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Costumes–your child does not need costumes.

Notice, I did not say he or she does not need dress-up clothes. I said pass on the costumes.

What’s the difference? Dress-up clothes are multi-purposed and the purpose changes with your child’s imagination. Your child is in charge. The plain cape can make him or her a superhero or a knight or Little Red Riding Hood or Zorro or a bad guy or a good guy or a princess traveling on a mission. A Superman cape with logo is only a Superman cape.

Dress-up play is immensely important.

  • Imaginary play develops a child’s language skills. Think about it: Whether your child does it silently or out loud, he or she can’t become part of a story unless and until they put words to it.
  • Thinking of multiple uses for an object is a trait of creativity.
  • Dress-up and imaginary play puts a child in charge. In a day to day existence where children are told so often what to do and when, imaginary play lets them be the boss.
  • It also helps children develop impulse control.
  • Finally, in imaginary play, children can tackle what’s frightening and overcome it, they can be aggressive and discover their limits, they can be powerful–and on and on. The agenda is theirs.

If you buy a Snow White or Spiderman costume, that’s the end of the story–literally. Save your money and buy oodles more of all purpose dress-up clothes instead (many can be picked up at your local thrift store).

What’s your favorite addition to the dress-up box?

Have fun,

Babette

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Your kids are likely a little more than half way through their summer vacation. You and kiddos resolved that this summer would be different–they would read and they would read consistently throughout the summer. Cuz you know it’s good for them (and tastes better than spinach).

But here it is, mid-summer, and everyone’s resolve is wavering. How do you jump start the reading? It’s an easy, one-step trick.

Let your kid pick the reading material.

Oh no, you wail, tearing into the street, heedless of oncoming traffic. But what if…

  • My kid chooses comic books;
  • My kid chooses books of less than stellar literary merit;
  • My kid chooses a cookbook or a how-to book;
  • My kid chooses a book with a lot of pictures;
  • My kid choose a book that’s not on the AR (or substitute your school’s reading program) list;
  • My kid chooses a book he or she has already read…
  • or a book too easy or a book too hard or a magazine or (fill in the blank with your concern).

What if? Well, bottom line, it does not matter. Really truly, it does not matter what they read. Research shows that what matters is the number of words they read and that they read consistently.

Remember that there are many purposes for reading and therefore many reasons for “teaching” reading. Summer reading, leisure reading, vacation reading, non-school reading develops the fluency and skills that lead to lifelong reading.

Reading is not merely an academic endeavor. Think about it: How would you like it if

  1. someone always dictated to you what you could and could not read,
  2. someone always “quizzed” you on it, either formally or informally, and
  3. someone was always handing you books like Moby Dick (I’d run out screaming into the street!)

You wouldn’t like it one bit, would you? And would you want to read very much if that’s what always happened when you tried? You betcha wouldn’t! 🙂

Your kid’s no different.

So recharge summer reading. Let the kiddos do the choosing!

It’s what summer’s for,

Babette

You want the best for your kids.

You als0 don’t want to go broke raising them.

Contrary to what product marketers would lead you to believe, those two are not mutually exclusive. You can provide for your child and save your money for other things. 🙂

To start you on your way, I’ll be taking a look at a few things I’ve run across for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers that you are better off not buying. First up:

Baby bottle thermal wraps: If you stick with the principle of why baby bottles exist, you’ll see why this is unnecessary. Baby bottles are for feeding babies; they are a substitute for the breast. Baby is hungry. Baby is fed. Bottle is empty and gets put away. The idea behind a thermal wrap is to keep something cold. But a baby fed from a bottle doesn’t have the bottle long enough for the contents to get hot. And most babies don’t like drinking cold liquids anyway.

If you think you need the wrap because your child likes to “keep” the bottle, you need to know that that can create several problems. First, baby’s saliva gets into the formula or juice and starts to break it down (which is what saliva is for). Left to do this for an extended period of time, it sets up spoilage and can give your child stomach aches or diarrhea.

Second, sucking on bottles of formula or juice for long periods of time causes tooth decay. Yep, even before you can see those pearly whites! And it’s even worse if you let a child sleep with a bottle.

Finally, if your child uses a bottle for water, that’s ok. Most children get enough fluids from nursing or formula, but in especially hot weather, offering water can be good. Just remember, that they will drink more if it is at a lukewarm temperature, not icy cold.

So if you like the wraps for their cute designs, that’s fine. Just know that’s what you are buying them for, just decoration, and not as something necessary.

More later,

Babette

Ramona and Ralph the Mouse love DEAR!

Yeah, you can sing that to Aretha’s RESPECT and I won’t tell.

But DEAR and TCH really are not the latest in pop tunes. They are two great websites I discovered and wanted to pass on to you.

DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) has been around a while and is officially celebrated on Beverly Cleary’s birthday, April 12. But this video (1 minutes long) does a great job of showing how it can become a regular part of a school day–and the same can be done at home, of course!

