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Updated: 6 hours 29 min ago

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!

High Level Questions for High Level Thinking

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 08:00

Most children have a “Why” stage where they ask why to literally everything a person says. Sound familiar? Despite how frustrating that can be at times, answering those “whys” is really beneficial to the child’s curiosity. Do you know what is also really beneficial to the child? Asking THEM questions! Tables have turned and now it’s their turn to think hard for the answers.

However, we’re not completely off the hook because we have to put a little thought into our questions. To really expand our children’s thinking, we have to ask more high-level questions. A high-level question is never a yes-or-no question (“Do you have siblings?”). It isn’t a question that only has one answer (“How old are you?”). Nor is it a question that has an obvious answer (“How many wheels does that bicycle have?”). Answers to these kinds of questions can show the child understands language, pays attention, and can count or identify colors, numbers, and shapes, but the questions don’t push the child to think deeply. High-level questions are always ones that will foster unique answers from each child. If the question is effective, the child is usually excited to give you a very detailed explanation. Now, you don’t necessarily have to ask a question to encourage thinking because statements such as “Tell me about…” or “I wonder…” get the job done as well. Now that you know what a high-level question is, it is time to start trying them out.

So the next time you see a child playing in the mud and pretending sticks are something else, rather than asking “Are you using that stick as a utensil?”, say something like “Tell me about what you are making.” Try it out and see what kind of interesting conversations come out of it!

Source: Big Questions for Young Minds by Janis Strasser and Lisa Mufson Bresson

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!

Benefits of Reading Aloud

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 08:36
Image source: http://www.pexels.com

Parents want what’s best for their children, and many ask what expensive toys they should buy, what extracurricular activities they should be involved in, or if they should be playing classical music at home to advance brain development. 

Jim Trelease, the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, has a straightforward answer in regards to what’s best for children.

He says, “Read to your children.

Starting at birth, reading with children puts them on the path to success. In fact, researchers determined that reading aloud to young children is the single most important thing that parents can do to prime children for school success.

Here are three benefits of reading aloud with children.

Benefit #1: Increased Vocabulary and Sophisticated Language Patterns

When it comes to prekindergarten skills, vocabulary is a prime predictor of school success or failure. When you read aloud to children, they hear words that do not ordinarily come up in conversations. Because of this, it expands a child’s vocabulary faster than anything else does. 

The value picture books play in vocabulary development should not be underestimated. Many of them are written grammatically correct and include sophisticated writing that is rich in content and meaning. As children listen to these stories, their vocabularies strengthen without effort. 

Benefit #2: Ability to Make Connections

Reading comprehension is critical. We take the work of decoding out when we read aloud. This lets children use their mental energy to enjoy and make connections, which improves reading comprehension. 

Children need to understand what they read and apply it to what they know. That is making connections. Children connect the information they encounter for the first time with other facts and ideas they have already encountered. They compare it to other stories they’ve heard, personal events they’ve encountered, and to the world beyond themselves. 

Without even intending to, children make connections every time a book is opened. Stories allow them to slip into another world, think deeply, bond with characters, and educate their hearts and mind.   

Benefit #3: A Love for Reading

More important than teaching children, the actual skill of reading is to cultivate natural curiosity and love of reading. When we focus on nurturing children’s love of stories, we get both kids who can read as well as kids who do read. A healthy reading life has a tremendous impact on children’s academic success.

In a world full of noise and the hustle and bustle, pulling a child on your lap and reading is one of the best uses of your time and energy. It may seem simple, but being fully present and sharing good stories makes a huge and lasting impact because a childhood filled with stories inspires and nurtures children. Therefore, read widely to spark that ember. Author Linda Sue Park said, “A book can’t change the world on its own, but a book can change readers. And readers? They can change the world.”

So, the next time you spend time reading with your children, just remember, each time you turn the page you just might be changing the world.

