Kid’s Books that are NOT Just for Kids

GetAttachment-2.aspxI love kid’s lit.  Probably more than adult lit, if I’m being honest.  I’m a self-confessed kids’ book junkie and I get it honestly from my mother.  My kids own an insane amount of books (mostly purchased by my mom) and we visit the library on a regular basis to borrow more books we have yet to read.  Together my kids and I (and their Daddy) have enjoyed daily before bed books since each were old enough to sit in my lap.  We have read every genre of picture books (if picture books even have genres!):  classics, fairytales, nursery rhymes, comedy, books with moral lessons, books that teach safety, books about friendship, mysteries, kiddie graphic novels and so on.

But amongst all the titles we have enjoyed there are a few (hundred) we could read over and over and over again.  Classics, by our standards, that contain humor, silliness and entertainment for both child and parent alike.  I encourage you to hunt up these titles at your local library to enjoy some snuggles and giggles with your little ones.  You won’t regret it 🙂

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What does READY for Kindergarten really mean?

Yesterday I volunteered at Kindergarten Registration at my daughter’s elementary school.

As I sat there watching the children march from station to station (either proudly or with nudging) with their parents behind them, I had a rush of mixed emotions. I was excited for the journey they are all ready to start at such an incredible place to learn. I couldn’t help myself from sharing, “Do you know you are going to come to the BEST SCHOOL EVER!? Waves of nostalgia passed over me as I remember exactly what my oldest wore to her Kindergarten Registration and how she went from station to station collecting documents and shaking hands like a 5 year old executive. Small pains of sadness and emotional gratefulness were in the mix too – my youngest will leave that incredible nest in a few months. Where has the time gone? I am going to have a child in middle school next year. Virtual hugs accepted.

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A child’s (and a parent’s) first step into an elementary school is a big deal. I know it and I felt it for those parents yesterday. That first impression plays a large role in a parent’s impression and expectations for their child’s school experience. And we all know that our expectations as parents play a large role in our child’s expectations for themselves.

I have to say that our elementary school does a really great job of this. Friendly smiles. Calm voices. Squatting down to greet kids eye to eye. Fun and festive decorations. These professionals got it going on! But this does not surprise me. They do an incredible job day in and day out so it is natural to share their gifts with families on their first special day.

As a pediatric Physical Therapist, I have a genuine interest in development, and through our work with Milestones & Miracles, I’ve become specifically interested and fascinated with the benefits of developmentally appropriate learning through play or hands on/multi-sensory activities with a purpose.  Lacy & I are so passionate about this that we developed a lecture to support schools with the good work they are already doing, with ideas to feed a student’s nervous system with the movement and activities they need to learn.

At the table next to me, was our school’s reading specialist. She is young, fun, and good at what she does. The little girls idolize her and the boys have big time crushes on her. She’s an elementary rock star. She was handing out a booklet yesterday to help parents prepare their children for Kindergarten. It quickly caught my eye because I remembered it. And when I remembered it, I also remembered my feelings absolute panic….WHAAAT? She has to do this BEFORE KINDERGARTEN? She’s not ready? Maybe I should wait a year? Will she ever succeed?

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When it was our turn to step into that school, I’ll admit this list clearly stressed me out. The self imposed challenge of teaching my child all of this information by September overwhelmed me and to be honest I didn’t want to spend our last summer before school stated drilling her to learn to write her name. To my knowledge she wasn’t doing most of these things at 4. She had gone to a play based preschool and we didn’t do worksheets or flashcards at home. (Side note: After she started school a few months later, her new teacher proudly shared she actually DID know/could do these things….shocking my husband and I…and starting the precious trend she has for refusing to learn most things we try to overtly teach her).

In solidarity with those parents coming to collect the list and learning sheets, I had a wonderful conversation with the reading teacher. It went a lot like many of the valued conversations I’ve had with my children’s teachers over the years…teachers know concepts they must share are often presented too early or in a format they don’t feel confident with…but the national trend for education and policy making is what it is. I shared that brain research tells us that children’s brains are often not ready/wired to read until closer to 7 years of age. She confirmed that she sees this often with students she work with. I shared as a parent of a first time student, that list made me nervous.  We both agreed our shared thoughts that expecting them to do things their brain isn’t ready for isn’t exactly fair (please note I am in no way saying a Kindergarten student should not learn, be challenged, be introduced to literature concepts etc. Just that there is a need to recognize ALL kids are biologically ready for site words the instant they turn 5).

