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Grandparents Day – Do Something Together

Tue, 09/07/2021 - 13:10
Image Source: Kara Kohel

Grandparents Day 2021 is fast approaching. Have you bought your cards? Ordered flowers? If not, don’t rush out to do so. This year, consider returning to the origins of Grandparents Day and celebrating the day as the founders intended.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. This national proclamation followed several local proclamations and a grassroots effort, led by Lucille Herndon McQuade, to recognize the important role of grandparents and older adults in society.

Although cards, flowers, or gifts have become one way of recognizing grandparents on this day, the originators of Grandparents Day had something else in mind. They envisioned a day dedicated to

  • Honoring Grandparents
    • Giving Grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children
    • Helping children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer

Lucille’s vision for families and communities on Grandparents Day was about connection: being together, having a reunion, or sharing in a community gathering. As recognition of the day became national, public affirmation of the importance of grandparents and older adults in families and society became another priority.

Organizations like Generations United and The Legacy Project encourage people of all ages to do something together during Grandparents Day and the following week. Generations United, in particular, encourages young and old to participate in intergenerational civic engagement for the week following Grandparents Day. Above all, it is an occasion for mutual sharing among the generations.

Shared Reading is an especially great way for young children to connect with the older adults in their lives. Visit your local library and ask about books that feature grandparents or have an intergenerational theme. Some titles I recommend include:

  • I love Saturdays y Domingos, by Alma Flor Ada
    • My Grandfather’s Coat, by Jim Aylesworth
    • A Little Something, by Susan V. Bosak
    • Mr. George Baker, by Amy Hest
    • Thank You, Omu, by Oge Mora

Older youth may enjoy “interviewing” grandparents and older adults about their life. A great addition to this activity is to have the grandparent interview the youth, too. Then, each person writes a story about the other. Storytelling is a great way to talk about similarities, differences, and shared hopes and dreams for the future. Creating a family tree together is another great activity that provides an opportunity to share stories of the past and hopes for the future.

These activities can be done in-person or virtually!

Finally, participating in community service or advocating for a shared cause that impacts all generations in your community or nation is a great way to observe Grandparents Day. It can be as simple as writing a letter to a local representative together or volunteering in your community. 

Image Source: Kara Kohel

We’d love to hear how you celebrate Grandparents Day! Share with us on Facebook (@UNLExtensionthelearningchild), Twitter (@UNLExtensionTLC)

Linked Resources

  • Generations United, Grandparents Day: https://grandparentsday.org/
  • The Legacy Project: https://legacyproject.org/index.html
  • The Power of Storytelling: https://learningchildblog.com/2018/06/01/the-power-of-storytelling/

KARA KOHEL, EARLY CHILDHOOD EXTENSION EDUCATOR | NEBRASKA EXTENSION

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged, Linda Reddish, and Lynn DeVries Early Childhood Extension Educators, Nebraska Extension

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Choosing Quality Child Care: Guidance For Parents

Wed, 08/11/2021 - 21:00
Image Source: The Learning Child

Finding quality child care near your location might seem like an overwhelming task. The Voices for Children organization reported in their Kids Count in Nebraska 2019 Report that 77.1% of all available parents in Nebraska are in the workforce, and nearly 80% of children ages 0–5 are in some form of paid child care.

A high-quality workforce is vital to care for our youngest population while parents and caregivers are working. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life have a profound impact on their brain development. We know that early relationships, environments and experiences affect all aspects of a child’s development. Finding the right place for your young child is going to take some work.

FIVE AREAS TO CONSIDER
The Learning Child team at Nebraska Extension has created a website at http://child.unl.edu/quality-child-care to guide parents seeking potential caregivers for their little one(s). The team received a national Extension first-place award for this website! The team identified five areas to consider when choosing a child care program.

Image Source, The Learning Child


1. Relationships — Children develop through relationships with attentive adults. Every day, teachers help your child feel secure and important. From the morning greeting to the end of the day, teachers should interact warmly with your child. Children who feel safe and cared for, grow in all areas of their development.

Image Source, The Learning Child



2. Health and Safety — The program should promote the nutrition and health of children, and protect children and staff from illness and injuries. Children must be healthy and safe in order to learn and grow. Child care programs should prepare healthy food, provide opportunities for physical activity and provide a safe environment.

Image Source, The Learning Child



3. Curriculum and Approaches To Learning — Program activities should involve learning experiences through active involvement with people and materials. It should be play-oriented and child-centered, encouraging children to develop their natural love of learning. These practices should be developmentally appropriate and align with state early learning guidelines or standards (see https://www.education.ne.gov/oec/early-learning-guidelines). Research shows curriculum content that emerges from the interest of children, leads to greater engagement with activities and experiences increasing children’s positive approaches to learning. Positive approaches to learning include characteristics such as curiosity, persistence, creativity and problem-solving skills.

Image Source, The Learning Child



4. Learning Environment — The physical environment should include appropriate indoor and outdoor spaces to enhance learning activities for children. The environment consists of the physical layout of the room, materials children have access to and the overall sense of belonging.

Image Source, The Learning Child



5. Policies and Administration — Programs should develop policies and procedures including family handbooks to maintain consistency within their program. Family handbooks are especially important, so parents understand what programs offer for their children and families.

Nebraska Extension has checklists to take when you tour a child care program for each of the five topic areas identified above [see “Lincoln’s Strengths and Assets” below]. Print-friendly versions are at https://child.unl.edu/choosing-quality-child-care.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND QUALITY CHILD CARE?
According to Kids Count in Nebraska Report, in 2018 there were 2,834 licensed child care facilities in Nebraska.

In 2020, First Five Nebraska, Buffett Early Childhood Institute, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Department of Education, Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative, Nebraska Children and Nebraska Extension collaborated to create a website to help you find child care. Visit http://nechildcarereferral.org to find a licensed child care program near you. On the website, you can search for child care within a certain number of miles from a specific address and even look at programs who have available openings.

Step Up to Quality is a Nebraska resource coordinated by the Nebraska Department of Education to help both families and child care providers learn more about implementing and selecting quality care. To learn more, visit https://stepuptoquality.ne.gov. In March of this year, Step Up To Quality reported they now have more than 500 programs participating in the Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS). This QRIS system was passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2013. The system uses professional development, formal education and coaching to improve early care and education. This will increase the positive outcomes for Nebraska’s youngest children.

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CHILD CARE CHECKLISTS
Take these questions with you to ask child care programs to learn more on each topic.

Relationships
☐ How do teachers keep families regularly informed about our child’s activities?
☐ How does this program respect language, culture and the values of families?
☐ How will you help me with my child’s initial adjustment to your child care?
☐ Am I welcome to drop into the program at any time?
☐ How will we work together to help my child transition to the next class?
☐ Will my child have a consistent caregiver?

Health & Safety
☐ What meals and snacks are served, and are they prepared on site or catered in?
☐ Are emergency numbers posted?
☐ Do you have a space for mothers to breastfeed?
☐ How often does the program need a health report from our doctor?

Curriculum & Approaches to Learning
☐ What is your daily routine with the children and how do you plan for individual children’s needs?
☐ Do you use a curriculum and if so, what is it and why did your program choose it?
☐ How does your curriculum align with early learning guidelines or standards?
☐ How will my child’s learning and culture be supported?
☐ How do you train and support your staff with this curriculum?
☐ What do you notice the children enjoy about the activities during the day?

Learning Environment
☐ How much time do children spend outside?
☐ What is your policy on weather and outside play?
☐ What do you notice is the children’s favorite thing to do outside?
☐ Do you have an area for indoor play when children can’t go outside?
☐ How many children can be in this space at one time?
☐ How do you determine what materials you provide for children?
☐ Does my child need any extra clothes for outdoor play?
☐ Will my child have their own space for storing items from home, like extra clothing, book bag, coat, etc.?

