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Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.

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Kirby & Christen

Kirby & Christen

  For more about Kirby, read here.
  For more about Christen, read here.

Posted by on in Cognitive Development
Imagination Expanded If you’ve been following our blog posts, you will have seen the last one on the topic of pretending. It was about when pretending might start in your wee ones, why, and some implications to consider. In this post, we’d like to list out some practical ways to increase the development of your child’s imagination. We will give concrete ideas and ways to play together. First, though, a reminder: when your wee ones start to develop imagination, be aware that little brains work differently than adult brains. (Children are not simply like adults, but small; they are different.) Little minds do not have the experiences, memories, words, or even wiring to imagine what adults find easy to imagine. This one observation has at least two practical implications: One, when helping your child imagine something, it is helpful to engage and develop all of their senses as well as all the words...
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When Can Your Child Start Pretending? Out of Sight, Out of Mind – from birth to 6 months Out of sight, out of mind. That’s what the brain of a baby from birth to six months will be processing when the baby sees something. At around seven months old, the brain and how it develops changes to be able to hold on to an image. So if you hide something from your child, they may briefly look for it. But then they’re on to something else that they can see. These developmental stages are important to know about when we think about pretending with our kids. To be able to pretend one needs to be able to hold on to a picture or action in the mind. Object Permanence – from 8 to 12 months Around about eight months of age a child is beginning to know that things still exist even when they cannot see the...
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Posted by on in Parenting
A Healthy Way To Affirm Today’s post is a follow-up to last week's article on If you want your children to grow as they should, give less attention for bad, point out the good. As Kirby was reading George MacDonald’s book The Lost Princess this week, a few things came to mind about pointing out the good in our children. In fact, she would highly recommend the book as it brings to light the importance of humility as well as distinguishing between self-esteem and conceit. So today we’ll be mentioning a few take-aways she had as a child-development specialist reflecting on that story. Point Out the Good First of all, when pointing out the good in our children, we need to be sure we point out what is true. If a little one is experimenting with art, we might be tempted to say, “This is the best art I’ve ever seen!” But that is most likely...
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If You Want Your Children To Grow As They Should... If you want your children to grow as they should, give less attention for bad and point out the good. It’s a simple fact: children do more of whatever they get attention for. This means that if it’s throwing a tantrum, or shouting, or whatever other behavior you want them to change, give less attention to it. And it means that if you point out their good behavior – whether a positive attitude, or listening well, or whatever other behavior you want them to continue – they will most likely increase the frequency of that behavior. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” There is power in our words. The quote above is a somewhat familiar saying from the Bible (Ephesians 4:29) that reminds us of the importance of...
Tagged in: love parenting
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Freedom To Change: What helps in changing a behavior? Courage to change comes from grace not from shame. There is a type of guilt that can be healthy. It is there when you learn right from wrong, what is helpful versus what is hurtful. The healthy type of guilt says, “What I chose to do hurt someone. I want to choose to help people, to be kind and loving. I don’t want to hurt people.” This is saying what I DID was wrong. This implies that change is possible, because I can change what I DO. Shame is different. Shame wounds, drawing energy away from someone. It says, “Who I AM is wrong.” This implies that change is not possible, because if this is who I am as a person, I cannot change that. Shame does not have healing capabilities. It deflates a person like a prick in a balloon, slowly releasing the air from inside it. (For more on...
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Posted by on in Cognitive Development
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Children tend to not handle change well. Their brain has trouble shifting gears, similar to a railway car in need of assistance to shift tracks. Some children are better with change than others. This is based on personality or temperament. But regardless of their personality or temperament, there are ways we can help our children learn to deal with life’s inevitable challenges that come with change.       They need routines. If you can have a fairly stable routine (e.g. “This is what we do at this time of day…”), children tend to relax and exhale at the thought of knowing what is coming next.       They need rules/expectations that are consistent, that they can count on. Children need to know what is expected of them and that it is not going to change. If you make a rule, try your best to stick with it. Yes, new rules will happen at...
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If They Repeat It, They'll Likely Complete It When Kirby Worthington, co-founder of Growth and Giggles, was working toward her Master’s degree, she spent time as a director of a Montessori preschool. She had read research on repetition and decided to test it out. On a very cold winter’s day, after three days of freezing rain and no outside playtime at school, the sun came out and it was time to go outside again. However, under the swing there was a giant mud puddle full of the freezing rain. Before going outside she gathered the children and told them: “We’re going to get to play outside, and you can play on any of the equipment – except no swinging today”, and she explained about the puddle. As they went out the door, she stopped each child asking them, “Where are you NOT playing today?” And they would repeat back to her, “No swinging and no playing in the mud.”...