The packet also included some great and relevant follow up information that expanded on the list..including helpful and reassuring information that these things did not have to be mastered by the first day of school (I don’t remember this part of the list when I received it?! So glad it was added).

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But in addition to those tips, I think it’s important to share with parents that PLAY BASED learning is still developmentally appropriate for 4 & 5 year olds….and beyond that, it is this type of learning that makes those essential concepts, imperative building blocks for advanced learned, concrete and real and strong. Without fully understanding these early learning concepts, our children don’t have a sturdy foundation. And yes some students prefer pencil and paper (even at 4 years old), but we know that the more senses (including movement) we involve with learning, the more our children will learn.

Experiencing is learning.

Purposeful Play IS learning.

Just because he/she doesn’t come home with a worksheet doesn’t mean learning didn’t occur.

Because we are so passionate about this for children and their parents, and because we have been so fortunate to have a unique and strong relationship in partnering with my daughter’s elementary school, I felt comfortable creating a short resource that could be shared to back up these principles.

And because I’m sharing it with that rock star teacher today, I thought why not share with you?

If you are a teacher, parent, therapist or just anyone interested in the topic feel free to share this document with anyone who might benefit. You have our permission to print it. You can find it by clicking the PDF link at the end of this essay. We only ask that you respect our time in creating it and cite us as the source. It is short and sweet but provides practical suggestions for developmentally play based in context learning for those getting ready for Kindergarten.

We can all work together to make change by advocating for developmentally appropriate learning and advocating for play as an essential need for all children.

Is he/she ready for Kindergarten is a question we will all ask ourselves as parents. We believe that defining what “ready” really means makes it a much easier question to answer. We hope this list helps you do just that.

Kindergaten Here I Come – Ideas To Learn PDF

 

Have an infant or toddler? Want to support them with purposeful play – check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me! 

Making New Ways To Play In Dad’s Old Shop

My Dad is a plumber and a contractor. When I was a kid I loved playing in his shop. I used to stack wooden scraps, bang things together, and pretend copper pipe was my wedding band. (Princesses hang in tool shops too).

Today I got to be a bit of a kid in Dad’s shop again and it was so fun!

I have a few “go-to” gifts that I LOVE giving to my “therapy kids” when they turn 3 and are no longer eligible for my services. They are part “graduation” gift and part birthday gift. Every once in a while though, I have a kid who needs something that is specifically made just for them.

It’s nice having a handy Dad when you are a self employed early intervention physical therapist, creatively making things work for therapy visits in the homes of children. Dear Old Dad has helped me out a few times and today was no exception.

Together (well mostly him), we made this fun board for my special guy and I wanted to share.

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I liked it so much I decided “we” needed to make 2 so I could keep one for work too!

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I’ve always admired these boards and while they are very focused on fine motor work, I’ll be able to incorporate them into sitting and standing play…maybe even as a motivator for my little ones who are almost crawling but need a bit more motivation!

So if you are interested in making something like this, I’m happy to share that it was not overly expensive. Total cost was about $20 each.  I basically strolled up and down the aisles of Lowe’s choosing mismatched things that were interesting to turn, twist, flick, or flip. (This made the regulars at Lowe’s a wee bit nervous I think).  That part of easy. I will say if you are going to try it you need someone handy and with a few basic tools (electric drill, small saw, nail gun), which worked out much better than my original plan to glue gun everything down!

Here are some of the items I used.


I can’t wait to gift my special guy with his “one of a kind, made with love by my Dad” creation and to try mine out too. Even more fun that playing with these might be the fun I had playing today in the shop.

Like my ring?

 

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What our kids learn when we butt out…

I saw this the other day and loved it because it is so true.

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My favorite times watching my children play are totally organic. Not lead by me. Not in a group classroom. Not during an activity I’ve signed them up for. Not while doing anything I’ve paid for. Not when they know I have a camera hiding around the corner, hoping they won’t really notice enough to stop their magic.

