The New Year is here. It will be a year full of awe, happiness, tears and growth. We never know what the new year will bring but we can work on building memories that will last a lifetime for our families and our children.
As we start the New Year some of us may have taken time to review what our families have done this past year and/or start planning the activities for the coming year. When you have little ones running around the house you are lucky to have a chance to review the last hour let alone the whole year! It takes some planning just to have time to think! These little gems that are running around your house, and running your world, give you a new outlook on life as well as the year to come. How much will they grow this year, what will they learn, what will I learn, where will we be next year, when will they learn to……??? There are lots of questions and a new year of adventures ahead of you. When you have a moment of quiet time, try to review what you did in 2018. Take time to reflect on what you did that you would like to do again and add that to the list of things you would like to try to do his year. Some of the “things” you do with your family/child may be big things but a lot of the time the memories you keep with you are the ordinary things that make up everyday life. Did you have time to laugh with your child, did you feel the awe of wonder-ment when your child experienced something for the first time, were you amazed when they learned something new -- did you really enjoy a day in the life of your child?
Sometimes you need to get away and have some R&R so you have the energy to have a positive attitude about being a parent. Give yourself permission to have time – just time for you. Give yourself permission to pamper yourself. If you take the time to recharge yourself then you have the opportunity to be the best for your child. Take a walk, go on a date, read a book (that does not have pictures and soft, fluffy animals or a truck, train, builder as a main character), have a cup of tea and finish a chapter without being interrupted. Then you will have the energy to enjoy all they have to share with you … a hug, a sticky-jelly-kiss, a worm, a laugh.
In our family I treasure the laughter more than anything else. To hear children laughing brings such joy. Even though Joel and Nick are grown they will always be my “children” so their laughter will always bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. As Curt and I walked by a playground the other day we were talking about the sound of children playing and laughing. What a wonderful sound that is. It is the sound of joy and wonderment. Often it is the everyday memories that mean so much as your child grows up. The day you sat on the porch in the sun and read a book, that early morning sleepy look as they tumble out of bed, a smile just for you, the excitement of a making something all by themselves. These little snapshots of everyday life with add up and become the history of their childhood. You can hold onto these mental pictures of your little one as you watch them grow. Sooner than you think (or want) they head off into the ‘big’ world -- grade school, high school and then off to college or their new job. Remember -- it is as important to take the pictures in your mind as it is with your camera because you can always look at the pictures in your mind.
SNOWFLAKE WEEK 2019
Just as no two snowflakes are alike your child is not like any other child. Yes, they may have family similarities or are right on target with other children their age on the development charts but they are all unique little people. Enjoy those special qualities that make your child a ‘snowflake’ – unique and one-of-a-kind!
This week we will be talking about snowflakes.
The Science of Snowflakes: Facts and Activities for Children
December 9, 2015
Six is the magic number for snow - did you know that? If you had a big magnifier and stepped outside with your children on a cold winter day to watch snow fall from the sky, here is what you might observe - six-sided hexagonal crystals, needles or flat six-sided crystals, and a wide variety of six-sided shapes. All snowflakes are a combination of the number six for simple chemical reasons - they're all variants of the water molecule. Despite all snowflakes having six sides, not two snowflakes are exactly identical. How crazy is that? Here are a few more fun facts about snowflakes as well as simple science activities you can do with your children.
Where Do Snowflakes Come From?
As obvious as this may sound, snowflakes—or more scientifically, snow crystals—are formed in clouds. However they are not frozen raindrops, as that's called sleet or hail. Snowflakes are a different cold weather phenomenon formed from water vapor that condenses around a tiny particle—the seed crystal, usually a speck of dust—in clouds. Cloud droplets condense around the seed crystal and freeze on the surface of the particle, patterns emerging as the crystals grow.
The shape of snowflakes is determined by the altitude and temperatures at which they are formed. When several crystals stick together or create puffy white balls, they become snowflakes. Once the snowflakes are heavy enough, they fall to the earth. The average snowflakes fall at an average speed of 3.1 miles per hour!
Snowflakes, snowflakes, dance around,
Snowflakes, snowflakes, touch the ground
Snowflakes, snowflakes, in the air
Snowflakes, snowflakes, everywhere
Snowflakes, snowflakes, dance around
Snowflakes, snowflakes, touch the ground
Five Little Snowmen
Five little snowmen riding on the sled (pretend five fingers are sledding)
One fell off and bumped his head (pretend one finger falls off...rub head)
I called Frosty and Frosty said (dial imaginary telephone)
"No more snowmen, riding on that sled!" (say in a deep voice)
Four little snowmen... etc
Way up high in the snowy tree
Lots of little snowflakes smiled at me.
