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Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.

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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in child development
Meeting Learning Challenges Head On Does your gene pool have learning challenges in the mix: ADD/ADHD/autism/dyslexia? Studies of children diagnosed with autism show that early intervention has helped to the point that the autism was undetectable. There are also early intervention techniques for physical challenges. Almost any problem that presents itself in childhood can be helped if we work with the child in fun and helpful ways. Involving as many senses as possible in the learning process including physical activities is a key factor. If the body can move while learning, by the time a child is school-age the brain will have made all kinds of new connections. Maria Montessori, the first female doctor in 19th century Italy, saw children labelled "mentally retarded" and believed they could learn. She broke everything down into small components and taught using the body through doing activities that laid the groundwork for math, language, and all other learning. After Montessori...
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Growing Families: Avoiding Sibling Rivalry Working toward avoiding sibling rivalry is really teaching a life skill. As your family grows, there are ways to prepare older children for the arrival of the newest addition and to get them through the toddler years when baby becomes a little explorer. It is important to be truthful when preparing the older sibling for the arrival of a younger sibling. Try to avoid saying something that would be confusing like, "the baby will be so much fun to play with!" The baby won't be playing with anyone for a while. More helpful things to say might be, "We will need to be gentle with the baby's tiny little hands. I could use your help at bathtime. Would you like to wash her feet?" When baby comes, teach the older child how to hold the baby explaining how to support the head. Sit with them and read a story together.  The older...
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Finding Focus: Ways to Increase Attention Span The development of the ability for delayed gratification can be done from an early age. Increasing one's attention span will eventually affect many aspects of life from saving money to controlling a temper or facing temptation to do the wrong thing. It is important to start at the beginning. The fact is the younger the age, the shorter the attention span. Infants have needs that should be met immediately. They need to know that their needs will be taken care of and this is exactly where they should be at developmentally. Toddlers have enough ability to wait with distraction or accept help to accomplish the thing for which they're waiting. Preschoolers can be stretched to increase their ability to wait with some help. If you're curious where your child's attention span is at, try this little test... Place a raisin or M&M under a cup making sure your child sees what...
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Posted by on in Parenting
Travelling with Littles Travelling with children can be a special time, even on a road trip! The kids have the potential to triple their vocabulary on a week-long car trip if that's what is chosen to work on. Relationships among family members can improve with interactive car games. Whether infant, toddler, or early elementary, littles can have fun and leap ahead in cognitive development and fine motor skills while en route to your holiday destination. While technology is a very handy tool to have when travelling, make sure your children are not on their devices the whole travel time. Pack a backpack/travel bag per child that they may fill with their travel treasures. Elementary age children can usually make independent choices on what to leave and what is important to bring. This may include dolls (with add-ins of ribbons, pieces of fabric, etc.) that would be useful for making up stories so be sure...
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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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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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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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Teaching Kids About Race, Disability, and Other Differences Between People “Mommy, they're talking funny!” “Why does she walk like that?” “Why is his face brown?” “What’s wrong with that lady?” Why is it that kids always ask those questions so loudly? People usually understand that our little ones are just discovering the world, rather than being prejudiced, but it can still be mortifying when they ask awkward questions! Can we do anything to pre-empt these kinds of questions? How do we respond to them? How do we cultivate the respect for diversity that we want our kids to have? Dealing With the Questions Preschoolers aren’t really capable of thinking inside their heads. Pretty much everything that goes through their brains comes out of their mouth. (You’ll see this as kids learn to count. Even if you tell them to count quietly, they will mouth the numbers because they can’t do it internally.) So when they encounter something they haven’t seen before, you can...
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Teaching Your Child Early Writing Skills “One of the best predictors of whether a child will function competently in school and go on to contribute actively in our increasingly literate society is the level to which the child progresses in reading and writing. Although reading and writing abilities continue to develop throughout the lifespan, the early childhood years—from birth through age eight—are the most important period for literacy development.” -- The International Reading Association As you can see from the above quote, writing skills are crucial for ensuring success in school and life. The good news is that activities that teach writing are things that kids love to do! The first step to learning to write is strengthening finger and hand muscles. For ideas on how to do this, see this post. Even while you are still working on hand strength, you can begin a progression of building writing skills in your child. A great way to...
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Build Pre-Writing Skills from Birth Through Preschool The ability to write, once a child is old enough, largely depends on the finger and hand strength and the coordination he has developed in his early years. You would think this would happen naturally, but teachers and physical therapists are seeing more and more children whose hands and fingers are not up to the task. Even in third and fourth grade, teachers are sending home notes asking parents to please help their children to do tasks which develop finger strength. Good news! There are many fun activities from infancy on that you can do with your child to prepare him for success in this important area of life. Tummy Time Giving your baby tummy time from her newborn days is an important part of developing needed strength. (If your little one is no longer an infant, and she didn’t get much tummy time, don’t worry! Read further down.) As babies...
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How to Help Your Distractible Child Follow Directions Does this sound familiar?    “Evan, put on your pajamas.”    “Take off your pants and put on your pajamas.”    “Evan, put down your LeapReader and put on your pajamas!”    “Evan, what are you supposed to be doing right now?”    “I don’t know.” Preschoolers, and even many elementary schoolers, are highly distractible, and that can make it hard for them to follow your directions in a prompt manner. This can be frustrating for parents, who just want their kids to do what they ask! Here are some strategies for working with a distractible child to maximize cooperation. Give a heads up. A few minutes before you want an instruction carried out, let your child know what’s coming. Say, “In five minutes, when the timer goes off, it will be time to stop what you’re doing and get your pajamas on.” This is especially true if your child is...
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Posted by on in Uncategorized
Textures for your Toes So often we think to let children feel textures with their hands, but we seldom think to let their feet experience new textures. Feeling textures with the feet is great for toddlers and preschool aged children. It stimulates the nerve endings in their feet as well as working on balance. And it is fun. How Do We Play? Place several textures in a row on the floor. Examples: Soft spongy foam from packing or bubble wrap. The large bubbles make a loud bang when popped, so avoid those for toddlers and young pre-school aged children. It can frighten them and ruins the experience. You also could use a mesh bag that oranges come in, a terry cloth towel, clear cellophane that makes crinkly sounds when  stepped on, fuzzy fabrics like velvet and fake fur, the bottom of a Styrofoam egg carton, or clean meat trays. Tape them down to avoid slips and falls.  Have all ages walk  barefooted on the...
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Activities and Classes for Preschoolers Structured activities and classes for preschoolers abound these days. Amid the dazzling array of opportunities, how do we know what choices are beneficial for our kids, and how much is too much? A good rule of thumb for preschoolers is to use their age as a guideline for the number of group activities a week. A two-year-old probably can’t handle more than two classes a week (this includes religious services/Sunday school), and a three-year-old shouldn’t have more than three a week. It’s also important to know your child’s personality here. Are they energized by being around people? Do they do better in smaller classes or just doing activities with one other friend? Follow your child’s lead. Art, music, and sports can all be fabulous for preschoolers. The important thing is that they be physically engaging, age appropriate, and focused on experience rather than outcome. Look for activities that provide tactile learning...
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