Why? Because that sort of play is the best brain building kind! It’s the kind that is naturally multisensory, usually socially engaging. and belly laughing, child shrieking fun.  It is THE BEST way to really KNOW my children, because they are worried that an adult watching has expectations. They are free to express themselves at the developmental stage where they are and get all those feelings out, let all those creative ideas flow, and pretend they are whoever they wish to be. Yep, magic.

My favorite thing about social media is seeing the children of my friends and family.  I’ll publicly admit that while my parent friends are fuming and post photos of some huge mess, my mind thinks in the way of the child that made the mess. Maybe this is against the parent pact? Like this doozie from my dear friend Jen (Warrior Mom of 4), who shared this of her child’s “artwork” a few months ago.

 

Jen had just cleaned the couch. She was likely thinking, “Someone is gonna die.” I thought as her son and in my mind said, “I’m learning that this cool address stamper works on things besides paper. And it leaves a mark wherever my hand goes. And that doing this really had my mom engage with me.” Of course my mind also thought “Poor Jen,” and “Been there sister,” and “Rubbing alcohol takes ink out of fabric and toothpaste takes it off tables.” (Parent pack renewed).

As parents, we hear these messages.

“Sign them up, and they’ll learn.”

“Take the class, and they’ll learn.”

“Do the worksheet, and they’ll learn.”

Those messages are so loud at times that the message our gut tells us (that “PLAY BUILDS BRAINS! AND PLAY IS THE BEST TEACHER OF YOUNG KIDS”) is often brought to a whisper. Suddenly, it JUST seems like play instead of the many learning opportunities that go on during play. Instead of the magic.

I believe that if WE as parents, teachers, therapists, child care providers, family members want to turn the tide on the message sent to young children and those that love and care for them regarding play, then we need to start SEEING PLAY THROUGH THEIR EYES. Doing so, will not only make us better at our work, but will change the conversation. It s our job to defend play as a right of children.

I’m not suggesting you let your children color all your walls and furniture. I am suggesting, we consciously set the scene, make supplies available, create safe environments that support creative expression and concrete learning, and then we BUTT OUT (sometimes). More on why – HERE.

Yes, a child needs adults to love to them, read to them, nurture them, comfort them, and play with them. They also need time to play alone and with their peers. I’m also suggesting that when we get the gift of being able to peek in on the magic, we remind ourselves to take a deep breath, look past the mess (briefly), and think, “what is he/she learning?” Yes worksheets or classes led by another adult that we sign up for or pay for are cleaner, safer, and easier (and there are benefits to them as well), but child led, child driven play is the BEST way a young child learns.

As an exercise in this, I started searching for some of my favorite pictures of this sort of magical play and decided to caption them accordingly as a self exercise. Here they are…

 

Will you help us change the conversation for kids?

We’d love to see your photos!  Post them to our Facebook or send through Twitter with the caption “I’m learning…” and the hashtag #playbuildsbrains

For more on why we believe in play and ways to encourage early learning through play using 1-2-3 Just Play With Me take a look around this website!

 

Why Moo, Baa and La La La Matter (and crash, boom and bam too!)

I commonly ask the following question when I enter a home for a new evaluation: “What animal sounds does Johnny make?” Or I might ask, “Does he make any car noises or crashing sounds?” Although I know why I ask those types of questions I recently put myself in the parents’ shoes. The parent who most likely doesn’t have a background in speech and language development and might wonder why on earth it matters if Johnny can say “moo” or “vroom”. After all, our goal is real words here, so what purpose does moo or baa (or la la la) have to do with his ability to talk?

 

Environmental sounds, as they are called in the child development world, matter. They are the first sounds that most children produce, long before true words. They are easier to say and offer children the opportunity for practice in producing sounds and combining them into syllables. Environmental sounds (animal sounds, car noises, crashing noises, etc.) are also how little ones let us know early on that they understand associations between objects/animals and the sounds they make. Also, environmental sounds are repetitive which make them easier for little ones to say. “Moo moo”, “neigh neigh”, “baa baa” are all single syllable, repetitive sounds.  Environmental sounds can be learned and practiced through PLAY; you model the sound for the child and they imitate it. Environmental sounds can also be learned and practiced through books.

