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Reading Magic

Harry Potter turns 20?!  Not Daniel Radcliffe, the actor, but the book series.

In 1997, a small publishing company took a chance on a book written by J.K. Rowling.  20 years later, teachers credit her with boosting literacy rates and for creating readers who otherwise would have never picked up a book.

Summer makes more time for reading, or at least makes us hope for “beach reads”.

Here are a few proven true favorites for you and your little one.

 

And if no one can sit still, get outside!  Take a walk around the block, or even your yard.  Search for things you might not have seen before!  Every summer day does not have to be filled with day trips, museums, play dates, and swim class.  Take in your surroundings right outside the door.

Now, let’s play!

 

Wait for it…

 

Count to 5.

Smile,  look around, point, make a sound.

It’s called wait time, cues, and scaffolding.

Wait time:

When your 4 month old is reaching for a toy, count to 5 before handing it to him.  Maybe nudge it a tiny bit closer so he can reach it with the tips of his fingers, before pushing it into his palm.

Your child can say “Bye Bye” or clap their hands at the end of the song, or ask for more.  When these opportunities arrive don’t bark out “Say Bye Bye!”  Give your child a chance to respond to the appropriate cues.  You could say “Bye Bye” yourself or clap your hands.  Modeling is the number one way babies learn what to do and when to do it!

Cues:

We all know the reach-grunt-whine-“Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama” when your child wants something out of reach.  Whether it is a cup of milk, to be picked up, or the family pet hiding out under the table, you can assist your child to obtain their desired item without doing all of the work.  Begin by letting your child know you recognize his wants and needs:
“It looks like you want something on the table, let’s look and see what’s up there”
Pick up and let your child scan the table, or maybe he will point to exactly what he wants.  When you figure out what it is that he wants don’t give in yet!  Have your child work for it!
“Oh you want this?” (Holds up milk cup). “Tell me, Mmmmmmm” (or use sign language).

When in the grocery store and the stranger behind you says hi to your baby in the cart, your baby may not say “Salutations” or make small talk about the weather, but they may smile, or shy away.  Just don’t jump to “Say Hi, Say hi, wave your hand, say hi!”  Remember again, your baby is watching and learning from you so how you react to others plays a BIG part.

The point is, give your child a chance to communicate on his own.  This encourages language development.  If he knows you will say everything for him, why talk?

Scaffolding:

All of this is a part of scaffolding.  You are assisting your child to gain wants and needs while encouraging independence and self esteem.  You want your child to try and do things on their own but you don’t want them to fail and be discouraged.  Just enough help is what they need.  It’s like you are trying to get to the second floor but there are no stairs.  Build your baby’s steps one at a time, pausing each time to see if he can do it on his own.  Around a year your child will begin to display pride at completion of activities and will look for your praise.

So remember, give your child a second, 5 of them!
Give them a time to figure it out.
Assist as needed.
Let the neurons connect!

 

Now, let’s play!

“Different, not less.”

Temple Grandin is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior, and autism spokesperson.  She is one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism.  If you have not yet seen the movie depicting her life growing up with autism, starring Claire Danes, I urge you to do so.

Bucket fillers, Model Citizens, Random acts of Kindness, If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  Phrases a lot of people grow up with.  Wondering how to instill qualities to create well rounded citizens?  Here are some tips to teach gratitude, kindness and acceptance starting at any age.

Spend time as a family. Create and strengthen relationships by spending time together.  All ages crave attention.  Put the phone out of reach, turn of the tv, and play.  When children experience love, they are more likely to pass it on.

Exposure to various cultures and people.  Read books that feature cultures and holidays other than your own. Get involved in your community.  Volunteer!

Model. Model. Model. Your little ones are always watching you.  Even when they are not looking at you, they are watching you.  With their ears, bodies, and minds.  And they will mimic your every move.  So be the person you want your daughter to be.  And create a world you want your son to be a part of.

