The Growth and Giggles Blog

Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.

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Posted by on in Parenting
Enjoy Your Children! Kirby reminisces fondly about her mom being the only parent who got out and played with the neighborhood kids. Kirby followed in her footsteps. The kids noticed. "You like being with us!"  Outdoor play can be for parents and children. It's really important to play outside with kids, not just to send them out and invite neighborhood kids over. Their development will leap ahead -- socially, cognitively, physically, relationally (especially toward the parent playing with them). But you may not have had an experience like Kirby's. And if you have not seen it modeled, you may not be able to picture it. Children love adult attention. They feel important. Their self-esteem and self-worth rises. The advantages of this are: The adult is present to speak into how to work out differences between the kids. (There is an aspect of social development here, thinking of ways to compromise.) Much less bullying or...
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Posted by on in Cognitive Development
The Importance of Quiet Children today experience a very different environment to the one their parents grew up in. Back in the day, Mr. Rogers knew what he was doing when he built a time into his program simply for thinking. We need to spend time every day just thinking. Just imagining.  As a parent, remember to carve out time for your child to have a quiet, slower time to stop, look, and listen. A time to be outside and observe. For further reading see: "Exercise, Sleep, Screens: New Guidelines for Children Under 5" "A 'million word gap' for children who aren’t read to at home"...
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Posted by on in Parenting
Helping Children with Fear A Rule of Thumb: Take children's fear as a very real event for them, even if what they are afraid of doesn't exist (e.g. a monster under the bed). A monster may not be real; but the fear is. In looking at the brain developing according to age, a preschooler does not have the logic of an adult. Therefore, using logic to talk them out of their fears will not work. This is where compassion and comfort come in. For instance, in the scenario of walking across a slotted bridge with narrow cracks, as long as a child can see through the cracks, they think they will fall through. (Some children may be oblivious to this.) An appropriate response when the child is afraid would be to pick them up and carry them, not try to reason with them about the slots. In very non-scientific terms, this is what happens when...
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Posted by on in Cognitive Development
Word Families with Blocks STEP 1: Make a block. Have fun. (To make your own block, we have a tutorial.) STEP 2:  Cover each of the six sides with brightly colored paper. STEP 3: Write six different letters, one on each side of the block. Use letters that look different from each other. (See Alphabet Hotel link for examples of letters to begin with.)  After they know their letters and associated sounds, they are ready to put letters together. STEP 4: Make specific word family blocks. Write endings like "at" on a piece of paper that will go to the right of the block once it is rolled. Here are some letters that can go on the block for the "at"-ending word family:  or "ar" or "op".    at -- b, c, r, h, m, f, p, s, or anything else that works ar -- c, b, f, j, p, t, w op -- t, h, p,...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Teaching Numbers with Blocks STEP 1: Make a block. Have fun. (To make your own block, we have a tutorial.) STEP 2:  Cover each of the six sides with brightly colored paper. STEP 3: Write numbers 1 to 6, one on each side of the block. Write the number and the corresponding number of dots. Be sure to use the same dot configuration as is most commonly used in your area of the world (for example, what the dots look like on dice). Putting the number next to the dots will enable your little one to learn quantity associated with the number symbol as you play and explain. GOAL: For each game using this block (see also our following post: "Teaching Words with Blocks"), get the body involved. Let the child FEEL and gain number sense in addition to understanding that number symbols represent a quantity that is stable. EXAMPLE OF A GAME: Each person takes...
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Posted by on in Character Training
Lying Sometimes children lie -- because they're afraid.  Sometimes children lie because they have become afraid of the person they are lying to.  If you think your child is experimenting with lying, begin by writing down every time you observe it happen. What situation did it appear in? What brought it about? You can also keep a chart. You may begin to discern patterns. When you address the child, if they respond with an expression of "I don't care" or of simply not caring to try to be truthful, try backing away a bit to see if something else is going on. Sometimes tweaking the way we correct a situation may help.  Is the child understanding? Sometimes children have a slower processing of words.  Is the child afraid?  Is the child holding their emotions in? In thinking about the discipline, it is not about becoming more harsh. It is more often about...
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Kirby's Notes on "The Developing Person Through the Lifespan," by Kathleen Berger 9 personality characteristics that parents can notice within the first few months of a baby's life: Activity Level Rhythmicity -- predictable schedule Approach/Withdrawl when presented with something new Adaptability (similar to Rhythmicity) -- how they adjust to change/disruption to routine Intensity of Reaction -- how strongly they respond (smile/whimper vs chortle/howl) Threshold of Responsiveness -- sensitivity to stimuli, e.g. wet nappy, whether right away or after some exposure Quality of Mood -- happy a lot vs unhappy a lot Distractibility -- how easily they stop fussing with distraction vs not distractible/very focused Attention Span -- playing with one toy for a long time vs moving on quickly This list is to whet your appetite for further reading. Check out the book at your local library. Berger suggests that children can be stretched in the following 5 of the 9 categories: 1, 3, 6, 8, 9.    ...