 

Sometimes I work with kids who make no or very few environmental sounds. Because production of environmental sounds typically precludes word production I make the following suggestions to the family to encourage development of this skill:

 

  1. Work on the skill of imitation. Your child may not be quite ready for verbal imitation so work on imitating gestures instead. For example, if your child doesn’t imiate the “yuck” sound, stick out your tongue while you say it and they may stick their tongue out too. These gestures associated with sounds will bring about the verbal production sooner!
  2. Expose your child to a new experience related to environmental sounds. When a child can visit the cow on the farm or the lion at the zoo it allows them to make the connection between sound and animal more real and the boost in their receptive language results in more verbal expression. Or visit the construction site to hear the loud trucks and diggers, or take a walk outside and listen to the birds.
  3. Read books that have sounds in them that the child can imitate. When you read be silly, exaggerate the sounds, vary your pitch and volume to grab the child’s attention and make them feel more comfortable in attempting to imitate you.
  4. Reward your child’s attempts of saying any and all sounds. Praise, celebrate and recognize their attempts to make car, animal, and all environmental sounds. When they know they were heard and understood, kids feel more empowered to attempt more communication.

 

As I mentioned before, PLAY affords a child the best opportunity to learn what sounds animals, cars and other toys make. But books can also be an important tool in learning early communication skills. Here are some of my favorites for teaching imitative sounds:

 

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So now you know why those silly sounds are SO important.  Fun to say, even more fun to imitate, environmental sounds play a part in your child’s communication development!  Now that you know, you must feel empowered,  so go “moo, baa and la la la” with confidence! 🙂

 

 

 

Print or Digital? Which version is best for you?

From the beginning of our business, we have enjoyed sharing our visions and dreams with you – our friends and family personally, professionally, and those who we have connected with through our shared passion for play as the best way for a child to learn and bond with a parent.

For those reasons and more, we are very excited to share with you the next step in our journey to support those who love and interact with children by truly understanding their development in the early years and encouraging the pairing of it with purposeful play.

We are proud to announce that 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is now available for purchase as an E-book!

To give you a glimpse into why we decided to expand our product to a digital offering and how it can be used, we decided to share with you some questions we are asked repetitively (and some answers too!)

“I love your product, but are you going to make it into an app? E-book? Some digital form? Paper is going to be extinct soon!”

While we both still love the feel of an actual book or product to hold, and the opportunity to give a beautiful gift to someone, we realize that many people prefer a more compact version of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me! We both embrace the qualities of printed work and the convenience of digital work. As soon as we created our product, it was a goal to create a digital version so that we could meet the needs of all customers. We chose an e-book vs. an app because 1-2-3 Just Play With Me has enough information and text that it could be a book, but we wanted the convenience as parents of quickly accessing only the information we needed at a time in card form. The E-book was the best option to present the information digitally in the format we wanted to preserve.

“Which option is best for me? E-book or print version?”

Of course, this is personal preference, but in our opinion, if you are purchasing it for yourself to use with your baby, or as a gift, we recommend the print version. Here’s why. The cards can be physically placed in a useful place like the refrigerator door. This allows you (or another parent or caretaker) the opportunity to focus on only the age/stage where the child currently is, while doing all the other things we do as parents (cook, clean up dishes etc). The cards were purposefully made to be quite durable for these reasons.  Our sturdy, decorative box also makes a lovely addition to a nursery.

We do sell a great number of units to therapists, child care centers, and early childhood professionals. Depending on the professional use, the E-book version may be more practical. For example, Lacy & I both work in early intervention, so we will be loading the E-book on our individual devices to take daily into the homes of the families we serve to use as a quick reference (as a PT, I LOVE this option to reference the areas of development other than my familiar motor area. It allows me to give the parents a comprehensive and appropriate look into which milestones we are working on and how we can tie together goals in several areas of development into a few activities).  The E-book is obviously easier to transport for work purposes than the print version for us, but if you work in a clinic where you want parents to view the cards themselves in a waiting area or interactively with you during therapy sessions or parent conferences, the print version may work best.  Additionally, the eBook version has a table of contents, search engine, and hyperlinks to additional resources that the print version doesn’t have.

“I really like your product. I wish I had it earlier, but my child is 2 years old, so I’m not sure I can justify buying the whole set. Have you considered splitting it up into sections?”

