With the new year upon us, re-energizing your student about learning can seem challenging. With the right tactics, however, motivating your child to tackle 2018 doesn’t have to be a source of conflict. Techniques like promoting leadership or discovering your student’s preferred learning style can help both you and your child start the year strong.
1. Experiment with different learning styles
According to Howard Gardner, there are seven types of intelligence, also known as learning styles: interpersonal, intrapersonal, kinesthetic, linguistic, logical, musical, and visual. Gardner’s theory states that each student learns differently. For this reason, identifying which styles suit your student best can help her feel more confident. For example, she may absorb material more effectively when it is written on the chalkboard during class or on paper during homework time.
One key component of motivating your child is helping her feel confident in her abilities. Talk about how she prefers to interact with information, or experiment with several ways together. Discovering her individual learning style (or styles) can help your child begin the year motivated to tackle what lies ahead.
2. Encourage leadership skills
Is your student in fourth or fifth grade, or middle school? If so, it can be very helpful to urge him to take leadership of his education and any projects he may face in the coming year. Yes, you will still be present to assist when necessary. But if your child feels that he is in control of his education, he may be more likely to excel.
Allowing your student to practice leadership can take many forms, such as letting him choose which homework to tackle first. This may sound like a simple decision, but it is important to promote positive decision-making skills in your student’s everyday life. Discuss any areas where he would like to exert more leadership skills—perhaps he would like to help his little sister with reading or he would like to choose his extracurricular activities for the spring.
3. Foster an outside connection to learning
Your student will learn a great deal in the classroom, but engaging in activities outside school that continue this learning can be very beneficial. There are many ways you can strengthen your child’s connection to learning, both inside and outside your home. She could conduct simple experiments if she is interested in science, or write short stories if she is intrigued by the arts. Ask her about her interests and gauge what she might find exciting.
Another great way to motivate your student is to take field trips to local learning centers, museums, and historic sites. If your child is struggling with science, one way to get her excited about the subject might be to take her to a science museum and let her explore. She may find connections to information she has learned in the classroom and, in turn, may gain a better understanding of the concept. For example, if she is studying weather in science class, but cannot fully grasp the concept, she could explore the weather exhibit at a local science center. This idea can work for other subjects and locations as well, such as art museums and libraries. Speak with your student about areas where she is struggling or would like to delve deeper, and research how you can incorporate an outside learning connection into her education.
Motivating your student in the new year doesn’t have to revolve around helping him set resolutions. If you initiate an open dialogue about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, you can successfully motivate him to succeed in 2018.
Caitlin Grove is an Associate Content Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
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On a recent evening of baby-sitting, I put my two-year-old grandson in the tub for what I thought would be a quick bath. By the time I’d soaped him up and rinsed him off, however, he’d become so absorbed in pouring water from one plastic cup to another that you’d have thought he was panning for gold. When I suggested that it was time for him to come out and get dry, he shook his head vehemently. Seeing that he would not be dislodged, I sat down on the edge of the tub and let him continue prospecting.
After 10 minutes of watching him fill and spill and refill an assortment of containers, I began to wonder why I felt so unhurried, even serene, when only hours earlier I’d wanted to scream because the guy on line ahead of me at the bank chose to waste my time buying himself a money order!
It took me a moment to realize that I had entered what I used to call Toddler Time, a continuum that passes very differently from that of Standard or Daylight Saving Time. I remembered it well, having been there many times when my kids were small.
Like harried new mothers the world over, I’d tried at first to fit my little ones into my pre-parenthood conception of time, i.e., the idea that there is only a certain amount of it in any given day, and that amount has to be divided into segments of varying duration so that all necessary activities can be accomplished. The trouble was that seeing time as rigidly finite made me want to hurry, while children, I found out early on, are not programmed to hurry. They’re programmed to learn, and whether the lesson is how to pour water into a cup or button a sweater or catch a ball, it can’t be timed. Mastering the skill in question takes however long is necessary for any particular child, and “however long” is impossible to predict. Once I understood this, I decided that whenever possible I would put other obligations on hold and take time to watch my children learn at their own pace.