Some of the things I love about this video are:

  • it’s noisy: reading and storytimes do not need to be quiet; reading aloud and the conversation that goes with it is a noisy kind of learning;
  • it’s wiggly: reading and storytimes do not need to be still; some kids like to sit and some like to move around or stand; they are all soaking it up;
  • it’s fairly unstructured: while reading (and more so storytimes) sometimes need planning and care, just as often all it takes is to pick up a book; some kids are read to solo, some are in pairs, some are in groups and these “reading groups” are not assigned or planned;
  • it’s easy: anyone can pick up a book and read to a child (and even if you can’t read, you can talk about the pictures or make up a story to go along with the pictures–it’s still “reading” for young children).

Finally, TCH Teaching Channel is one of the best sites for teaching and education ideas I’ve run across. Quality stuff! It’s worth exploring.

How could you adapt DEAR in your school, home, or library? Share your ideas with others!

DEAR,

Babette

 

No, it’s NOT what you think. In many ways I am not the terribly sentimental sort. But this is so cool, such an outstandingly neat idea that it makes me wish I had a little starting kindergarten in the fall so I could do this for him or her! (Well, it sorta makes me want one. Do it for yours instead. ;-))

Take a look and KEEP READING below the picture. It’s NOT what you think!

Now, don’t you want a kindergartner too?

Keep on smiling,

Babette

 

That seems an oxymoron, putting Mr. Rogers (as in children’s television) and re-mix (as in recombination of music tracks to create something new) together. Mr. Rogers wasn’t a singer, a rapper, or even part of a band. Granted, my kids’ favorite bedtime music was a tape of some of the songs from his show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He was simply many, many a child’s (and adult’s) favorite television neighbor.

I love re-mixes. I love the creativity that is so stunningly demonstrated when one is well done. And this one by PBS Digital is now way at the top of my list. It’s only 3 minutes long and it will make you smile *all* day long. So take a listen to Gardens of the Mind, the Mr. Rogers Re-Mix, and remember all the good Fred Rogers stood for and all he’s left us to carry on with for the sake of children.

Smile!

Babette

That may sound like an exaggeration. Certainly the intention is to improve education for a generation but when mandates don’t match with reality, the opposite occurs.

As busy as you are, if there are young children in your life, you need to read this summary in the Washington Post of Defending the Early Years’ coalition report.

If you think it’s not this bad, read Dr. David Elkind’s book Miseducation. Written in the late 80’s, it was prescient. It remains one of the best and most accessible explanations of why we cannot go against the biology and psychology of learning and what happens when we do.

And if you think these things don’t happen, I’ll tell you about my personal experience over ten years ago with preschool testing. My youngest, who is now sixteen, was in a “lottery funded” preschool program. Good program, good teachers. Until they started testing. A lot. I asked the teachers to not test my child. They squirmed big time–and eventually “sorta” told me that they couldn’t cause it would get them in trouble.

I spoke with the director who was very understanding–but still wanted him tested. We finally agreed that I would put my request in writing and that they wouldn’t test. I thought that was the end of the story.

Then in the car pick-up line a few weeks later, the teacher very quickly (and surreptitiously) stuck her head in the car window and apologized to me and said she “was sorry but she had to.” “Had to what?” I asked. “Test him today” was her guilty reply.

It was my son’s last day at that preschool, free or not.

If you are involved in early childhood education, please check out the link in the WP article to DEY’s survey and make your voice and experience heard. Speak up to principals, school boards, and others who make education decisions. Insist that their decisions follow what we’ve known for decades about how children learn.

Together we can see that children receive the education that’s best for them,

Babette

I’m back! 🙂 And over the next few weeks, I’ll fill you in on some of the changes in my life and work. To kick things off, though, I want to share a most memorable story for this Memorial Day–and kick off a new series of articles. Developmental Milestones will share stories and examples from the “real world” of how children grow. It will put some concrete flesh on the theoretical bones of developmentalists like Piaget, Erikson, Elkind, and others.

Let’s start off with a photo. It’s not mine to embed so click here to take a look. Yes, that’s a five year old boy, patting the President of the United States head. Yes, he asked to pat it, to touch the President’s hair. Why? To see if it was like his own.

What’s going on here developmentally? During ages 1-3, children begin to develop a sense of being separate from the people around them. During ages 3-6, they begin to develop an identity. They aren’t just a separate entity, a different “thing” from you or me; they are a separate being with a unique identity. Of course, a 3 year old doesn’t verbalize or even think about this but all the things that make us human are driving him or her to explore identity.

What makes me “me” and not you? (And yes, if this sounds familiar, you are right. This exploration gets re-visited in adolescence; some actually call the teenage years “the second adolescence.” :-)) At this age the exploration is on very basic levels–Am I a boy or a girl? How do I know that? Am I strong, smart, shorter, taller, brown like you or white like her? Can I be a knight, a princess, a fire fighter, a doctor, a chef, a mother, a father?

