How to Keep REAL Communication a Priority – Tips from ASHA to manage kids’ screen time.

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This post appears HERE on the American Speech Language and Hearing Associations website.   

 

10 Tips for Managing Kids’ Tech Time

 

The average child age 8 and under in the United States uses more than three personal tech devices—such as a tablet, smartphone, or video game console—at home, according to a new poll of parents conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). With even the youngest kids now “connected” via such technology, it is important to remember to manage tech time so it doesn’t overtake time for talking with children.

 

Talking to children in their first years of life sets them up for future academic success. The easiest and most effective way that children learn is simply by talking. Studies have proven the link between the number and variety of words a child hears and later academic achievement.

 

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month—a time to prioritize communication. Here are 10 tips for parents on how to manage kids’ technology use to keep communication at the forefront.

 

  1. Create tech-free times. Find at least one or two opportunities during the day—at the dinner table, for example—for everyone to disconnect. Mealtime is a prime opportunity for conversation. Make a commitment and have everyone check their devices at the kitchen door.

 

  1. Resist overreliance on technology to pacify boredom. Fifty-five percent of parents worry that they rely on technology too much to keep their child entertained, according to the ASHA poll. Roughly half of parents say that they are using technology as a means to keep kids age 0–3 entertained. Remember that the best opportunities for conversation and learning are often found in situations that may be viewed as boring, such as while running errands or on a long car trip—particularly for the youngest children. While it may be tempting, try to resist the urge to immediately turn to these devices as a source of entertainment.

 

  1. Don’t overestimate the value of educational apps. Children learn best simply through talking, conversing, and reading. Technology is not the best way to teach, though it can reinforce and allow practice of skills under development.

 

  1. Make tech use a group activity. While it is most often used on an individual basis, tech use can be turned into a group activity, such as while playing an online game. Talk about what you’re doing!

 

  1. Consider whether young kids really need their own devices. It is not uncommon for kids to have their own tablets or mp3 players. Many are designed and marketed specifically for kids. This may lead to more time spent alone with technology throughout the day. On the other hand, devices designed for kids often offer additional features that appeal to parents, such as limited (kid-appropriate) content and extra security options, so this is a balance for parents to consider.

 

  1. Set daily time limits. Certain devices can be programmed by parents to shut off after a certain amount of time, but you can also make a child aware of the time limit and keep track yourself.

 

  1. Be consistent in enforcing the parameters you set for tech use. ASHA’s poll found a majority of parents report setting limitations on their children’s tech use. However, the reality of their children’s tech use often doesn’t line up with the set restrictions, by parents’ own accounts. Moreover, adherence often seems to break down at ages 7 or 8 despite the rules parents say they set.

 

  1. Always practice safe listening, especially when using ear buds or headphones. Misuse of this technology can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. Even minor hearing loss takes a significant toll academically, socially, vocationally, and in other ways, so prevent the preventable. Teach kids to keep the volume down (a good guide is half volume) and take listening breaks.

 

  1. Model the tech habits you want your kids to adopt. Practice what you preach when it comes to tech time and safe-listening habits.

 

  1. Learn the signs of communication disorders. This is important for all parents, regardless of their children’s technology use. Early treatment can prevent or reverse many communication disorders. Parents should not wait to see if a child “outgrows” a suspected speech or hearing problem. If you have any question about your child’s speech or hearing, seek an assessment from a speech-language pathologist or audiologist. Learn more at http://Ideorg.

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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“NO” and “YES”: How to Teach 2 of the Most Powerful Words to Your Toddler(s)

When your toddler begins answering yes/no questions (accurately) sometime between 19-24 months of age it’s like the floodgates of communication open. Especially so if you aren’t getting much other verbal communication from them up until this point. These 2 small words hold much power for your toddler, they finally have a “voice” (or a head nod) that helps them express themselves.  In most any situation a yes/no question can be asked to figure out what your child wants/or what they are upset about to squash the inevitable tantrum. So how can you get your child to understand and express “yes” and “no” sooner? Here’s a few tips I’ve gathered along the way as an SLP and mommy:

 

Read books that prompt your child to answer “yes” or “no”.

Some of my favorite baby/toddler books are series by Karen Katz, Leslie Patricelli and Usborne Touchy-Feely Books. These books are interesting, interactive and fun for young readers. And you can heighten their interest in the book by over-exaggerating your yes/no response and prompting them to imitate you.

 

 

Ask silly yes/no questions for your child to answer.

Grab some real objects, a stuffed bear, a wooden spoon, a toothbrush and begin asking your child if the object is what it is. For example to work on “yes” you would hold up the wooden spoon and ask, “Is this a wooden spoon?” Or to work on answering “no” hold up the wooden spoon and ask, “Is this a ball?” And let the fun and silliness ensue!!

 

Model saying “yes” and “no” and nodding your head.