Resources:

Mackenzie, S. (2018). The read-aloud family: making meaningful and lasting connections with your kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1998). Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/PSREAD98.PDF

TEDxBeaconStreet. (2015, December). Can A Children’s Book Change the World? Linda Sue Park. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/40xz0afCjnM

JACKIE STEFFEN, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Linda Reddish, 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!

Healthy Habits

Sat, 02/01/2020 - 08:00

Photo source

It has been quite a few months since New Year’s Day was here, and by now most of us have already failed at our New Year’s Resolution of eating healthier. However, that does not mean we have to wait all the way until next New Year’s to try again to reach our goals. Your children need a healthy, balanced diet and so does the rest of the family. I know it can be super challenging to change the routine, so here are some things that might make staying on track and reaching your goals easier!

Fresh Produce

Summer is here, and that means there is more local, fresh produce in stores, and the farmers’ markets are open again, supplying your family with great-tasting healthy food! The less preservatives, the better, and let’s be honest, fresh ingredients just taste better!

Pressure Cooker

You can basically cook any meal in less than half the time it would take if you were to make it a different way. There’s only so much time in the day, and I understand that quick, convenient meals are the way to go, especially when you have children. The last thing I want to do is cook and clean for hours at the end of the day, and that is exactly why one of these handy appliances should be a staple in your kitchen!

Blender

A good blender can make a world of difference. From fruit and vegetable smoothies, to various sauces, and everything in between, it can do it all.

Meal Prep

It’s not always possible to cook a meal every night, and sometimes it’s just “one of those days”, so that’s why cooking in bigger batches is so beneficial. Cook once or twice a week, stick it in the fridge/freezer, and warm it up when you want to enjoy a home-cooked meal without all of the hassle.

Who needs a New Year’s Resolution when you can start working toward your goals right now? Hopefully these tips will help you crush your goals this summer!

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!

  

 

Making Mindfulness a Priority

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 09:36
Photo source: The Learning Child

In the last decade, practicing mindfulness has been acknowledged more since people have been recognizing the benefits of it. Being mindful can be beneficial to everyone, but we are going to focus on how it can help your child. But first, let’s start with the basics.

So, what exactly is mindfulness?

It is simply being present in the moment, which is different from thinking about the present moment. Mindfulness means being aware of what is going on around you, openly accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without thinking about the pressures of life.It requires some effort and intentionality.

Why is mindfulness helpful for kids?

Since children are naturally curious, they are more apt to learn, live in the moment, and be attentive. However, they are often too busy just like adults. This causes children to be tired, distracted easily, and restless. Practicing mindfulness helps kids learn to pause for a moment and be present. Mindfulness helps with attention, patience, and trust which will help your child to grow up and be themselves.

Do certain kids benefit more?

Yes, actually they do! Although mindfulness exercises are great for all children five years and older who want to calm their busy minds, feel and understand their emotions, and strengthen their concentration, they suit specific children even more so. Children who have low self-esteem truly benefit from practicing mindfulness because it helps them realize it is okay to be themselves. Other children who are diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and autism spectrum disorders also gain from these exercises. Now, these cannot cure the disorders and it is not considered a form of therapy, but it can help children approach the very real issues they’re dealing with in a different, calmer way.

Since mindfulness exercises are great for parents as well, practicing them with your child is a perfect way to spend time together!

Source: Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel

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!

Empathy Over Sympathy

Wed, 01/01/2020 - 08:00

Image source

Sometimes it can be easy to intertwine empathy and sympathy, but they do not mean the same thing nor do they lead to the same feelings. When in an emotional situation, using empathy will result in a more positive response because it means to enter into one’s feelings, and it leads us to a deeper understanding. Sympathy usually sounds something like, “Well at least…” For example, let’s say a mother is frustrated that her son is not getting the grades that she was hoping for. Her friend then proceeds to say, “Well at least your daughter is excelling in school.” The friend’s response does not come from a place of understanding, and in turn does not comfort the mother. It’s easier to just respond with sympathy because it doesn’t require us to put ourselves into another’s shoes. However, with your child and partner, the best outcome will come when you use empathy.

