Let’s face it: we all take things for granted. We forget how fortunate we are. Let’s make November a month of gratitude! Help your children focus on what they are grateful for. Read about it: The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood. Talk about it: share 3 things you’re grateful for at dinner or bedtime. Make a Tree of Thanksgiving.
Bullying and Young Children
Bullying has been in the national spotlight so much lately. Does this mean anything for our youngest children?
Apparently, yes. Not only do teachers and parents report bullying behaviors in young children, but researchers do too. Repeated, intentional, unkind actions from children with more power toward children with less power. That’s the definition of bullying.
One teacher shared, “Some years, we see just typical arguing or spats; other years, we are really surprised by the bullying and aggression that crops up.”
Bullying researchers (yes, there is such a thing!) have found that curbing bullying in the early years has the most long-term impact. The longer bullying continues – the “stickier” the problem becomes. Studies have found that a child being bullied consistently in first grade is very likely to be targeted [ more ]
It’s a time when communities across the country can work together to raise awareness of bullying prevention through events, activities, outreach, and education. Wingspan has training that expands early childhood educators’ understanding of bullying behavior in young children. Participants learn how they can intervene when bullying occurs and what they can do to prevent bullying. Click here for more information.
Planning a picnic with children can be fun and it involves brainstorming and making choices – great skills for life! What sandwiches? Which fruit will travel well? What toys should we bring? Even a picnic in the back yard or in another room is fun for children. Pack water, a blanket, and hand sanitizer– you’re good to go.
For more great skill-building tips, check out In a Nutshell on the AcornDreams homepage.
Happy children and their fabulous teachers joined in the Healthy Al, Healthy Me celebration on April 23, 2015 across the country and in Canada, too.
A family child care program in New Bern, NC lead by Sau’nia Kay “had a ball!” They made salads out of cucumbers & tomatoes, with some from their own garden. They created and laminated placemats decorated with pictures of veggies and fruits. The placemats turned into a healthy version of I Spy while they ate. Finally, they took some bananas and applesauce to an assisted living facility and handed them out. The children wanted to be sure that the residents “could eat healthy, too.”
At Sunshine & Rainbows Learning Center in Joliet, Illinois, Karen Cooper and her class spent the entire day outside at a park. They hiked, played kickball and tennis, and enjoyed the fresh, brisk air. Lots of parents joined them for the day to get their dose of Vitamin N (for Nature)!
In Culpeper, Virginia, Paula Treadway’s class had a great time exercising in the gym and learning about making healthy choices. They cut out pictures and made a collage of things that are healthy. Al made a surprise visit in some of the classrooms to see what the children had learned.
Up north in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Jennifer Barone’s class participated by making Healthy Al, Healthy Me hats and parents were encouraged to get involved by bringing in a healthy snack for the class to share. The children also did lots of gross motor exercises to build strong muscles.
The children in Ana Cuenca’s family child care program in Salt Lake City, UT took advantage of many of the ideas provided for the Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration. They talked about good food, and used the food groups to sort healthy foods. They made a fruit salad together. They wrapped up the morning by doing yoga – a good time was had by all!
At the VCU Health System Family Care Center in Richmond, VA, Carol’s class had a full morning. They read Al’s Healthy Choices and used the lesson that comes with it. The children role played all sorts of active motions like bouncing a ball or running. Then they made veggie people and told stories about their creations. They finished up by eating lots of yummy vegetables and deciding which they liked best.
Dorothy Weinzapfel at St. Phillip School in Evansville, IN appreciated the opportunity because she likes “being proactive in teaching children how to be healthy, cope with negative behaviors, and stay safe, rather than always reacting to the negatives.” They reviewed all the great things they have learned from Al, Keisha, and Ty this year and are planning a special healthy snack for their last week together. They want to make veggie people because it’s always fun to create something with food!
We are already looking forward to next year’s celebration! Remember, that you can have a Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration any time with these fun, easy-to-use resources!
Children can join others around the world squishing and splashing in the mud on June 29th celebrating International Mud Day. Experiencing the wonders of mud is a true joy of childhood. More ideas on connecting children with nature can be found in our blog, More Vitamin N for Happier, Healthier, Kinder Children.
Why Involve Children in the Activities of Daily Life?