If you child isn’t ready to say the words “yes” and “no” yet, chances are they still understand what you are asking. So you may need to model saying the word and nodding your head for them to imitate. Sometimes physical prompts are needed to help with shaking their head “no” and“yes.”  And you typically will get a whole body shake for a head nod as it is difficult at this age to move the head independently from the rest of the body. Enjoy it and video it…it’s so cute!

 

Lastly answering yes/no questions is one of the many developmental milestones we highlight in 1-2-3 Just Play With Me. Here is what we have to say about toddlers who ALWAYS answer “no”:

 

“Your child may answer “no” to all yes/no questions, even when he really means “yes.” Don’t worry. This is very typical. To help your child understand the difference and respond appropriately, encourage him to shake his head and repeat “yes” when you know the answer is “yes.”

 

Childhood milestones are a MIRACLE. Answering yes/no questions is just one of those miraculous milestones. Nicole and I enjoy watching this miracle occur in our own children and our therapy “kids”. 1-2-3 Just Play With Me can help you appreciate the miracle of your child by helping you know what to expect next in each stage of development and provide you with ways to help your child grow, learn and PLAY!

Avoiding The Container Shuffle – Our guest blog post from Starfish Therapies

We were super excited to share over at Starfish Therapies last week about something that we are very passionate about! To see the entire original blog post – Avoiding the Container Shuffle – click Here! Thanks Starfish for the opportunity!

 

Guest post by: Nicole M Sergent, MPT

As a new parent, I was there. Giddy excitement over the news of a baby on the way followed by showering love from family and friends in the form of gift, and gifts, and more gifts. At the time I was touched (and am still forever grateful for their generosity) but shortly after the baby came I quickly fell into a routine many new moms do. As a physical therapist, I like to call it, “the container shuffle.”

“The container shuffle” goes something like this. Sleep (crib), eat (highchair), play (exercsaucer), calm down (bouncer seat), sleep (crib), eat (highchair), play (positioning seat), calm down (swing) etc. As a mother, I related to the thoughts many of my patients’ parents have. Everyone buys us all this stuff…and baby likes them and is happy…so why not use them? As a therapist, I’d like to tell you why.

I can’t tell you how many children I have assessed with general motor delays without significant medical histories or orthopedic or neurologic impairments. These babies are very stable in an upright static position. They often even sit really well, without ever rolling, crawling, creeping, kneeling, or standing. After I have carefully assessed to make sure, nothing more significant is going on, I’ll delicately share my diagnosis: CONTAINER SYNDROME.

I realize it is not rocket science but think of it this way. When a baby plays on the floor, he/she has the ability to wiggle, squirm, and move. Each tiny movement that may seem insignificant is actually exercise. They are beautiful diagonally directed movements. And they are needed. Because our moving transitions from one position to another (floor to sit, sit to stand), require that motion. How can we expect a baby to be able to move and explore if we always have them strapped in a container? Research tells us that babies who spend less time on their tummies on the floor, have delayed motor skills in the first year of life.

In addition to the ability to practice motor coordination, allowing a child to play outside of a “container,” has additional benefits. Play on a baby’s tummy, aids in digestion, assists with hand eye coordination, and promotes typical skeletal development. The hips have the ability to develop into a more stable, mature position and the skull, free from pressure from resting against a surface, has freedom to develop typically. Did you know that 20% of all infants now have plagiocephaly (flattened appearance of the head/face)? While free play time may not prevent all of those cases, I believe the increase in “container syndrome,” plays a significant role.

I once attended a continuing education lecture, where the OT speaking suggested that infants should spend 80% of waking hours on the floor. As a therapist, I could see the benefit of this time well spent. As a mother, I felt myself slumping with guilt. My daughters did not spend that much time on their tummies, especially my youngest that had severe acid reflux. A practical balance must exist for families. And while I realize “containers” are helpful with a fussy baby and so that one can actually shower, I recommend promoting floor time throughout the day. I tell the parents of my patients, “If you find yourself going to put your baby down, choose the floor or pack-n-lay first.”

Many of those children I have evaluated that had delays with mobility and transition skills that I felt came from “container syndrome,” ended up catching up to typically expected gross motor milestones in just a few short weeks by allowing more free play time on the floor. It can be argued that it is not rocket science. My mother (and yours) might argue it is common sense and “what we did with you.” But in a commercialized world where more = better, maybe we do need a dash of common sense to help keep our infants happy and healthy as they develop and grow.

Nicole M. Sergent, MPT is a pediatric physical therapist and co-owner of Milestones & Miracles, LLC. She co-authored a unique developmental tool for therapists and parents that pairs detailed development with interactive play skills, called 1-2-3 Just Play With Me. It is available in digital and print and can be found at www.milestonesandmiracles.com, Amazon.com, and select retailers. Follow Milestones and Miracles online for developmental support & fun!

The Magical Powers of the Paci and How to Use it Responsibly; recommendations (and a confession) from a mommy speech-language pathologist

Hi. My name is Lacy Morise. I am a mommy speech-language pathologist. And I gave all 3 of my babies the pacifier.