So, when my 18-month-old son made it clear that he didn’t want to be fed anymore—that if anyone were going to shove mashed potatoes into his mouth, it would be himself—I handed over the spoon. The result was that his dinnertime, which until then had taken maybe 10 minutes, could now take, well, forever. But what a rich time it was for both of us! He got to simultaneously make a mess and fill his tummy by his own hand, and I got to savor his increasing ability to deposit the food in his mouth instead of his nose.
I learned not to interfere with my children’s self-teaching, stifling my impulse to, say, show them how holding a crayon the “right” way would make it easier for them to control. I saw how much more satisfying it was for them to figure out stuff like that for themselves.
I remember watching my daughter one afternoon when she was just shy of two, struggling to slide colored rings down a stick attached to a pedestal. This particular pedestal, instead of sitting squarely on the floor, rocked back and forth, so that every time she tried to slip a ring onto the stick, it eluded her by tilting to one side or the other. I waited for her to explode with exasperation, ready to jump in and give her a hand, when she picked up a red ring, slipped it on the stick with exquisite care, and watched it slide smoothly all the way down, just as it was meant to do. I saw her stare at the toy for a second, as if surprised at her success, and then clap her hands together the same way I did whenever I applauded her efforts.
The awareness kids form that they can work things out for themselves becomes more and more precious as they grow up and the things they have to work out become trickier and more complex. The belief in their own abilities gives them the sort of confidence that nobody else can, along with a necessary tolerance for frustration. They learn to accept the fact that not everything comes easily, but that hard-won successes can be especially satisfying.
Entering Toddler Time is like stepping across a magic threshold into outer space—where the hassles of everyday life momentarily vanish—and of course none of us can go there whenever we wish. We can’t spend twenty minutes watching a 2-year-old pour water into cups when we have a 5-year-old in the living room determined to paint the dog’s toenails, or a 35-year-old in the kitchen who’s had a terrible day and needs to talk. When life calls, we’ve got to get the kid out of the tub and put an end, sometimes an abrupt and much protested end, to the lesson.
Whenever that happened and I felt I’d short-changed one of my offspring, I’d stave off guilt by reminding myself that they had to learn the world did not revolve around them, at least not all the time. It’s a fact of life that can’t be self-taught. Kids have to find it out from us, their parents, and it might just be one of the most important lessons they ever learn. I know it has proved useful to my own children practically every day of their lives—particularly on the days they have stand in line at the bank.
Bette-Jane Raphael is a journalist and a writing coach at The City College of New York. She has two children.
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When my sister Ursula turned one, our mom, Madeline, bought her a big, red plastic ball. It cost ninety-nine cents and delighted her more than any other gift she received. For years my mom has told friends: “When your child (or grandchild or niece or neighbor) turns one, get the big plastic ball.” And everyone who’s followed the advice gets the same big-smiled result.
When that same sister was 30, six months pregnant, and living across the country, I flew her back home as a Christmas surprise for my parents. My own small children were thrilled to help sneak her into the house and wrap her, mummy-like, from head to toe with yards of snowflake wrapping paper while she stood stock-still without laughing for a good half hour. When we told my parents to come open their gift right away as it was perishable, they marveled for a while at this wrapped totem, trying to guess what it could be. Honestly, they had no clue; we’d all spent the run-up weeks lamenting a Christmas without Ursula. “A tree?” said my mom, to which my dad said, “No, it’s giving off heat.” They tried and tried to guess until my kids demanded, “Unwrap it already!” I think that was the year I realized that it’s more fun to give than to receive.
So, what makes a good gift? It’s all about age, stage, delight, and surprise. Add in “thoughtful and unique,” says Mia Galison, founder of eeBoo, a company that makes crafts, toys, and activities for kids. Last year I gave chilled cookie dough, alphabet cookie cutters, and a container of icing to my five-year-old cousin. For her child’s friends’ birthdays, my colleague Beth pairs books with significant props—Pippi Longstocking with zippy, striped socks, or The Last Crayon with a large new box of 64 crayons.