I shook that tree as hard as I could.
Down came the snowflakes
They are cold!
SNOW WEEK 2019
Welcome back! The month of January will be our ‘cold weather’ month. During Snow Week we will talk about cold weather, snow and snowmen. We will be making snow collages and paint with Epson Salts to create snow pictures. We will begin our snow-themed songs and finger plays that we will sing all month. If the chilly weather returns you can point out the frost to yourchild.During Circle Time I will introduce Bear. We will dress Bear for warmth and talk about warm clothes we wear during chilly weather.
If you have family pictures, especially any snow pictures, you would like to share I will be posting them on the bulletin board in the Circle Room. It will be fun to see what people did during break.
It is Snowing
It is snowing, it is snowing
All around, all around
Soft and pretty snowflakes
Soft and pretty snowflakes
On the ground, on the ground.
I’m a chubby snowman short and fat
Here is my broomstick and here is my hat
When the sun come out and shines all day
I just start to melt away….
Oh no I’m a puddle!
A chubby little snowman with a carrot nose
Along came a bunny and what do you suppose?
That hungry little bunny looking for some lunch
Ate that snowman’s carrot nose crunch, crunch, crunch
Thumbs in the thumb place, fingers all together.
This is the song we sing in mitten weather
When it is cold it doesn’t matter whether
mittens are wool or finest leather.
Thumbs in the thumb place fingers all together
This is the song we sing in mitten weather.
The cold wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
What will poor robin do then, small thing?
She will sit in the barn
And keep herself warm
And hide her head under her wing. Small thing.
Traditions are the glue that hold a community together. A community may be your family, your school, your neighborhood, city, state, country or the culture you grew up in. Communities can be small or large, near or far, present or past. As with the traditions themselves your community changes with time. Some traditions last many generations and some are there just for a season. It is the memories of traditions that hold the members of the community together.
We have traditions here at preschool. Two of my favorite traditions are our Family Nights. Both Pumpkin Night and Pajama Night are events the “alumni” children look forward to. It is a time to come back to “their school”. They have special memories of ‘their school’ and they are excited to come back and ride the horses, play with the trains and see what is in the sensory table. These shared memories are part of what builds the preschool community.
In our neighborhood we have activities that have created a bond with our neighbors. Some of the families have been in our neighborhood for 40+ years and we have watched our children grow into adults and now have the privilege of watching their children come back to the neighborhood for visits. Ansel came and Trick-or-Treated at the same neighbors’ houses that Joel went to as a child. My sons both send me notes when it starts to snow. Snow events were a big deal when they were young. We would build snowmen using all the snow in the parking strips (because you usually needed all you could get to make a snowman) and we would have a neighborhood snowball fight – no matter what time it started to snow! We would all head outside as soon as the snow started to stick. If the kids were in bed we would put their snow clothes on over their jammies then tuck their footie sleepers inside their boots so they could go outside to play in the snow because we all know with Seattle Snow there is no guarantee it will still be there in the morning.
The traditions you share with a specific group of people will glue that moment within your heart – a memory you can keep forever. During this Holiday Season you probably were busy navigating through a large mix of family, community and cultural traditions. As warm and cozy as the thoughts of traditions are when you mix them all together it can become a sticky mess that is difficult to untangle. What traditions do you want to keep, to start for your own family, to share with others? How do you choose which ones to keep? What new ones to start? How to tell your Mom (or Mom-in-law) you are saying “no” to some of the family’s traditions? It is a time to sort through the memories and decide what traditions you would like to invest in this year. It is an investment – always of your time and sometimes of material goods. The nice thing about a tradition is that they can be made to fit your family. You can add to it, take it away, or keep it exactly the same. They are moments in time that create memories you can hold in your heart. Just remember that as with any event these memories can make one laugh, cry or cringe. Ah, the memories of holiday times with family – the foundation of Hollywood movies!
