Children Should be Seen AND Heard!

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?

Joining in children's play helps them have a Voice
Joining in children’s play helps them have a Voice

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:

  1. Assume that what your child has to say is just as important as what you have to say.
  2. Assume that you can learn as much from them as they can from you.
  3. 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.

Wingspan’s Bullying Prevention Training for Early Childhood Educators

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 ]

How Much TV Is Okay For Young Children?

Lots of Screens In Children’s Lives

Screens here, screens there, screens, screens everywhere — in our pockets, on our phones, in our cars, and in our homes.

It can be hard to tear children away from the TV.
It can be hard to tear children away from the TV.

It’s no wonder National Screen-Free Week was created!

And it’s not just mobile devices, computers, and smartphones — TV screens are everywhere.  You see them in the pediatrician’s  waiting room, restaurants, convenience stores, banks, and car repair shops.    Even movie theater lobbies have TVs running previews of movies!

Preschool age children spend between 2 and 4 1/2 hours using some sort of screen each day. However, according to the “Zero to Eight:  Children’s Media Use in America” study (published by Common Sense Media’s Program for the Study of Children and Media), 74% of young children’s screen time is television.  Although the use of apps and video games is on the rise, for preschool children, TV is still the number one screen of choice. [ more ]

Playtime Matters: Are Some Kinds Of Play Better Than Others?

Put the Play Back Into Playtime

“Get back in the game, buddy!” calls out a dedicated dad when he sees his 4-year old athlete poking twigs in the ground to make a stick house.

Hmmm.   Two kinds of play here.  Soccer and imaginary twig towns.

Remember “Just Playing?”

Today’s young children certainly play more soccer and t-ball.  They jump on bouncers, flap parachutes and scarves together, and clamber through ballpits in “play places.”  Our children master video games created just for them and many maneuver a smart phone better than adults!  There are fewer twig towns out there these days.

Playing in hay bale houses - interesting!
Playing in hay bale houses – interesting!

 

Do children play the same way today as we did when we were kids? [ more ]

Snowflakes Young Children Can Make for Sandy Hook

Although young children don’t benefit knowing the details of Sandy Hook, they can still be involved in acts of kindness.  Making snowflakes to create a winter wonderland is a simple gesture that will welcome Sandy Hook children to their new school.   Deadline is Jan. 12.  Mail snowflakes to Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514.

 

Teaching Children the Gift of Giving, Not Getting

It’s Never Too Early to Show Children the Joys of Giving

The “Gimme” Attitude

What gifts can young children give?

Lots of people love to talk about children being spoiled today, being raised with a sense of entitlement. Usually, we’re talking about other people’s spoiled children but not always.

Did Socrates have specific children in mind when he observed: “The children now love luxury…have bad manners, contempt for authority…disrespect to their elders….” ?

During the busy month of December, many caring adults work very hard to create special traditions and choose perfect gifts that will delight children – who will then appreciate and remember warm holiday experiences. You know, we’re making memories! It’s a lot of work.

What Really Makes Children Happy

How frustrating and disappointing when instead of sweet gratitude and general contentedness, children instead look around for ANOTHER present or are cranky or get overstimulated by our memory-making activities. [ more ]

We’re About Building Strong Children

We’re interested in helping children grow up healthy and strong.

Growing strong kids  can be hard these days.  The right tools make any job easier.  AcornDreams.com offers resources, support, and information for helping children grow up strong, healthy, and ready to flourish.

click on picture to print; for best image print without margins or headers

[ more ]

To Praise or Not to Praise….What REALLY Helps Children?

“You’re the BEST climber!”

Ok, Shakespeare never wrote to “to praise or not to praise.” And even if he had, the real question that caring adults are asking is more about HOW and WHAT to praise.

Does It Help Children When Adults Praise?

How Often Do You Say “Good Job?”

Do any of these sound like things you might say?

  • “You are a very smart little girl.”
  • “You’re awesome at writing letters.”
  •  “Thank you for being a great helper!”
  • “Wow!  This is such a beautiful picture!”

[ more ]

Snack Fever: Have Young Children’s Eating Habits Changed?

Healthy and tasty snack!
Healthy and tasty snack!

 Snacking Is Part Of A Bigger Problem

Over one third of American children are overweight or obese.  We’ve heard this for so long; the statement has almost lost its impact.

But really – one third?

Not only are overweight children more likely to feel bad about themselves, but they may well be on a path of on-going over-weight and diminished health.

Won’t Young Children “Outgrow” Being Overweight?

Some young children DO grow up and out of being overweight.  But not all.  Children who are overweight are more likely to be overweight adults.  That means one third of our children are more likely to develop diabetes, liver and heart disease, asthma, cancer, sleep apnea, joint problems, and other health conditions.

What Causes Children To Be Overweight?

In addition to larger portion sizes, more processed and high calorie foods – changes in children’s snacking patterns contribute to the hefting of the nation’s children.

This is a short blog, so let’s look at one factor – the snacking – and what caring adults can do to protect children’s health.  [ more ]