Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Getting involved with children and reading

Raising smart well adjusted children. Isn't that what we all aim for when we enter that process. The expression that it takes a village to raise a child could not be more clear to me today. I saw a segment on the Today show this morning about summer reading. One child read 280 books during the summer. Pretty unbelievable. The show also talked about how much ground a child loses if they do not read and keep up their skills during summer. When my children where young our library had a summer reading program that our children participated in. Some begrudgenly and some with great enthusiasm. Some of my grandchildren live in a community that does not have such a program. We developed our own. Ours is a little different because it not only includes books it involves other activities that teach responsibility and enriches their world with things they might not do without the nudge. We are in year two of this program and all is going well. Last years treat was seasons tickets to to the Boston Children theatre. Lord knows about this year. It is still a work in progress. As grandparents or aunts and uncles we can help by being part of the village and so can your communities. Get involved with the children . It always pays off in spades.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teaching Children Responsibility and Independence – Part 1

An email on a local parenting list this week got me thinking about teaching children responsibility and independence. The parent who wrote the email had been to a group camping event and her 8 year old was busy and happy helping to build the campsite and work to keep it running. It got me thinking about my experience this past spring taking our second-grade Brownie troop camping. We had planned a simple menu to make things easier on ourselves and then I went to Girl Scout camp training. In the training they reminded me that all activities should be girl-led. The girls are old enough to help with cooking, cleaning and even building the fire. So we revamped our menus so that we had jobs for everyone to contribute. The girls were responsible for cooking and cleaning, with supervision. I also spent a lot of time teaching them how about fire and match safety including how to build a fire and practicing how to safely light a match. Many of the girls were nervous about it as was I. I loved seeing the pride and excitement on their faces when they lit a match and realized that they didn’t burn themselves. One of the girls has since told me that her parents now let her light the Shabbat candles with supervision. The girls were told that they were expected to contribute and relished in it. They cleaned and cooked without a single complaint. Giving them those responsibilities showed them that we respect and trust them. As a result, they not only lived up to, but exceeded the expectations that were set for them. It is a lesson that I will carry with me always and have tried to transition into my life at home with the kids. For more on that, check out my next entry “Teaching Children Responsibility and Independence – Part 2”.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Re-Learning How to Play

When my kids were younger we spent a lot of time at home. I had three kids in 3 ½ years so there was a lot of time spent at home for naps, laundry, etc. We were a part of a playgroup at different times but this was for my benefit more than for the kids as I needed adult contact. At this time, my kids worked hard at playing. They took care of their dolls. They had tea parties, made roads for their trucks, built homes for their stuffed animals, they built forts, etc. They did watch TV, but no more than 1-2 shows per day. It was fun to watch them grow and their games develop as they got older.

Now that they are all in school, I am sad to say that they don’t play like that anymore. Between school, swimming lessons, gymnastics and homework there are not long stretches of time for them to pull out their toys. When they do have free time they are always begging to play on the computer or watch TV. They are looking to be entertained rather than entertain themselves. As a result of this, I am on a mission this summer: a mission to help my kids learn how to play again. This is why my kids are not spending much time in camp this summer like most of their friends. (Granted, as a preschool teacher, I have the luxury of being home with them in the summer to make this work.)

The first two weeks were rather painful with my 5 year old asking to watch a show about every 20 minutes. But now we have settled in. We are spending most mornings this summer at home with the television off. The kids are spending time inside and outside just playing. They are playing games with each other, having stuffed animal sleepovers, reading books, building with MagnaTiles and Legos, playing with their dolls that have been sitting untouched for a while. They are learning how to play again. I have not heard the words “I’m bored.” in about 2 weeks. I am thoroughly enjoying seeing them get creative and work as a team. The afternoons are also spent playing, mostly at the beach. We also use this afternoon time to go to museums, go bowling, see friends, do crafts, bake, etc.

Now that I have seen the success of this summer, I will make sure to leave unscheduled time in the fall for playing. Playing is truly a skill and I don’t want it to get lost again.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Teaching children to love one another begins with teaching them to love themselves.

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the value of teaching our children to care for others. Lately, I have been thinking about teaching children to love themselves. What is the best way to find that balance between creating healthy self confidence, without creating a child that believes themselves to be at the center of the universe?
My 6-year-old had trouble this year accepting the fact that he just can’t run as fast as his friends. He was upset and pretty down on himself. In this case, I started off by explaining to him that each person has their own individual strengths, some are fast runners and some, like him, are great at building and math. I also told him that if he wanted to get faster, he could, but he had to practice.
I believe that by creating an environment in which they feel safe, loved, and valued goes a long way. Additionally, I think it is important to let children try things on their own (watching like a hawk, of course!). In doing things from sports to school projects independently, children will learn the joy of succeeding on their own and also learn to get past it in a healthy way when they don’t succeed. They will also learn that some things take a lot of practice, but the work is worth it. It can be heartbreaking to watch our children struggle, but I think a key of raising a healthy child, is to let them learn their strengths and their weakness’, along with the value of hard work, so they can ultimately embrace who they are and learn what they are capable of when they put their minds to something.
Does anyone have suggestions regarding how they approach this challenge with their own children?