For our family we have had many changes in the last few years. We have become ‘the inlaws’ to two of the nicest daughters. Danielle and Joel have started many new family traditions. We have adjusted to their choices on how to spend the holidays. It was not easy for us but it is necessary for them to be their own family. And now they have Ansel to add to their traditions and memories. Greta and Nick will be adding to the changes in our activities as well as starting their own traditions. We are working on blending, creating, establishing, keeping and remembering new traditions and traditions from the past. As our sons have left home and are creating their own family traditions, Curt and I have created some new traditions as well – a drive to Vashon to see the leaves, going to the Pumpkin Farm by ourselves (and this year three times – once with the Eagles Class, once with Ansel and once by ourselves!) and we will continue to adjust to activities without Joel and Nick. Joel and Danielle have introduced Ansel to the zoo, hiking, camping, Discovery Park and soon to the adventure of cutting down a Christmas tree. Greta will always be with her large, extended family during Thanksgiving and Nick has discovered that Greta’s family also plays ping pong after the Turkey Day feast. They call it RoundyTown and Nick has introduced them to our version which we call Round Robin. It is fun to see some of our family traditions live on with them.
Sometimes a tradition is started by someone other than family. That was the case for one of our most treasured holiday traditions. When our sons were little a lady in our church asked if she could bring them gifts at Epiphany. Maria was from Mexico and she did not have family here in Washington. We learned that Epiphany, Jan 6, is the actual Twelfth Day of Christmas. In many cultures all around the world it is they day that children receive gifts as they celebrate the day the Wise Men brought gifts to Baby Jesus. Joel and Nick put their shoes outside the front door on the eve of Jan 6 and the next morning their shoes were filled with small gifts. It was the start of a new tradition for our family. We began to celebrate Epiphany with a ‘fancy’ dinner chosen by the boys that included the ‘fancy’ Loony Tune cartoon glasses. It was a time for our family to celebrate Christmas – just the four of us – sharing a fancy dinner and opening a gold box that contained a family gift. When they were little it was a trip to the zoo or a new game. The year Nick started his PhD it was a family trip to Kauai. We knew that as Nick began this new adventure it would be a time of change for our family. Since then we have added Danielle and Greta to our family and our dinners may not be on Jan 6, but Epiphany will always be a shared time of fun and laughter with the emphasis on family and time spent with family.
This is the time of year that we focus on traditions and this is a good time to look back over the past month to reflect on those traditions. As you decide on your family traditions remember that the traditions are the memory maker – adjust them to fit your family. Traditions change, as do the people who make up our communities, but the memories will be with us forever.
Traditions are all year long. Some of our favorite family traditions are:
~Walks in the snow
~Bike rides to see the cherry blossoms at UW
~Bonfires and s’mores
~Camping at Mt Rainier
~Fall hikes at Discovery Park to crunch leaves
~Visit to a Pumpkin Patch
~Nighttime bedtime stories
~Playing games after dinner
~Putting together jigsaw puzzles – especially on Jan1
~Watching seasonal movies and eating homemade caramel corn
~Making homemade Valentine cards
~Waiting for the Leprechaun to visit and make mischief at the house
~Coloring eggs and hiding them
~Leaving May Day baskets at the neighbor’s door
~First Day of School picture on the front porch
~Pumpkin carving party
~Leaf walks, flashlight walks
~Cutting down our Christmas tree
Take some time to reflect on your childhood and what memories you value. What are the things you want to share with your child? What are some of the ways you can allow your child to create memories without material investment? It is important to give them opportunities to spend time in nature, spend time with others, spend time alone and time to be creative.
Enjoy building family memories this month and all year long!
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is family centered rather than focused on things and gifts. It is a time to gather with family and enjoy time together. It doesn’t mean that there is no stress or tension but hopefully it can be a time without the pressure set up by the advertising media.
Thanksgiving (and for retailers - much sooner) is the start into the holiday season. I hope you take some time to set your priorities to make this a more family centered and stress-less time. I know it cannot be stress-free but with a few adjustments to your priorities and schedules you can make it a little less stressful. It is hard to keep from getting caught up in the materialistic side of the holidays and all the pressure to make it a ‘perfect’ holiday time. We want to give our children things that will make them happy. We want to see them smile and to watch them as they enjoy the things they have. It is during the Thanksgiving holiday that we are encouraged to be aware of the people in our lives and the things we already have. Children are our most valuable gift and the values we share with them is a gift we give back to them. Taking time to enjoy the treasures you have in your children and reflecting on all the joy they bring to our lives is one way to reduce the stress we encounter during the holiday season. When we realize that we have so much to share with our children, and they with us, we can focus on relationships rather than getting more ‘things’. Time together is a gift that is more precious than anything else you can give your child.
As the nights get darker and we spend more time inside it is a great time of year to do family activities that do not cost a lot of money. Read a story by the fire or by candle light. Build a tent with sheets and use flashlights. Pop some popcorn and look at baby pictures – they love to see pictures of themselves as babies and are intrigued by your baby pictures. Spend a Saturday “on vacation” -- pretend you are out-of-towners and be tourists or just stay home but don’t do chores just fun stuff. Make a family movie or have a puppet show. Build with blocks and read Hans Christian Anderson’s Block City. Play a game. Stay in your jammies and eat breakfast on a quilt (or in bed?!) Just enjoy these little people because they will be big people before you know it!