Empathy actually calms the body, and in emotional situations, having relaxed conversations tend to lead to a better ending. In relationships, whether it’s with your partner or your child, disagreements occur and there isn’t always a resolution because of different opinions, values, points of view, etc. If you use empathy during those conflicts, it shows that you understand what they are feeling and where they are coming from, even if you don’t exactly agree with it. That is exactly why empathy is so powerful.

It is pretty simple to understand why empathy is the best response, but it is not the simplest to start using it over sympathy because it takes a conscious effort. Whether you have a newborn that won’t stop crying, a toddler that is crabby because they didn’t have a nap, or a teenager who is driving you up the wall because they are self-conscious about the changes they are going through, there is always a place for empathy. If you haven’t yet, try using empathy over sympathy, and watch how it changes your relationships for the better. I know it did mine.

Source:

Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow

LaDonna 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!

  

Keeping Routines is the Secret to a Calm Holiday

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 21:30

Photo source, Lynn DeVries

As I sit in the warmth and quiet of my home, I see the posts, advertisements, and the excitement of Black Friday shopping. And it starts, the traveling, special programs, shopping, parties and holiday gatherings.  It can take a toll on us all, especially our young children.

Children are even more sensitive to disruptions in their routines. However fun the activity or event may be, parents may observe more displays of behaviors or moodiness from their children during the holidays. Structured routines help children to feel safe and predict what is happening around them. Children learn how to control themselves and their surroundings when they live in a structured, secure, and loving environment. This feeling of security fosters healthy social and emotional regulation in young children.

Tips for a healthy holiday:

Sleep well

A regular schedule will help children sleep better at night and they are less resistive to transitioning to going to bed. Parents can help by sticking to routines and bedtimes that are as consistent as possible during the holidays. Perhaps reading a bedtime story to children after bath time.

Regular meal times

It is best if children eat at predictable times to avoid those “hangry” moments.  Offer a healthy breakfast and small healthy snacks between meals. Eating at the table instead of in front of the television, will reduce overeating, as children can focus on how hungry or full they feel. I recommend family style meals where caregivers sit with and eat the same foods as children.  When children are ready, allow them to serve themselves. They will be more likely to try new foods if given choices.

Traveling

For those long car or airplane trips, bring along a comfort item like a stuffed animal or a busy bag of books, paper and crayons. Mornings seem to be better for children, consider traveling in the morning, and making stops for meals at regular times. I recommend scheduling extra time on road trips to stop and allow children a break from their car safety seats.

Active times

If children are home from school or childcare over the holidays, remember to keep them active.  Build in time for outdoor activities so children can be physically active. If the weather doesn’t allow outdoor time each day, be sure some indoor time allows for physical activity.  Have an indoor paper snowball fight, or build a fort with blankets. Planning out a specific time each day during winter break for an activity will become part of their routine while children are at home.

Limit Screen time

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states, “Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. To help kids make wise media choices, parents should develop a Family Media Use Plan for everyone in their family.”

I recommend focusing on laps instead of apps. Instead of reaching for a digital “babysitter,” offer more of your time and attention.  What might be seen as attention getting behaviors, could simply be your child’s attempt at wanting more connection with you.

 Photo source, Lynn DeVries

Screen time recommendations:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

Check out this Media time plan and calculator by the American Academy of Pediatrics, to help you set your own family guidelines.

Transition back to school

As the holiday break ends, if you did stray from routines, help your child adjust by gradually getting back on schedule to similar meal, and bedtime schedules that they will have at childcare or school.

In closing, my wish for you is that you have a safe, happy and healthy holiday with your family. Take time to enjoy the little things and laugh together.

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, , Lisa Poppe, and LaDonna Werth, Extension Educators, The Learning Child

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

  

Costume tips to help everyone have a very Happy Halloween!