Policies & Administration
☐ Did you receive a copy of the family handbook to look at before you enrolled your child?
☐ How are parents engaged in program events?
☐ How can I express concerns regarding my child’s care or education?
☐ What is the center’s sickness and health policy?
☐ What is the severe weather policy?
☐ Do you have an emergency preparedness plan?
☐ What happens if I am late to pick up my child?
☐ Is there always an administrator on site, or designated lead?

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Tasha Wulf, Lisa Poppe, and Lynn DeVries Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!



Sparking Interest in STEM through Animals and Literacy

Thu, 07/01/2021 - 08:00
Image Source: Jackie Steffen

What sparks your curiosity?  What sparks the curiosity of your children?  I would venture to guess that nature and animals might rank pretty high on the list of interests for you and the children you work with every day.  Using animals and nature with children is a wonderful opportunity to teach empathy, conservation and environmental stewardship.  Fortunately, Nebraska Extension has an exciting early childhood resource to share with you this year around animals and their habitats.  This year, we are thrilled to provide eight guides highlighting habitats such as the tundra, rainforest, and desert.

Image Source: Sarah Roberts

Nebraska Extension has created this great resource for parents, early childhood professionals, care takers, grandparents, and anyone who loves to read with young children that ties directly with local libraries’ summer reading programs.  Summer reading programs are taking place right now and the theme across the state is Tails and Tales.  Our STEM Imagination Guides are designed to provide several opportunities to connect with each year’s theme by featuring:

  • Familiar storybook suggestions:
    • The stories that have been selected for each guide are well-known stories and often children’s favorites.  It is okay if you child has already heard the story prior to taking part in the lesson.  Sharing a story multiple times helps children develop language and listening skills. 
  • Conversation starters:
    • When a two-way conversation is initiated with children during story time, participation in dialogic reading is encouraged.  Open-ended questions are provided in each lesson to foster dialogic reading which has tremendous academic and social-emotional benefits for young children. 
  • STEM connection experiments:
    • Children love finding out how things work through fun, hands-on projects.  The experiment included in each guide relates to the featured habitat and teaches a variety of STEM concepts that are engaging and educational.
  • Sensory explorations:
    • Sensory play stimulates children’s senses and is important for brain development.  During the suggested sensory activities, children use multiple senses which allows them to learn more from their experiences and retain more information.
  • Music and movement activities:
    • Research shows that music ignites all areas of child development and enhances skills for school readiness.  Not only is singing songs and playing games fun, but these activities also encourage self-expression and physical activity. 
  • Creative arts investigations:
    • When children create pictures of stories that they have read, comprehension improves and often motivates children to want to read and interact with books even more.  Art is an early form of communication.  Creative art suggestions allow children to express themselves and make meaningful connections with the stories.
  • Additional related readings:
    • Since each of the Imagination Guides focus on a different habitat, children often have additional questions and are interested in learning MORE!   Supplemental fiction and nonfiction books are suggested so children can expand their knowledge.
Image Source: Jackie Steffen

The STEM Imagination Guides can be utilized in a variety of ways.  No need to panic if you do not have access to the featured storybook.  Consider listening to the story online or sharing the story orally from memory.  Each Imagination Guide has a variety of options and can be customized to meet the needs and interests of the children in your care.  Incorporate all of the activities or just a few.  It is up to you!  The shared reading experience and creative play opportunities are sure to create an excitement for animals as well as foster a joy for reading.   

All of these resources are free and available for download and print at https://go.unl.edu/imagination.  This website also houses the previous year’s resources focusing on fairy tales.  This website is like a treasure chest of great literacy and STEM resources right at your fingertips.  All Imagination Guides, whether from this year or previous years can be utilized at no cost.  Enjoy this year’s habitat exploration!

SARA ROBERTS AND JACKIE STEFFEN, EXTENSION EDUCATORS | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Amy Napoli, Assistant Professor & Early Childhood Extension Specialist and LaDonna Werth and Lynn DeVries Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

PLAYING IN THE MUD IS MORE THAN JUST FUN

Tue, 06/01/2021 - 08:00
Image source: Pixabay.com

This special blog was authored by our dear colleague and friend, Leanne Manning who lost her battle with cancer on April 9, 2021. Leanne dedicated 34 years of her life’s career to Nebraska Extension, and to the Learning Child Interest Group. Leanne was passionate about education, helping others through educational programming, and watching youth develop into their potential. She loved spending time outdoors in nature and watching blue birds. Leanne will be missed, but her work will live on in those who knew her well and had the opportunity to be instructed in her care. This is the last blog she had written and requested that it be published in June 2021. Thank you and a fond farewell to Leanne Manning.

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Remember when you were a kid and you had fun playing in the mud?  Turns out that was good for you!  Some of the benefits* of playing in the mud follow.

  1. The bacteria, Mycobacterium Vaccae, found in the soil or mud, has been found to reduce anxiety and increase serotonin (the endorphin that is used to regulate mood and makes you feel happy) in the brain.
  2. Mud play increases brain activity by stimulating a child’s senses.
  3. When children play in the mud outdoors, physical activity increases which helps children maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Regular exposure to mud will reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression.
  5. Mud play reduces allergies and asthma symptoms.
  6. By experiencing outdoor mud play, children learn a sense of self and belonging in the natural world around them.  It provides a chance to explore nature, ground themselves, and learn to care for their world.
  7. Children exposed to playing in the mud have more opportunities to be creative.  There is no end to the amount of games and uses for mud in child’s play.  This can lead to an increased ability to problem solve, think critically, and be innovative.

   Ideas to get kids involved in mud play are:  

  • mud hand-prints or footprints,
  • use fingers, paintbrushes, or old kitchen tools like potato mashers to paint or make prints,
  • hang a large white sheet and have kids throw mud balls at it to create splatter painting,
  • set up a mud kitchen with pots, pans, and more to make mud pies or other culinary creations such as mud stew,
  • use a plastic kiddie pool and create a mud pit supplying them with shovels, bowls, and spoons for digging and let the children squish mud through their bare toes in the mud pit,
  • make mud castles or mud bricks,
  • make mud buddies by forming mud into people or pets.

   Ask children questions that help them think about what is happening during this experience such as: What would happen if we used sand instead of mud? What would happen if we left this mud out in the sun? What would happen if we added more water?  At Prince Edward Island in Canada, they use their famous red mud to dye t-shirts.  Maybe you could experiment with mud dying on inexpensive pieces of fabric with the children.

   Clean up after mud play can be as much fun as playing in the mud.  Take a garden hose and have children hose off.  There is no better time than now to go outside and have some fun playing in the mud….it is good for you!  International Mud Day is Tuesday, June 29, 2021…have fun getting dirty!

*Source:  https://natureplayqld.org.au/

LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Sarah Roberts, and Erin Kampbell, Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Lawn Care and Young Children: Creating a Safe and Fun Place to Play

Tue, 05/25/2021 - 16:01
Image Source: Katie Krause

Spring is in full swing here in Nebraska and our family is spending a lot more time outside.  As I walked around our yard this week, I realized I needed to do something to help get our less than stellar yard in better condition. We have been trying to get our lawn healthy so it can withstand the wear and tear of 2 young children and 2 dogs (we are getting a new puppy next week!) playing on it year-round.

So, what does lawn care have to do with early childhood?  For our family, this is simple.  Safety.  We’d like to have a yard with enough grass that we don’t end up with a muddy mess, but we don’t want to risk our kids or pets getting sick from whatever we apply to the lawn.  I reached out to my fellow Extension Educator, John Fech, who is a horticulturist.   One of his areas of specialization is turf grass.  He responded quickly, and even wrote this wonderful blog so we could share the helpful information with you!

Check it out here: https://grobigred.com/2021/04/22/lawns-kids-pets/

John shares details about these 4 big takeaways

  • Follow the instructions exactly!  
  • Break the application into 2 or 3 part
    • This one was a huge ‘ah-ha!’ moment for me.  Don’t do your front and back yard all on the same day.  Get the backyard done, but still have safe access to your front yard.  Simple…but genius!  
  • Know how the product works – foliage active – work on the leaves, root active – goes into the ground
  • Mow – Fertilize – Water
Image Source: Katie Krause

Remember, Children Thrive Outside….so use these helpful hints to make sure your yard is functional and safe for your whole family!