Different, not less.  Don’t be afraid to explain to children why someone looks or sounds different.  And that they are still the same on the inside.  That they can still walk, talk, and play but may do so in a different way.

Development. When babies thrive, we all benefit. Giving babies a strong start in life increases graduation rates, improves the quality of the workforce, improves health, and reduces crime.  Investing in babies’ brain development is one of the most important things we can do to raise healthy, well-rounded adults.  Play is the fundamental building block to learning.  Play is their work.  Play is how babies learn.  By stimulating baby’s senses through play, we can foster strong relationships with caregivers, influential experiences, more restful sleep, and an overall happier baby.  Children who are healthy—socially, emotionally, and physically—have a greater chance of becoming economically productive and engaged citizens.

Face the Feelings

“Share with Michael.”
“Be nice.”
“Mommy is tired.”

Everyone wants their child to understand feelings, share their favorite toys and to be okay with not having another cookie.  Guess what, it will take longer than you think.  Here is a quick run down of when a few of these skills develop.

  • birth-6 months: express feelings almost involuntarily.  Newborns will cry out when they are hungry, and smile when they are happy.  Their emotions are practically impulsive, however, even infant begins to understand the connection of “If I cry, mom will come”.  You are their safety!
  • 6 months-1 year:
    • enjoys social interaction
    • responds to praise
    • clings to parent in group settings
    • upset when a toy is taken away
  • 1-2 years:
    • interested in other children
    • but not so much playing together
    • express negative feelings ie. temper tantrums
  • 3-4 years:
    • shares toys and takes turns with assistance
  • 4-5: EXPRESS AWARENESS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS

 

Bottom line: Don’t expect your baby to solve Einstein’s equations when he hasn’t even had Algebra I.

So just how do you help your child through these tough times? Play!  Model turn taking and talk out your feelings.  “Look how happy Daddy is happy because you gave him the block.”  “You are mad because Mommy had to put away the bubbles, let’s pretend we are bubbles and pop up and down.”  Just like teaching baby to poke with a fork or taking steps, if you do it over and over again, they will begin to form memories and use strategies when the real thing comes up.

Now, go play!

Day by day and Room by room

How many rooms are in your house?  How many has your newborn seen? Most likely the living room, the kitchen, and a bedroom.  Branch out!  And put all of the rooms in your house to use!

Kitchen:
Sights, Sounds, Feels – blenders, mixers, timers, cold refridgerator, scented candles            (you don’t have to light them!), mixing spoons (jingle jangle!)
Baking Sheets and Muffin Pans – water play and magnetic letters
Silverware Sorting
Containers, containers, containers
Food! – messy play or tasting, that’s what baths are for!

Bathroom:
Bath – water play, finger paints, edible paints,
Lotion
Brushes – hairbrush, comb, loofa, sponge, lightly rub on hands and feet, legs and arms      for a tickl-y sensory experience

Bedrooms:
Blanket Burritos! Wrap/swaddle baby up in a blanket, rock back and forth singing                   “Row Row Your Boat,
Gently down the stream,
If you see the alligator, don’t forget to scream!”
On the last line, unwrap baby for a tickle attack
Blanket Peekaboo – cover baby face and slowly pull off to say Peek a Boo, or cover                   your face and let baby pull off of you
Lotion massages
Books
Baby/stuffed animal make believe

Living/Family Room:
Pictures – babies love to look at pictures, let them look at picture frames, photo                    albums, books and even magazines.  Tape pictures on a wall for baby to look at during      tummy time

No matter the age, allow baby to explore her environment.  Cabinet locks and gates are great for keeping baby safe but not for containment!  If there isn’t anything dangerous in a cabinet, there’s no need to put a lock on it!  Let baby explore the Tupperware, pots and pans, and pantry.  As baby starts crawling, different surfaces will help develop coordination and fine motor, rugs to hardwood or a step down into a sunken living room.

