The Growth and Giggles Blog

Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.

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I Can Do It: Preschoolers and the Drive for Autonomy One of the main tasks of the toddler and preschool years is developing autonomy. This can be a great inconvenience to parents, who know that, for example, getting out the door would happen much faster if three-year-old Trevor didn't insist on dressing himself when he can't do the buttons, tying his own shoes when he doesn't know how, or struggling into his jacket without help…backwards. One of your jobs, as a parent, is to facilitate the emerging autonomy of your children. This doesn't mean suddenly abandoning your child to the mercy of his shoelaces, but it does mean supporting your child's drive to learn to do things himself. You can survive your child's growing autonomy by: 1. Planning ahead. Supporting fledgling independence means planning for more time to get out the door, allowing for tasks to be accomplished more slowly because of the "help" of your little apprentice, and taking care...
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How to Make Colored Rice or Pasta Materials: Uncooked macaroni or rice Ziplock bag Food Coloring Rubbing Alcohol Put a couple of tablespoons of rubbing alcohol in the ziplock bag. (Use about a tablespoon for 2 cups of rice or pasta.) Add a few drops of food coloring. Add the uncooked pasta or rice, zip the bag, and mix it around until the pasta or rice is colored. Take the rice or pasta out of the bag, and spread it on paper towels to dry. Once it is dry, the color will stay and not come off on your fingers. The alcohol evaporates, so what's left is non-toxic, but we don't recommend eating it! The colored rice or pasta is fun for pouring and measuring or for digging in. Hide little plastic animals in the rice, and let your child dig around for them. Name each animal as your child finds them. If you are working on colors,...
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Saying No To Your Kids Do you love the excitement on your little one's face when you say yes to something they really want? Do you cringe inwardly when you know you are going to have to be the "bad guy" and say no? With some skillful maneuvering, you won't have to play bad cop very often. We believe that it's important to say yes to everything you reasonably can say yes to, and to only say no for a strong reason, like safety or health. But the key to avoiding negativity is to stay out of yes-or-no scenarios. Instead, offer choices. Offering a choice between two acceptable alternatives makes a yes inevitable. You only offer options that you feel good about, so you can accept either choice your child makes. Offer only two options. Children feel overwhelmed and confused by more options than this. This is especially true if your child is under three, but...
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Children at Church and Other Solemn Occasions 'Tis the season…to try desperately to keep your children quiet during religious services, concerts, plays, and the like. But let's face it, they are kids! They're not exactly hardwired to sit still and look angelic. Except, of course, when no one is looking. I mean, there is Murphy's Law to contend with. So whether you are looking to survive a one-time event or to make weekly services more enjoyable, how do you help your child stay quiet? To start off with, we are assuming that you are going to an event where children are welcome, but need to be relatively quiet and calm. Let's just acknowledge that this is not always possible with little ones, and taking them out of the service if they are not handling it well is not a punishment; it's just acceptance of the limits of preschoolerhood. Staying quiet requires a set of skills that can be...
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9 Principles for Playing Learning Games Learning games are a great way to teach your child a well-rounded set of skills and to lay a foundation for all the learning she will do in life. You’ll find lots of examples and activities on our blog and website. Here we’ve collected some principles that will help your experience of playing learning games go smoothly. Keep it fun and lighthearted. As soon as learning feels like work instead of play, your kids will resist. Don’t force anything. Invite, make it appealing, demonstrate how much fun the activity is, but don’t make your child do something he isn’t interested in. He may not be developmentally ready, or his development may be centered around a different skill this week. Appeal to his interests rather than what you think he ought to be doing. Plan ahead. Take a few minutes the night before to get familiar with 1-2 games. Make sure you...