Sun, 09/29/2019 - 07:54

 

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

I have many fond memories of celebrating Halloween as a child.  Carving out our pumpkins a few days before Halloween, toasting pumpkin seeds, and making little ghosts out of tissues and cotton balls.  However, the thing I remember the most are my favorite costumes!  One of the best ways to help your child have a safe and memorable Halloween is to be sure they have a safe and comfortable costume:

  • Consider your child’s gross motor skills; such as walking, running, going up stairs, turning, etc. Bulky costumes or those with accessories such as tails or wings may be difficult for some children to navigate in.  Give the costume a test run by having your child wear it around the house, or even on a walk to make sure everything fits correctly.
  • Masks, hoods or hats can really make some costumes complete, but they may not be safe, or comfortable. If your child’s costume comes with a mask or other head wear, give it a ‘test run’ and make sure they can see, breath and be comfortable with it on.  (Sometimes the elastic straps that hold the masks on cause the discomfort, so check those, too!)  If your child doesn’t want to wear a mask, hood, etc., respect their decision.  They will look great, with or without it.
  • Fashionable footwear may be a must for some adults, but for children, it’s all about function. Properly fitting tennis shoes or boots (depending on the weather) are going to be your best bet.  Avoid sandals, open toed shoes, clogs or  ‘high’ heels as they increase the risk of ankle injuries, blisters, cuts, and stubbed toes.
  • Adaptable outfits are a must in most US cities at the end of October. The record low in Omaha on October 31 is 35 degrees, and the high, 83!  Choose a costume that can maintain the ‘look’ if you have to add layers, but won’t be so warm your child is hot and uncomfortable.
  • Add a little pizazz to your child’s costume, and help make them more visible, by adding glow sticks, glow necklaces or bracelets, or little flashing lights.
  • Let your child help choose what outfit they are going to wear. The best way to help young children choose an outfit is for you to decide on two or three choices that you think will work well and then let your child make the final decision.  When children are given choices, it helps them increase their self-esteem and independence.  Being able to make the choice about their costume may also help your child be more excited about wearing the costume and attentive to adults during the Halloween festivities.

KATIE KRAUSE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Tonia Durden and Gail Brand

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

  

EARLY CHILDHOOD — Addressing implicit bias

Sun, 09/01/2019 - 07:00

Image source

“Grey’s Anatomy” is one of my favorite television programs. In January 2018, they had an episode which really stuck with me. The show started out with a 12-year-old boy (which the police referred to as a “perp”) coming into the emergency room with a gunshot wound in his neck and handcuffed to the gurney. We learned that the police found the boy questionably breaking into a house in a wealthy neighborhood. The police officer shot the boy when he reached in his pocket for what ended up being his cell phone.

Later, the boy’s upper-class parents arrived, and the boy told them he forgot his key again; which was why he was climbing in the window of his own house. The boy later died from his wounds. One of the actors confronted the police officers and said, “You see skin color. Bias is human. You’re using guns and your bias is lethal. Adjust your protocol. Fix it. Kids are dying.” Another actress then said “A little boy was at home when your fellow officer shot and killed him. You can’t shoot people just because you’re afraid.”

Kawakami and Miura (2014) define implicit bias as the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. Implicit bias can have both favorable and unfavorable assessments; they are mental shortcuts that affect our choices and actions. Sometimes these shortcuts are about age, appearance, race and ethnicity. In the case of the boy from the show, the mental shortcut was that a black boy was breaking into a nice house and didn’t belong there. Because of the color of his skin he was viewed as a threat.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights found that early childhood teachers are more likely to look for challenging behaviors among African American boys than any other group, which makes them more likely than their peers to be suspended.

Implicit biases can be positive or negative, and can be activated without you even knowing it. They operate unconsciously and differ from known biases that people may intentionally hide. These biases exist in all of us. We need to make ourselves aware we are having these thoughts, name it for what it is and determine how we can change our behavior, thoughts and feelings. Dr. Walter S. Gilliam, a leading researcher of implicit biases in early childhood education settings, says change begins with acknowledging our biases and then addressing them.