KATIE KRAUSE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged, Kara Kohel, and Lynn DeVries Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Jump, Roll, Slide at the Playground

Mon, 04/19/2021 - 15:49
Image source: Linda Reddish

My son loves to jump.  He is exceptional at finding launching surfaces that provide him the opportunity to challenge gravity’s hold on his feet.  I remember the day when he decided to test out jumping from the third step on the playground.  The ground beneath covered with mulch but, he looked so small to be making such a big jump.  As he lifted his arms to the sky and his knees bent, I took deep breath watching him get ready to fly.   My spouse on the other hand was a second away from saying, “that’s not safe, get down.”

Before the words could be uttered, our son jumped, landed on both feet, and then began spinning around.   Another child directly behind him yelled out, “That was awesome!  Five points for both feet.” Suddenly, the two of them were setting rules for how to earn points while jumping.  5 points for both feet, 1 point if your hand touched the ground, a hundred points if they both did it together at the same time and stuck the landing.  His parents and I made eye contact, smiled, gave a shrug of the shoulders, and continued to watch.  My spouse, again, on the other hand, was now looking at the sky and letting out a deep sigh of relief.

As the children continued to play, I asked my spouse about the warning cry he was about to utter.  He expressed his concern about him falling and that the steps seemed too high.  I shared with him that generally, you can check the “critical height” of play equipment outdoors and I showed him the sticker on the side of the equipment.  The space he was jumping from was well mulched and for our son’s height had more than enough protection because of mulch.  This made me realize something, I knew about this and could show my spouse were to find this but, I wondered how many other caregivers knew where to find this information. If you are curious about playground safety and platform guidelines click here for the Public Playground Safety Handbook from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission .

Image source: Linda Reddish

This additional piece of information helped, but my spouse still told me after I showed him the equipment safety suggestions that watching our son jump felt like a lifetime.  In reality, the exchange was only about 5-10 minutes.  Eventually, the game stopped and the children choose to go over to slope on the other side of the playground and began rolling down it.  Sometimes they bumped into each other, but their faces were smiling and laughing as they rolled. We have continued to talk about this feeling of hesitation or being uncomfortable watching our child engage in this rough and tumble play.  This feeling is not unusual among adults.  Author, Frances Carlson addresses adult’s uneasiness with this type of play in her book Big Body Play; Why boisterous, vigorous, and very physical play is essential to children’s development and learning.

She shares that adults and educators are typically motivated to reduce or hinder this type of play out of fear for the following reasons:

Image source: Linda Reddish

1. Fighting

2. Escalation

3. Agitation

4. Injury

All reasonable and understandable fears.  I, as a parent, that day, felt all of those fears too.  Perhaps not as strongly as my spouse did, but when I reflect on my teaching days, I likely responded more like my spouse did.  Ensuring children’s safety and well-being was paramount.  However, I’ve grown in my understanding of how to support children’s exploration into big body play.  I went back and re-read the chapter on how to support this type of play while balancing the safety concerns. The readings confirmed while some risk of injury is possible any time when children engage in physical play or explore outdoor spaces like playgrounds, the risk is minimal. Adults can set safe limits by setting clear expectations and ground rules, supervising or joining in on the play, and helping young children recognize their limits.  Following the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s playground, public safety and fall height recommendations are another strategy to prevent life-threatening falls or injuries in both outdoor and indoor spaces.

Carlson further addresses adult’s reservations by providing concrete ideas and examples such as encourage children to:

Image source: Linda Reddish

1. Run

2. Skip

3. Hop

4. Roll

5. Climb on structures

6. Wrestle

7. Broad jump

8. Jump from heights

Again, this type of boisterous play and physical activity has its benefits.  Children who are physically active reduce their risk of becoming overweight or obese.  That is because early childhood is an ideal time to establish children’s healthy attitude towards the adoption of health and wellness.

We continue to watch our son test out his jumping skills while he is at the playground.  Now he has moved on to running, hopping, and skipping around the loop of the playground.  He still likes to test out that third step.  Before we leave the playground, he still asks, “Can I jump off that step one more time?”

If you are interested in learning more about Big Body Play, you can check out this webinar.

Resource:

Accelerating Progress to Reduce Childhood Obesity. (2021, March 24). Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://www.nccor.org/

Carlson, Frances M.  (2011).  Big Body Play: Why Boisterous, Vigorous, and Very Physical Play Is Essential to Children’s Development and Learning, by Frances M. Carlson.  National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Young Children: Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 69:5 (Nov 2014), pp. 36-42.

LINDA REDDISH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged and Lynn DeVries Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

GETTING ACTIVE AFTER PREGNANCY

Wed, 03/24/2021 - 09:43

Photo source: Canva

Regular physical activity is important for everyone’s overall health and well-being, including that of new mothers. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), physical activity after childbirth may help prevent postpartum depression, provide for higher quality sleep, increase energy, and decrease stress.

When can I introduce physical activity after giving birth?

If you recently gave birth and feel ready to increase your physical activity level, it is important to gain approval from your doctor before engaging in your desired type of activity. It can take time for muscles and tissues to heal after giving birth. Women who experienced a pregnancy and vaginal delivery free of complications may find that their doctor approves them for gentle activity quite soon after birth. Women who had a Caesarean section should be in contact with their doctor about a timeline for introducing physical activity.

My doctor says I am ready for physical activity. What type should I do?

Ask your doctor for tips on what types of activity or exercise are best for you and if there is anything you need to avoid or build up to more slowly. Aerobic activity and muscle strengthening activity are both important for health.

Aerobic Activity

An example of an aerobic activity is walking. Walking while pushing your baby in a stroller is good for both you and your baby and serves as an excellent place to start. You can easily adjust speed and distance to match how you are feeling.


Photo source: Canva

Muscle Strengthening

Examples of muscle strengthening activities are weightlifting, Pilates, or sit ups. Muscle strengthening activities are beneficial and should be introduced with thoughtful consideration. Be aware that many traditional abdominal exercises can be a bit too strenuous soon after pregnancy. Seeking modifications for muscle strengthening exercises is important for the first few months after giving birth, even if you are feeling strong enough. Muscles and connective tissue can take weeks to heal and regain strength. Be kind to yourself and start slow—your body needs time.

How much and how intensely should I exercise?

The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a weekly goal of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. It can be helpful to break down the time into 10, 20, or 30-minute intervals most days. Use how you are feeling as a guide for determining length of time. Begin with 10-minute intervals of lighter-intensity activity like slow walks. Gradually working up to moderate intensity exercises like brisk walks will help you safely increase your fitness.

A guide to determining the intensity of your favorite activity is to notice your heart rate and breathing. Moderate-intensity exercise will increase your heart rate and breathing. You may notice you can talk normally but singing would be difficult. When engaging in vigorous-intensity exercise, you will begin to notice that it is hard to speak without taking a pause for breath. If you were exercising at a vigorous level before your pregnancy, you will likely be able to gradually increase your exercise until you return to pre-pregnancy levels.

To enjoy benefits from physical activity like decreased stress, higher quality sleep, and more energy, after your pregnancy, choose activities that you enjoy and do them regularly. Take it slow, listen to your body, and have fun!

Click here to read about exercising during pregnancy.

https://learningchildblog.com/category/family/exercise/

Click here for ideas on being active with your family.

https://food.unl.edu/free-resources/newsletters/family-fun-on-the-run

Click here for a guide on child development, learning, and more.

https://learningbeginsatbirth.org/resources/

References

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-after-pregnancy

USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, p. 119

https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf

Resources

ERIN KAMPBELL, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged, Jackie Steffen, LaDonna Werth, and Lynn DeVries Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Big Questions

Mon, 02/01/2021 - 08:00
Image Source: The Learning Child

Some questions only elicit rote answers and therefore will not spark a meaningful conversation or connection. Others encourage thought-provoking conversations and ideas.