 

There I said it. I confess. I am now washed of all the guilt I have experienced over the past 8 years concerning my submission to the power of the pacifier. As an SLP I’m “supposed” to discourage its use, be an example to other parents, stand strong against the staunch arguments in its favor: it’s a great mute button, it makes long car rides tolerable and it helps your baby sleep through the night. But I had a weak moment…

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or two…

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or three.

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When my first was born I had some pacifiers waiting in the wings but didn’t jump to give them to her while at the hospital. It wasn’t until her first visit with the pediatrician when he gave me his approval for it’s use that I decided to go ahead and give it to her. After all if my pediatrician, father to 3, had given it to his kids and all was okay, then that was the green light for me…right? Much to my relief (resulting in great guilt) she loved it! As did her brother 2 ½ years later and her younger sister 6 years later! However, despite all 3 of my babies using the pacifier, I did have some rules in place. I used their pacifiers cautiously; limiting its use to nap and bedtime past 9 months of age and taking it away completely by 15 months. I was shocked when at my youngest child’s 1-year well child visit the pediatrician said to go ahead and take the binky away at 12 months….really?! Isn’t it a little too soon? Actually, NO.

 

Most SLPs, pediatricians and pediatric dentists recommend taking the pacifier away at or before 12 months of age. Why so soon?

 

The pacifier is a great thing for infants. It allows them a way to comfort themselves, and reduces the risk of SIDS as it prevents that baby from falling into a deep sleep, which is when SIDS occurs. Not to mention the other fringe benefits I mentioned above, like quieting a rowdy babe, helping them sleep longer and making outings and car rides more enjoyable for all.

 

But the pacifier also has risks involved. Sucking on a pacifier past the age of 1 puts children at (a higher) risk for misaligned teeth. As those tiny white pearls are erupting, the pressure of the nipple of the pacifier can cause teeth to move around and shift. Also, the pressure can cause their hard palate, the roof of their mouth directly behind the front teeth, to change. It can push the palate forward, again changing the position of the teeth. These changes will mostly self-correct by the age of 2, but past the age of 2 the child is at an increased risk for these changes to become permanent. The pacifier can also contribute to delayed speech and language skills. If the pacifier is ALWAYS in the mouth, the child may (attempt to) talk less. And if the changes in the mouth and teeth occur, intelligibility of speech may be reduced.

 

Besides the physical risks, beyond the age of 1 a stronger emotional attachment to the pacifier makes it increasingly difficult for the child to detach. The pacifier goes from meeting a physiological need during infancy to providing emotional comfort to the toddler when scared, upset or sleepy.  This is why I pushed my children to become attached to a blanket or stuffed animal along with their pacifier so when I took the pacifier away they still had an item that provided them comfort.

 

Ahhhh, the pacifier, its benefits and risks are many. It certainly is a double-edged sword!

 

So what do you need to remember moving forward, bravely in our pacifier-approving,pushing world?

 

  1. Don’t feel guilty about using a pacifier with your baby. It certainly has it perks, and we all want a happy, content baby. Just be cautious and keep reminding yourself you (and your baby) need to “give” it up by baby’s 1st birthday.

 

  1. What pacifier you choose matters. There are so many on the shelves today, choosing the best for your peanut can be overwhelming. Don’t be lured in by the flashy, cute ones…they’re not always the best. Choose a pacifier with a wider, flatter nipple. And don’t buy into the age progression of pacifiers. I believe it’s more of a money making scheme than a necessity. Sure, it makes sense; just as our baby grows, we buy them bigger clothes, so shouldn’t they need a bigger pacifier as their mouth grows? The real answer is NO! It’s actually better for baby’s pacifier to be smaller in their mouth, providing less pressure to the roof of their mouth and teeth, in turn causing less damage. So if your little one clings to the newborn sized pacifier and doesn’t want to change, that’s perfectly fine! Saves you money now and quite possibly later, avoiding an orthodontic bill down the road!!

 

  1. When it comes time to wean baby from the pacifier consider what works best for you and your babe. Going cold turkey works for some, but beware if baby continues to want to suck bad enough, he/she may find something else to suck on like their thumb. Which is considered worse because how are you ever going to take their thumb away??!! Personal and professional experience have lead me to have little faith in approaches that shame or try and convince the child to give up the pacifier on their own. Giving it to the new baby may cause jealously, bribing the child to leave the binky on the Christmas tree for Santa in exchange for presents may not be present enough. And certainly convincing the child that in order to be a “big” girl/boy means they need to willingly give up their most prized possession is just, well, shameful of the adult. Kids at this young age really could care less about being “big” and I don’t blame them. I think what works best is making the transition exactly that…a transition. I recommend the Lily Method. A system created by Dr. Alene D’Alesio, a board certified pediatric dentist and mother of 4 beautiful girls. Dr. D’Alesio never recommends the old method of cutting the nipple of the pacifier to her patients for concern of the pacifier becoming a choking hazard. When weaning her first daughter off the pacifier 5 years ago, she realized that there was nothing out there for parents to help with this transition. This is what inspired and motivated Dr. D’Alesio to create a method to help kids gradually lose interest in sucking on the pacifier. Her system includes 5 pacifiers that gradually change in shape giving the child less satisfaction from sucking, subsequently causing them to lose interest in the pacifier. Beautiful! Finally a way for your child to “give up” the pacifier with less tears and sleepless nights! Check out the Lily Method HERE, www.lilymethod.com.
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So folks, no need to feel guilty about succumbing to the powers of the paci.  It certainly can be “heaven sent” to help your baby adjust to their new world.  Armed with the knowledge of how to use the pacifier wisely and with limitations, you now can face this stage in baby’s life with confidence!