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Posted by on in Parenting
What To Do? Keep Rules Simple And Few “If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.” ― Albert Einstein This is our task: to simplify the rules of living down to an age-appropriate level. Keep things very simple. But not only for six year olds, Dr. Einstein; we’re reaching an even younger group here. AGE 2:   Children at this age do not need explanations for why something is or isn’t done. They just need to hear what not to do or what to do. For example, at mealtime there is the ever popular notion that throwing a spoon full of food onto the floor is fun. And let’s admit it, it might be fun for the child. But being on the other end of clean-up duty isn’t as exhilarating. Now is the time for the simple rule: No throwing spoons. It might be helpful to mention that “Spoons are for eating and balls...
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Posted by on in Parenting
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There are a number of helpful rhymes that Kirby, our resident expert, has come up with to aid us in remembering key concepts of child-rearing and development. We’ll be covering a few of them in the weeks ahead and will start off with this clever ditty:   After a recent move from the United Kingdom to the United States, my eight year old has taken to labeling herself as a “tomboy”. I’m not really sure what she means by it. I observe that she doesn’t enjoy sports as much as I did when I was a child. However, she has switched out her skirts for shorts or pants to fit in more with the culture around her. When does a stereotype become a type of who we are and what we do? When does a certain pattern of choices or certain actions begin to define our identity? These are important questions...
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Posted by on in Parenting
A GOOD Morning Routine GUIDE As we enter again into the rhythm and routine of autumn, let’s visit the ever popular topic of the morning routine. What this is depends very much on the age of the child. All ages of children leading up to school age in general find security in a routine and don’t do well with surprises or sudden changes taking them out of their normal rhythm. Your preference may be to make a chart or a list or use a big calendar. There are many ways to communicate with your pre-reading child what will be done today. Regardless of your preferred manner, here are some principles to keep in mind: KEEPING IT SIMPLE KEEPS IT CALM     When preparing a routine for your little one, simplicity is helpful. It’s tempting to get swept up in the whirlwind of organized scheduling. Before you know it the day is packed out with wonderful activities to...
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Getting Preschoolers to Cooperate: A Tiny Change for Big Results Do you have trouble getting your preschooler to cooperate? (That was a joke…of course you do—they’re preschoolers!) One simple change you can make--without much effort, without discussing parenting philosophy with your spouse, without brainstorming rewards or meting out punishments— can make a significant change in how cooperative your preschooler becomes. And don’t tell, but it will probably work on the adults in your life, too. Let me show you the idea, starting with a personal example. I grocery shop once a week, and I go with a detailed list, which usually doesn’t include ice cream. But every week, as I walk through the coffee and tea section, I know I am coming up on “the aisle of temptation.” At this point, I might say to myself, “Don’t go down the ice cream aisle!” At which point, I involuntarily start picturing cold, sweet, chocolatey goodness melting around my tongue. My other option...
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How to Help your Preschooler Deal with Irrational Fears Three-year-old Jonathan would not go anywhere without wearing a hat. He called it his “helmet.” One day, Kirby and Jonathan were out walking in the woods, and Jonathan realized that he had forgotten his helmet. He started to get panicky. Kirby quickly offered him the knit hat she was wearing because of the cold, and he calmed down. After a while, Kirby asked him, “How do you like wearing my helmet?” Jonathan replied, “I like it. It keeps me from falling down.” “How does it do that?” asked Kirby. “Just fine,” answered Jonathan. Later, Kirby was able to figure out that Jonathan had observed his dad wearing a bike helmet, and had asked him why he wore it. His dad told him that it kept him safe. Jonathan interpreted that to mean that the helmet kept his dad from falling down while biking. Don’t you wish we could crawl into our...
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Crab Walk, Arches (Bridges), and Backbends Kids like moving their bodies! Here are three fun activities that build flexibility, balance, strength, and coordination. Safety Tip: Remember, do not force yourself (or children) to flex farther than is comfortable, with a slight pulling feeling in the muscles. Hold the stretch, then gently stretch a bit further. Never force a stretch. Crab walk: Have children sit with their knees bent, feet flat on the floor in front of them, feet apart. Next show them how to place their hands down by their sides, but slightly behind their backs. Then, they can raise their hips off the floor. Now they can walk forward, backward, and sideways, pretending to be crabs. Arches: Have the children lie on their backs. Help them place their hands on either side of their head beside their ears. Their fingers point back toward their shoulders. Help them place their feet flat on the floor near...