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How to Stretch Your Child Out of Their Activity Comfort-Zone People are born with certain temperments. These temperments do not necessarily define the person. And we can all be helped in stretching ourselves beyond our own boundaries. Not to be as rigid as we might like. Some are introverts. Some are extroverts. And everything in between. One definition of an introvert is a person who uses or loses energy around a group of people. And one definition of an extrovert is a person who gets energy out of groups of people. Every human being can function well within a variety of situations. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of this introversion-extroversion spectrum. Prefered activity types can be indicators of a child's temperment. Very introverted children who have not practiced social skills can be quiet and withdrawn. These children need to be encouraged to learn to enjoy social movement and to be healthy in that way. Very extroverted children need to learn...
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Posted by on in Cognitive Development
Three Rules for Development Have you given up on your New Year's resolution already? Here are three rules for you and your children as you attempt growth and development together.   Rule 1: Break it down into doable steps. The Montessori model is an excellent example of this.  For example, in teaching a sport in which you hit something with an instrument in your hand -- baseball, racket sports, paddle sports, etc. -- there are steps.  The same rule applies to adults who are trying to break a habit. Break it down into doable steps. Want to lose weight? Figure out various steps, each of which can be done.    Rule 2: Start easy. We don't start teaching the alphabet by giving the child all 26 letters at once. Teach one letter, celebrate, move on. In learning matching games, start with one pair. Increase.  Note: We all need encouragement, no matter what age. The experience...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
A Plethora of Pouring Games Pouring can wire the brain for math -- quantity, more/less -- when done regularly. And it can be done with lots of different things.  For starters, during bath time add big and little cups. How many little cups fit into the big cup? Bring some measuring spoons along. How many measuring spoons fill a very small cup? (If you're using something small to pour into a big container, this may get discouraging.) Add bubbles to the bath for variety. (Word of warning: girls may get irritated skin in sensitive areas if spending too long in bubbles.) Pouring is also good for getting finger, hand, and arm muscles firing. Even better when you add stirring (pretending to cook) into the mix. These are so helpful with everyday tasks.   The Pouring Station Set up a pouring station in a corner of the house with a sheet or shower curtain under it. Use...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Matching Games Galore Anything can be made into a matching game. Just look around your house. Do you have two forks? Two noodles? The point is, you don't have to go out and buy anything to make a matching game. In matching, the brain is being wired in both pre-math and pre-reading ways to notice what's alike and what's different. For example, how does a child learn to differentiate between an "a" and a "d"? They need to see all the parts of something before they decide if they are the same or different.  So, starting when children are toddlers, begin to simply notice and name the difference in things. Big rock, small rock. Two different leaves. You can mention similarities as well. Then point out the differences. Two different balls. Mention size, color, etc. This is the first step. Just notice and point out things that are the same and different in everyday life....
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Posted by on in Parenting
Parents' Emergency Box What are the times when your child seems to desperately need you? Are you on the phone, cooking dinner, talking to a friend?  When they want your attention when you are concentrating on something else -- when you need space and they are coming up with intriguing ways to get your attention -- these are the times you will want your "Emergency Box." An Emergency Box is a place you can put things that children can do without a lot of supervision. When you have the energy (this is early in the morning for Kirby), stock your Emergency Box. This can be a shoe box, a pretty box, etc. It may be you emergency box, but call it an "Surprise Box" or something else exciting for your child. Give it a label you and they like.  Fill it with games and have it at the ready. Here are some things that...
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Posted by on in Character Training
Building Character Game When children have problems, parents often focus on the negative. Constantly focusing upon the faults of our children can cause great pain and can damage their self-esteem. In addition, being critical often hurts our relationships with those we criticize. How do we stop? It does very little good to concentrate all of our efforts on not doing something we want to stop. The most effective way to change is to concentrate on doing the opposite good in place of the bad. If people try to stop overeating, it is torture, and it usually fails if they simply try not to eat as much. They think of the food they cannot have, crave it, wish for it -- which means it is always on their mind -- until they finally give in. Success comes if (1) they think of and prepare some foods they can eat, plus (2) plan activities to do...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Littles Learning On The Go     Here are two learning games that can be done while going about normal everyday tasks that will involve children age two or older in growing developmentally all while getting things done!   ORDER GAME Materials: Whatever the child and adult are doing at the time: cooking, washing dishes, getting a bath, etc. Procedure: Whatever your child is learning to do, break it down into easy steps. If, for example, your child is washing their hands then say, "Let's see, first I put water in the sink. Second, I wet my hands, ....and last...." Once the child has learned the order of the task, they love the next step of this game in which you try to fool them: "Let's see, first we dry our hands, right?" Lots of laughter is sure to ensue. An example:  If you are cooking eggs, you can ask: "What do I do first? I...