Questions are powerful tools and they encourage children to think at a higher level. The types of questions that you ask young children can affect the quality of your conversation with them.

Having intentional and meaningful conversations with your children is critical to providing an atmosphere of emotional security.  Engaging with and listening to children help them to feel valued and respected. They learn to feel safe talking with you and sharing thoughts and feelings that may be otherwise difficult to discuss.

Here are some ways to inspire rich conversations.

  • Try to ask more open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with one word. Instead of asking, “How was your day?” consider rephrasing and saying, “Tell me about the favorite parts of your day.”
  • Distractions are all around us. Take time to fully engage with your child and practice active listening in a one-on-one environment. That means removing electronics and getting down on their level. Giving children your full attention demonstrates that you respect them and what they have to say.
  • Make conversations a habit. The time of day that works best is different for everyone. Some might be able to connect deeply on the “to and from” school commutes, others at bedtime, or maybe around the table. Take notice of when your child feels the most comfortable opening up to you.
  • Do your homework. If your child is in school and you have access to daily announcements, lesson plans, or newsletters, use that information to help spark conversations. Children can fail to mention exciting events unintentionally. They may be surprised with some pieces of information that you know about their day.
  • Finally, remember that conversations are a two-way street. If you ask too many questions, children can feel like they are being drilled. Don’t just ask questions; open up and talk about YOUR day. Being authentic and modeling good communication with other adults in your house will encourage children to join in on conversations.

Asking higher level questions takes practice and time.  Think about what information you want to share with your child and what you would like to know from them.  Be genuine.  If it is tough to talk to them, don’t worry.  It is important to simply start practicing conversation skills, especially when children are young.  Have fun and keep a sense of humor and wonder.  Children will follow your lead.

Here are a few open-ended questions to get you started.

  • If you were the family chef, what would you make today for breakfast (lunch, dinner)?  Why?
  • If you could do anything today, what would it be?
  • What was your favorite part about the holidays this year?
  • This year has been hard for lots of people. Is there anything positive you experienced?  What things do you wish you could change? 
  • If you could ask me anything (parents), what would it be?

For more ideas on starting conversations and asking higher level questions, visit High Level Questions for High Level Thinking, https://learningchildblog.com/?s=big+questions, April 1, 2020 authored by LaDonna Werth. 

References:

Big Questions for Young Minds:  Extending Children’s Thinking by Janis Strasser and Lisa Mufson Bresson

SARAH ROBERTS AND JACKIE STEFFEN, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Peer Review:  LaDonna Werth & Kara Kohel

Helping Foster a Growth Mindset in Young Children

Wed, 01/06/2021 - 15:41
Image Source: Stock Photos

“Mommy you do it … It’s too hard for me … I can’t do this … I don’t understand.” The struggle is real. I think it is safe to admit we all have had moments where it seems easier to ask someone else to do something or just give up rather than to keep trying. Raising children can be difficult, and the pressure is on us to help our children be the best they can be. Too often, we might find ourselves jumping in to help the child accomplish something even though (with a little effort) they may be able to do it themselves. You might be thinking that jumping in and rescuing your child works for you. For instance, opening up the granola bar wrapper is relatively easy for you — but might take quite a bit of effort from your child. The child might whine or become frustrated when they cannot immediately open the wrapper. In the long run, our children need to be able to persevere, to fail and try again, to be disappointed and to put in the hard work.

Caregiving Adults

We might need to step back for our children to move forward. Dr. Carol Dweck is a researcher at Stanford University. According to Dweck, there are two types of mindsets — a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe their qualities are fixed traits and, therefore, cannot change. These people document their intelligence and talents rather than working to develop and improve them. They also believe talent alone leads to success, and effort is not required. Alternatively, in a growth mindset, people have an underlying belief their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. When people believe they can get smarter, they realize their effort has an effect on their success, so they put in extra time, leading to higher achievement.

Mindsets

Dweck has found that mindsets can change, and when a mindset changes, learners do better. History shows us there are a lot of famous people who have displayed a growth mindset. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team but went on to become a famous professional basketball player. The Beatles were rejected by Decca Recording Studios who said, “We don’t like their sound; they have no future in show business,” yet they went on to become a very popular group. Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as news anchor because she “wasn’t fit for television” yet she hosted the longest-running talk show on television which ran for 25 years. Growth mindset is real and attainable.

Graphic by Nigel Holmes

Fostering Growth

So how do we foster a growth mindset in the children we care for?

• Consider the language you are using with children. Words have meaning and communicate an important message to the receiver. The language we use tells others what to believe and what we think of them. Example, instead of saying, “It’s not that hard;” say, “You can do hard things.”

• Explain to children our brains can learn and grow. For young children, try reading stories to them which focus on growth mindset. Examples include Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, Listening With My Heart by Gabi Garcia and The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

• Have daily learning discussions. Encourage children to be their best each day, to put their heart into their work. Remind children it is okay to start their day over whenever they need to. Failure does not mean we are finished; instead, see it as an opportunity to begin again.

• Encourage and model positive self-talk. If you notice your child being critical of themselves, ask them what they would say to a friend who is in a similar situation. Explain to the child it is important to treat ourselves with the same care and respect we treat others. It is small, but when a child tells you something (they cannot tie their shoes), add “yet” to the end of their statement. “You cannot tie your shoes, yet.”

• Encourage risk, failing and learning from mistakes. Remind children disappointment, setbacks and making mistakes are a part of growing up. Focus on effort by saying, “I like how you tried a new way to solve that.”

Suggested Resources:

JACI fOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Leanne Manning

Adaptability and Stability: Changing and Maintaining Traditions, Rituals, and Routines During a COVID-19 Holiday Season

Tue, 12/01/2020 - 08:00
Image Source: by K Kohel in Canva

Traditions, rituals, and routines are good for all of us. They contribute to a shared sense of meaning, increase our connection to others, and can even support resilience in difficult or stressful times. The winter holiday season is one that is looked forward to by many families and young children. Various traditions bring family and friends of all ages together to share meals, exchange gifts, and simply be in the presence of loved ones.

The 2020 holiday season is not exempt from the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We know this holiday season may be experienced differently by many of our readers, and we want to acknowledge any feelings of confusion, frustration, sadness, or anger that you may be experiencing. We hope this blog provides encouragement and a few ideas for connecting with loved ones and making this a meaningful holiday season.

Young children are often more perceptive of adult emotions than we expect. They may not understand why the adults in their lives are upset, but they can sense that something is not quite right. As adults, it is important that we model emotional awareness and self-regulation for young children and invite them into conversations about emotions. Read for Resilience is a Learning Child program that is free and available to all through our website. This program aims to help adults and children share conversations about difficult topics through the process of reading and discussing storybooks.

If this holiday season is made more difficult due to loss or feelings of grief, sadness, and frustration, consider a ritual that acknowledges those feelings and helps your family share them together. For example, if you have lost a loved one this year, consider making a special ornament to hang on your tree with their picture or a symbol that reminds you of their life. Use the hanging of this ornament as a special time to share memories of that person.

Although your traditions may look different this year, it is still important to connect with loved ones. If you are “gathering” with your family online, consider having a conversation with your children about why your traditions are important to you and your family. Ask older members of the family to share how some traditions have been passed down and others have changed over the years. Encourage older family members to reminisce about the holidays when they were children, and have young children talk about how things are both the same and different than they used to be. Have all members take time to share what they are grateful for. These intentional conversations help build relationships among the many generations in your family.

Finally, many families and communities of different backgrounds have special celebrations that occur throughout the year. In addition to celebrating your family’s treasured traditions – perhaps in new ways – consider taking the time to learn about the traditions and holidays of others.