That being said, just a friendly reminder to never leave baby alone, even for a few minutes.  Be sure furniture, televisions, and large pieces of decor are secured to the wall or out of baby’s reach.  Even the shaking of a coffee table leg can vibrate a lamp off the edge.

Now, go play!

Spring has Sprung!

Hello there!  Apologies for the lack of consistency lately.  But we are back!

Now,  around here, the sun is shining and the breeze is warmer.  Which means, outside play!  Playing outside is a great way to get muscles moving, big and small.  Getting outside provides easy activities for gross and fine motor development.

Gross motor development involves the growth and use of big muscles and limbs.  Legs, arms, trunk, head.  Fine motor involves activities with the hands — pointing, grasping, opening, pinching (food, not people!) and more.

Every time you step outdoors presents a new sensory experience.  Which means less planning on your part!  Just step outside with baby and let him go!

Pre-crawlers: Lay a blanket outside and dive into some outdoor tummy time.  Use buckets, balls, hula hoops and bubbles to entertain.  Or roll on your backs and take in some sun and the breeze.  Don’t forget hats and sunblock but some sun is good!

Crawlers to Walkers: Blankets to grass to sandbox to playgrounds.  As cute as they are, baby sports teams are great (and expensive) but what babies really need right now is to be active, and you have that right outside.  There is so much exploring to do for babies that encourages development.  Save the team sports for when they are more interactive with peers, 5 years and up.  Right now, let baby work those muscles climbing playgrounds and sliding down slides.

All ages – Take a walk!  Bring along an empty container or bag and collect items along the way.  Sticks, stones, leaves, flower petals, acorns, pine cones, etc. When you get home, explore your findings.  Glue to a paper plate to make a nature wreath or seal in a clear bottle for a sensory bottle. You can also do your part for the earth and pick up trash along the way!

Let your baby feel grass, dirt, mulch.  It’s all sensory! Don’t be afraid of a little dirt.  That’s what baths are for!

Rainy day?  See this post for more indoor sensory experiences.

What was your favorite piece of playground equipment as a kid?

For Crying Out Loud

There are 3 main components to bring forth language skills.

Look, listen, respond.

From the second babies enter this world, they are communicating.  Crying, cooing, body language, eye gaze, pointing, grunts, smiles, and more.  Eventually, those grunts turn into words and the crying turns into “But, Mom!”.  The point is, everything babies do before producing an actual word is communication.  It’s the only way they know how to get attention.

As infants, babies cry because they are hungry, tired, for pain and for comfort.  Parents and caregivers learn their baby’s signs and what they need, when they need it.  Months go by and babies start reaching for what they want, crawling to explore another room, and vocalizing for mom, food, toy, etc.

Throughout your day, recognize the signs your baby is giving you and respond.  This makes baby feel like a good communicator, and he will continue to communicate with you.  As you label items and people, baby will pick up on that too.

A 7 month old clings to his Momma while she makes dinner and he reaches towards a bottle on the counte, grunting.  “Ehhh, ehh, ehhh, ehhhhhh”  Mom turns around to see what he is reaching towards.  “Oh you want your milk?  Say ‘Milk’ ”  Baby responds “ehhhhhh”  Mom: “Good trying!  Mmmmmmilk, milk”  And hands him the bottle.

The baby gives mom a big smile and drinks.  He thinks “I made a noise, I pointed to my bottle, and mom gave it to me.  I’ll have to try that again, mmmmmmm, this milk is good.”

Mom didn’t force him to say milk, and she didn’t ignore him either.  She recognized that her baby was trying to communicate with her, and he was using the language skills he has.  Pointing and grunting.

The next time you are with your child, put something out of reach that he likes and see how he responds.  Respect the skills he currently has and respond to the vocalizations.  Or if you try to help with blocks and he turns away from you, that’s body language saying “I can do it myself!”

In the meantime, model language through books, songs, and everyday conversations.  Your body language is important to them too, so smile and give that baby a hug.