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.


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.


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.

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.

Norris, Katie. “5 Brain-Stimulating Ways to Keep Toddlers Busy.” POPSUGAR | Moms. N.p., 23 June 2012. Web. 19 June 2013.

Routh, Dorothy . “SC First Steps.” SC First Steps. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2013.

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.

“20 Ways to Boost Your Baby’s Brain Power | Parents |” Scholastic, Helping Children Around the World to Read and Learn | N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2013.

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.


Goddard, Roger. “Building Social Skills.” Building Blocks for Young Children. Community Coordinated Child Care, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. .

Oswalt, Angela. “Guidelines for Correcting or Disciplining Children – Self Esteem.” Community Counseling Services, Inc.. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2013.

Parker, Wayne. “Child Behavior – Setting Limits for Your Children.” Fatherhood at  Resources and Support for Fathers. Guide, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013.

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.


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

Your Child’s Personality

Before we begin discussing your child’s personality, it is important to understand what we are talking about. The American Psychological Association defines it as follows: “Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The study of personality focuses on two broad areas: One is understanding individual differences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability. The other is understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole.” It is clear, therefore, that personality encompasses intelligence, emotion, motivation and social interactions.

Children’s personalities are affected by many different factors: innate factors, birth order, gender, physical characteristics, early experience and even ethnic affiliation. The innate aspects of personality have been proven again and again. Children are frequently similar to their parents when they were young. This means that some personality traits are hard-wired into a child when he is born. Piaget, a well-known child development theorist, describes a ‘spiral of learning’ (see below) after birth which includes an initial schema (the hard-wired traits) on which the baby builds. At the moment of birth he acquires a view of the world. Immediately upon exposure to new experiences, he assimilates the information, make accommodations for the new understanding and develops a new schema for the world. The spiral repeats with every new experience. This pattern demonstrates how personality can be affected by environmental influences. A child learns that certain actions will result in specific reactions and begins to form his personality as a result.
There are five dominant personality traits which can be identified in children or adults. These traits are hard-wired or innate.

The first personality trait which you might recognize in your child is extroversion or introversion. The extroverted child will be sociable, enjoy meeting new people and will talk early. This will be the child that walks into a room, looks around and immediately identifies someone they want to be friends with. They will be comfortable with new people, even from a very young age. The introverted child will be reluctant to meet new people, will hang back from groups and may even be termed ‘shy’. We strongly recommend not using this term as it brands a child, qualifying them as non-sociable. Using terminology such as ‘it takes her a while to warm-up’, gives her a chance to get comfortable with new situations and new people.

A second personality trait which can be recognized in children or adults is agreeableness. Agreeable children will be trusting, thoughtful and generous. A non-agreeable child will tend to be more egocentric, placing self-interest ahead of others. Such a child will spontaneously hug another grieving child, share without being told and trust others to treat them well. An agreeable child is not necessarily extroverted. An introverted child can be very agreeable, but won’t reach out to people, however is very pleasant when approached. An egocentric child can show appropriate social responses, however ultimately is more concerned about his own comfort.

Another easily recognized trait in children and adults is impulsivity as opposed to conscientiousness. An impulsive child will tend to jump into situations with both feet. This is the child that dashes out into the road to get a straying ball without regard for safety. A conscientious child will think out things and plan what should be done in advance. As he grows up, this will be greatly beneficial because he is the one that plans carefully for his future. On the other hand, the impulsive child will be the one that comes across as ‘fun’ or exciting to be with. Such a child will need a lot of stimulation, or she will be quickly bored.

A fourth personality trait in children is their level of emotionality or neuroticism. A more emotional or neurotic child is the one who worries about things, get quickly angry or sad or infectiously happy. All their emotions are experienced deeply and projected clearly. This is the child who is quickly frustrated or discouraged and often demonstrates negative emotions. A less emotional child will be more stable, easier to get along with. They will also show less negativity. Parenting a neurotic child is always challenging.

The fifth identifiable personality trait for children is openness or imaginativeness and creativity. An open child will be willing to explore new things or situations. She will be more aware of her feelings, more appreciative of beauty and more intellectually curious. A more conservative child will demonstrate reduced risk-taking and a greater need for approval, and effort to be acceptable to others. The open child may challenge authority figures earlier, since he has a tendency to think about the ‘why’ of instructions. The challenge should not be taken as a personal attack; generally the open child really does want to know the reason for things and will ask more questions. Answering his questions clearly and logically will satisfy him and he will likely comply.

How are these innate personality traits affected by learning as described by Piaget? Exposure to the different ways the significant people in the child’s life have of reacting to situations will strengthen or weaken certain personality traits. For example, a child raised in a stressful environment will more likely be less extroverted and more neurotic and conventional, always worrying about pleasing others. A child raised in a loving and encouraging environment will tend to be more extroverted and more trusting and less emotional. The innate positive character traits can be strengthened through early interactions or the negative traits can be eased. Early childhood influences don’t set the child’s personality, but can redirect into more positive or more negative trends, depending on the type of influence. It behooves a caring parent to recognize early their child’s personality traits and understand the type of guidance he needs to become a healthy, functional individual. There are early childhood programs such as FasTracKids which can help parents in this undertaking, to foster characteristics that will benefit them in their youth and as they grow up in an increasingly challenging world.