The Question Most ALL Parents Have Had to Answer

IS HE READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?

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It’s a well-intentioned question, rhetorical in a sense because most, if not all, people are expecting you to respond, “Yes!” But what if you answered, “No”? Well, I have and I can tell you it’s not what people expect you to say!

 

My son begins kindergarten in a short 6 weeks. This spring as he finished up preschool several acquaintances asked me the above question. If I didn’t have much time to answer or felt they were just asking to be polite, not really interested in my response, I gave them what they wanted to hear, “Yes, I think he’s ready.” For those that asked with genuine concern in their voice, I answered honestly by saying, “I’m not sure.” Their puzzled expressions begged me to explain myself.

 

Why am I not sure? It’s not that he doesn’t appear prepared or that I don’t think he will be successful. It’s just that I’m not sure he’s “ready” per the kindergarten readiness checklist of most people. Does he know all his letters and their sounds? I don’t know. Is he able to write his first and last names, count to 30 and recognize some sight words? I don’t know. Can he sit for extended periods of times, undistracted enough to complete a structured, academic activity? I don’t know.

 

My son attended 3 preschools between the ages of 2 and 5. The first was very academically structured, the second very traditional and the last (and my most favorite, read why here) teaches children how to think, not what to think. Upon his graduation from preschool, he has matured in ways I didn’t think possible a year ago. I consider his growth and maturation over the past three years as preparedness for kindergarten but by most school systems standards that’s not what constitutes a child being “ready”.

 

I had a very short but impactful conversation with Lisa Murphy, The Ooey Gooey Lady, about my son entering kindergarten. I explained to her I didn’t think he was ready because he couldn’t do X, Y and Z. She looked at me and said, “Well, he shouldn’t. He’s only 4.” She went on to explain that sometimes we just have to trust the natural trajectory of development. Instead of pushing unrealistic expectations on preschoolers, expecting them to perform, act, think and behave like kindergarteners let’s expect of them what’s developmentally appropriate for their age. And trust that when the time is right, when they are developmentally ready, then they will be where they need to be…not too soon, not too late, but just on time.

 

I had that conversation with Lisa in February of 2013. O turned 5 that spring and my husband and I decided we would wait a year on kindergarten and give him one more year of preschool. That decision was quite possibly the best decision we have made for him (aside from our decision to go FEINGOLD)! But I was careful in my decision. Because of my work and research on play and developmentally appropriate age expectations, I didn’t want to send him to preschool 5 mornings a week so that he could get “ready” for kindergarten. He continued attending only 3 mornings a week. After all, if I was giving him another year at home, I didn’t want it to be boot camp for kindergarten; I wanted him to enjoy it and I wanted to enjoy more time with him! And we had a wonderful year! He happily attended school, loved being there, learning and exploring. He also enjoyed his down time at home just playing, just being a 5 year old. I’m so thankful I was able to give that to him.

 

So when people really want me to answer their question, when they have a minute to spare and appear genuinely interested in my answer, I tell them I’m not sure he’s ready by most other people’s standards, but I know he’s going to be okay and figure it out. I trust that when the time comes, when he hops on that bus and waves bye to me, I will be smiling trusting my decisions and the miracle of development that is him. He will be okay and when he needs me, I’ll be here to catch, encourage and support him like I always have been. It’s just another time in his life when he’s going to have to use his SUPERPOWERS to succeed without me.

 

So if you see me and ask me that age-old question, “Is he ready for kindergarten?” Just be prepared to hear my answer… and it may take a while! J

 

 

IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THANK A TEACHER! creative ideas to celebrate some important people

The end of the school year is an exciting time full of anticipation and summer dreamin’!  But it can also be a bit overwhelming:  the parties, field days, field trips, testing, book fairs, carnivals etc.  But one thing that adds to the crazy end-of-the-school-year rush that I love is Staff and Teacher Appreciation Week!  My kids are blessed to attend schools that have, what I believe to be, some of the best people working with them.  Most are overworked and underpaid (that’s a discussion for another time!) but all have an evident love of children hence why they do what they do!

This year I headed up the Staff Appreciation Committee on our PTO.  It was a great job!  Who wouldn’t want to spread the love all year long?!  I knew I wanted this week long celebration of the staff and teachers to be something special; something creative, different and inspiring that involved the students along with their families.  So I did what any PTO mom these days would do…I started “Pinteresting” (is that a word?  If not, it should be!).  And as always, “she” (my friend Pinterest) didn’t disappoint!