Sometimes it is just easier to do it yourself. Toys need to be picked up in a hurry? Table needs to be set? A four-year-old needs to get dressed? Activities for Saturday afternoon need to be planned? In our busy day-to-day lives, if there is a job to do or decision to make, we tend to mull over the options, choose one that seems manageable, and just do it. Quick and easy, right? But when we do it all, we are missing opportunities to involve children in meaningful ways that can help them become more independent, creative, and resilient.
Everyone Needs a Voice in Family Life
When we find ourselves making the decisions, telling children what to do, where to go, what to wear, what to eat, we are inadvertently depriving them of the chance to think for themselves and to voice their opinions. Like adults, kids begin to bristle when they are micromanaged all the time. Even the youngest children benefit when they get to be involved in life’s little decisions.
When given opportunities to express themselves, share their experiences and make decisions, children feel valued and develop a sense of self. This gives them the message that they are an important part of the family. And when they are involved in a way that has meaning to them, when they have a Voice, children become more cooperative and behavior issues decrease. So how can we let children know that we value their ideas and experiences?
We Need to Listen
One way for children to have a Voice is to take a few minutes to let them know you are genuinely interested in what they have to say:
- Listen to how their day was. Prompt them with something specific like “tell me about one person you played with (or talked to or laughed with) today.”
- Ask them to tell you that joke again (even though you’ve heard it 100 times).
- Have them tell you about the picture they made or the block structure they built.
- Ask a silly question like “What super power would you like to have?” or “If you discovered a new planet, what would it be like?” or “If you were the boss of the world, what rules would you make?”
While most adults can listen and do something else at the same time, to a child it feels like you are not tuned in. So when they are talking, be sure to stop what you’re doing and really pay attention. Let them know you are listening by looking at them and responding to what they say.
Involve Children in Decision-Making
Another way to help children have a Voice is to encourage them to share ideas and opinions when decisions must be made or problems need to be solved. Some examples:
- Giving ideas about a family activity (which park to visit, which movie to watch)
- Working through a problem with a sibling by brainstorming possible solutions
- Helping to pick out gifts for relatives or friends celebrating birthdays
- Brainstorming dinner ideas
- Helping to plan a party or celebration
While they may not end up getting the final say, children get the message that their input is valuable and is taken into consideration. Needless to say, certain decisions are not appropriate for children to be involved in such as bedtimes and how much TV is watched. It’s important for children to understand that some things are not negotiable. Giving children a Voice is not the same as letting them ‘rule the roost’. Having a Voice means being involved in the process of child-appropriate decision-making and problem-solving, not necessarily the outcome. Life does not always feel fair, but it is valuable and reassuring for children to learn that there are times when caring parents make the decisions
What Caring Adults Can Do
To help children have a Voice, Dr. Richard Grossman, a psychologist in Brookline Massachusetts, suggests that we keep 3 guidelines in mind:
- Assume that what your child has to say is just as important as what you have to say.
- Assume that you can learn as much from them as they can from you.
- Enter their world through play, activities, and discussions; don’t require them to enter yours in order to make contact.
By letting children know that we value their thoughts and ideas, and that we want their active participation in the life of the family, we give them the message that they matter. Research tells us that involving children in a meaningful way helps them become more resilient and ready to take on the challenges that life will certainly throw their way.
Understanding and Preventing
Bullying in Young Children
Training for Early Childhood Educators
This three-hour interactive training expands early childhood educators’ understanding of bullying behavior in young children. Participants learn how they can intervene when bullying occurs and what they can do to prevent bullying. The workshop addresses these questions:
- What is bullying and why do some children bully others?
- What does bullying behavior look like in young children and why should educators be concerned?
- How is bullying different from aggression typically seen in young children?
- How can adults curb aggressive and bullying behavior demonstrated by young children?
- What strategies help prevent bullying behavior and promote more positive social interactions?
- What are effective ways to build empathy in young children?
[ more ]
Caring and Empathy Start in the Early Years
“I’m going to visit Papa in the hospital today,” my daughter said to her two young sons. “Wait a minute, Mommy,” said 2½ year old Noah. He then disappeared up to his room. After rummaging through his drawer, he emerged from his room, proceeded downstairs, and placed a tiny orange plastic dinosaur in his mother’s hand. She did not remember him having this toy and asked what it was all about. Noah explained that when he went to his doctor when he was sick, the doctor gave him the dinosaur to help him feel better. He then instructed my daughter to bring the dinosaur to me to help me feel better as I recuperated from knee replacement surgery.