There’s a lot to consider in coming up with the right present. First, if it isn’t age appropriate or doesn’t speak to a child’s developmental stage, the gift will be a dud. “Children’s development, skill level, and how they play change as they grow,” says Tovah Klein, Ph.D., author of the book How Toddlers Thrive. “Think about where the child is in terms of development when you’re picking a toy for him,” she says. “Playing should be fun, and toys should support his development.” An expensive stuffed animal may be handsome, but probably not as much fun to play with for a one-year-old as the wrapping paper it comes in. Given this reality, you may want to wrap gifts for the very young with easy-to-tear paper, keeping the gift itself on the inexpensive side. Klein’s motto? “The simpler the toy, the better.”
Once you’ve nailed the age and stage question, experts agree that what kids play with should support exploration, learning, and growth. ”Matching games that ask children to find a connection between pictures, like a dog and a leash, are perfect for the 3+ set,” says eeBoo’s Galison, “because they are a delightful way to sharpen memory and focus.” Klein, a psychologist, is a fan of open-ended toys, which require no “right” or “wrong” ways to play. “They allow children to have their own ideas, to think, create, imagine, and make what they want,” she explains.
As children get older, they develop specific interests that gifts can complement. A preschooler who loves trains will be happy with new train cars, or even a miniature accessory that can add to an existing set. A six- to eight-year-old who is into art will appreciate a cool dot-to-dot book, or, if more sophisticated, a learn-to-draw book, such as the wonderful Illustration School series by Sachiko Umoto, including Let’s Draw Cute Animals. For more bang, pair with colored pencils in a cool tin.
It’s fun to get creative when it comes to tapping into kids’ passions. A preschool dinosaur fan might love a 3 ft. high inflatable T. rex, while an older budding paleontologist can appreciate a daytrip to the natural history museum followed by frozen hot chocolate at a special café. Got a game player in the house? Give a classic like Candy Land (3+), Trouble (5+), or Parcheesi (7+), along with coupons that guarantee your spot at the table as an opponent. You might enhance the package with a book like Who Was Milton Bradley? When you acknowledge a child’s passion, you affirm her individuality—a big esteem booster.
Whatever age you’re buying for, go for the “Wow”; presents must delight their recipients. My poor son Jamie used to unhappily refer to Christmas as the “shirt holiday” due to the number he received from well-meaning relatives at a loss for other ideas. It’s good to differentiate what kids need from what they’d like. A bike is a present. A bike helmet is not. “Unless,” says Galison, “you have fun with it.” Like my friend Jenny who gave her son Theo kneepads first and the skateboard second. “You said no so many times to that board,” Theo told his mom. “I never thought you would get it for me.”
Personally, I’ve become a fan of experiential presents over the years— tickets, edibles, a workshop. But children love to open presents, so if you’re giving tickets to, say, a special show or concert, wrap that little stub of paper in layers of different paper, Bubble Wrap, and boxes so there’s some fun in opening your gift-to-be-redeemed at a later date. And consider throwing in a related but inexpensive add-in to go with that dance class or music lesson (think: a little tutu or harmonica) to be enjoyed on the spot.
Also, include your kids as you plan gifts for others so they learn the joys of giving. “Making a card for a friend is a way to introduce preschoolers to the idea of giving to others,” Tovah Klein says. Older kids can help pick out gifts for friends or sibs, though before ages five or six you shouldn’t expect them to express the selflessness it takes to shop for anyone else.
Include them, too, in charitable giving. As my children grew, holiday time gave me an opportunity to impart my values as I gave to toy drives or made year-end contributions to nonprofit organizations. “When they are eight or above,” Klein suggests, “you can involve them in donations, explaining that you are helping others who may not be able to afford holiday gifts this year.” When they are younger, says Klein, they don’t quite understand what it means that others have less. “In fact, it can sound scary that some children don’t have clothes or toys or their own bed to sleep in. If you help out a neighbor or donate books to the library, your child will see that giving is part of what you do.”
