Kid’s Books Part I: Books for Babies

Board book about animals

Board book about animals

Yes, reading to babies is highly recommended. Babies are acutely aware of language and communication at a very early age. As mentioned in an earlier post, and illustrated by a graph, a baby’s brain is extremely receptive to all kinds of stimulus even prior to birth.

The types of books for a very young baby is different than the types for toddlers and for pre-school children. A 0 – 6 month-old child can be kept entertained with simple books with pictures. By introducing books on different subject areas, you will get your child actively interested in the use of books. They will become aware of books as a source of entertainment and diversion. Such stimulation will encourage your child to enjoy books as he gets older. Early exposure will greatly increase your child’s vocabulary, literacy, interest in learning and ultimately success in life.

As you share one of these simple books with your child, you are talking to her. You are showing her pictures in the book and talking about the pictures. A parent talking to his child about the first book illustrated above might go as follows:Book with texture

Book with texture

“Ooh, look, it’s a cow. Look it’s all black and white. A cow says ‘moooooo’.”

In such a simple statement, the parent has already introduced the word ‘cow’, the colors ‘black’ and ‘white’ and the sound the cow makes. Many repetitions of this each time the book is shared will remain in the baby’s memory. The baby will begin to make many associations to the words used.

The second book pictured here will add a further dimension to a baby’s understanding because it provides textures. Again these can be talked about with the child and the child will make new associations.

The third type of book illustrated in this article can introduce more abstract concepts to a baby. The concept of ‘happy’, or ‘sad’, and other emotions can be introduced with such a book.

Daily sharing of books with your Babies love looking at other babies.

Babies love looking at other babies.

baby will ensure that she has developed a good vocabulary and strong understanding of many ideas long before she has acquired the physical capacity of speak. Ultimately she will be speaking well before a child who has not received this type of stimulation.

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Stimulating Your Toddler’s Brain

Stimulating play

Stimulating play

In an earlier post, the necessity of providing brain stimulus to young children was covered. It was made clear that children, even at a very young age, require stimulus in order to be successful in school and in life. If this stimulus is not provided, the child’s brain will not develop and, some studies even show, will be smaller than the brain of a child who has received a lot of stimulation at a young age. There are many ways to help your child develop optimally. Most parents just naturally speak extensively to their child. This is a very good starting point, since language development in a child depends on parents talking to their baby about what they are doing, how they are feeling, etc. The tone when talking to a child is generally higher – it’s called ‘parentese’. Singing to your child is also strongly recommended. You don’t have to be tuneful, you can even make up little chants and ditties to stimulate her. Singing to your child will enhance your child’s learning of rhythms, rhymes, and language patterns.

Another important way to stimulate your child’s brain which is used by experienced and involved parents everywhere is playing finger games such as ‘patty cake’ or ‘peek-a-boo’. This helps the child relate hand movements to words creating important neural links which relate fine and gross motor activities to words.

Read to your child. I can’t stress this enough: read to your child. You can start very young, showing wordless picture books of common items like farm animals, foods, methods of transportation, etc. Talk to your child while looking at the pictures, name the items, make noises related to the items (i.e. ‘choo – choo’ for trains, or ‘hee-haw’ for donkeys). Talk about the colours, talk about other items in the pictures. Point at items while you talk about them. Once the child is 12 – 18 months old, you can introduce simple stories with a few words and, as they show increasing comprehension, move up to more complex stories. By the time your child is 3 1/2 to 4 years old, you should be able to read entire children’s stories to them like “The Princess and Curdie” by George MacDonald. By reading to your child, you are building his vocabulary, you are increasing brain connections by stimulating their imaginations, their visual association with objects on the paper, their creativity – so many benefits, too numerous to name.

Provide your child with developmentally appropriate toys. A baby will be endlessly fascinated by a mobile, however once she is able to sit up and handle items with her hands, you can give her stacking toys, or wind-up toys. By playing with these toys, she will learn cause-and-effect relationships and “if-then” reasoning. For example, if she puts a larger piece on top of a smaller piece, it will fall off or if she tries to place a larger cup inside a smaller one, it won’t fit. This ‘wires’ the concept into her brain.

Always respond to a child’s actions. If he points at something, ask him what he means by using the name of the item; if he looks afraid of something like a pet, show him it’s safe. This attentiveness to your child’s actions show him a way of communicating and help him to learn new words. This also reassure him that you are interested in what he wants and provides him a sense of safety.