Change is a part of life and during the holidays some of the changes that have happened during the year are magnified. Some changes are happy and expected – new babies, weddings, significant milestones while other changes are not as enjoyable or unexpected – job changes, illnesses, death of a loved one. Both of these types of change require a transitions and adjustments to family activities. With the addition of two daughter-in-laws and a grandbaby we have had some fun and happy transitions along with some stressful changes due to deaths and family dynamics. We had to adjust several family traditions so that we could be together as a family unit after Joel and Nick got married. There is a need to be flexible so that you can enjoy time together. We have had many changes in our family traditions during the past few years. Curt and I started some new traditions as a couple while we created new traditions, or adjusted them, as a “family” as our sons and their wives started their own traditions. Traditions are a time to celebrate family so it is important to be creative when changes in the family, or schedules, mandate a change in an existing tradition. The important thing is to spend time together. It is a time to cherish existing traditions and to start new ones.
As I watch your children at preschool I am reminded how lucky we are to have the chance to see the world though their eyes. Take some time this month to count your blessings and give thanks for these treasures we call children.
What do children learn when they are playing outside. When children are outside they are using all of their senses. They hear the birds, feel the breeze, smell scent of flowers and cedar trees, taste a freshly picked strawberry and see the spiders as they spin their webs in the garden. Being outside in nature allows children to build their core strength as they climb a tree and their balance as the crossover a log. They develop fine motor skills as they stack rocks or carefully look at a worm and gently place it in the garden (without squishing it). Being on dirt paths and rough ground rather than the smooth surfaces of an inside floor or a groomed ball field allows the child’s brain to send messages to his/her body as he/she moves over the uneven terrain. It connects large motor movement with visual awareness. It develops their coordination. Being outside enhances visual discrimination as they look in the distance at an bird soaring in the sky and then to the ant crawling across the sidewalk.
All of these activities strengthen a child’s physical literacy. Physical Literacy is the ability to use one’s body ….. When children are outdoors they become more aware of how their body works. They can run, jump, swing or sit, scoop, listen. Nature time allows them to interact with the world in many ways – quiet ways as they watch a hummingbird or listen to the water hitting the shoreline. The have the chance to hear loud sounds as they hear the waves crashing onto the rocks as the tide changes or use their own voice to make an echo. They can build their knowledge of physical sounds as they hear the splash from the rock that they toss in the water compared to the sound of a rock hitting the hard surface of the larger rocks. They are building their vocabulary as they gain knowledge of objects found in nature and how that object looks, feels, sounds, tastes, smells. It is not the same as a Google search of the same object. Touching a rock and turning it over in your hand – the feel of the cold rock as it turns warm from your body heat cannot be explained on Google as well as it can be explained by experience.
What are some activities that promote body knowledge through play in nature. Some of these activities need nothing other than being outside and some will need a few items from the house but all can be done by toddlers and preschoolers with a little adult assistance.
Nature Tape bracelets - using a piece of clear packing tape, sticky side up, make a bracelet around your child’s wrist. As you walk around the yard or park, pick up things of nature to add to your bracelet. This is a time to teach your child names of plants and respect for living things as well as personal property. One spring I had quite a conversation with my nephew as to why we could pick buttercups and dandelions but not the flowers from the neighbor’s hydrangea bush. In our play area at preschool we make fall bracelets from ferns, grasses, fall leaves, small pinecones and feathers I have purchased. In the spring we find buttercups, lilac blossoms, small pinecones and a variety of new growth grasses.
Treasure Hunt - Before you take a walk make a map of places on your walk. You can make the map yourself or have your child help you make the map. The treasure map can be drawings, magazine cut outs or pictures from your phone. At the end of the walk you can bury a surprise for them to find. When our sons were little would walk through Discovery Park and look for buried treasure in the sandy area by the bluff. We would hide a baggie of snacks or a little toy in the sand before they got there ... and the person who hid the treasure would stay nearby to keep puppy dogs from getting the treasure before the kids get there ;-)
Surprise Homes - Leave a piece of cardboard, cloth or plastic in an area of dirt or bark. After a few days have the child lift up the cover – it is amazing to see what little creatures have made a home under the cover. Worms, potato bugs and slugs love to live under those covered areas in the dirt.