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Posted by on in Physical Development
Balance Boosting Bonanza   In an earlier article on gross motor development, we focused on the upper body as the development stages go from the head down (and the core outward). Today, we would like to revisit gross motor early intervention with a focus on strengthening balance. This is a task that can easily be accomplished in the small moments of daily routine such as while waiting - give the child the challenge to stand on one foot, switch feet, put arms out to the side to help them balance, etc.   We have touched on this topic before in the blog so we'll put some links as well as some additional ideas here for you: put a long piece of yarn on the rug making straight lines, then curvy lines along with more ideas listed under pretend balance beams using large steps and small steps (more difficult) have the child make their own design (spiral?) from...
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More Ways to Strengthen Finger Muscles   As mentioned previously, children today are learning to type but their hands aren't strong enough to write or do other tasks like being able to eat without spilling on themselves which is a skill that requires hand strength and coordination. People want and need to write legibly and quickly. Arts and crafts, the playing of musical instruments, cooking, measuring....all parts of life require finger strength.     Here is a list of some ways to build finger strength: climbing trees or jungle gyms folding clothes (make a matching game out of the socks) crawl through toy tunnels or cardboard box tunnels pretend to be animals and crawl around sweep with a child-size broom wash the car (or make a car wash tunnel with a garbage bag cut into strips - this can also be seaweed that they can crabwalk through on the ocean floor) cooking! stir, knead, cut, roll play with...
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Fine Motor Progression: Developing Small Muscles The most common use of fine motor muscles today may be learning to use a keyboard which is a wonderful skill to have but has the touchscreen surpassed that, or voice commands? We urge you to not forget to work on the development of finger and hand muscles in your wee ones. There is a fine motor progression we will follow to give you a better idea of how to work your way into this. In all of these activities, it is important for the adult to participate with the child in the activity before letting them do it on their own while the adult is involved in something else nearby. At around the age of six months or as soon as they can sit up, sit them next to the drawer where the plasticware is kept and let them take everything out and put it back in again. This will...
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Strengthening the Large Muscles aka Gross Motor Early Intervention Strengthening large muscle groups (gross motor skills) helps with balance, strength, eye-hand coordination, eye-foot coordination, and overall body coordination (proprioception). This can be done in many ways and starting from an early age. It is important to help your child learn to be aware of where there body is in space. As we go through some techniques to developing these skills, there is a general guideline to remember: Children develop from the head down and from the center of the body outward...the head develops before the feet and the shoulders before the hands. In all of these things it is important to remember to never tease a child by calling them a clutz. Even if they have these tendencies, early intervention can help with that. From early on, eye-hand coordination can be developed with the use of a mylar balloon hanging from above (on a mobile, etc.) so that the child can watch it....
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Sight Word Spectacular As mentioned before, Kirby believes that teaching sight words and phonetics together is the best way to set kids up for a future of reading well. In this post, we'll cover some sight word games to play and the words to use when making these games. When making your own sight word cards, it is important for us to start by mentioning that young eyes need the sight words written very largely (1-2 inches high). The muscles of young eyes are learning how to focus on things. Another helpful tip is to write mainly in lower case letters on pieces of cardboard or another sturdy card paper.  In choosing which words to begin with, use the names of family members including the child's name with upper and lower case letters. Write the child's name, then Mama (use upper and lower case m with Mama to make it easier), and the names of...
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Pre-reading Fun: Alphabet Hotel Expanded! However abstract learning letter names and sounds can be, normally children can do it. It is not too different and equally abstract when a child who has never been to a farm looks at a picture of a cow and says, "Cow...mooo." As you may have read in the previous post, the Alphabet Hotel homemade game can be a great way to get your child learning letters. Now, we'd like to give some options to grow this tool into a toolkit! When you sense that a child may be interested in reading, start with games like Alphabet Hotel. It can be played by different ages and levels of pre-reading children. A two-year-old may play by matching the letters while an older sibling can name the letters as they match them, and an even older child can give the name and sound that the letter makes. If a child is not interested, leave...
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