Image source: by K Kohel, in Canva

For more on routines, rituals, and traditions during the holiday season, check out these other Learning Child blog posts:

  1. Teaching Kindness and Giving with a Holiday Twist
  2. Connect with Your Children this Holiday Season
  3. Tips to Manage Holiday Stress
  4. The Power of Storytelling
  5. Keeping Routines is the Secret to a Calm Holiday

And these additional resources (also linked in the blog):

  1. How Important is Thanksgiving Soup to a Child’s Wellbeing?
  2. Creating Routines for Love and Learning
  3. Let’s Use this Time to Strengthen, Not Weaken, Bonds Between Generations

Staying Connected During Social Distancing

KARA KOHEL, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, , Lisa Poppe, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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3 Teaching Strategies for Supporting Children’s Tinkering, Making, and Engineering in Makerspaces

Sun, 11/01/2020 - 07:00

Video by cottonbro from Pexels

Direct link for video:

https://www.pexels.com/video/two-kids-building-a-gingerbread-house-3198432/

Picture this. Child and caregiver are at the table using their Makerspace baskets. Both sit side-by-side, exploring the materials in front of them when the following question is asked…

Child “I can’t decide if I want to stick the pipe cleaner or the paper towel to my board.”

Caregiver “Well, what problem are you trying to solve today?”

Child “I don’t have a problem. I want to know what is sticky.”

Caregiver “Hmm, figuring out what is sticky is a good idea to explore. I wonder what’s something we have here on the table that is sticky?”

Child “Nothing”

Wondering what happens next? 

Curious how the caregiver might respond? Me too…!

A previous blog (written by Extension Educator Lynn Devries) described how to create Makerspaces in early childhood settings. The blog broke down the child’s role in Makerspaces.

  1. Tinkering
  2. Making
  3. Engineering.  

In this post, the focus shifts to three teaching strategies that can be used to support the child’s exploration in Makerspaces.

  1. Ask questions or prompt children’s thinking
  2. Follow children’s lead
  3. Teach and model safe use of tools and materials

Strategy 1

First, open-ended questions and “I wonder… or Tell me more…, or That’s interesting, could you explain that to me…” prompt children’s thinking. Well, you might be wondering yourself, what does prompting children’s thinking even mean? Prompting is a specific teaching strategy that fosters children’s imagination and creativity and generates new ideas.

Strategy 2

Second, when allowed to lead, young children are more likely to be engaged in the activity and stick with it. This is because children are actively involved in learning how to problem-solve with caring adults rather than adults solving their problems. Children build their confidence by leading their investigation, and that further encourages children to try out new ways to learn, explore, and problem-solve.

Strategy 3

Finally, Makerspaces are meant to include real tools and materials. The caregiver’s primary responsibility is to help children understand how these tools materials are used in everyday problem-solving. In addition, it is important to teach and model how to use them and why it is vital to follow the set expectations and use these materials appropriately.

For example, the caregiver can teach and model how to safely get materials (like how to hold scissors while walking), use the materials (wearing goggles while using a hammer), and put materials away (closing the lid on a box holding different sized small buttons).

Let’s Keep Following the Example Above to See How the 3 Teaching Strategies Support Exploration

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

Direct link for image: https://www.pexels.com/photo/anonymous-cute-toddler-girl-holding-brush-for-getting-white-paint-from-plate-standing-on-chair-3933226/?utm_content=attributionCopyText&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pexels

Caregiver “Hmmm! I wonder, have you looked a little closer at the blue box? I think there might be a few tools in there that are sticky.” Strategy 1

Child (rummages around but in the process is starting to knock over a box that is holding cut up cardboard)

Caregiver “It looks like you focused on this sticky situation but, do you remember what our first rule is in this space?” Strategy 3

Child “Respect our classroom materials.”

Caregiver “That’s right; we respect our space so we can stay safe. You are looking so hard that you’ve knocked some other items over. Please pick that box up, take a deep breath, and let’s think about where the sticky stuff is kept.”

Caregiver, “OK. Thank you for putting that away and pausing to catch your breath. Now, did you find where we keep our sticky stuff like tape, glue, and tact”?

Child “In the blue box.”

Caregiver “Great! (child brings over a bucket) What do you want to explore first?” Strategy 2

Child (points to a roll of tape)

Child “Yes, but it’s smooth, not sticky.”

Caregiver “Sounds like you explored one side of it. What can we do to make it sticky? Strategy 1

Child “hmm”

Caregiver Have you tried peeling it? Peeling is like pulling it back, kind of like when you peel a piece of fruit like a banana or orange.” Strategy 1

Child (grabs the tape and pulls it back) “WHOA. It’s sticky on this side. That’s perfect for what I need.

Caregiver, “OK. You have the sticky tool. Now you said you needed pipe clear and paper towel, right?”

Child “Yes. I will use both and then stick them with three pieces of tape. Maybe four, I don’t know yet.” Strategy 2

Caregiver “As you go along, see how many pieces work for you. You can try small or big pieces. It’s up to you.” Strategy 2 Caregiver “Glad you found something sticky to tinker and explore with for a bit. Maybe you can try out some of the other items too, if you want. I’m going to go check on a few friends for a bit, but then I’ll come back and check in with you to find out what you’ve discovered. Don’t forget our rule, please, respect the space, so everyone and the materials stay safe.” Strategy 3

See how each strategy encouraged the child’s role to tinker, make, and further construct? It’s also helpful to see how the strategies are not linear. Depending on the situation, the caregiver’s role may require a different approach to facilitate the child’s time to creatively design, build, and explore their ideas. Caregivers will need to be there to establish and model the safe use of materials and tools, but by following the child’s lead, caregivers can facilitate them to make their own discoveries!

If you are interested in learning more about Makerspaces or incorporating more STEM learning into your Makerspace, enroll in the Tinkering with STEM on Demand course offered through the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska Extension.

Additional Blogs and References

https://learningchildblog.com/2017/09/11/makerspaces-in-early-childhood-settings/

https://learningchildblog.com/2020/04/01/high-level-questions-for-high-level-thinking/

Click to access ELG-PDF.pdf

New Study Shows Makerspaces Develop Children’s Creativity, Critical Thinking, Design Thinking & Digital Skills

LINDA REDDISH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Dr. Soo-Young Hong, LaDonna Werth, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Exercising While Pregnant

Thu, 10/01/2020 - 08:00

Image source: iStock.com / jacoblund

In the past, pregnant women were told to take it easy when it came to exercise. However, now that there is more known about it, exercising while pregnant is shown to be good for both the mom and baby.

What are the Benefits?

  • Not only does exercise benefit the body, but the brain, too! It increases the amount of blood flow, which leads the body to create more blood vessels. In turn, the brain is then given more access to oxygen and energy.
  • The moms who exercise will usually be more physically fit and will potentially be less likely to have a C-section and possibly will recover more quickly after the baby arrives.

Cardio or Weights?

  • Some of both is great, but if you are short on time, stick with the cardio. Aerobic exercise has a better effect on the brain. One great way to get a work out in is swimming. It works your entire body and the water helps by supporting your weight. Simply walking around in the pool will make you feel better, and your swollen ankles will, too! If you are more of a runner, that also totally works. The main thing is that you are getting some sort of exercise to better you and your baby’s health.

How hard should I push it?

  • The number one tip is to simply listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to push yourself and get some sweat dripping, but make sure to stay in tune with your body and know when it is time to lay off a bit. As the pregnancy goes on and you get closer to your due date, your body will probably be ready for a little easier workout, but it varies for every pregnant woman so that is why it is so important to listen to your body.

In the end, it is simply important to be active to help better your health and your baby’s. Remember to always check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise or physical activity.

Source:

Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow

LA DONNA WERTH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

More than Counting: Incorporating Math into Daily Interactions with Preschoolers

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 08:00
Image Source: Pixels, Cottonbro

Many parents report that time is their biggest barrier to teaching their children. Because there are limited hours in the day, math is the topic that often gets left out. However, it is important to recognize that we do not have to set aside specific time dedicated only to math. Math concepts can be incorporated into activities and routines that you are already doing. These strategies can help you maximize your time, and also show children how math applies in real world settings. It takes intentional effort, but once you have made math engagement a norm, your child will initiate many of the interactions.