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How to Help Your Children Wait Would you like to raise a patient child? (Wait…is that an oxymoron?) They say that patience is a virtue, but it’s a virtue that is hard for adults, let alone preschoolers. But waiting is a part of life, so we need to help our children learn to cope with it. An important first step is to set realistic expectations. It is easier for children to wait if they are expecting to wait. Set a timer where they can see it, and tell them, “We’ll go to Katie’s house/ have dinner/ play together in 10 minutes, when the timer beeps.” Let them know what’s coming next. Children get much more antsy when they don’t know what is going to happen. One important note: make sure you tell them in the order it will be happening. (Say, “First we’ll have a nap, then we’ll go to the park,” instead of “We’ll go to...
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How to Address Screeching “My nine-month-old has found his voice…in the form of an ear-piercing shriek! Do I just try to wait it out until he learns words, or are there ways I can teach him more mom-friendly sounds?” There are three main reasons for children loudly screeching in their communication, and the reason your child is screeching will determine the best course of action. He may be experimenting with his voice. Babies are just learning how to control what comes out of their mouths. They learn by experimentation with mouth shape, throat constriction, air flow, and vocal cords. And, yep, some of that experimentation will be loud! You can tell if this is what your baby is doing by reading his face and body language. If he seems upset, there is likely another reason behind the screeching. But if he is happy or neutral, it is likely vocal experimentation. The best thing for a...
Tagged in: Discipline
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How to Have a Happy Grocery Shopping Trip With Your Preschooler Is grocery shopping a nightmare for you? Fussy kids, grumpy mom, whining for Lucky Charms, strangers staring, coming home with the wrong items because you couldn’t concentrate. Sound familiar? We used three simple rules that made grocery trips a whole lot smoother. We recited both the rules and the consequences together in the car before every shopping trip, because little ones can’t always remember the rules from week to week. Kids also need to say the rules themselves, not just hear them. Rule 1: Don’t touch. For the safety of the children and the merchandise, kids are only allowed to touch what mom hands them. Let them help with anything they can’t damage. They can put items in a child-sized basket or in the big basket. Rule 2: Stay where you can see Mom. You need to state this from the child’s perspective—a preschooler can’t take someone else’s perspective, so they...
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Teach Your Child to Follow Directions the Fun and Easy Way Have you ever wondered how to teach your child to follow directions without it turning into a power struggle? The key is to focus on following directions as a skill that children can learn gradually in the same fun ways that they can learn their colors or to tie their shoes. Here’s the Following Directions Game: The best age to introduce this game is around one year, but you can introduce it any time, adjusting to their age and skill level. Keep in mind your child’s attention span—keep the game short, and stop before the kids are tired of it. Tell your child, “I have a game. It’s called the Following Directions Game. I’ll tell you something to do, and you see if you can do it.” Start off with one instruction. Demonstrate while saying, “Touch your nose.” When they do that, give them a second instruction, “Touch your head.” For...
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Did you know that the secret to a happy marriage is the same as the secret to happy kids? It’s a simple ratio. John Gottman, a marriage researcher, found that a ratio of 5 positive interactions to each one negative interaction tipped the balance from a troubled relationship to a happy, healthy relationship. He called this the Magic Ratio. You can apply this principle today with your child. Start by noticing your positive and negative interactions. Keep a chart on the fridge and make tally marks to help you keep track. Andrew Armstrong researched this ratio between parents and small children and found that his control group generally had a 1:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions with their young children. Good parents often are more negative with their kids than they realize. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? So the behaviors that need to be “fixed” are the ones...
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Welcome to Growth and Giggles! I’m guessing you’re here because you want to make the most of the few precious years you have with your preschoolers, and to keep your head above water while doing it. This blog is here to give you weekly ideas, encouragement, and wisdom. Our posts will answer common questions, help you understand what’s going on behind that mischievous smile or those big, innocent eyes, refresh you as a mother, and give you lots of playtime activities that will help your child grow and learn. If you want all these creative ideas in your inbox, enter your email address to subscribe. We’ll be posting weekly, and we will never share your email address. Leave your parenting, learning, and playing questions in the comments and we’ll try to answer them in future posts. Thanks for stopping by!  ...
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