angry response.
  • Restate rules: Try to have few clear rules that are mostly related to safety. That way your child will have clear boundaries that he knows shouldn’t be crossed.
  • Use positive sentences: Avoid using “No” too much so it doesn’t lose its effectiveness. Instead start sentences positively like “Let’s go play in the sandbox instead of in the mud”.
  • Persistence: When disciplining your child it’s important to be patient and remember that children learn with repetition. So even if your child doesn’t seem to get it this time, he eventually will.
  • Consistence: It’s also important to stick to what you say. If you decide that you have to go home because your child is not using his bicycle in the bicycle area then stick to your decision and follow through. Don’t use threats to get your child to do what you want. If your child decides to test your limits, that can turn into a power struggle and your child will eventually learn that if he pushes hard enough he will get his way.
  • Compromise: Remember that your child has a natural need to feel independent at this young age so try to compromise when possible. This can mean giving choices in what to wear, eat or when to have a bath. Make sure you limit the choices to two options so it’s easy for your child to make a decision and that the choices are acceptable to you so you can follow through.
  • Patience: The most important tool of all is to be patient. Remember that everything is new for your child. So many new experiences and so much information that he has to remember it can sometimes be overwhelming and frustrating, especially that his mental, physical, emotional, language and social abilities are still developing.

I hope this new understanding on spanking will give you a new perspective on discipline and that our positive discipline tools can help you in dealing with your young child’s difficult behavior.

 

Photo Credit: Ethic Soup

How you say things matters

How you say things matters

One of the points I’ve found parents have trouble dealing with is how to talk to their children while disciplining them. Should they be calm or loud? Should they tell their child or ask?  Through my experience with kids and their parents I’ve found that how you talk to your child can make a world of difference. Positive parenting techniques also encourage certain techniques to help you communicate more effectively with your child. Here are a few tips that can help you communicate positively with your child and as a result help you reduce or eliminate power struggles or conflict and have a relaxing home environment.

1. Get down to your child’s eye level. Your body language is just as important as your verbal language when communicating with your child.

  • What you can do:
    Make sure you are at your child’s eye level when talking by having eye contact or by getting down to your child’s height.  He/she is more likely to listen to what you have to say when you have eye contact then when you are shouting overhead or from the end of the room. Speaking over your child can also make him feel intimidated or scared. However speaking at your child’s eye level lets him know that you take him seriously and that it’s a two way conversation.

2. Be firm and calm. Shouting usually comes from a source of anger which can causes irrational thinking and saying things we’ll later regret. Your child deserves the same respect you expect him to show you and the best way to do that is to model the right behavior. Shouting

  • What you can do:
    If your child is safe and isn’t harming himself or other children you can afford to give yourself a few seconds before reacting. These few seconds can help you calm down and think about how you’re going to react. Keep your tone calm but firm when talking to your child about his misbehavior. You shouldn’t be mean or aggressive but avoid using pet names, this is a serious situation and should be handled accordingly to send your child the right message.

3. Avoid saying “No”. Saying “No” too much will lose it’s effectiveness, after a while your child won’t pay as much attention if you say “No” which will probably lead to you escalating your response and possibly resorting to shouting or more aggressive behavior to emphasize the point

  • What you can do:
    First, keep “No” for few important rules that have to do with safety or important household rules like touching the oven or standing on the table. Second, when you want to tell your child that he can’t do something phrase your message positively. Check point #2.

4. Avoid negative phrases. When you start with a negative statement that just makes your child feel guilty but doesn’t tell him why you’re upset.

  • What you can do:
    Start your sentence positively, let your child know why you’re upset and most importantly redirect to an acceptable activity. Instead of “Stop grabbing my paper!!!” try “I can’t read my paper while you grab it, you can get a story and read it next to me or you can wait till I’m done and we can play together”.

5. State don’t ask. It’s important to respect your child’s individual wants and needs but in certain situation asking your child to behave just sets you up to accepting “No” from your child as an answer!

  • What you can do:
    Children pick up on subtle differences in speech, if you phrase your sentence as a question your child has the right to say No as an answer. I’m not telling you to instruct or force your child but you can try phrasing your sentence as a statement or option. Give your child choices that are fair to her and acceptable for you.  Instead of “How about you stop banging on the table now Sweetie” you can try “Sarah, you’re banging too loud and it’s hurting mommy’s ears. You can stop banging or we can go outside where it’s better to have loud noises ” if going outside isn’t an option then redirect your child to other acceptable behavior you can read more on redirection here. Remember not to overuse this technique so it doesn’t turn into instructing your child about everything.

6. Always show love. Even though you might be furious with your child for whatever he’s done don’t let that interfere or get confused with showing him that you love him. Often when parents shout or ignore children on purpose their child starts feeling guilty and may fear you won’t love him anymore. Which probably results in low self confidence or more misbehavior to get your attention.

  • What you can do:
    Make it a point to let your child know you still care, even when your addressing his misbehavior. Acknowledge his feelings that he was hurt, angry or tired and that’s why he acted out. Separate his misbehavior from him as a person. Using phrases like “stop being naughty” tells him that he’s the bad person not that his behavior is bad. Make sure you are clear that you are talking about his behavior “It’s not OK to hit others”.
    Listen to his side of the story. Don’t automatically go into punishment mode, it’s important to understand why your child misbehaved and for him to explain himself. This helps you avoid similar situations in the future and lets your child know his feelings matter.
    Instead of enforcing consequences help your child reach a conclusion to why his behavior is not OK. How would he feel if someone hit him? What could he have done instead?

Remember that it’s important to acknowledge and respect that your child has her own opinion and interests and work towards a situation where everyone leaves satisfied. The goal is to have a mutually respected relationship between you and your child that fosters her independence and confidence. I hope these tips help you enhance your positive relationship with your child.

Photo from Allparentstalk.com  and blendedfamilytoday.blogspot.com