Our week was an UP theme.  Each day was given a cute UP saying that inspired the activities of the day.  I figured pictures would do the week more justice than just me writing.  So I have included one from each day and you can view the rest on our Pinterest board here.  I also must say that I didn’t come up with this on my own…I was inspired by (and am extremely thankful for) the creativity over at Raising Lemons.  Her UP themed week can be found here:  http://www.raisinglemons.com/holidays/teacher-appreciation-week-2/.  I tweaked her ideas to better suit our schools’ needs and budget.  But was so thankful to have found and have been inspired by her!

 

To kick off the week a group gathered Sunday night to decorate the sidewalks around the school.  We also posted a bulletin board to remind kids and staff/teachers of the week’s upcoming activities.  Prior to I sent home a letter to the families and gave a note to all the staff and teachers to let them know what to expect each day.

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Monday….FUEL UP DAY – Kids were encouraged to dress up in exercise/PE clothes and to bring in a healthy snack to help their teacher FUEL UP!  The PTO also provided some healthy snacks in the staff lounge for them to snack on along with a granola bar in their mailboxes with a sticker that read “Thanks for FUELING our kids UP with knowledge!”


FUEL UP

 

Tuesday…WAKE UP DAY – Kids wore their pajamas this day and the staff and teachers were treated to a breakfast cart that stopped by their offices and rooms that morning.  Kids filled out “rays” noting their favorite thing about their teacher, or just simply saying thank you.

teacher suns

 

Wednesday…GIDDY UP DAY – Kids dressed like cowboys and cowgirls this day and “rounded up” school supplies for their teachers.  The PTO offered a BBQ themed lunch with donated salad and breadsticks from Olive Garden.

Boxes

 

Thursday…SURF’S UP DAY – Kids wore beach wear and staff and teachers were treated to an ice cream bar from the PTO.  The staff and teachers also received a flower lei in their mailboxes to get them in the SURF’S UP mood!

Surfs

 

Friday…DRESS UP DAY – Kids dressed in their best this day to show respect for our awesome staff and teachers.  The PTO provided vases to each of the teachers and kids were invited to bring in a flower of any kind (real, artificial, paper, etc.) to their teacher.  The staff and teachers were treated to a dessert bar at lunch complete with 7-UP served in plastic champagne glasses (because everything is fancier in champagne glasses)!  We also had magnets made up of the “7-UPs of Working With Children” to pass out to the staff and teachers.

fancy

 

It was an awesomely exhausting week worth every ounce of effort put into it.  The thanks my team received made us sure the staff and teachers were soaking up all the LOVE we were sending their way.  I was in a post Staff/Teacher Appreciation week fog for a few days following the last festivity…but I’m happy to say, I have fully recovered and am already planning for next year 😉  And below is a sneak peak at the end of the year gift that will be gracing staff and teacher mailboxes tomorrow.  ORANGE you glad it’s almost summer???!!!

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When Duck Duck Goose Is More Than A Game. My Recess Observations.

I can see the finish line. It is almost here. The last day of school – which means.. in our house we are midway through the last week of school…which means early June is the new late December.  I’m exhausted. If you have school aged kids, I know you feel me. If you have a baby or a soon to be baby, tuck this pearl of wisdom away for a later date – getting much done during the last week of school is quite the challenge. I’ll sum it up for you this way…Field Day x2, Multicultural Day (including my 84 year old awesome grandmother), teacher treats and cards, packing extra snacks, and towels, and sunscreen for outdoor fun, and managing lots of pieces of paper because one of our family’s feet are still in “school mode” and one in “summer mode.”  The straddle between the two seasons results in schedule adjustments for school, church, childcare, sports etc. Nap anyone?

With the end of the year festivities, I have spent quiet a few hours in the trenches with Kindergarten – 4th grade children this week (BLESS YOU dear teachers!). Volunteering at 2 recess periods and 2 field days has given me a unique look into what the average child’s play looks like after they leave my familiar world of infancy and toddlerhood.

My heart has been a bit broken by what I’ve observed. I have to say, it is one thing to talk to anyone who will listen until we are blue in the face about how play is changing and how the changes are affecting kids. It’s another thing to observe it.  Let me first be clear in saying I’m not talking about ALL kids, but about a startling trend I noticed. Ready for it? Kids don’t know how to play! Seems impossible, right? I mean, PLAY and CHILDREN go together like peanut butter and jelly. But I saw it with my own eyes.

Example #1: Kindergarten recess. Once every 30 seconds an adorable cutie patootie would walk, dragging their feet behind them towards me complaining of various ailments.

My back hurts.

My stomach hurts.

My finger hurts.

My nose hurts.

I hit my head.

He pushed me and I’m bleeding (no blood noticed).

I hit my chin. On the water fountain. Yesterday.