Build a Village - Using twigs, rocks and your imagination build little pretend homes for the “little people”. With children in our neighborhood, and at preschool, we build a Leprechaun Village in March. We build villages all year long for pretend little people, fairies and gnomes. We use leaves for beds and dandelions flowers for pillows, rocks and bark to build tables and chairs, pinecones are made into walls and sticks can be telephone poles. The neighbor children created a pretend pond with boats and a dock. The children look for treasures the Little People leave for us (small treats) and we leave them shiny rocks or marbles. The village my neighbor children built stayed under my plants in my garden for the whole summer.
Scientific Search - Using child safe magnifying glasses and/or binoculars go on a walk in search of __________. You can go on a rock search, a bird search, a tree search or a flower search. I have plasticized cards with animals, plants, trees on them. A mom came up with the idea of using an erasable marker to cross off what you find on the walk. You can make your own from pictures and put contact paper over the paper for protection from the elements (and makes them tear-proof and re-usable for more walks)
Read a Book - Read a book outside under a tree. It is a great way to introduce literature and just enjoy time together in nature. Reading a book outside in the rain is fun. Find a dry place to snuggle - under a tree, on a covered porch or in a tent - and read a book while you watch, and hear, the rain all around.
Watch the Clouds - In Seattle we lots of cloudy days but we do not often get the kind of clouds that you can just watch – the big, fluffy, white clouds. On the days we do take a blanket and go outside. While you lay and watch the clouds you can: talk about what you see, talk about colors and texture or just lay and watch without talking at all. Clouds are amazing.
Worm Walks - After a rainy day (or on a rainy night) take flashlights and go outside for a walk. You will be surprised at the earthworms that are stretched out on the sidewalks. On some nights we would count 10 on just one sidewalk square. Try to catch one – they are fast and slippery. If there are no worms out - it is still fun to be outside with flashlights!
Puddle Stomping Walk – Oh the fun of splashing in puddles. We had a favorite route to take after a rain storm – lots of big puddles for stomping in. Kids love puddles and there are a lot of discoveries you can make. How big of a splash can you make? What will make a splash in the water? Can you walk without making a splash? ,Watching the ripples after the splash can you guess when they will hit the side of the puddle? Why are there ripples? Looking at reflections in the still water and in the water after the splash discuss the differences in the reflection. All of these discoveries make for time spent in interesting conversation with your child. Storm drains are fascinating also, with the rain water running into them and the sound that makes. The storm drain at the end of our alley was a destination on many of our rain walks.
Bubbles - Bubbles are great fun in the summer but have you ever thought of bubbles in the fall or on. rainy day. Bubbles are more elastic in the rain. Bubbles will sit on any wet surface without popping. You can stomp on them, watch them land on surfaces without popping and catch them in your hand. If you get your hand wet you can hold a bubble. They are great fun in the bathtub! You can stick your finger into a bubble without it popping and they will stick all over your body and the tub.
Being outside in nature reduces stress. Five minutes of unstructured time outside will reduce stress in children and adults. Going for a walk is a calming activity that is good for your body and t is time spent with your child that develops relationships and a love for nature.
Enjoy some time together exploring nature this fall.
It is officially summer and it actually feels like summer! Of course, it is Seattle so we may be back to cool and rainy at any moment! With the school days behind us and summer stretching out in front of us we have an opportunity to be outside more and more. The sunshine pulls us out of the house and into nature. Some days it is nice to just lay in the yard and enjoy a quiet moment looking at the clouds. Other days it is fun to run through the sprinkler, have a water balloon fight and stay up from early to late at night. Summer brings adventures, delicious fruits and vegetables, family time and an energy that is different from how we feel on a sunny but cold day in the winter.
Ansel had his first corn on the cob – definitely a summer ritual. It used to be that eating corn on the cob was only a summer ritual like watermelon, strawberries and tomatoes on the vine. We can buy almost any of these fruits and vegetables all year round now so there is a different feeling when you are eating them but they still say summer to me. It was so much fun watching Ansel eat the corn off the cob and then eat the cob itself! I remember eating every kernel of corn when we were on the farm in Ohio. So delicious.
Children are curious about the food they eat. Summer is a great time to show children where their food comes from. Visit one of the local farms and let the kids pick strawberries, blueberries or beans. The produce at the farmer’s markets give you an opportunity to buy something you wouldn’t necessarily buy at the grocery store. Try something new – most of summer’s harvests may be new to your child this summer so trying a new fruit or vegetable lets you experience the world of eating in a way they do most every day. Have fun eating something new or preparing it in a new way.