For me, the adage “It’s the thought that counts” are words to live by. Some years, when I’ve been flush, I’ve spent a lot on gifts; other years, not so much. But always, always, I think of the recipient as unique and so, too, the present I give.
Pam Abrams has written for and about children for many years, and currently serves as Program Director for Jacob’s Digs, a nonprofit organization in New York City. She has two children.
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Studying can be a true challenge for children—for some, the thought of having to sit at a desk for hours alone causes dread. It can be difficult to think of ways to help make your elementary school student’s studying less tedious, so here are three creative ways to help.
Role-playing can easily energize a study session. Many children already use this strategy during their free time, so the association of role-play with an exciting activity can work to increase positive energy around studying. Role-play suits any character, but it can be particularly helpful to ask your child to be a teacher. You can be the student. Children can learn a great deal when they teach material to someone else. Speaking through it helps them to articulate concepts and ideas. It also reveals gaps in their knowledge, which they can use to better target their review. You can ask questions that a student would ask in order to test your child’s knowledge of the material.
You might also try bringing other characters into the mix. Examples include Kermit the Frog or Hermione Granger—any persona that would be fun!
While studying is traditionally associated with sitting down at a desk or table, this doesn’t suit every learning style—particularly kinesthetic learners. But kinesthetic learning, which focuses on physical activities, isn’t just for kinesthetic learners. Nearly every child can benefit from associating study material with movement. If the weather is nice, go outside and take a walk with your child. The change in scenery can reinvigorate his study time, and the elements in the environment and in specific movements can strengthen the associations his brain makes with concepts. For example, try quizzing him—or have him quiz himself—while hopping or jumping. This can provide a new way to access information; your child can recall “the topic I studied while hopping.”
This strategy can involve any type of art. Drawing, painting, sculpture, and sketching are all great ways to visualize information that might otherwise stay stagnant on the page. Encourage your child to represent new concepts or ideas in as many ways as possible: mind maps, tables, webs, etc. Perhaps there’s one specific type of visualization that she gravitates toward. This method can help her understand facts and relationships that might otherwise be hard to describe verbally. You might also have your child try different mediums beyond paper and pencil, marker, and crayon. Keep in mind that they don’t even need to be permanent works of art. Perhaps she would like to practice math problems with shaving cream in the bathtub, or spell words using magnetic letters on the refrigerator. Maybe you could create a story together around specific terms or vocabulary words that she needs to remember.
Finally, studying can be both more enjoyable and productive with a buddy. That buddy might be you, a willing sibling, or a friend.
Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
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In school, our children are focused on learning facts, how to do math, and how to write. This type of intelligence helps propel them forward in school, earning high grades and college acceptances. But…what if IQ alone isn’t enough to make your child successful in life?
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the awareness of one’s feelings and the feelings of others. It is the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions and utilize this knowledge to connect with others. Empathy is a central element in EQ.
In the 2017 Highlights State of the Kid™ survey, Highlights asked 2,000 kids ages 6 to 12 what it means to “put yourself in another person’s shoes,” and 67 percent of responders understood the idea of empathy (with only 14 percent, higher among younger kids, responding that they did not know). This is promising news! So, as adults, how do we continue to encourage empathy in our children?
Parents and other trusted adults are the main sources of information in a child’s life. We are the role models, and as such we can start the empathy conversation by displaying an awareness of our own feelings. Children are not born with an innate ability to name a feeling and connect that to an action or experience. But we can help teach them. When rushing to work in the morning, let your child know, “I am worried about getting to work on time, and I am sad that we don’t have time to play a little longer.” When we make a mistake, like forgetting something at the store, we can tell our child, “I am mad at myself for forgetting the milk at the store, and I am frustrated that we will have to go back.” This allows your child to recognize feelings and the situations that cause them, the first step in building empathy.