Why yes, we have! We considered this in the early development phases of the print version, but doing so initially would have increased our production costs making it difficult to sell to our customers at a fair price. With the E-book version we were able to meet this request! You can purchase the cards in the first, second, or third year of life separately and each comes with the detailed resource section at the end of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, including common topics such as potty training, discipline, sleep. sign language, and book and toy recommendations. Simply search for each individual year at the ebook store of your choice!

“I really like the design of the cards. Is that lost in the E-book conversion.”

We do too, so absolutely not! 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is color coded to quickly reference what domain of child development you are looking for and sequentially by age. That was part of our essential original design so we could not lose that in the conversion. In fact, we actually added a table of contents so you can search by age or area and a search engine to look for specific topics and milestones. The only difference is, that in the e-book version, you will not see our colored scalloped borders, but you will still be able to use the color coding system to identify which of the 5 developmental domains you are exploring. The font in the headings of the e-book sections will maintain the same system as the printed cards (red for cognitive, navy for social/emotional, green for gross motor, gray for fine motor, and light blue for speech and language). Here’s a screen shot to give you a sneak preview!

 

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“So how can I find 1-2-3 Just Play With Me digitally?”

We are excited to offer our e-book through Amazon/Kindle, Barnes and Noble/Nook, iTunes.

Simply click the hyperlink above to find the version of your choice and to read a sample.

There you have it. What you need to know about our next step. As with all of our previous steps, we are humbled by your encouragement and support. For reviews of what others are saying check out these reviews and these too! If you share our vision for a world where adults understand what real development looks like and embrace their children through play, will you share with a friend or colleague that might benefit from knowing  about our E-book? Whether you are a paper fan or a digital fan, we know you’ll be a 1-2-3 just Play With Me fan once you experience the detailed developmental information, purposeful and fun play strategies, and practical and unique format we are proud to offer you! Remember you can always order the print version at Amazon, Pro-Ed, and right here at Milestones & Miracles (we’ll happily ship for free and include a gift card for you). You can also visit these lovely spaces that may be local to you to purchase one in person.

WILL YOU HELP US KICK OFF THIS EXCITING NEW ADDITION TO OUR BUSINESS? SIMPLY SHARE THE FACEBOOK ANNOUNCEMENT FROM OUR PAGE AND WE WILL ENTER YOU TO WIN A FREE DIGITAL FULL VERSION OF 1-2-3 JUST PLAY WITH ME! DRAWING WILL BE HELD ON FRIDAY 9.19.14. THANKS!

 

What Can You Do With Ribbon, Marbles, Golf Tees and Pom Poms? We Have Some Ideas for YOU!

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Going into homes to serve children can be tricky when it comes to engaging them.  Therapists can be tempted to take in their own toys because the child will quickly join in the fun when a new toy is presented.  But we certainly don’t want parents to feel pressure to purchase the toys we bring into the homes.  Contrary to popular belief there is no magic in our toys!  So it is often best practice to play with what is available in the home and sometimes that is very little.  It can be heartbreaking to be in homes with not even a single book or stuffed animal.  Until I worked as an EI therapist I thought EVERY child owned at least one of each of those.  So in order to help these children have access to developmentally appropriate toys we often help families create toys out of everyday items that can be found in their homes.  At the request of another early intervention therapist we are posting this blog with photos of a few homemade treasures you can share with the families your serve or your own family at home!  I think creating homemade toys is a great way to engage children and their imagination and drives home to parents that it is not the toy that matters but the “PLAYING” with it that does!  We hope you find an idea here you like but if not be sure to visit our Pinterest DIY PLAY board for more ideas.  And certainly refer to 1-2-3 Just Play With Me for more fun PLAY at home ideas paired with developmental milestones for kids ages birth to three.  PLAY BUILDS BRAINS people!  Spread the news!

 

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Create crazy creatures with plastic golf balls and pipe cleaners

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Putting pom poms into a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off or a paper towel roll tube. Then pull up the bottle/tube for an explosion of pom poms! The mirror adds an element of interest as the little one can watch what they are doing.

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Use a lidded plastic container and a few ribbons. Have the child pull the ribbons through the lid.

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Color matching with play-doh and colored Q-tips.

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Fine motor work with golf tees and marbles. To add more difficulty have the child use tweezers to place the marbles.