Spending time outside is also a summer ritual. Picnics at the park, hikes in the cool woods on a hot day, water play at the beach, bike rides and listening to the bidrs singing early in the morning are all ways that we can enjoy the warm summer days. We loved to camp in the summer and Mt Rainier was a favorite camping spot. At the time you couldn’t make reservations at the State and National Parks so it was always an adventure just getting a campsite. And it usually meant a rather long drive and especially long if we couldn’t find a camping spot and had to drive back home! Since our sons were so excited about camping and we didn’t know if we could get a site we used to do a lot of camping in the back yard when they were little. By camping in the backyard we always knew we would find a spot and that our spot would be near the restrooms! We would set up the tent in the yard, roast marshmallows over a campfire and look at the stars in the sky. We had fun being outside without having to pack everything into the car. When the guys were in grade school they would ask to sleep outside on the back deck. It
was so much fun to sleep outside with the stars shining over your head.
We went on lots of local adventures during the summer but Discovery Park was always a favorite place for hiking and adventure. There was a great playground there, lots of tall trees that filtered the sunshine onto the trails and big fields to run in. We saw all sorts of wildlife on our visits. We would look for owls, eagles, rabbits, snakes, spiders, worms as well as watch the blossoms on blackberry bushes that would turn into the blackberries that we would pick in late summer. On weekends we would visit parks that were further away. One of the weekend trips was to Wallace Falls because it was near a fishery and Nick loved fish. Find places to go that are places that reflect the interests of your child. Knowing they will find something they like after enduring a long car ride is always helpful.
DAY HIKES WITH KIDS
Another favorite activity was reading. Summer is a great time to slow down the activities and just sit outside and read a book. One summer we visited every library in our area. We talked about the architecture, the neighborhoods, the way the books were displayed. Most of the libraries are close to parks so you can get your book ad have a picnic in the nearby park. Time to read and time to play. It is a perfect combination. At home we would spread a blanket under the tree in the front yard and read all afternoon long. As they got older they would spend the afternoon reading in that same tree. The tree had to be cut down because of a fungal disease but I kept a piece of the tree for myself, Joel and Nick. I miss that tree so much but I still have a piece of it to remind me of our summers sitting under it in the shade of its leafy branches.
What are the memories you have of summer? What did you do as a family? I have so many fond memories: listening to their laughter as they played games outside, watching them lay on their backs and look at the clouds, picking (and eating) the fruit and vegetables in the garden they planted, eating cold juice pops on a hot day, watching them run through the cool water of the sprinkler, the smell of the smoke from the campfire. These are triggers to the memories of summer with my children. Whenever I get hit by the water from a sprinkler on our evening walk, hear children laughing in the evening or taste fresh strawberries I am transported back to the summer days when our sons were little. So much fun!
What are the memories that will be with you when your little ones are not so little? What do you remember from your childhood that you would like to share with your child? Summer is a great time to share traditions and create memories. Enjoy!
As we enter the gardening season I thought I would send a note about the most important seeds you can plant: seeds that develop a love of learning in your child. There is a debate as to whether it is nature or nurture that is most important in the development of a child’s intelligence. How much is a child born with and how much is influenced by their surroundings. It seems to be 50/50. There are some attributes a child is born with: athletic ability, musical ability and artistic ability are gifts a child is born with. Can a child who is extremely gifted not perform to their ability? Yes. Can a child who is born with limited abilities achieve in those areas? YES! Do not put your child in a box and label his/her abilities to do something. In the same way, do not expect a child who does not have an interest, or the ability, to be gifted in that area. Even though you were an art major your child may not have any interest in the activities at the art table. Sad, but it is not the end of the world. Maybe someday they will develop a respect for art even though they are not drawn to that area at the moment. It is your responsibility to open the world to your child. It is their responsibility to grasp what you give them.
So, what seeds are the essential for growing a child’s brain? According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules and Brain for Babies, they are:
* The desire to explore
*Self-control (executive function)
Create a safe environment for your child to explore. Both inside and outside, children need areas for unstructured, open ended exploration. Children need these opportunities to develop the desire to explore. Give your child time to make choices about what they are going to do. They need to time play in the back yard without an agenda, dig in the dirt, examine a plant, watch a bug and explore in a natural environment. This takes time -- your time -- to give your child a safe area in which to do this. It also involves YOU. You have to engage your child in activities that will promote open ended exploration. It can be messy (most likely), it can be time consuming (young children are not known for staying on a precise schedule), it can be joyful (seeing the world as your child does), it can be amazing (watching your child has he/she grasps a new thought, idea, concept). Children need to be given opportunities to see connections, ask questions – why? and what if? They need to touch, taste, hear, tinker, take apart, put together, just BE in their world in order to engage their brains in learning.