Recess is about 25 minutes. I bet I heard a similar complaint from at least 40 kids (some kids 2-3 times). All wanted to go to the nurse. So I went with one of them to observe because surely she must be handing out full candy bars. But no! She was not. Just a bandaid (if needed – which was only 1 kid) and occasionally some ice. I’d take them back to the playground and resume my people watching (or in this case kid watching) post, and would notice. They did nothing when they returned. No engaging with friends. No running. No hide and seek. No tag. No “playing house.” I wanted to scream, “Here Ye, Little people, 40% of our schools don’t give kids this beautiful opportunity you have in front of you. 25 minutes! With sunshine! And friends! And a fabulous playground! And balls! And jump ropes! And green grass! And YOUR CHOICE to do WHATEVER YOU WANT! GO PLAY!”

Next example Field Day. 2 different schools. Similar concept. Classes rotate between stations of games and activities. For Field Day #1,  I was leading a super fun game called “Drip, Drip, Splash,” a gloriously fun version of Duck, Duck, Goose, where the “it” person drips a full sponge on their classmates heads until they choose someone to drench with the water.  All was good until some one was drenched and then they didn’t know what to do. “Run!” we 30-40 year old adults yelled. “Where?” They questioned. Really? I’d say ~40% did not know how to play Duck, Duck, Goose.

Field Day #2. Similar situation with the game being a relay race. Otherwise known as “huh?” to 2nd and 3rd graders. We literally had to walk through the steps of tagging the next person in line and explaining that one line was racing another. At one point I looked at a teacher with exasperation and said, “they don’t know relay races.” She responded, “they don’t know how to play WITH EACH OTHER. They know how to play video games. And so when we put them on the playground, they often try to act out their video games, which often results in them getting in trouble for being violent. Or just standing around unsure of what to do.”

Free Play is a child’s opportunity to make their own decisions, create the rules, set the limits, and express themselves. It provides practice for personal communication, negotiation, compromise, and conflict resolution. It is the only opportunity that many of our overly scheduled children have to release pent up emotions and to regulate their sensory systems. It keeps their bodies fit and builds bone density. It is the best teacher of incidental learning. Simply put – it really is the JOB of children. Yes, PLAYING prepares little people to one day become big people.

Some of our little people aren’t prepared to do their job. The consequences are far greater than not knowing a familiar game or activity.   They can be life changing.

Want to do something wonderful as a parent with your child this summer? Teach them to play. Model games. Encourage choices. Go outside..with them..but encourage them in leading and decision making. You don’t have to spend all day outside being some sort of magical camp counselor. But choose a few of your favorite childhood games and activities and share with them..because you are sharing more than that game..you are sharing the ability to learn and develop in the most appropriate way possible.

We’ll get you started! My daughter’s gym teacher did such a wonderful job with fun outdoor games – many of them water related – that I took the list home with me to save for the “I’m bored” complaints I know I’ll soon hear (Thank you Mrs. Beard). I may even take the list to the beach with us.  Regardless of your child’s age, you can adapt these to include hours of fun and learning! Enjoy! Now “GO PLAY!”

Ice Cube Melt: Done as a relay race. Children are divided into two teams. First person grabs and ice cube from a bucket and rubs it between his/her hands until it melts or they can’t stand it any more and they choose to pass to the next friend in line. If the ice cube is dropped – the team starts over. First team to go through all members wins!

Over, Under, Over, Under: Another relay race with two teams. First person in each line grabs a wet sponge from the bucket and children alternate passing the sponge over their head and under their legs to the person behind them until it gets to the end of the line. Last person in line then heads to the front and starts again. First team to have each child finish a turn wins!

 

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over under

Beach Ball Drop: Relay again! This time children place a small beach ball between their knees and waddle across the yard to drop it in a box. They then pick it up and run back to hand to the next friend in line. First team done wins!

 

Noodle War: Think fencing with a big pool noodle. Children can only tap feet and legs and the first person to hit the other person’s foot is the winner!

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Land or Sea: A relay race where a child must pick a water balloon from a bucket and run across the yard and sit on it in a chair until it pops! They then run back to the line to tag the next child. The first team to finish wins!

Catch the Fish: One child turns around backwards and throws water balloon “fish” over their head while their partner catches them in a small fishing net. Could be done as a relay or as a contest to count which partner team catches the most fish!

SOS Relay: Relay race where students take turns running with a cup to a bucket across the yard and filling the cup with water. The child then holds the cup (which can have small holes in it!) over their head and runs back to the starting point to dump the water into the bucket.  Each child has a turn until one team fills up their bucket and is declared the winner!

Bait the Fish: Relay Race where children scoop a golf ball from a pool and balance it on a spoon while walking/running to a turn around point and dropping it back into the pool when returning. First team to have everyone complete a turn wins! If the “fish” drops, the player must start over.

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Drip, Drip, Splash: See explanation above. Just like Duck Duck Goose but with a dripping sponge over each head until the person chosen to be “it” is drenched!

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Ahoy Matey: Can be done as a relay or with partners. One person sits in a chair with a 2 Liter bottle on their head. The other runs with a soaked sponge and wrings it out over the bottle (getting some water into the bottle and alot of water on their partner’s head!). Players then switch positions. Game will continue until one bottle is filled!