“How Many Personality Traits Do Personality Tests Measure.” Psychometric Success – Free Practice Aptitude Tests . N.p., 2012. Web. 27 May 2013. .

“Personality.” American Psychological Association (APA). n.d. Web. 25 May 2013.

“Temperament and Your Child’s Personality |.” Child Development. Child Development Institute, n.d. Web. 25 May 2013.

Insfran, Mirtha. “Children´s Personality Development.” Upload & Share PowerPoint presentations and documents. N.p., 8 Aug. 2008. Web. 25 May 2013.

Lerner, Claire, and Laura Dombro. “Understanding Your Child’s Personality.” Parents – Pregnancy, Babies, Baby Names, Pregnancy Calendar, Ovulation, Birth & More.., n.d. Web. 25 May 2013.

Lore, Diane. “Toddler Personality Types and Effective Parenting.” WebMD – Better information. Better health.. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2013.

McLeod, Saul. “Jean Piaget | Cognitive Theory – Simply Psychology.” Simply Psychology – Articles for Students. 2009, n.p. Web. 25 May 2013.

School Readiness

There exist several different schools of thought regarding what constitutes school readiness. Some sources believe that school readiness includes academic knowledge such as alphabet and number acquisition and if these skills have not been acquired, the child should be retained for another year to give them time to acquire them. Other sources feel that a child who has acquired reading skills prior to entering school may actually be disadvantaged. Certain other authorities strongly believe that school readiness should be based on calendar age since all children develop at different rates whereas other authorities feel that the entry assessment on school readiness should be the criteria used for admission. The one area all child psychologists and child development specialists agree on are the non-academic skills the child should possess prior to beginning school.
Social development is a primary skill which all specialists in child development agree on. By the time a child enters school, he should understand about turn-taking, sharing, team work, cooperation with peers and adults. As every parents knows, the following rules are true for most toddlers:
• If I like it, it’s mine.
• If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
• If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
• If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
• If it looks just like mine, it is mine.
• If I saw it first, it’s mine.
• If it’s broken, it’s yours.
Anyone who’s a parent or worked with small children will be smiling by now. These are characteristics which must be redirected into the ability to share, to cooperate, and to take turns. An effective early childhood education program will create opportunities to school children in these skills through group work, team play, role play and exploration in cooperative groupings.

Emotional development is another skill area all psychologists and child development specialists agree on. A child who is ready to enter school needs to have the ability to separate easily from the primary care-givers. She needs to be able to control emotional outbursts and understand others’ feelings. She should be able to demonstrate appropriate responses to emotional feelings of others. Research has shown that this type of understanding can, indeed, be developed in very young children. As the purple line on the graph on child development below shows, emotional control can develop very early – before the age of four years. The blue line illustrates peer social skills and shows that they can also begin very early. It is clear, therefore, that working with very young children to control their emotions is possible, beneficial and also essential, in order for them to function effectively in school. A quality pre-school program will actively train small children in self-control, celebrating positive behaviors and gently redirecting inappropriate behaviors. It will also provide children with opportunities to do things independently, such as tying shoes, doing up buttons, etc. This independence will also promote development in fine motor skills and also self-esteem.
graph brain development no title
Self-esteem is another area which needs to be established very young and will impact on all aspects of a child’s learning. All educational specialists and child psychologists agree that this is an essential factor in a child’s overall well-being. A child with a healthy self-esteem will not resort to bullying nor be easily bullied. They will recognize appropriate social interactions with peers and be comfortable executing them. They will be able to respond socially to peers and adults with confidence. How to foster self-esteem in an early childhood education setting? Teachers will constantly celebrate the process of the child’s endeavors, not whether or not the child has found the correct answer. They will encourage the child to explore to find solutions to problems independently and their effort and focus toward this goal will be the reason for compliments and comments on attempting to find the solution.

As we have examined these different school readiness skills, it is clear that a child is both able and also needs to acquire these skills at a very early. We will not enter into the discussion about whether or not children should be denied entry to school if these skills have not been acquired, since it is not an issue if they have been effectively exposed to situations where they are trained to acquire these skills. Any pre-school program that does not clearly have as mandate training in these skills and plan on how to achieve this should re-examine what school readiness really is.


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“Where We Stand on School Readiness.” National Association for the Education of Young Children. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2013.

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Maxwell, Kelly L., and Richard M. Clifford. “School Readiness Assessment.” Research in Review. National Association for the Education of Young Children, n.d. Web. 19 May 2013.

Ogletree, Earl J.. “School Readiness – the Developmental View – Christopherus Homeschool Resources.” Christopherus Homeschool Resources: Waldorf-inspired Homeschooling – Christopherus Homeschool Resources. Version Vol. 24, No. 2, 1990. N.p., Web. 20 May 2013.

Rafoth, Mary Ann, Erin L. Buchanauer, Katherine Kolb Crissman, and Jennifer L. Halko. “School Readiness – Preparing Children for Kindergarten and Beyond: Information for Parents.” School and Home 2004. National Association of School Psychologists, Web. 20 May 2013.