Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How a Child's Environment Supports Initiative

The environment a child lives in should support a child's efforts in developing initiative. A supportive environment should provide opportunities for discovery. For example, a parent can use an empty tissue box to put things in such as ripped tissue paper or toys that are small enough to fit in the tissue box. I personally love boxes and like to fill a child's environment with boxes. Boxes provide discovery through putting objects in them, coloring or painting them or giving a child something to crawl through. One last way the environment can support discovery is by switching out toys every so often. Put toys children seem to be bored with away for a month and put out new ones, then bring the ones that were put away back out. It's like having new toys to children.

A child's environment should provide sensitive support. For example, toddlers need furniture to help them stand up and practice balance on and to move through. Toddlers need their environments to support what they're trying to do physically. Older children need their environments to support the ability to do art projects they're working on such as a table that parents don't mind getting messy that is placed in a space that parents don't mind getting messy and that is easy to clean. Children need room to move around to play without being worried about breaking furniture.

A child's environment should encourage friendships. For example, a place to play away from siblings and materials to play games children play such as Legos or balls to play soccer, basketball etc. Children need the opportunity to play indoors and outdoors and both of these environments should provide children the opportunity to show initiative. For example, if a child wants to learn to bake cookies, the kitchen should become an environment that encourages this goal. The kitchen will need an apron small enough for a child to wear, a stool for the child to be able to reach the counter and adult supervision. If a child is outdoors and wants to draw on the sidewalk, a parent needs to make sure the child has sidewalk chalk to use to draw on the sidewalk or bikes to ride if a child wants to ride a bike.

The last way a child's environment can support initiative is by having time for the children to have free play. Free play is when a child is able to choose what they want to play with and who they want to play with. This type of play is what children participate in most of the day however, as children get older and begin to have sports practice, piano lessons, school, etc it's important to find time for children to be able to participate in free play. To do this parents need to make sure the house has crayons, markers and other  art supplies, games available to play that are age appropriate, books where the children can reach them etc, so that whatever a child may choose to do, they know where to find the materials for the task and take the initiative to choose what to do with their time. The parent also needs to make sure their children's schedules aren't so busy that free play can't occur. Make sure there are times in a child's day that allow them to participate in free play rather than scheduling every minute of a day.

Initiative is important for a child to learn, so parents need to make sure their children have choices in order to take initiative in what they learn and do and don't make all of their choices for them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

6 types of play

Play is an important part of childhood. Playing is a child's job and how children learn. They learn social skills, how to problem solve and the importance of sharing. Mildred Parten was a sociologist and researcher at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development. She came up with six types of play children participate in. They are: onlooker play, solitary play, parallel play, associate play, cooperative play and imaginative play.

Onlooker play is when children watch other children play and don't join in the play themselves. Most children will participate in onlooker play, but can be encouraged to engage in play if an adult or other child helps them. For example if an adult sits beside them and plays along with them the first few minutes a child can be encouraged to start to play. I had a child that participated in onlooker play at the second center I worked at.  All children participate in onlooker play but this child was a little different. Where most children can be encouraged to play, this child couldn't. If I asked her if she wanted to play in the sandbox she would shake her head, if I asked her if she wanted to play in the sensory table she would shake her head no. All she did most of the day was stand by me and watch the other children play. I would talk to her as she stood beside me about what the other  children were doing and what she thought about it and would always ask if she wanted to join in, but she always said no, so we just talked about what they were doing and I engaged her through conversation instead. Children are learning more than adults think when they're observing other children play so don't be concerned if you have a child who participates in this kind of play more than the other types.

Solitary play is just like it sounds, it's play that is done by oneself. Solitary play is done mainly by children birth to two years old. A child will sit by a parent and play by themselves but if the parent gets up and walks away the child will follow the parent. Parallel play is when children play beside one another but are still focused on what they're playing with, not on what the child next to them is doing. The children know they are playing beside someone but they are not engaged with that person in any way and are playing with different toys.

Associative play is when children enjoy playing with one another but don't know how to. For example, if children are sitting in a sandbox and a child is putting sand in their diaper instead of a pail, another child in the sandbox who sees this will put the sand in their diaper too instead of a pail. A child does this because they don't know how to play in appropriate ways and need to be taught how what appropriate play is. Cooperative play is when children engage in activities with other children and use roles and scripts when playing that determines what they're going to play based on roles. For example, someone is the fireman, someone is the policeman and someone is the person who needs to be rescued. Imaginative play is when children use materials and objects for expression. For example, when children build a fort and pretend it's a space shuttle.

An important part of play is being able to share. There are three stages of development to sharing. The first one is when children think everything is 'Mine.' It's referred to the 'mine' stage because children call everything 'mine.' The second stage of sharing is when children discover some things belong to others. For example, if a child takes a toy that belongs to them over to a friends house and the toy gets left on the table and a younger sibling sees the toy, the younger sibling will take the toy to the friend and give it to them. The third stage of sharing is when children understand they can lend a toy to a friend and get it back.  Regardless of age, if a child is tired or cranky for some reason, they can temporarily go back to the first stage of sharing.