1. Eating

Help your child set the table. How many people are eating the meal? Each person needs one plate, one fork, and one napkin. Meal and snack time also provide a great opportunity to expose your child to mathematical language terms (Would you like more carrots? Who has the most bread?). You can also count small snacks like raisins or crackers and ask questions (How many will you have if I give you one more? How many will you have left after you eat two?).

Resources: One Gooey Layer after Another, Eating Up Patterns

2. Reading

While reading to your child, try asking math-related questions and initiating math-related conversations (How many ducks can you see? Let’s count the animals with two legs and the animals with four legs and add them up.). ,

Resources: Mighty Math Books, Maths through Stories

3. Driving

While you are in the car or on the bus, you can help your child count and compare the things that you see. Turn it into a game! “You count the red cars and I’ll count the blue cars. Then we can compare them and see if we saw more red or blue cars.” or “I noticed that car is stopped.  You look for a car that is moving.”

Resource: Get Ready for Road Trips with Our Math On the Go Printable!

4. Playing

Think about some ways that you can incorporate math into playing with your child’s favorite toys. Does your child like dinosaurs? Sort them (by color, size, etc.) and then count the groups. Which group has the most? Which group has the fewest? Then try sorting them by a different trait and compare the groups again.

Resources: Sorting Socks , NAEYC Math at Home Toolkit

5. Talking

Ask questions that prompt your child’s mathematical thinking. Sometimes your child will say things that surprise you, or respond incorrectly to a question. Rather than immediately correcting, try to find the right answer together. Ask follow up questions that help your child figure it out on their own. This is also a good strategy when your child responds correctly. Try prompting with “Wow! How did you figure that out?” or “Show me why you think there would be three.”

Resource: Talking about Math All Around Us! On-The-Go Cards The most important thing to remember when engaging your child in math is to have fun. Set an example that math engagement is a positive and enjoyable experience. The interaction should center on a positive experience with you, with math learning as an added bonus.

AMY NAPOLI, EXTENSION SPECIALIST | UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Culturing Creativity

Sat, 08/01/2020 - 08:00

Image source: Lynn DeVries, Learning Child Educator

In a world that is filled with devices and such to prevent boredom and children spending more and more time inside looking at a screen rather than outside playing, children have started to lose time for creativity. The imagination is such a wonderful thing when it is used, and as parents, it is our job to push our children to expand their imagination. With that, here are a few easy ways to culture creativity.

Painting Station

Now, I realize giving a young child paint is not always the most appealing idea, but this can either be done outside where you don’t have to worry much about the mess, or get paint that is easily cleanable. Having a blank paper sheet forces them to paint whatever comes to mind and it can help them express themselves though art. You can even grab a sheet for yourself and paint with your child!

Sidewalk Chalk

Another great way to use art for your children to show their creativity is sidewalk chalk. It gets them outside which opens doors to so much creativity. Like painting, they can use the chalk to portray what they are feeling, thinking, or dreaming about. Not to mention, it easily comes off with water and that’s good news for us!

Nature Walk

A nature walk is exactly what it sounds like: taking a walk in nature. Strolling through your neighborhood or even just sitting in your lawn serves as a way to strengthen your child’s listening skills and offers growth in creativity as they try to decide which animal, vehicle, etc. made the noise they heard.

I know it can be easier to just hand over the social device to your child simply because we, as parents, need some quiet time, but are we doing that so much to as limit our child’s creativity? I’m not saying we cannot ever do it, but it’s important to keep a good balance so they can develop their imagination.

LA DONNA WERTH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Parenting Style 101

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 08:00

Image Source: Lynn DeVries, Learning Child Educator

There are four well-known parenting styles, all of which can lead to a different type of child. Now, using a specific parenting style doesn’t guarantee a certain type of child because we only have so much influence, but it definitely has an effect on the outcome. There is one parenting style that tends to produce children who are more self-confident, more socially competent, and less anxious, and that style is referred to as “democratic.” Here are some of the tactics and results of each style:

Authoritarian Style

  • firm but not warm
  • expect their orders to be obeyed no matter what (“Why? Because I said so”)
  • children usually well-behaved, but less able to form self-regulation skills
  • children tend to lack in moral-reasoning abilities due to their sense of right and wrong coming from external forces rather than internal beliefs

Democratic Style

  • firm and warm
  • model respect
  • promote individuality and self-assertion (they create boundaries and when those are crossed, they find out why and work together with their child to solve the problem)
  • goal is to guide, not punish
  • aim to raise a young adult who has self-control, problem-solving skills, emotional awareness, and solid internal beliefs

Permissive Style

  • warm but not firm
  • nurturing and communicative, but also lenient
  • avoid confrontation and hesitant to stand by their rules
  • children tend to have inflated sense of self
  • children are often more impulsive, more likely to cause trouble in school, and more likely to be a victim of drug and alcohol abuse

Uninvolved

  • neither firm nor warm
  • provide basic necessities for children, but otherwise unconcerned
  • children most likely to be delinquent

As I said before, one style won’t automatically result in a certain type of child, but it is something to consider and reflect on. Now that you know what each consist of, what kind of parenting style do you use?

Source:

Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow

LA DONNA WERTH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Creating Reading Routines During the Summer Months

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 08:00
Source citation: Jackie Steffen

One of the most effective ways to improve children’s reading achievement is by reading often and early to them.  When summer rolls around we may be tempted to ease up on academic expectations and the amount of quality time we spend reading with children or children spend reading on their own.  It is natural to get distracted by the nice weather, summer to-do lists, and the freedom from structured schedules.

There are many benefits to keeping the reading momentum going throughout the summer including improved fluency, increased vocabulary, expanded background knowledge, and greater confidence are just a few.  

How can you enjoy the beauty of summertime and still foster a love of reading?  Here are a few quick tips. 

  • Make reading a part of your daily routine.  If nighttime read alouds do not fit into your summer schedule because you are staying outside later and time slips away from you, consider changing the time of day that you and your child read.  Stories outside with the birds chirping and the cool morning air will start your day off with a close connection and rich, warm discussions.  A shared reading experience after mealtimes is effective as well.  Classroom teachers tend to do classroom read alouds after lunch; maybe that is tradition that would work well for your setting.  No matter what you decide is the perfect reading routine, remember to be intentional but flexible.
  • Encourage children to select books they are genuinely interested in and excited about.  Although reading books at grade level is desirable, reading choice should be the primary focus.  Books should engage children through text, pictures, and the story line.  Book selection is crucial to developing an intrinsic joy and it also promotes independence.  It is much easier for children to get in the “reading zone” when they are hearing or reading books by authors and in genres that are engaging to them. 
  • Connect reading to family outings.  If you are heading out on a bike ride, pack a couple books and decide on a special place to take a break and relax with a good story.  If you are visiting an aquarium, consider reading books about fish or hatcheries to prepare for the trip or to extend learning after the visit.  Listening to a family audiobook as you are traveling from destination to destination sparks conversations about a shared reading experience and will leave children anticipating the next time they get to travel and hear the rest of the story.  Sharing stories as a family can leave a lasting impression. 

Remember that reading books for meaning and pleasure should be emphasized above all this summer.  There is a contagious energy about books that are read for enjoyment.  Strong connections and relationships are developed.  Above all, summertime reading creates wonder, curiosity, and the eagerness to want to discover more.  

For more information and ideas for reading at home, visit https://www.readingrockets.org/audience/parents

Visit https://www.startwithabook.org/summer-reading-learning to get additional suggestions for summer reading activities.