Beach Ball Carry – Children partner and play a relay race “carrying” a ball across the yard and back using anything BUT their hands.

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What was your favorite childhood game? What did you learn from playing it?

Believe play is THE best way to learn from the very start? Get your copy of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me today!

 

My Mother’s Day Creed

Almost ten years ago when I became a mother, I was full of joy, and hope, and gratefulness, and yes insecurity.

Like many times in our lives when we feel insecure, we often feel a false sense of assuredness by the concept of “power in numbers.” The thought that “if lots of others also do it, believe it, sign up…it must be a good choice.”

It’s no wonder we feel this way. It is what we are subliminally taught. Hurry! Choose! Join!

For example:

The United States has 72 million registered Democrats, 55 million Republicans, and 42 million independents.

50 million Americans love the Pittsburgh Steelers (lots of smart people).

273,968 people want Justin Bieber deported.

All the cool kids are doing it. Numbers are used to persuade us.

This belief comes up throughout our life in an attempt to make us feel better.

Whether it is our elementary school self persuading others to play what we want to play or our high school self desperately trying to find confidence in all the wrong ways through the peer pressured choices we make, it happens. My New Mom Self was no exception. I’m sure many of the decisions I made (or didn’t make), I self evaluated by what my peers were doing and measured by choices by someone else’s ruler at times…. (side note: that never really works does it?)

I find that often times mothers fall into this same trap. When you think about it, we have infinite parenting decisions to make and big, huge, uncountable responsibilities, particularly when you think broadly of the overall “job” of raising a human or humans! (YIKES).

I’ve thought a lot this year about not only how my kids have matured (still a long way to go), but also have I have matured (again – still a long way to go) as a mother. In my LETTER TO MY NEW MOM SELF I shared what I wish I knew then. But in honor of Mother’s Day this year, I’d like to share what I know for sure right now. WHY?

Here’s the thing. We all have beliefs. And boy can we get passionate about them. Whole food, raw food, meatless, meat only, dairy, almond, soy, or coconut milk. Public or private school. Homeschool. Unschool. Bottle or breast or both. Attachment, Authoritarian, or Permissive parenting. How to celebrate (or not celebrate) holidays. How to discipline. How to potty train. How to put to bed. The list goes on and on…and on and on.  To be honest, sometimes I find it difficult to hear my own voice because there are so many venues for everyone to shout their voices from (By the way – I realize this blog could be one of them – but just wait!).

We, as Mother’s, could:

1) Choose to judge each other for our choices and we could choose to boost our own confidence by trying to persuade others to “join our team.”  We could fall back into that playground setting and give in to that little voice that gets us at times (no matter what age we are). We could doubt ourselves and judge others and self criticize in that doubt.

OR,

2) We could respect each others choices (choose away and as long as your kids are safe – fine with me because they in fact, are YOUR kids) and spend our time and energy following our own MOMMY CREED. Why a creed? A creed is a set of beliefs or aims that guide someone’s actions. Sometimes parents need a creed. A written or spoken reminder of why we are doing what we are doing. Because in all honesty, sometimes it’s so crazy around here that I can’t remember why I came into the room, so when looking at my “whole wide vision for Motherhood,” a magnifying glass could be helpful.

A MOMMY CREED to me, means that SOMEONE whose actions will be guided is me and the creed I follow in between the walls of this house needs no one approval or endorsement except the 4 of us. I don’t say that to sound harsh. In contrast, I’m a person that relies on my family and friends to keep me honest and true to my core beliefs, so I certainly welcome their voices, but I’ve matured to know that if the 4 of us are following our creed, it works. We work. I need other’s support for my decisions, but not 273,968 people saying “breast is best” or “Yes, you were too hard on her.”

I tend to pay more attention, when I write things down (a benefit of this blog!). So I decided as an exercise for Mother’s Day, I’d write my Mommy Creed to my children. Will you join me and write yours? I promise it is not as scary as it sounds!

Here goes nothing (or everything depending on how you view it!)

I believe being your Mom is the greatest blessing of my life but it is hard none the less. I believe that I get through it with God, My Mommy Posse, and my actually family (blood related and others) as well as our church family. I believe we always belong to each other and that my belonging to those wonderful people, make me a better Mom. I believe it takes a village to raise you and those people are our village, and I am thankful for their extra eyes (to watch you), ears (to hear you), mouths (to give you sound advice from someone other than your mother), and hearts (to love you – because you can never have too many people that love you). These people being in “our business” is good for business as far as I’m concerned.

I believe working part time (or at least telling myself it is part time since I have a few flexible jobs) is the best option for me. Notice I don’t say perfect. I said best. I am thankful for the opportunities I have to fulfill myself and serve others through work and to still be there for you (albeit scattered) for things that matter to you. I am, however, realistic that I never really feel like I can do anything 100%. Some days this feeling is acceptable. Others it is not. Best is always pleasing because perfect isn’t real when it comes to this for me. I pray this effort (futile as it may look some days) provides you with an example to be anything you want one day – no matter what that looks like for you.