Children participate in all six stages of play as they grow and each stage teaches them different skills and appropriate social skills.  Children will also at some time or another go through each developmental stage of sharing. Children will participate in each stage of play and go through each stage of sharing at their own pace as children develop at different rates. Play helps children develop dexterity skills and learn leadership skills along with many other life skills they need to understand and develop. This is why it's important not to interrupt play unnecessarily. What looks like play to an adult is really children learning and developing life skills.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Language Development

During the infant/toddler years is when language development occurs. It begins with infants cooing and mimicking sounds parents and siblings make and grows into babbling. When a child turns one they use gestures and grunts to communicate. During the toddler years a parent can use basic sign language to help their child communicate. Where toddlers lack the words needed to communicate they use gestures to instead. This can be confusing and frustrating for parents as they may not know what the child is pointing at or what the gesture means. When parents teach toddlers to use sign language the toddler can use the sign to communicate what they want instead and when the sign is used along with the word it helps toddlers grow their vocabulary and be able to communicate. Some basic signs parents can teach their children are water, milk, please, thank you or read.

Ways parents can encourage a child's language skills are to first find constructive and sensitive ways to encourage language development (sign language does this). Parents can encourage any attempt to say a word and use a variety of language in conversation and word games. When parents talk to their children about what they're doing it encourages language in a variety of ways because when you talk to your children while preparing dinner is different than when you're interacting with them. Language is used for a variety of purposes such as to give directions, encourage, warn or used when a parent is talking while changing a diaper. How a parent speaks in each situation is different and helps develop language.

Other ideas parents can do to develop language skills is to read to your children, sing songs and listen to music. Both reading and music develop language skills because they repeat sounds and syllables. Be patient with your children as they learn to communicate with words. They're going to make what appears to be mistakes, but be patient with them. They're learning and are just as frustrated as you when they can't communicate what they want. Don't insist they get it right and particularly not the first time. Your child will get it and they're understanding far more than they're expressing. At this stage it's about the attempt and development of their vocabulary not  being able to say a word correctly yet. Don't worry about that until around age three.

Here is a link about basic words to use using sign language for a baby.

Baby sign language quick start

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

9 factors concerning separation anxiety

There are nine factors of separation anxiety a parent needs to focus on in order to make separation as easy as possible. The first one is that parents need to plan to spend time with their children in a new setting in  order to help them with the transition. The new setting can be a new child care center, Grandma and Grandpa's house or an Aunt or Uncle's house. To the children, all of these places are new unless they visit frequently. A child will stay by the parent in the new setting because the parent gives the child somebody who is safe while they explore the new enviornment. Don't push the child, let them do it at their own rate.

The second factor of separation anxiety is that the babysitter, Grandma, Aunt, Uncle etc should  provide the parents with specific ideas for the separation process. For example, Grandma can tell the parents to tell the child good-bye, then Grandma is going to take the child to see the new coloring book they bought for the child. The third factor is that the parents should gradually move away from the child. A parent will do this naturally-it's instinct. Parents move away slowly to check on the child every few feet and make sure they're doing all right.

The fourth factor is that parents should leave immediately once they say good-bye. This is hard if the child is screaming or reaching for the parent, but staying only drags the process out and makes the separation harder. Go ahead and leave and ask the babysitter, Grandma whomever to call or text you when the child has calmed down. This eliviates the worry the parents are feeling and they then know the child is fine and can enjoy themselves or concentrate on work. The fifth factor is to ask your children if it's all right that you leave.This seems silly but it's important. When parents ask if they can leave they're showing respect to their child and their feelings.

The sixth factor of separation anxiety is to not shame your child and to make sure the babysitter, Grandparents or anyone else doesn't either. To shame a child dismisses how they feel and how they feel is important and real. The emotions they're feeling are real and intense. Acknowledge them and reassure them that you as the parents will be back and when- after dinner, before bedtime, whenever it may be. The seventh factor is that the babysitter, Grandma or whoever is taking care of the child should offer to call, text or send an email to say how the child adjusted and reassure the parent the child is fine.

The eighth factor is that sometimes parents need help making the transition and separating from the child. When this happens don't be afraid to ask for help to make the separation. Also, realize that when this is occuring, that the only thing to do may be to hug the child, give them a kiss, hand them over to whoever will be taking care of them in your absence and leave and know that they're going to be fine. The ninth factor is to get reassurance that you still have a strong bond with your child. Sometimes a child spends so much time at day care, with a nanny, a family member who is taking care of the child while the parents work, that the parents begin to feel the child has a better relationship with the other caregiver than with them. Be reassured this only will happen if you pull away from the child, stop spending quality time with them and stop trying to have a relationship with them.

Separating from your child will always be hard. You love your child and the child loves you. It will never be easy to be apart. Use these nine factors to make separating as easy as possible and know you'll reunite by the end of the day.