Can a child have self-control? It is something you need to help your child develop. Self-control is also known as executive function. It is the ability to stop one’s self from doing something, to think about the consequences, to take responsibility for one’s words and actions. Executive function is a better indicator of academic success than one’s IQ. According to John Medina, executive function controls planning, foresight, problem solving and goal setting. If you can delay your actions (control yourself) you will do better in school and the work place. If you can filter out distraction and stay on course you will be better at staying on task. It is important to help your child develop good impulse control techniques. Teaching them to take a breath, count to 10 or stomp their foot when they are mad rather than throw the toy, hit their sister, bite their friend. Is this easy? No. Does it take time? Yes. Will it be worth it in the end? YES!
You want your child to explore the world but you want them to be able to control their body while doing so. They need to learn that there is a time to explore and a time to sit, a time to be involved in their own activities or thoughts and a time to engage with or listen to others, a time to take a chance and a time to be cautious. Teaching your child when and how to use self-control is one of the most important lessons you can teach them. The more practice they have at delayed gratification (staying on task when they are working on a project -- concentrating on a task) the better the brain becomes at controlling behavior.
Researchers believe creativity has a few core components:
*the ability to perceive relationships between new and old things that result in new ideas
*motivating actions that did not exist before
Creativity must also have an emotional connection. This involves risk-taking. For young children it is not as scary to be creative as it is when you get into grade school. You can encourage your child’s creativity by giving them open ended activities that allow them to use their mind in a way that allows them the freedom to create. It may not be what you had in mind but it is their response to the environment and materials that have been presented to them. Giving them blocks to play with rather than media based toys (that have a pre-set idea already in place) allows them to create a city, a boat, a world for their small animals or practice fine motor skills, discover scientific principles, concentrate on visual awareness and/or a combination of all of this. Junk is a wonderful art/science open ended starter. Give your child a box of “stuff” that has been collected (juice lid tops, magazines, recycled materials, glue, string, etc.) then let them create – whatever they chose to create!
Being with your child during the time they are outside exploring, while they are creating something from ‘junk’, as they read a story or while they are taking their bath gives you time to communicate with your child. They can tell you their thoughts, what they have created, ask questions about the world, learn new vocabulary words and you can answer their questions, marvel at their thoughts, be amazed by their creations. If you are not present in their world you will miss opportunities to develop a base for communicating with your child when they are older. As you listen to what they are saying now and respect their input in a conversation you are teaching them that communication is valuable in human relationships. Giving them opportunities to practice visual cues is also a way you teach your child communication – ‘that made you sad’, ‘look at her face – she is happy’, and ‘oh, I see you are mad’. Helping your child build a strong vocabulary and teaching them emotional cues will allow your child to communicate his/her ideas and feelings to others while building strong relationships.
When you spend time with your child you are creating these relational bonds. Taking your child to work with you, going to a museum or the arboretum, visiting a neighbor, spending time reading books are all ways to strengthen your child's ability to communicate, understand emotions and to build strong vocabulary skills.
Plant these seeds now and watch as they blossom as your child grows.
April is here and it is time to think about gardening. Do you like to garden? Do you like to look at what other people have in their gardens? If you are like me, you like both! This is a great time to share the world that is springing up in the gardens with your children.
Our sons loved to be outside digging in the dirt. As soon as the weather warmed up enough to plant we went outside to “put in our garden”. Of course, it was nothing like their Great Grandpa’s garden on the farm in Ohio but it was ours. His garden was the size of our whole backyard! We always had corn (which was never knee high by the Fourth of July) and we seldom got to eat it because the raccoons got there first! We planted carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, blueberries, pumpkins (that never got very big), strawberries, raspberries, cherries and, when they got older, peppers and cilantro for salsa. Ours was an “eating garden” not the “canning gardens” they could run through while visiting the relatives in Ohio. Our garden was there for them to experience the joy of growing something, to see where food comes from and to be able to taste the goodness of their harvest (if we could keep the raccoons and birds from experiencing it first!) We would take pictures of their two corn stalks and send them to Great Grandpa. I know my Grandfather was proud of his little gardeners and they were proud of the food that they harvested.