You can also start a dialogue when you see your child having a feeling. For example, “It seems that you are feeling sad/mad/frustrated. Am I right?” Starting the conversation about your child’s feelings provides an opportunity to validate his experience and can lead to brainstorming possible solutions and/or coping skills. Identify. Validate. Implement skills. Let your child know that a feeling is never wrong. Though once we are able to identify it, we can then choose how to move forward. Do we need to take an action? Do we need a distraction? Helping your child identify what he may need in response to his feelings can make a situation seem more manageable.
We don’t always have to be focused on the less favorable emotions either. We can ask our children how it felt when they earned a special award in class or when a friend asked them for a playdate. Encourage recognition of feelings such as pride, happiness, and contentment.
The next step is connecting this knowledge with respect of feelings toward others. A great way to start is by sitting with your child as she watches a movie or a television show. Talk to her about how a character may be feeling, why she might be feeling that way, and what might help her in the moment. Using real-life examples is also a perfect way to teach children how to observe others in a nonjudgmental and open way.
Creating a loving and safe environment for your children will allow them the space to explore their emotional process and in the end, be better equipped to connect and respond emotionally with others.
Sasha L. Ribic, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Columbus, Ohio. She provides psychotherapy for children, adolescents, and adults, and provides varied psychoeducational programs and parenting seminars within Central Ohio....
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It was the morning rush and, as usual, we were racing the clock. The children were slow to put on their shoes, I left my coffee on the steps, and we got stuck behind a garbage truck. When the car in front of us stopped in the middle of the street, I honked my horn and swerved around the double-parked car, muttering unsavory remarks under my breath.
My first-grader piped up from the backseat. “Mama,” he said. “That wasn’t very kind of you.”
I looked in the rearview mirror and, as his big brown eyes met mine, felt a wave of shame. He was absolutely right; I had been unkind. My mind flooded with excuses, but before I could piece words together, his small voice interrupted my thoughts. “Light’s green!” he announced.
I returned my eyes to the road. My children chattered cheerfully the rest of the way, but I remained silent, still struggling to formulate a response to explain my unkind behavior. We pulled up to school with seconds to spare and my children scrambled out of the car. As they sprinted to the door, I called out my routine farewell: “Bye. I love you! Be helpful. Be kind.”
The car door closed with a slam, snapping me to attention. My words hung in the air and echoed in my thoughts for the rest of the day. I tell my kids it’s important to be kind nearly every day. But when I myself was unkind, I was at a loss for words. Why is it so easy to tell them to be kind, but so hard to speak when I myself am not?
Like most parents, I aspire to model kindness for my children. Yet, this wasn’t the first time my children had seen me act unkindly and I am certain it won’t be the last. There are inevitably times when we don’t live up to our own expectations. In fact, most kids see adults acting in unkind ways, as the 2017 Highlights State of the Kid™ report demonstrates. In these moments, we need to be gentle with ourselves, remember that we are human, and reset our intention to be kind.
But we can’t stop there. It is these moments, perhaps, that are the most critical to talk about with our children. Like my son, children are keen observers and they notice when our words and actions don’t align. Instead of staying quiet, I could have been honest with him. “You’re right,” I could have said. “That wasn’t kind. I was so frustrated that I lost my temper.” I could have said I’ll try to do better next time. These moments offer an opportunity to reaffirm our values deliberately and intentionally.
These days, there is no shortage of people acting in unkind ways. Kids see adults treat each other with disrespect in cars, on sports fields, and in the media. It’s not enough to remind our children to be kind and then let these moments go by unnoticed. We need to call out unkind behavior when we see it. We need to show our children examples of standing up for what is right, even when it’s hard.
That way, someday I will meet my son's eyes without flinching, and know I did my very best to show him that I strive for kindness always, that I admit I’m unkind sometimes, that I want him, like me, to be his best kind self as much as possible—and that we’ll always be able to talk about it.
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News flash: Parents aren’t perfect!