When your toddler is old enough to get around, you can have her help with clean-up and putting away toys and games. This will promote the ability to categorize or sort items. For example, teddy bears go on the shelf, push toys go in the box and stacking toys have to be put on their stand in the right order. This will prepare your child for school since sorting and categorizing is part of all early learning environments. It will also give them a sense of responsibility and also improve their fine motor skills.

Don’t be afraid to discipline your child. Talk to him about right and wrong actions, never speak of the child as being ‘bad’ or ‘good’. Always refer to the action. Always use a calm voice and speak to her about the correct action. Shouting and striking a child is never beneficial, however you must speak very seriously and firmly about what you expect from her. You can also impose consequences for more unacceptable actions like if she hurts or harms another child. An appropriate consequence would be a time-out chair. The most important point for positive discipline is consistency; never allow a child to do something that you forbade previously without explaining why it’s ok at different times.

Clearly, parental involvement is essential at all levels of child rearing for optimal brain development. Always let your child feel your joy in his progress, in his development. Always let him know that you love him and treasure every moment with him.

References

Braniac. “How to Stimulate Your Child’s Brains | eHow.” eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More – Discover the expert in you.. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.ehow.com/how_4478201_stimulate-childs-brains.html.

Ince, Sarah DeWitt. “Play Activities to Stimulate Development in Babies | eHow.” eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More – Discover the expert in you.. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.ehow.com/list_6891222_play-activities-stimulate-development-babies.html.

Norris, Katie. “5 Brain-Stimulating Ways to Keep Toddlers Busy.” POPSUGAR | Moms. N.p., 23 June 2012. Web. 19 June 2013. http://moms.popsugar.com/5-Brain-Stimulating-Ways-Keep-Toddlers-Busy-27333527.

Routh, Dorothy . “SC First Steps.” SC First Steps. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.scfirststeps.org/braindev.htm.

Sebastian, Eisla R.. “A Baby’s Brain Development – What You Can Do to Help it Along.” Yahoo Voices. N.p., 13 Oct. 2009. Web. 19 June 2013. voices.yahoo.com/a-babys-brain-development-help-4644477.html?cat=25.

“20 Ways to Boost Your Baby’s Brain Power | Parents | Scholastic.com.” Scholastic, Helping Children Around the World to Read and Learn | Scholastic.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2013. http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/thinking-skills-learning-styles/20-ways-to-boost-your-babys-brain-power.

Teaching Social Skills and Effective Communication- It’s never too early

Let’s face it, today parents are afraid to be strict with their children. Even 30 years ago, the adage “children should be seen and not heard” was the rule. Not anymore, not that we are promoting stifling a child’s need to communicate. However, how many times have we seen children interrupt their parents, say rude things to their parents, ignore guests or behave rudely to them, or just simply fail to demonstrate correct courtesy to others? How many times have we heard children use incorrect language or grammar and not be corrected by teachers or parents? How many times have we heard children express ideas without proper sentence structure or organization of thought, perhaps only using gestures and grunting noises? Are we doing these children a disservice by not teaching good communication practices and social skills to children? Is it because parents are afraid of setting guidelines for proper behavior for fear that it will affect their self-esteem? Clearly, the goal of this article is not to promote silent children, it is to promote children who communicate effectively and demonstrate skills which allow them to interact socially with adults and other children.

Too often, parents are afraid to correct their children for fear that they will negatively affect their child’s self-esteem. As a result, they allow children to speak as they wish without gentle guidance towards effective communication. Ultimately the children suffer from this neglect. They do not learn courteous behavior, appropriate use of language or social skills. Not possessing correct social skills, the child’s self-esteem may even suffer (Oswalt, N.p.).  The inability to make friends and feel comfortable with peers can weaken a child’s self-esteem. Such children would possibly be shunned by their peers and respond by either becoming bullies, or by becoming withdrawn, preferring to spend time with indulgent adults.