When they got to high school they both took the horticulture class offered at Nathan Hale High School. The teacher came up to me one day and asked if Joel and Nick had gardened when they were younger. I said they had a small garden in our yard and she replied, “I knew it. They have such a respect for living things.” It is so important to let little ones nurture things from nature. There is a lot to learn as they garden. When they garden they develop a respect for things living things as well as a knowledge of where food comes from, the grow in their knowledge of science as they experience the magic of watching a growing a seed, they learn patience as they wait for their plants to produce something to eat and there is a new level of self-confidence when they see what they have accomplished. This love for nature will stay with them.
Joel and Danielle have been working on the garden at their home. We just gave Ansel the little red watering can that was Joel’s when he was a toddler. Ansel loves being outside. He loves watching the leaves as they move in the wind, enjoys looking at flowers in the garden, finding something new in the yard and he loves to eat so I am guessing he will be excited to learn about the things growing in his garden. He will be especially excited once he figures out he can eat those red, ripe strawberries that grow in his yard!
Nick and Greta do not have their own garden but Greta works on an organic farm so they have lots of fresh produce at their house. Greta dried spices for our Christmas gifts this year. When we visited Madison she took us on a tour of the farm. There are garden plots on the farm like the pea patch gardens in Seattle as well as the large fields that the farm harvests. It is a fun community area. They have a community play area for the children – lots of mud, water, open spaces—lots of fun!
My Grandfather would be so proud of his little gardeners and pleased to know that Joel, Danielle, Ansel, Nick and Greta are carrying on one of the traditions he so loved. Gardening. I am glad we had, and are still having, fun digging in the dirt together.
Children love to see where food comes from before it gets to the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Take them to a blueberry or strawberry farm and let them pick some fruit. Then let them help prepare the food for a family meal. You know where food comes from but to them this is a new and exciting adventure.
Take some time to get dirty with your child – or just visit the pea patch and see what other people are doing in the dirt.
As parents of active preschoolers sometimes it is difficult to think of outside of the moment. Your focus may be -- what do I feed them, what park do we go to today, will they go down for their nap, where is that shoe? Life is busy when you have little ones running around the house. I know you have heard me, and others, say “Oh, but it goes so fast”. Yes, it does go fast but some days may feel like they go on forever!! As you start 2018 take some time to think about what you would like to do with your child this year. Do you want to laugh more, be more spontaneous, more structured, more playful, more serious? Find one thing you would like to do this year to be a better parent and be purposeful in setting up a plan to achieve that goal. Who can help you achieve your goal? I could always come up with the idea for a fun activity but it was Curt who actually made it “fun”. In our home I was the planner and Curt was the one who activated my plan. It was a nice balance – still is! What is something you can do with your partner that would enhance your family’s life this year? It could be as simple as taking time to go on a family walk before/after dinner, reading a book together, gathering shells at the beach…. Be sure to set a realistic goal that everyone will enjoy and that will be easy to implement. When everyone is on board you have the support needed to be successful.
BOOKS to READ
Next try to set a goal for yourself. Find something that you enjoy (something new or something you used to do) and try to add it to your schedule. It may be something as easy as a neighborhood walk but you will need support to have the time to do something all by yourself. What can you do that will help you be a better parent – how can you give yourself some time to relax, re-charge, rejuvenate? This was always difficult for me. I had a hard time setting up time for “just me” as I always preferred “family time” – still do! The one thing I did do for myself was to go for a walk with my neighbor – still do! When we walk we have a chance to vent, laugh, share stories and get some outside time as well. Nick was happy to hear that Mary and I still take our walks. It makes him feel like the neighborhood is still the same. Mary was the one person he would go to when he was little. She was his “Mar Mar”. He would toddle down the sidewalk saying, MarMar, MarMar. The first time he called her Mary she almost cried - she knew he was growing up. She had a brain tumor removed in June 2011. This was a difficult time for all of us, but especially Nick. Being away in Wisconsin was hard on Nick and it was comforting to him to have the established traditions still in place. Who would have thought that my daily walk with Mary would become one of Nick’s anchoring memories.
As our sons grew older some of our family activities turned into family traditions. One by one, little by little, some of the things we did as they grew up became the traditions that created their childhood memories. The things we did as a family and the things that were set in place as my “Mommy Time” are part of what make up Joel and Nick’s childhood. When you set a goal it may be for just a short time – learning to knit was a wonderful goal but I discovered it was not my gift! Or it may be for a lifetime – walking with Mary has been an activity that has been going on for 35 years now. I enjoy looking back at what we have done as a family, what I have done for myself and what the members of our family have accomplished in this past year. Curt and I have set come goals for what we want to do this year – going on another family snowshoe trip is one of them! Take some time to reflect and to reach a goal this year. You never know – in the years to come it may be one of your family’s treasured memories.