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Make a Munchy ball by cutting a slit in a tennis ball. This could be used as a reinforcer as well as work on fine motor strength.

Are The Shoes We Are Asking Them To Fill Simply Too Big? How What You Know (or Don’t Know) About Child Development Could Be Affecting Your Child

This article is currently running in the 2014 Annual Family Resource Guide Edition of Child Guide Magazine. Check out the entire issue online at: http://www.childguidemagazine.com/too big

 “Stop running,” says the mother to the 4 year old. “Sit still,” the embarrassed father whispers sternly to his toddler at story hour. “If you don’t know these sight words by Friday, your teacher will be upset,” warns the anxious parent of the new Kindergartener.  We’ve all heard these threats. In all honesty, most of us have made them, or something quite close to them. But if we could take a moment to pause and consider if the demands we place on our children are developmentally appropriate would we continue to make them?

 

As a pediatric Physical Therapist, I help families determine the functional and developmental skills that their child has challenges with at their current age/stage. Then I provide them with play-based strategies to help them achieve the goals we’ve set together for their child.   Parents help their children meet these goals through practice during play. This method of helping children learn makes perfect sense, yet it is barely used in the context of teaching children at any age or with varied abilities. 

 

Why do we, as parents and educators, ignore that small voice inside that instinctually KNOWS what our child should learn or how they should behave at their given age in favor of unrealistic goals?

 

It turns out, it’s not entirely our fault. Society has a lot to do with the faulty message that parents are receiving.  Although the reasons why the message to parents are numerous and complex, there seems to be 3 strong motivators.  First, not surprisingly, is financial.  Toy and “educational” product manufacturers are aware of the pressure parents feel to have their children keep up with the swift race that childhood has unfortunately become and can capitalize by offering products that meet that emotional need, despite the fact that many of these products are not developmentally appropriate.  A prime example of this are the “Baby Reading” Programs that teach young children to identify the shapes of words and match them to the actual word through repetition without actual literary learning.

 

Second, is a trickle down effect from the education system. As college entrance levels become competitive and our nation falls behind in international educational rakings, panic rises, and pressure increases to “get ahead.” Yet, once again, instead of relying on what solid research says about how young children learn best (through hands on play and in context through multisensory experiences – especially in the first 5-6 years of life), we turn away from methods other countries are using and turn to drill work and standardized tests for younger and younger children. I love the saying that “Kindergartners should be blowing bubbles not filling them in.”   And at the end of the day, knowing that this educational standard is looming in the years ahead, parents of preschoolers and even babies automatically turn to activities that will “prepare” their child for school without regard to developmental need.  A recent poll showed that 65% of parents feel that “flashcards are very helpful in helping 2 year olds develop intellectual intelligence.” Unfortunately 65% of those parents are wrong. Yes, a flashcard can help your child learn to memorize that the letter printed on it is a “B,” but running around a room and sounding out starting letters of various toys and throwing those that start with the letter “B” into the bucket with the “B” on it is an example of REAL learning, in the context of play.

 

Third is the current belief, held by many adults, that the end product of a child that is gifted in many ways – academically, athletically, artistically, musically etc. is more important than the actual process of childhood.  Think about it. Are you gifted both creatively AND analytically? Me neither. Expecting your child to be sets an unrealistic standard. Filling the schedules, of particularly young children, with lessons, and structured experiences to try and meet that unrealistic standard denies them what is most important for their learning – unstructured playtime.  The consequences are tragic.  Mental health statistics in our young children, particularly tweens, are on the rise, not fully, but in part to a lack of opportunity to “blow off steam” through unstructured free time.   Eating on the go to rush from lesson to game to tutoring and decreased physical education and recess time in our schools have led to the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 American children are obese.  

 

We need to wake up. By understanding how children learn best at each stage and what is developmentally and neurologically typical, we can foster quality learning for healthy children. I know it sounds overwhelming. Here’s some easy ways to start:

 

·       Understand Development. Speak to pediatricians, early childhood specialists and educators who have specialized training in what ages children’s bodies are made to learn certain skills. Did you know that the average brain is not ready to accept literacy in the form of actual reading until 6 years of age? This is why it’s not taught in Germany until 1st grade.  Why do pre-K parents feel like a failure if their child can’t read BEFORE they go to Kindergarten? Tune out what the media, the mainstream retailers, and what the “academic preschool” is telling you. Listen to your inner voice and those who have done solid research on child development. Einstein Never Used Flashcards by Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff, Play by Murphy, and Brain Gym by Dennison are great places to start if you are interested in the stages and ways children learn specific skills.