All right, this isn’t actually news. Any parent who has lain awake at night replaying in his or her mind a regrettable lack of self-control—a harsh tone, a sarcastic comment, a slammed door, or worse—knows this all too well. Parenting is hard, and not one of us does it flawlessly.
But if we think our kids don’t notice when their parents or other adults behave unkindly—and that it doesn’t affect them—we’re kidding ourselves. In the 2017 Highlights State of the Kid™ survey, Highlights asked 2,000 kids ages 6 to 12 if they have ever seen their parents or other adults acting unkindly or saying mean things. A majority of respondents—67 percent—told us that they have indeed.
We also asked kids how this made them feel, and 93 percent reported a negative reaction. Forty-nine percent said it made them uncomfortable, with 43 percent saying they felt sad. Other answers were “scared,” “confused,” “embarrassed,” “surprised,” and even “angry.”
When we asked kids where they had seen adults acting unkindly, 37 percent said they observed it in the car, 27 percent said they heard it when adults were on the phone, and 24 percent said they saw adults behaving unkindly on television.
Make no mistake: kids don’t miss much.
They are watching when a driver in another car gestures rudely when he speeds past us. They hear us when we angrily hang up on a telemarketer. They can detect the snark when we’re arguing with our spouse. And, increasingly in today’s growing culture of incivility, our kids observe people with power and fame publicly insult or belittle others. Wherever it’s happening—from the White House to the local athletic field—incivility is registering with our kids. Yet, we know that it’s what parents do that leaves the most lasting impression.
It can be a strain to model kindness and caring in times of great political divisiveness and a growing me-first culture. Parents are busy, stressed people. When a plan or schedule goes off the rails, the wish to kick the proverbial cat or react with another negative emotional response is understandable. But if, as the old adage goes, trying to take back unkind words is like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube, what can we do after we deliver a regrettable outburst or a thoughtless comment or deed within the earshot of our children?
Tempting as it may be to let it go and hope they forget, we should own the mistake and create a teachable moment. If we can circle back with our kids and confess that, upon reflection, we realize that we blew it, we can turn a negative example into something good.
By naming the emotion we were feeling at the time (“I was angry that we were going to be late”), we can help our kids learn to identify the emotions in themselves that might trigger unkind behavior.
By acknowledging that we behaved inappropriately (“It was rude to call the other driver a name”), we can admit that the situation actually called for self-control and better problem solving (“I should have left the house earlier to allow enough time”).
And to show we plan to walk the talk, we can tell our kids how we plan on making amends—whether that’s an apology to the offended party or a vow to do better next time.
As a parent, it can be difficult to admit to our kids that we behaved unkindly when we insist that they be kind. But it can be very powerful for a child to hear a parent say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t show much self-control in that moment.” An apology can convey both humility (“I’m not perfect”) and strength (the courage to admit a mistake and a resolve to do better)—two attributes we hope to instill in our kids. As writer Margaret Lee Runbeck once said, an apology “can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.” An honest conversation like this can help kids understand that we are not perfect and we don’t expect them to be perfect. But we do expect them to try always to be kind.
The good news is that kids want to see more caring and empathy in our culture. When we asked our young State of the Kid survey respondents to name the one thing they would change in the world, more than half of the responses related to kindness. We can help kids see that they can be agents for change by positively engaging in the world—if we remember that they learn best by watching us.
Christine French Cully is the editor in chief of Highlights for Children, Inc., where she is responsible for shaping the editorial direction of all the magazines, online content and products the company develops for children and their families. She plays a strategic, ongoing role in the development of the Highlights vision and brand across all markets and channels/around the globe. Cully, a mother of two, resides in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.
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I’ve never had parents say exactly these words to me when they come for a well-child visit for their six-month-old, but it’s what the look on their face more or less says. As a pediatrician, I participate in Reach Out and Read, a program that trains health-care providers to give exactly this kind of advice: spend time every day reading together with your children, starting when they’re infants.