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20 Learning Games for When Mom or Dad is Exhausted Parents of preschoolers are tired people. Caring for little ones is exhausting work. We have the best intentions of providing enriching activities for our kids, but when exhaustion sets in, good intentions go out the window. To help you plan for those times when you need something your child can do while you are lying down or sitting, here’s a list of 20 activities. Finger paint in shaving cream spread on a cookie sheet. Play with play dough. Read. If you’re reading a well-known book, try changing some of the words or sentences and let your child have fun catching your “mistakes.” Play Chutes and Ladders or Candyland. Put on music and let your child dance. Try giving her a bean bag and challenge her to dance with the beanbag on her head, between her knees, or on her elbow. Play “red light, green light.” Play a following directions game. Give...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
What do I do with a Sandbox? When my oldest daughter was 15 months old, her dad built a sandbox. I (Kirby) knew it was going to be perfect! I could hang clothes out to dry while my toddler blissfully discovered pouring and measuring and building and dumping. Montessori had come to my house! I gathered up my basket of wet clothes, led my little girl over to the new sandbox, and headed for the clothesline. But she just stood there, staring at the sand and looking puzzled. Then it hit me—she didn’t know how to play with sand. So I abandoned my laundry and we spent time making mountains together and filling up her dump truck, pouring water onto the sand, and digging holes. After that, she knew what to do, and she knew how much fun it could be. It’s not just kids who haven’t learned how to play with sand. Lots of parents don’t know...
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Posted by on in Parenting
Overcoming Parenting Fears This is a little different from our usual posts, but I want to talk about something that is a familiar face to parents—fear. A friend of mine just had her second baby; her first son is a toddler. This week, she wrote about her worries that all the attention she is giving her baby will damage her older son. Will he feel unloved? Neglected? Will he start to resent the baby? Will this hurt him for life? Can she be a good mother to both kids? What if she’s not doing enough? Does any of that sound familiar? I bet it does, even if the thoughts are not about the same issue. From pregnancy through having adult children, we have fears about whether we’ve chosen the “right” approach or philosophy, about how our own personality, limitations, mistakes, and choices will affect our kids, and how in the world to handle all...
Tagged in: fear love parenting
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Getting Ready for Kindergarten: What Your Preschooler Needs to Learn It's back-to-school time! Like with every decision, parents agonize over preschool options. Do you send your child to preschool? What kind? Would your child be better off at home? Will they be ready for kindergarten if you opt out of preschool? To help you think through your options, here's a basic checklist of what kids need to know to succeed in kindergarten. You can help your child learn these things at home, or they can gain this knowledge through any number of preschool programs. Language and Pre-reading skills: They need to be able to: Listen Follow directions Have an attitude that learning is fun Recognize and name basic shapes Recognize and name basic colors Understand the difference between “true” and “make believe.” Make rhymes Hear syllables Identify characters in a book Pre-Math Skills: They need to be able to: Tell the size differences between piles of items Recognize coins Count out...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Games to Play with String If you’re looking for a versatile toy with tremendous developmental benefits, a simple length of string, rope, or yarn is the way to go. Here are some games you can play with that string that address various areas of a child’s development. Many of these can be played anywhere! Keep yarn or string in your purse or pocket to pull out when your little one is getting bored and needs something fun and challenging to do. Balance and Coordination String, yarn, or rope makes a perfect balance beam. Stretch the string out on the floor, and show your child how to walk on it, putting one foot in front of the other. Your child can do lots of fun things on a balance beam: Walk on a curvy or zigzag line Balance on one foot on the string Do an arabesque (or scale) Jump zigzags back and forth across the string...
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Teach Your Child to Use Scissors Bouncing spirals hanging from the ceiling fan. Paper dolls. Hula skirts for toys. Fringed placemats. Paper-plate angels. Toilet-paper-tube puppets. When you know how to use scissors, you can make the best crafts! So how do you teach the skills necessary for all those fun crafts? Introduce the Scissors Show your child a pair of safe scissors. Tell him it’s like a little bird. The finger holes are the wings, and the blades are the mouth. You can make the bird flap its wings, and then it can open and close its mouth. Teach a Proper Grip Have the child put his thumb in the top hole and fingers on the bottom. A lot of kids try to put their thumbs on top. While they might be able to maneuver this initially, it won’t work at all when they try to cut around curves or cut more complicated shapes. So be sure...
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Teach Your Preschooler to Tell the Truth Josie’s (age 3) parents had been trying to teach her not to lie. They had been talking with her about lying, giving consequences for lying, and making a concerted effort to stop the behavior. One day Josie accidentally knocked over her milk. She quickly started cleaning it up, and said to her mother, “I don’t know if this is a lie or not, but I spilled my milk.” Josie knew that a lie was something she shouldn’t do…but she didn’t understand what it was. Lying is a lot more complicated of a concept than adults tend to think. And even once a preschooler really understands the concept of true and not true, their brains aren’t mature enough to always get it right. Of course, we can still work with preschoolers to teach them to be honest. It’s just that it’s important to take a gentle teaching approach that is appropriate for...
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