·       Understand What Actually Will Make Your Child Smarter. Interestingly, straight IQ is not a measure of future success. Psychologists now talk about “multiple intelligences” as the best measure of true intelligence, with consideration to things like impact emotional intelligence, such as empathy, self-discipline, and interpersonal skills, in addition to analytic abilities. What impacts these? One of the highest indicators is language – especially vocabulary. No matter the age of your child, read to them. Visit the library. Let them read and write to you when they are able. Tell stories and sing to each other. Have dinner conversations.  Also, the environment your child is in matters and can affect IQ as much as 15-20 points. Your encouragement, involvement, and affection matter. 

·       Keep Expectations Real. Once you know what to expect from your child at their current age (or more importantly stage of development if they tend to show delays or have unique patterns in development) and focus on what they are able to do and enjoy doing.  Keeping appropriate expectations will allow your child (and yourself) to be less stressed and more engaged with what they are motivated to learn about. Continuing to challenge your child to learn just outside of their comfort zone will keep them engaged and eager to learn. It is equally important to embrace their given abilities. Only 1.5 out of 10 people will have an IQ over 117. In fact the large majority of people, 86%, will score between 84-116 on an IQ test. Why is “normal” no longer celebrated or embraced but seen as a weakness?

·       Know Your Child And Be An Advocate. This might be the most challenging but the most important recommendation! We all learn differently. Is your child a visual or auditory learner? Does he or she work best independently or in groups?  Is he/she a quick worker or need more time? Keep learning styles, preferences, and abilities in mind when teaching your child and choose activities and preschools that line up with what you believe is best for your child.  Communicate these observations to teachers and coaches. Yes, if you chose formal education or community sports, your child will have to play by the rules set for them, but a great educator and coach will help them do that best by knowing how they learn best.

·       Don’t Stop Playing. Ever. Fred Rogers once said, Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” If we take the opportunity to play away, we take away a child’s ability to practice all that they are learning. In today’s world, this might mean saying “No” to an activity or actually looking at your calendar and penciling in down time. Embrace it and swim up that stream. Your children will be happier and healthier because of it.  You are their best example, so remember to allow yourself to play and have downtime as well!

 

It’s not odd to wonder, “How did we even get to this place?” Before the 19th century, childhood wasn’t formally recognized. Children were viewed as miniature adults, preparing themselves for their eventual adult roles. Photographs and artwork of that period even depict them as small adults.  At the end of the 19th century child psychology was born, children were studied, and experts in the field emerged.  These experts, such as Dr. Spock, became influential as more mothers worked outside the home and wanted to make sure that in the time they had with their children, they were doing all they could for them. Today, we dress children as adults. We expect them to sit, be still, stay quiet, read, write, and score well on standardized tests before they are developmentally ready to do so, and we fault them  (and ourselves) when they can’t.  They are stimulated incorrectly mentally and stifled physically. We have turned them into miniature adults again, abandoning much of what we have learned about our children through the years. Are we ready as adults to give childhood back to our children?If we have the courage to do so, I think we’ll find we will have happier, healthier, smarter, and more engaged children.  And nothing makes a parent happier – than a happy child.

 

Nicole M. Sergent, MPT is a Pediatric Physical Therapist. Because she believes in empowering parents to understand and embrace their child’s unique development and in jumping in and engaging with them through purposeful play, she co-authored a unique tool for families of young children called 1-2-3 Just Play With Me. It is her effort to help give childhood back to children by helping parents understand development and pairing it with play. Find out more at: www.milestonesandmiracles.com

 

 

 

 

 

A Preschool Checklist in Pictures: what you want to see when picking your peanut’s preschool.