It wouldn’t be a very good program, however, if we simply dispensed the advice on what to do and didn’t address how to do it. For many of you reading this, you may have had the advantage of being read to yourself, or of seeing others around you read to young children, giving you an idea of how to carry out this advice. But for others—you may not know what to do.
For many, being told to read aloud might remind us of grade school, where someone read exactly what it said on the page, and everyone else sat quietly and listened. That might work nicely for third-graders, but it’s unlikely that a mouth-everything-in-sight infant or a squirmy toddler is going to follow that plan. Some parents may, when faced with a seemingly unruly audience, assume that their young child doesn’t like being read to—and be discouraged from trying again.
The key is that reading to very young children follows different rules. I’m going to give you permission to not do some things:
- You don’t need to read every page
- You don’t need to read pages in any specific order
- And you don’t even need to actually read what it says on the page.
Let the child hold the book and manipulate it. This means she’ll turn pages back and forth, or go backward, or pick out random pages. She may even mouth it instead of looking at it. This is all normal behavior for an infant or toddler.
You certainly can (and should) point at things on the pages and name them. Even better, when your baby touches or points at something on his own, name it for him so he hears the word. This is also a great opportunity to elaborate a little: “Yes, it’s a boat. A red boat!”
This means you can pick out books that might even be “very advanced” in terms of reading level, because your focus will be mostly on the pictures. The book may even be in a language you don’t understand, but you can still enjoy the images together with your child.
Finally, don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t wish to look at books for more than a few moments. Infants and toddlers have naturally short attention spans. Sometimes they might not be in the mood. It’s OK to move on to something else and try again at another time.
By allowing your child to control what’s being looked at and discussed, you’re more likely to maintain her interest. Don’t worry about the fact that you might never get to read the actual story. When she’s a little older, she’ll be more able to sit and listen to the story itself. What you’re building now is a comfort with books and the association of books with something she’ll treasure above all: your love and attention.
Dipesh Navsaria, M.P.H., M.S.L.I.S., M.D., father of two, is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He practices primary-care pediatrics at a federally qualified health center in South Madison....
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By Rebecca Parlakian, Director of Parenting Resources, ZERO TO THREE
My mom watched my newborn son as I made the transition back to work. One day, I handed him off to her for a nap as I got on a conference call. When he woke, I went in to pick him up and found that my mom had put him to sleep on his belly (not on his back, which is the standard safety practice now for babies). When we talked about it, she explained that putting him down on his tummy was just…automatic, what she had done when she was a young mom. Fortunately—the kid, as the expression goes, was all right.
Little did I know that my family was using one of the most common forms of childcare being used today: care by grandparents. The most recent data shows that grandparents in the U.S. care for almost one out of four children under age five on a regular basis! To learn more about grandparents’ experiences as care providers, ZERO TO THREE conducted several focus groups with grandparents in this role. Based on what we heard, we developed a series of resources to support grandparents providing regular childcare. Here is some of what we learned.
Grandparents feel confident about caring for young children
Grandparents feel relaxed and secure in their ability to care for their young grandchildren. Unlike new parents who are struggling to figure out the “best” approaches (pacifier or no pacifier? cloth diapers or disposable?), grandparents have the perspective that comes with seeing their own children grow up well. As Yolanda, a grandmother in one of our groups, told us: “We’re a lot more relaxed. We realize things are going to be OK.”
Conflicts between grandparents and their adult children can be challenging
Grandparents explain how they feel torn at times with balancing their role as parent and grandparent. Grandparents told us that discussing these differences with their children was not easy. Often they felt as though a lifetime of caregiving experience was invisible to their adult children, as one grandmother shared: “My son thinks he’s Dr. Spock!” New parents, on the other hand, need their own parents to respect their caregiving decisions as they take on the role of “parent” themselves. That’s why we developed a tool to help families acknowledge one another’s strengths, explore areas of difficulty, and identify a path forward.