To download fairy tale storybook guides to support literacy development, visit https://child.unl.edu/nebraska-4-h-stem-reading-connections-program

JACKIE STEFFEN EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Amy Napoli, University of Nebraska Extension Specialist and Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

The Great Outdoors Holds Great Opportunity for Your Child

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 08:00
Photo source: The Learning Child

As a child, I remember running around barefoot with my siblings,exploring woods, climbing trees, and building forts. Oh, the memories. I had scrapes, bruises, and even stitches at times, but they were worth it.In addition to the great memories made, did you know there are endless benefits of simply letting your child run outside and play? The next time you’re deciding whether to let your child play inside or outside, you might want to consider all the opportunities that come with the great outdoors.

Increased Physical Activity

Although it seems as if your child has endless energy, letting them play outside can help release some bottled up energy. Everything from walking, running, and jumping around, to climbing trees and carrying building supplies for forts, contributes to the development of strength, balance, and coordination. According to the Stateofobesity.org, Nebraska ranks 5th with a 2-4-year-old obesity rate of 16.9%. Yikes! Just think how our rates might decrease if children spent more time outside.

Development of Gross Motor Skills and Fine Motor Skills

Developing these skills directly affects the creation of strong, healthy, capable children. Gross motor skills help your child run, walk, and climb. Fine motor skills are used when they pick up sticks or make a nature bracelet with all of their outdoor treasures. Development of these skills requires lots of practice,and outdoor adventures offer just that.

Social Interaction

No matter if your child is playing with siblings, friends, or you, they are gaining social interaction. Being outside with limited toys can push children to expand their imaginations. When combining different imaginations, new ideas and brainstorming skills are created. Teamwork is also strenghtened. Whether they are ‘playing house’ or building something, your child will be working together with others, and learning teamwork young could benefit your child in their future endeavors.

Use of Imagination

I just mentioned that when your child is outside, it can force them to use their imaginations. Children need to experience boredom at times in order to create new levels of play. Once they do, they can see objects in new ways, such as using mud to make cake or pretending a stick is a mixing spoon. Also, when your child has free time, they have time to daydream, and that can lead to some of their most creative ideas.

It is the beginning of summer and that means it’s the perfect time for your child to go enjoy all of the benefits that the great outdoors offers!

LaDonna Werth, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Supporting Unique Interests of Children

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 08:00
Image source: Jody Green

I am a professional entomologist. I studied insects and spiders at the college level, and I educate people about how to manage and prevent bugs from bugging them. Though I have always had an appreciation for insects, I didn’t know urban entomology and pest management would be a career option for me, and I was an adult when I decided on a non-traditional career for a woman. Unfortunately, many children lack the role models, resources, and support to follow their passion.

A true story that is near and dear to my heart is the story of Sophia Spencer, a Canadian girl whose love for bugs brought out a negative reaction at school simply because bullies believed that girls should not like bugs. Seven-year-old Sophia was ready to give up her favorite things, until her mom jumped in to help her out. As a parent, I can understand the feelings of frustration and helplessness, not knowing exactly how to help your child. Desperate to encourage her daughter, Sophia’s mother wrote a letter to the Entomological Society of Canada and a post on Twitter was sent out to entomologists around the world like a red alert. As a woman entomologist, I responded immediately by sending one of hundreds of messages intended for Sophia. Little did Sophia’s mom know, she initiated a huge movement, which is now associated with the hashtag #BugsR4Girls.

So, what can we learn from Sophia’s experience?

HERE ARE 10 WAYS ALL ADULTS CAN SUPPORT LIFELONG LEARNING, DISCOVERY, AND THE SUCCESS OF CHILDREN:

1. BE KIND

Teach kindness, empathy, and respect for each other.

2. SUPPORT THE CHILD

Commit to learning with them, foster their curiosity, and support their interests, whether it be fleeting or lasting. Do some research, buy or borrow some books, find a podcast, or a video.

3. ASK FOR HELP

Reach out to an expert in the field through a professional organization or college directory. Passionate people love to share their passion with others.

4. TOYS AND PLAY SHOULD BE GENDER-NEUTRAL

Set aside conceptions of what boys and girls should play with and how they should play, so that all children can benefit from toys and activities.

5. NATURE IS FOR EVERYONE

Encourage children, regardless of gender, to ask questions and use all of their sense to discovery the world around them. Nature play is beneficial for a child’s overall development, health, and wellbeing.

6. SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE USED FOR GOOD

Whichever outlet you prefer, set your boundaries, and follow through. Social media has a way of bringing people closer, but can also be intertwined with negative outcomes.

7. BE A MENTOR

If you have an expertise in something, you can inspire, nurture, and help a child struggling to find a role model.

8. YOU’RE NEVER TOO YOUNG (OR OLD) TO INSPIRE

Role models come in all shapes and sizes. Small voices can be heard, we need to elevate them.

9. FOLLOW YOUR PASSION

Children follow our lead and if we show passion for our work or hobbies, they will seek out the same for their own lives.

10. LEARN WHY INSECTS ARE IMPORTANT

Image source: Jody Green

Yes, insects at times can be challenge, but they are also a major pollinator supporter of crops and flowers. Introduce children to insects through art, music, literature, and simple observations.

Sophia not only found a community of entomologists to encourage her love for insects, but in the last few years has co-authored a scientific paper and wrote a children’s book. To learn more about her experience in her own words and voice, read and listen to the NPR story from 2017 or recent (2020) CBC Radio story. She definitely showed the world that bugs were for her and she continues to inspire others with her story.

Resources:

Arthro-Pod EP 71: #BugsR4Girls with Sophia Spencer. http://arthro-pod.blogspot.com/2020/03/arthro-pod-ep-71-bugsr4girls-with.html

Jackson, M. and Spencer, S. (2017) Engaging for a Good Cause: Sophia’s Story and Why #BugsR4Girls. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 110 (5): 439-448. https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/sax055

Spencer, S. and McNamera, M. (2020). The Bug Girl (A True Story). New York: Schwartz & Wade Books.

4-H. Entomology Curriculum: Teaming with Insects. https://4-h.org/parents/curriculum/entomology/

JODY GREEN, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | Urban Entomology

Peer Reviewed by Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Katherine Krause, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Temper Tantrums and Time-In

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 08:00
Image source: Reposted with permission  www.littleravenheart.com/

Say the words “temper tantrum” to a parent or childcare provider and it is almost guaranteed to elicit a strong response.  Picture this: A toddler wants his favorite Buzz cup for dinner.  Instead, he receives the Woody cup and plate.  In response, he kicks his feet and pushes his plate of food onto the floor, all the while arching his back, crying, and screaming.  It seems like we have all been there at one time or another, and felt frustration in trying to find a response that will not only help the child calm down, but will also help reduce the intensity and frequency of such melt-downs.

Understanding emotional responses (yours and theirs):

Adults often become distressed by a child’s intense emotional reactions and expressions, which in turn causes adults to want to scold, reprimand, lecture, ignore, or consequate such outbursts.  The problem is, people of all ages need permission and space to have emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant.  Young children need to learn how to experience and express all of their emotions.  They need a safe, secure, regulated (calm) adult to provide guidance and co-regulation. 

Three important components of emotion management:

  1. In humans, the attachment figure’s internal state also regulates the child’s internal state during most of the first THREE years of life.  It is important for the primary caretaker to remain calm, both as a form of modeling, as well as a form of supporting the co-regulation process.
  2. The health of the bond between child and primary caretaker depends on the caregiver’s attunement, emotional availability, continuity of care, and responsiveness.
  3. A child forms his primary attachment during times of distress.

Let’s revisit the scenario from the opening paragraph. A young child, age two, is throwing a temper tantrum because he did not receive the cup and plate he wanted for dinner. It is appropriate for the adult caregiver to correct the inappropriate actions, such as kicking, screaming, and throwing food on the floor.  However, while correcting the inappropriate actions, the adult caregiver may also inadvertently reprimand the emotion.  It is important to remember actions and emotions are two separate and distinct things.  Just like you, a child has every right to have emotions, including disappointment, frustration, and anger.   And who are we to say what a two-year-old can and cannot feel upset about?  (I think not getting his favorite cup at dinner is a perfectly appropriate reason for a two-year old to feel disappointed or angry.)  Our job as the adult is to help teach children how to handle such strong feelings.