Preschool…once a privilege to a few kids is now commonplace for most.  Kids that enter kindergarten without any preschool experience are the minority these days.  Nursery school, as it was once called, was geared primarily toward affording children opportunities to play and build social skills.  Preschools today may mention play and building social skills in their description but more often stress their academic structure and extracurricular offerings such as foreign language exposure and computer skill training.  What?!?! We need to get back to the basics people!  What 3-5 year old kids need is exactly what our ancestors found to be most important:  PLAY!  Because we know that the best way for kids this age to learn is through trial and error, hands on exploration and free play, we must find preschools that stress these things and not other developmentally inappropriate skills.  A wise woman once said, “Preschool is not boot camp for kindergarten.”

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I couldn’t agree more!  Why are we expecting 3 and 4 year olds to sit for 30 minutes of tabletop structured writing activities?  Developmentally they shouldn’t be able to do this, so why are we expecting it from them?  There is a lot to be said in trusting a child’s natural developmental trajectory.  How about we don’t become overly excited when standards (set too high for their tender age) aren’t met in preschool and instead expect those skills when they are developmentally appropriate?

 

My son is blessed to attend a preschool that stresses the most important things for the preschool years:  allowing children opportunities to grow in their independence, develop a strong sense of self, and be able to use their creativity in working and learning as healthy, thinking individuals.  His school offers opportunities for true and creative play.  Reading this might worry some parents because no where in this school’s mission statement is there mention of learning to write his name, label shapes or count to 20.  Funny thing is, he has learned all of that and SO much more.  But the material is presented in a way that is fun, interesting and memorable to him; no worksheets, flashcards or repetitive writing tasks here.  He is engaged through multi-sensory activities that afford him age appropriate access to learning. Absolute perfection in the preschool world!!

 

The fabulous school I am referring to is Child’s Play, Inc.  Miss Melanie, Miss Liz and Miss Aimee are the extraordinary teachers at this school that I am forever thankful for.  Below are snapshots of what their school days look like.  I felt the learning that takes place at Child’s Play is much better expressed through Miss Melanie’s talented photography (shared on her Facebook page) than any typed checklist I could provide.  Take a look, a close look at what and how the children are learning through the fabulous experiences they are engaged in.  Keep these photos in mind as you decide, visit and attend prospective preschools with your little one.  Give childhood (and preschool-hood) back to our kids.  These years should be when they develop their love for learning, not when we are training them to be soldiers!

 

 

If you need something more to read, this article includes a GREAT checklist for parents when exploring options and visiting preschools.  Good luck in your search and may you also be as fortunate as I in finding a preschool as perfect as Child’s Play!

Toddlers Need Tweezers

Hi friends. Happy 2014.

Wishing you health & happiness in the new year. We know that our Milestones & Miracles friends KNOW that regular PLAY (for kids and adults) contributes to keeping us all happy and healthy.

So if you are planning on spending time in creative play this year – we wanted to take a moment to share a fun way to shake up regular play and to make it purposeful play with very little work/effort!

Remember toys that looked like this?

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They made us exercise our hands without even knowing it. They strengthen tiny muscles in the hand that help with handwriting, pinching, poking, pointing, sewing (so I hear?), crafting, cooking, or whatever we use our hands for in our work (hammering, typing, drawing etc.).

Toys that are more prominent in our stores today – like the one below, don’t challenge tiny hands in big ways.

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But have no fear. Just because it’s not easy to find in a store – doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek it out. Think of all the ways your child plays. How many of those activities could you add a set of plastic tweezers to? Tweezers are fun for kids (“Really Mom I can use this TOOL?”) and can add that needed fine motor attention that many toys lack.

This set can be found HERE on Amazon.

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A quick glance at our MOTOR PLAY BOARD on Pinterest, shares ideas we found through a quick search, like these.

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tweezer nut sort

tweezers play doh

tweezers bugs

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I personally love the bug option! But think beyond these examples…

Why not let your child eat snack with their tweezers?

Picking weeds with tweezers is helpful and fun!

So is sorting socks into matches (and you’ve thrown in a cognitive skill too!)

For larger items – use salad tongs – why not clean up the playroom this way?

Like these suggestions? We LOVE adding purpose to play! That’s why we filled this sweet box with detailed developmental milestones paired with purposeful play ideas that are perfectly matched for your child’s interest at each step along the way! We’d love to send you 3 years of PLAY today – visit us here!

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Have you ever used tweezers with your child? Or a child you work with? What creative ways do you like to enhance play with fine motor work with tweezers?