An excellent list of 10 ways to develop social skills in young children was developed by Community Coordinated Child Care:

  1. Encourage your child to play with other children.  Invite a neighbor, classmate or cousin over to play for a couple of hours.  Keep the visit short and don’t leave the children on their own.  Be available to help children     get started with a game.
  2. Play games with your child so he learns how to share and take turns.
  3. Teach your child the words he needs to express himself.  “Can I play with the puzzle now?”  Remind your child to “use his words” to express what he wants to reduce whining, crying and aggressive behaviors.
  4. Teach compromise to a preschooler by modeling it regularly.  “We’ll play hide and seek now and later we can play Candyland.”  “Since we bought grapes last week for you, today we’ll buy peaches for Louis.”
  5. Preschoolers who hit or use unacceptable language may do so because they see adults around them acting aggressively.  It is important for parents and caregivers to behave appropriately if they expect the children around them to behave.
  6. Your preschooler’s anger may get out of control because he cannot verbalize what he wants or needs.  If another child grabs a toy from Maria, she needs to be taught the words to say, “I am playing with the doll now;  please give it back to me,” instead of hitting or grabbing the toy.
  7. Give your child extra time to speak, allowing him time to collect his thoughts and think about what he can say.
  8. Do not give in to a child who whines or acts aggressively to get what he wants.  Negative behavior is often a call for attention.  Do not react to every negative behavior with attention, yelling, and intense emotions, which only rewards your child with a sense of power, attention and involvement.
  9. Compliment your child when he does the right thing and acts appropriately.
  10. Use distraction to help your child move away from the situation that is causing a problem.

Points 3, 4, 6, 7 & 8 above clearly show how closely linked are communication and social skills. Once a child is trained to ‘use your words’ and negotiate using effective language, both issues are addressed. Even very small children can be trained to say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’, greet people with ‘hi’ and respond appropriately to adults. Reinforcement about appropriate body language can also be used (see YouTube video above) to help children understand how to effectively communicate with others.

Ultimately, a child who possesses good social skills and communication skills will function better in school, experiencing greater success. Such a child will have the confidence to believe in himself and his ideas and be more creative. All these skills are closely linked to success in life.

References

Goddard, Roger. “Building Social Skills.” Building Blocks for Young Children. Community Coordinated Child Care, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.ccccunion.org/PDFsforwebsite/BuildingSocialSkillsBrochure.pdf .

Oswalt, Angela. “Guidelines for Correcting or Disciplining Children – Self Esteem.” Community Counseling Services, Inc.. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.hsccs.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=37619&cn=96.

Parker, Wayne. “Child Behavior – Setting Limits for Your Children.” Fatherhood at About.com:  Resources and Support for Fathers. About.com Guide, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. http://fatherhood.about.com/od/effectivediscipline/a/settinglimits.html

Walker-Thomas, Tammy. “Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard: a Disciplinary Standard for the 21st Century?.” Yahoo Voices. N.p., 14 Mar. 2009. Web. 18 June 2013. http://voices.yahoo.com/children-seen-not-heard-disciplinary-2807835.html.

Curiosity

curiosity-bigger (640x512)
Children start along the path of learning and of growth –
Their minds like sponges drinking in right from the time of birth.
Thirst for knowledge built within however small they be;
With age some of us soon forget our curiosity.

Question here and question there; they know they must enquire –
‘Tis “how?” and “why?” and “where?” and “when?” until the grownups tire.
This brings on discouragement for questions still arise;
They turn to others like themselves and peers may be unwise.

We answer questions when they’re asked unless we do not know;
Then seek the answer – concentrate – and let our interest show.
We tell the child we do not know – we, too, would like to be
Aware of how to look for things – together, we will see.

Children grow and grownups, too, will age like best of wine;
When curiosity lives on, our days with love, combine
To help them start along the path of learning and of growth –
The quest for life’s vicissitudes will quench their thirst for both.

–Doreen (Adams) Ellis

30 Ways To Promote Creativity in Your Classroom

You need to check out the link below. An amazing article which supports the need for FasTracKids’ programs for your children. In an ideal world, creativity should be fostered in EVERY classroom ALL THE TIME.
…but we all know it isn’t. The reasons are numerous and include:

1. The student:teacher ratio is too high (FasTracKids’ ratio is 8:1)
2. The curriculum has to be completed (FasTracKids has a curriculum BASED on creativity and communication)
3. Standardized testing is done, therefore teachers have to ‘teach to the test’ (Yes, this is a highly regrettable reality which will lead to a generation of children who are creatively challenged)
4. There’s no time. Teachers have to cover so much material, do so much preparation, they just don’t have time to allow for planning ideas to cultivate creativity.

These are a few reasons which come to mind. Every teacher can come up with many more. Because of these realities, parents should not depend on schools to instill creativity in their children, they need to look elsewhere. This is one of the reasons why FasTracKids programs were developed and why they are becoming globally recognized and are currently operating in more than 48 countries.

Read the article, though! You might be inspired! If you can accomplish these strategies in your classroom, you are doing very well!

creativity in the classroom
http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2013/01/10/30-ways-to-promote-creativity-in-your-classroom/