Later this year, a new publication from Nebraska Extension will be made available, “The Development of Implicit Biases and Initial Steps to Address Them.” In this new NebGuide, you will learn how implicit biases emerge, and how our environments and experiences facilitate the development of the biases.

To address implicit biases in young children, you can find a collection of children’s books to address various topics related to gender, race, abilities and disabilities at http://www.childpeacebooks.org/cpb/Protect/antiBias.php. It takes more than mere exposure to address implicit biases. It is important to use these books with guided reflections. Ask children what they think about the content and what they observe in terms of how the characters or animals feel.

Source: Kawakami, N., & Miura, E. (2014). Effects of Self-Control Resources on the Interplay between Implicit and Explicit Attitude Processes in the Subliminal Mere Exposure Paradigm, International Journal of Psychological Studies, 6(2), 98-106.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
• “CIVIL RIGHTS DATA COLLECTION Data Snapshot: School Discipline,” https://ocrdata.ed.gov/downloads/crdc-school-discipline-snapshot.pdf
• “Teaching Children to Understand and Accept Difference,” https://lesley.edu/article/teaching-young-children-to-understand-and-accept-differences

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers, Assistant Professor/Early Childhood Extension Specialist, Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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

  

Nebraska Extension’s CHIME program Enhancing childcare professionals’ well-being with mindfulness

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 07:00

Photo source: Jaci Foged

Have you ever walked across your classroom and forgotten what you wanted? Have you ever driven to work and not remembered the trip? Has your child or a child in your classroom ever said something you later struggled to recall? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may benefit from more presence and focused attention in your life.

WHY SHOULD EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHERS PRACTICE MINDFULNESS?
An exciting and growing area of research has highlighted contemplative practices, such as mindfulness and reflective functioning, as promising and practical ways to prevent and reduce the stress of teachers. Dr. Amy Saltzman defines mindfulness as paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity. Early childhood teachers who formally practice mindfulness report to have lower levels of depression and workplace stress and higher quality student-teacher relationships.

The field of early childhood is full of joy, laughter and making memories with a plethora of staff and families. It is also a field where teachers are subject to multiple stressors, including low wages, challenging child behavior, low occupational prestige and inadequate role preparation (Friedman-Krauss et al., 2013; U.S. DHHS et al., 2016; Whitebrook et al., 2016).

Programs close and new programs open. Families move their residence, children grow up and go to school and teachers search for new positions for reasons such as increased income, different hours or to care for their own children.

With 60 percent of U.S. 3–5 year olds spending an average of 36 hours a week in center-based childcare (Mamedova et al., 2015), teachers form a central part of many young children’s lives.

EXTENSION DEVELOPS CHIME PROGRAM
Cultivating Healthy Intentional Mindful Educators (CHIME) was created by Nebraska Extension to support and enhance the well-being of early childhood educators. In a 2017 pilot study led by Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers, assistant professor and early childhood Extension specialist at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 43 early childhood teachers from four programs in Lancaster and Seward counties participated in the initial development of the CHIME program.

Hatton-Bowers says, “It’s imperative that our early childhood workforce, particularly early childhood directors and teachers, are physically and emotionally well. Teachers who are well, who have better health, are going to have more supportive and healthier relationships with children and families. CHIME aims to support early childhood educators in enhancing and improving their well-being so that they can be more effective caregivers. The program is about facilitating thinking in being more present in one’s personal and professional life, and to find the space to care for children with joy, even during the most difficult and stressful moments.”

Results of the pilot demonstrated that practicing mindfulness and reflection led to less depletion of teachers’ cortisol, a biomarker of stress, as they progressed through the workday (Hatton-Bowers et al., 2018).

Extension Educators Jaci Foged, Carrie Gottschalk and LaDonna Werth contributed to the materials developed by Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers, and have facilitated CHIME sessions to participants. The handbooks and materials were designed by Karen Wedding of Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County and Mary Thompson of the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences’ Pixel Lab.