The following table explains the unintended result caused by common adult responses to young children’s intense emotional outbursts.

Adult responseResultIgnore the behavior   Put a young child in time-outChildren rely on their primary attachment figure for needed emotional regulation.  Without this option they do the best they can with what they have and know. This explains why so many young children escalate and become even more out-of-control when ignored or left in a corner alone.  They truly don’t know what to do or how to calm themselves and become even more anxious, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Children also internalize the belief that not all emotions are acceptable or can be shared with others.Scold, yell, get angryA dysregulated adult disrupts the child’s internal regulation system, which can lead a child to withdraw or act out more.  Lecture, rationalizeWhen humans experience strong emotions, they are primarily operating in their “emotion” brain and have difficulty accessing or using their “thinking” brain.  This is most certainly not the time for words or attempts at logic.In addition, young children are still developmentally “in the moment” and reliant on adult physical support and guidance, not a bunch of words.

Appropriate responses that provide connection and teaching: 

  • Validate feelings.  “Yeah, I know it’s sad, buddy.  You really like the Buzz cup.  It’s your favorite.”
  • Set boundaries by providing a time-in.  “Throwing food is never OK.”  Stay close and move whatever is still in close proximity to ensure he does not continue throwing more things on the floor.  If he calms and accepts your help, return his food – but stay there to intercept any additional attempts at throwing.  Intervening and simply preventing the ongoing misbehavior is the best consequence and strategy for teaching appropriate boundaries and behavior. 
  • Be real.  Children need some ways of expressing feelings; they are not robots.  What are you willing to allow?  He may continue to whimper.  He may continue to resist using the Woody cup.  He may sulk or pout for a bit.  These reactions are all developmentally appropriate, and a socially acceptable way for a toddler to show strong feelings.
  • Teach regulation through co-regulation.  If his strong emotions continue and have gotten the best of him, help him out.  Pick him up, offer comfort and attunement, and “download” your calm into him.  When he is ready, put him back in the highchair, stay close (time-in), and return to mealtime.

Time-in is an incredibly successful behavior management strategy for young children as it provides the co-regulation they need in order to establish their own, internal system of self-regulation.  Time-in puts you in a position to model, shape and teach appropriate behaviors (i.e., with you sitting right there, a small child is prevented from continuing to toss his plate, cup, etc. onto the floor).

Discipline and consequences are not synonymous with punishment.  Discipline means to teach, and a consequence is simply the result or effect of an action or condition.  You do not have to feel as if his wrong-doing needs to be punished.  Correcting a young child’s misbehavior by being present and providing guidance is sufficient.

References:

  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with Toddlers: Improving Attachment and Emotion Regulation by Cheryl B. McNeil, Emma I. Girard, Jane R. Kohlhoff, Nancy M. Wallace, and Susan S. J. Morgan
  • Managing Emotional Mayhem by Dr. Becky Bailey
  • Harvard Center on the Developing Child (website)

CARRIE GOTTCHALK EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Amy Napoli, University of Nebraska Extension Specialist, Sarah Dankenbring, Amanda Cue, Early Childhood Mental Health Therapist

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

5 Tips for Working Remotely from Home and Caring for Children During COVID-19

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 09:28
Image Source: B Janning, Hastings, Nebraska

If we could press rewind and go back in time to mid-March, I wonder what you would have been doing.  The sudden and abrupt transition to working from home and having to juggle roles of employee, parent, and teacher all at once was certainly something most of us were not prepared for. Most of us had little time to plan how we would design our work space, daily schedules and balance work and family under one roof full time. If this sounds like your “new normal,” you are not alone.  I have found some helpful tips and words of encouragement I would like to pass along from a recent article by Holly Hatton-Bowers and Carrie L. Hanson-Bradley, Assistant Professors at the University of Nebraska.

TIP 1: Acknowledge Emotions:

Emotions are normal and healthy and give us clues to what we may need to feel better.

Dr. Dan Siegel says that it is helpful to “name it to tame it.”  We often feel emotions in our bodies first, such as tightness in our chest or a stiff neck. Siegel advises us to stop for a minute, pay attention to what we feel in our bodies and then name our emotion. The authors recommended saying, “My body feels…and the emotion I am experiencing is…”

Keep in mind that emotions are not forever, “name it, tame it” and move on. Judging ourselves for having emotions only makes us feel worse.

TIP 2: Manage Expectations:

It is difficult to juggle all of one’s roles at the same time, so do not expect to be able to fulfill all the roles you play at the same level you did before COVID-19. It can be helpful to understand that each individual manages change differently; and this is particularly true as families adjust to the newness of working from home, parenting, and teaching at the same time.  Some will embrace it as a new opportunity for creativity while others can feel overwhelmed.  

What about Parenting Expectations?

Daily routines will be different for each individual family.  Whether it be educational activities, or family time together, young children need more than ever right now is time to connect, cuddle, have a routine with some flexibility, and to feel safe.

Can you find ways to make every day activities fun for your child? Perhaps the family meal time could turn into a picnic on the floor.  Maybe you could make a game of sorting socks when doing the laundry. Try and be intentional about when you need to work and when to play or be with your children.  It’s like putting deposits in the bank, when children receive moments of our undivided attention, then they are more likely to feel okay when parents need to move away to focus on work.

TIP 3: Create a Schedule:

Sit down and create a schedule that works for your family.  Keeping in mind it is good to allow for flexibility. Schedule in work time and time for household chores. Time for children to play and do chores and school work too.  If there are two parents in the home, the adults could alternate work hours so as to keep children safe as well as giving them the parent connection time they need most.

Image source: Sara Gavin, Sacramento, California

TIP 4: Practice Self Care                                                                   

It is healthy to take time away to focus on what you need as an adult. Yet, when we are under stress, self-care is one of the first things that gets pushed aside. Here are a few strategies:

  • Listening to music
  • Taking the time to virtually connect with friends and family
  • Spend time in nature
  • Exercise
  • Practice deep breathing or meditation
  • Eating healthy
  • Reading or drawing,
  • Getting adequate sleep and waking up at the same time each day
  • Practice positive thinking, and/or practice gratitude

TIP 5: Be Gentle with Yourself

We are collectively experiencing a worldwide crisis, and crises trigger our brains into fight, flight or freeze mode. That means our brains are focused on surviving, not thriving. So it is normal to feel like you aren’t functioning at your peak level. Have you felt forgetful lately, not as motivated, or find yourself not knowing what day it is? It may be your brain’s way of protecting you in this time of stress.

Soon, we will be able to look back on this time and process what has happened, but in-depth processing happens only after one feels emotionally and physically safe. So in this time of crisis, be gentle with yourself (and with others). Self-compassion creates space where mistakes are viewed as valuable learning opportunities, tiny victories call for huge celebrations, and we can acknowledge our suffering without criticizing ourselves for being human.

More Resources Related to this topic:

Zero to Three – many resources of activities to do with children and tips for managing stress and being with the family during COVID-19.

Child Mind Institute – https://childmind.org/coping-during-covid-19-resources-for-parents/ (they have live Facebook video chats with clinicians

https://www.nebraskachildren.org/covid-19-information-and-resources.html

UNL A Beautiful Day website – ideas for engaging children (0-8 years) in learning and play activities https://cehs.unl.edu/abeautifulday/

Sesame Street have excellent resources for engaging children in learning at home activities during COVID-19, http://www.sesamestreet.org/caring

Tips for Managing Screen Time: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/parenting/manage-screen-time-coronavirus.html

Be Kind to Yourself https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201802/be-kind-yourself

Self-Care Tips During the Covid-19 Pandemic https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/self-care-tips-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Staying Active at Home https://food.unl.edu/article/family-food-fun-home#stayingactiveathome

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Holly Hatton-Bowers, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska and Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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