When my daughter presented the dinosaur to me in my hospital bed along with the Noah’s instructions, I was overwhelmed by the level of empathy demonstrated by such a young child. It was hard to fathom that he felt that connected to me and what I was going through. That wonderful, healing dinosaur proudly sat on the mantle in our family room and inspired me every day to hang in there through the challenging physical therapy that followed and helped me heal so I could play with my grandchildren.
While I continue to be amazed at how a 2½ year old could empathize so appropriately, it was a real-life reminder that even the youngest of children can understand other people’s feelings and show they care. While children are born with the capacity to be empathetic, empathy is a skill that children learn. When children have adults in their lives who respond to them with compassion and understanding, they are more likely to be empathetic towards others. Children who are empathic are more likely to do better in school, have more friends, and lead happier, more fulfilling lives.
How Can Caring Adults Help Children Learn to be Empathetic?
- Talk about feelings often – how you are feeling, how the child might be feeling, how characters in a story might be feeling. “How do you think the boy feels when his kite gets stuck in the tree?”
- Teach children words to express their feelings. Accept all feelings and validate them. Help them cope with strong feelings. “I see how frustrated you are that the puzzle pieces won’t stay together. That would make me frustrated, too.”
- Encourage children to consider that other people also have feelings just like they do. “You told me you felt sad when Maria teased you. How do you think Trayvon feels when you tease him?”
- Brainstorm with children what they can do to help a child in distress feel better. “Alisha is very sad because her mom is on a trip. Do you have any ideas for what you could do to comfort her?”
- Recognize children when they show caring towards others. “You were a good friend when you asked Kendall if she wanted to play with you.”
- Role model kindness and empathy. Verbally express your concern for someone’s feelings. Give caring gestures like patting a child on the back or calmly tell a child you understand how she feels if she is scared, frustrated, sad, or upset. “That loud truck made you feel scared, didn’t it? I understand. Loud noises scare me sometimes, too.”
When children’s own emotional needs are met in warm, caring ways, they are more likely to be able to respond to other’s discomfort and pain – and extend a dinosaur of kindness to those in need.
Norman Geller, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and Assistant Professor
Autism and Educational Diagnostics, LLC.
A Great Time was Had by All!
Classrooms and family child care programs in multiple states, Canada, and Bermuda participated in this year’s Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration on April 3. Here is a sampling of the myriad of marvelous activities that took place that day:
In Bermuda, Romeika Brangman coordinated celebrations at Gilbert Institute and West End Primary. They read and acted out Al’s Action Story, then made and savored tasty fruit kebobs. A big thank you to Ms. Correia, Ms. Tacklyn, Ms. Taylor, and Ms. Millett for their energetic participation. They even made a video! Watch it here.
Programs throughout Virginia participated in activities such as making veggie faces, dancing, taking a walk, reading Al’s Action Story, and making collages, hats, and banners. Kudos to Vicki Mollenauer at North Richmond YMCA, Sue Blanco at Walnut Grove CDC, Michelle Freeman at Michelle’s Playland, Debbie Gillispie at Four Seasons, Sheila Thompkins at William Byrd, and Donna Hopkins at Rooftop Head Start for your enthusiastic coordination of the celebration.
In New Bern NC, Sau’nia Kay took her children to a market where they picked out fruits and vegetables for a homemade salad and snacks. They tasted and evaluated what they thought of their special purchases.
The children in Cindy Zappascosta’s class in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario had a visit from Al, Ty, and Keisha. They sang, danced, and made healthy snacks together. Then they graphed their favorite parts of their snack.
Grand River EHS, part of Capital Area Community Services in Lansing MI spent all week talking about staying active and being healthy. Julie Shea and Faye Phillips led the children in yoga, had bean bag tosses, started their days with morning exercises, and enjoyed a tasting party.
We are already looking forward to next year’s celebration! Remember, that you can have a Healthy Al, Healthy Me celebration any time with these great resources!