Do you see where this is leading? Can I be President?

“Who am I?” Jacob is asking. Am I like him? His skin color is like mine; is his hair like mine?  Can I have fuzzy hair and be President? Can I be black with fuzzy hair and be President?

What do children see? Who do we allow them to see?

Don’t misunderstand. There’s nothing didactic here. We don’t have to “teach” or knock them over the head with a two by four about prejudice or gender issues. But we do have to be aware of how much they are learning. It is important that all children see that a black person can be President or that a woman can be a doctor or that a dad can change diapers. It is important that they see their faces in books (including on the covers) and movies and computer games.

No matter what strides we make as a society in overcoming prejudice and racism, we will always have to remember that children ages 3-5 will be exploring identity. We need to give them opportunities to explore all the possibilities.

Questions? Comments? Just click below the headline. Want to read more? Click here for “Obama and the Snowy Day.”

Have fun!

Babette

Does reading aloud really make a difference?

It’s just a book. It’s just a few minutes. (Or maybe a few seconds, if you’re reading to a baby. ;-)) You’re just a (fill in the blank); you don’t know anything about teaching a child to read.

Is it really making a difference?

Absolutely! The results will not show up for 1-5 years (in other words, not until after a child is developmentally ready to learn to rad around age 6-7 and after he or she starts school). Here’s one reason, though, why you can trust that those minutes of reading aloud are making a difference:

  • According to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data, about half of children under 5 are read to seven or more times a week by a parent or family member.
  • Children under age 5 whose families are living below the poverty line were more likely to be read to seven or more times a week in 2009 (45 percent) than in 1998 (37 percent).

Both those statistics are reported by Early Martin Phelan and you can read more here.

Read on!

Babette

 

I despise cancelling any storytime but especially Toddler Time for babies through 3-ish. Most of the kids are between 12-24 months, and I appreciate (and vividly remember) how difficult it is for someone that age to change gears quickly and deal with disappointment.

So I never, ever, ever cancel Toddler Time unless I have to. Which includes getting caught at a specialist’s appointment.  There should have been plenty of time for the appointment (and you know how specialists are; you’ve got to take the appointment they’ve got open). But there wasn’t.

Back at work that day, I learned how the morning had gone without me. There were no tears, no fits, no meltdowns–not even a wimper. Why?

Because the parents stepped in and did it themselves!

They did rhymes, fingerplays, songs, circle games. They even read a book. They did this all with no planning and no advanced warning. And their kids had a great time!

These parents come week after week. They sit in the circle with their children and do all this “silly” stuff with smiles on their faces and excitement in their attitudes. I affirm nearly every week how important the time is for language development–and how they need to do the same outside of the library, at home, in the car, in the doctor’s waiting room, at the restaurant. Learn here and do there is the message. Learn here and do there is the purpose of Toddler Time.

What a terrific bunch of parents!

Babette

I was only eight when Mr. Rogers went to Washington and spoke at this Senate hearing concerning children and television.  I was mostly too old to watch him (except when nothing else was on TV) and it wasn’t many years before I joined the ranks of folks who loved to make fun of him. He did have a very distinctive speaking style. 🙂

His sincerity, integrity, and authenticity could not be beat though. He was as real in front of the Senate and a grumpy Pastore as he was in front of a Hollywood award crowd, his own show’s TV cameras, or a flesh and blood child. His manner overshadowed everything else that one might initially want to poke fun at–his speech, his slow style, his puppets, his focus on the simple (but ever so important) events of children’s lives.

I was “reintroduced” to Mr. Rogers in grad school and then later when I had children. He informed my attitude about and understanding of children immensely–especially concerning their feelings and lives.

The first video clip of the Senate hearing is a bit long at 6 minutes, but it really is worth a watch. It starts slowly (just like the man speaking) and then the passion begins to come through–and as a bonus, you get to see Pastore melt.

The second one is a couple of the best minutes of true humility you will ever witness.

These clips will renew your faith in what one person can do and inspire you to be your best in your neighborhood. Grab a cuppa and visit for a few minutes with Mr. Rogers.

Take care, Neighbor!

Babette

I wish I could have taken a picture! I couldn’t so a thousand words will have to do. 🙂

It’s Saturday, mom and dad have brought their whole crew of kiddos into the library. All the kids in their range of ages are off getting their books.

At one point I look up from working the front desk and there mom is, holding the youngest one (about two months old, much younger than the picture!) up to her shoulder.

Standing behind that shoulder is dad–with a board book, slowly flipping through the pages one by one so the baby can look at them! (Which, by the way, she is doing.)

That little girl and all her siblings will be readers!

Support on!

Babette

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Contact Info for Babette

email babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail(dot)com
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73 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

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