I believe in the concept that we are a team. We all work. We all play. We all win. We need you for us to succeed – so get on board!

I believe that you must know that there is a big world out there other than you. I believe in serving together as a way to not only help others but to help you (and me) to grow and become more aware of that world. I believe traveling does this too (plus it is one of my favorite things to do – so that helps). I believe that if you don’t like something in this world – change it. Don’t complain. The world has enough complainers but not enough changers. Stand out and do good things.

I believe you must have manners, respect for other but especially adults, kindness, and empathy, and that you might be born with more or less of some of that than others, but we can all gain more through hard work and relationships with others. I believe if you leave our house without that – I will have failed you.

I believe that I am responsible for teaching you much about this crazy life, but at the same time I will be grateful for the rest of my life, for the hardworking teachers who influence, inspire, and challenge you to be your best self. I believe their dedication will help you go much farther than my limitted patience at homework time ever will. I believe we both need to thank them frequently.

I believe that your best will ALWAYS BE good enough for me. Your learning from being challenged, is more important than any grade or test score. I believe one of my biggest jobs is to recognize signs of you being over stressed. Understand me that this is different than challenged or pushed outside of your comfort zone (because I believe that is GOOD), but I believe it’s my job to know when you are pushed too far and that if so, I believe I can remedy the situation with sending you outside to climb a tree, hugging you until you stay stop (and then waiting 3 more minutes), or taking a nap with you. I believe that being overtired or over hungry sometimes makes small worries grow.

I believed we all fail and that admitting my many mistakes in front of you (and asking YOU to forgive ME when necessary) is an important example of grace in action. I believe in hearing your side, but that sometimes “because I said so and I’m the Mom and know what is best for you,” really is the answer you will get and need to accept. I believe one day you’ll “get” that.

I believe that 1-3 sit down family meals a week is better than none and tremendously important to your physical and social growth. I believe you should eat what I cook, but if you don’t like it, I believe you can make what you want as long as you hit all the foods groups and clean up your own mess – I’m cool with that.

I believe in a balance of eating well, sleeping enough, playing, working, and resting and that when we do too much of one or more, our whole team gets out of whack. I believe in trying again tomorrow and that the sun will always come out (eventually).

I believe that my decisions regarding your safety, future, learning, and affection all matter, but I also believe that my overanalyzing them or over criticizing them will cause you (and me) more harm than any one of them could.

I believe that you somehow need to see the ocean and a live musical performance once a year because both make souls smile.

I believe playing with blocks will make you smarter than I was at math so you should do that. I believe that you should play with “baby toys” and in “baby games” like making up shows, playing with dolls, and teaching school to your stuffed animals longer than your friends will tell you it is cool. I believe staying “little” as long as you want is just fine with me. I believe that it is acceptable to carry you into your bed or rock you to sleep whenever you ask me to, no matter your age.

I believe I can tell you you are smart, beautiful, loved, worthy, and capable of all you dream and you can gain confidence in many ways through hard work and through successes but even more from failures, yet no one can help you understand your right to be respected more than your Daddy can.

I believe it is an honor to be the mother to two beautiful, smart, and above all caring daughters. You are not perfect children and you came from an imperfect mother. But together, with Daddy, we are what we are meant to be together, and that gives me intense joy…a joy I pray you will one day be blessed to experience.

I believe that you need to know that even as I scream for you to PICK THAT WET TOWEL OFF MY BED every single solitary night, I prayed for years for your existence, and that despite my screaming or loss of patience, I am acutely aware that getting to be your mom is a privilege. So feel loved and appreciated. And then go pick up your towel. Now.
There it is. My creed. Just like the ones we recite in church, it is a set of beliefs I ASPIRE to. It doesn’t mean, I succeed every time – even daily, but I do know that putting it out there helps me focus on what matters. Maybe I need to recite it out loud! Mothers may not agree on all our decisions, but I know we can all agree that focusing on what is important to us and our people matters. Let’s spend this Mother’s Day doing that – and living confidently in the decisions we make for our families. One of the ultimate Momas said it best herself. And I think the intent is to include ourselves as well.

Mothers day creed

 

So go for it. Spend some time this week writing your creed. Gift yourself and your family with the joy of taking the focus off what social media tells you being a Mom needs to look like, and turn that focus into what it actually looks like (or aspires to look like) between your own walls.

To those of you waking up every day and trying again at the most challenging job around – our hats off to you! Our solidarity and love to you! Our prayers you get a nap or a massage this week are with you! (If you need a list to “accidentally” post or leave with some gift ideas – here you go!) Honor yourself this week. Write your creed and live it! And remember there is not ALWAYS strength (or smart choices) in numbers. Just think of of how many people used to tease their bangs.

 

Are you celebrating one of your 1st Mother’s Days? Know someone who is? 1-2-3 Just Play With Me makes THE perfect & unique gift! Order yours for Mother’s Day today and we’ll happily ship for free with a gift card!