Some grandparents report using spanking to discipline
Several grandparents in our focus groups reflected on changing approaches to limit setting. As one grandmother explained, “It is like, ‘Look. You get these many chances, but you will get your butt spanked if you don’t...’” She went on to say, “The thing is, now, though, ‘Don’t spank your kids because you make them [aggressive].’” Our resource on discipline highlights this important change in setting limits with young children, and explains the latest research on the negative impacts of spanking.
Grandparents are open to learning from their adult children
One of our focus-group participants told us how she learned about the “back to sleep” campaign from her daughter, much like my mom learned from me. This simple shift in sleep practices has led to a demonstrated reduction in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) over time, and grandparents tell us they are open to learning new techniques that keep their precious little ones safe.
Lots of good stuff has stayed the same
The good news for grandparents is that there are many loving caregiving practices that have stood the test of time—like outdoor play. Grandparents also talked about the magic of sharing songs and stories with their young grandchildren. Cecelia remembers “teaching [my grandson] a song; one time, singing a song to him: This old man, he played one... knick-knack paddy whack, and the next thing you know, he’s singing it himself… It just melts my heart.”
Grandparents tell us one of the most powerful parts of caring for grandchildren is the memories it evokes of being parents themselves. Explains Carl, a grandfather in our focus groups, “I have a picture of when my daughter was little, and she was holding my hand. We were walking together. My daughter took a picture of me and [my two-year-old grandson] doing the same thing.”
The one thing all grandparents and parents share?
Hope for their grandchild’s future was mentioned again and again as a source of great joy to grandparent caregivers (and, I can vouch, parents too!). Pat, one of our focus-group participants, said it best: “To me, [I hope they achieve] whatever they set their minds to do…just to work and live [with] integrity, to be honest, to be truthful, to treat people right, and to do whatever their hearts desire.”
To learn more about the needs of grandparents who provide childcare, visit: www.zerotothree.org/grandparents
ZERO TO THREE works to ensure all babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Since 1977, the organization has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers.
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By Sierra Filucci, Editor, Common Sense Media
Media has a huge influence on kids -- and as kids get older, the online world has an even tighter grip on them. You can see it in the way they imitate their favorite TV characters, pretend to be YouTube stars, or beg for T-shirts, backpacks, or comforters emblazoned with logos. But parents still have a huge influence. And moms play a major role in the development and nurturing of kids in a media-filled world. Here are five ways moms can have a positive impact on kids' (media and tech) lives:
Foster positive body image
Kids get lots of iffy messages about appearance from media. Whether your kid is watching sassy tween TV or scrolling through perfect Instagram photos, they're inundated with bikini pics and muscleman heroes. Not only can moms discuss these media images with kids, but they can choose to ban fat talk and body shaming entirely from their homes. Studies show that moms who criticize their own bodies can have a major impact on how kids feel about their own.
Insist on device-free dinner
Sure, more dads are in the kitchen than ever before, but moms remain the primary person in charge of getting dinner on the table. And that means they can set the tone for the meal -- including insisting that all devices are put away so that families can concentrate on each other. Studies show that sharing meals as a family can help everything from behavior to health.
Choose high-quality media
So often mom are the ones in charge of curating kids' media lives. And we can do a lot to steer kids -- especially little ones -- toward top-notch content, from selecting TV shows that foster empathy and other character-building skills for preschoolers to loading up the tablet with educational apps to keep kids busy -- and learning -- during road trips and more.
Stop texting and driving
While both parents drive kids around, it's often moms who spend the most time in the car with kids. And kids are watching when we pick up the phone for a quick text while cruising down the highway. Nix this habit immediately to set a good example for your future drivers. (Plus, it's super dangerous!)
Raise media-literate kids
Moms are responsible for the majority of shopping in most households. This means it's mom's job to negotiate with kids about which logos, phrases, and characters can appear on kids' T-shirts, backpacks, and more. While there's no shame in buying kids the occasional branded goodie, it's a good idea to help kids understand a little bit about how marketing works. Understanding how media companies make money by selling T-shirts can be one step in teaching kids media literacy.
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.