HOW DOES CHIME WORK?
Since the pilot, CHIME has been offered in Lincoln and Seward. An online class had participants from across Nebraska.

The CHIME program consists of eight weekly sessions.
• Session 1 – Introduction to Mindfulness
• Session 2 – Mindfulness in Breathing
• Session 3 – Mindfulness in Listening
• Session 4 – Mindfulness and Emotions
• Session 5 – Mindfulness in Speech
• Session 6 – Mindfulness and Gratitude
• Session 7 – Mindfulness and Compassion
• Session 8 – Setting Intentions

Participants in CHIME receive a participant handbook and journal which are used throughout the CHIME sessions. The handbook contains everything childcare professionals need to participate in the class — including handouts, readings and homework. The guiding teacher tracks completion of the homework assignments, so some of the pages are printed on duplicate paper. The participants use the journals in each session, as well as daily, for the duration of the program.
A guiding teacher manual was developed for facilitators to use throughout the program.

Participants who complete the full program (eight sessions) earn up to 16 Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services approved in-service hours.

GROWING CHIME
CHIME was recently presented to collaborators in Recife, Brazil and will be translated into Portuguese.

This fall, Extension educators from across the state will participate in an intensive eight-week training named Just Be, followed by a 2-1/2-day training retreat where they will be trained to facilitate CHIME in their area of the state. Hatton-Bowers, Foged, Gottschalk and Werth will develop and teach this new training. Personal practice in mindfulness and guided reflection is necessary to be able to successfully provide instruction to others.

CHIME will be delivered to early childhood educators across the state beginning in the spring of 2019. Nebraska Extension plans to conduct parallel studies for delivering CHIME as a means to learn more about various ways to promote the well-being of educators and the children for whom they care.

Photo source: Jaci Foged;

Listening is an intentional act. During the Mindfulness in Listening  session, participants shake plastic eggs filled with various items to guess what is inside as well as consider how hearing the sounds make them feel. Interactive play is a wonderful way caregivers can teach children about different emotions. During the Mindfulness and Emotions session, participants build their own “emotions animals” dice.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about CHIME, or would like to have CHIME delivered at your program, contact Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers at hatttonb@unl.edu or 402-472-6578.

CHIME PARTICIPANT FEEDBACK
“I loved it! I looked forward to our class — always wanting to come. So many great ideas and information was shared.”
Childcare provider, Lancaster County

“I love the handbook and the ‘extras’ in it.”
Home visitor, Seward County

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed each and every class. Honestly, the best class I’ve taken! I appreciate everything you did for us.”
Family childcare provider, Gage County

“This (listening to understand) is a helpful thing, how much do I love to be listened to and understood, and of course we all do…. Changing my mindset is one more thing that this class has brought to me this past week.”
Childcare teacher participating in online class

“I use several mindfulness techniques in my classroom every day. It is a very helpful class, both professionally and personally. I walked away with skills to help me be more patient and a better listener. I experience moments more now, instead of always thinking of the next moment.”
Childcare provider for preschool-age children, Lancaster County — from 3-month follow-up survey

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Nebraska Extension has the following NebGuides:
• Self-Regulation in Early Childhood (G2288) http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2288.pdf
• Strategies for Helping Young Children with Self-Regulation (G2287) http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2287.pdf

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers, Assistant Professor/Early Childhood Extension Specialist, Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Carrie Gottchalk, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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

  

 

 

Gardening with Preschoolers

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 11:00

Garden Yoga pose “Seeds”—Photo courtesy Leanne Manning

This summer several sites across the U.S. are piloting a gardening curriculum with preschoolers.  This curriculum, developed by Nebraska Extension and Texas A & M Extension, teaches children about the parts of the plant.  While it sounds simple, they are learning much more than the parts of the plant as they go through  lessons like how to plants seeds, how stems take up nutrients to help plants grow,  eating healthy foods grown in the garden, and about being patient.  It is hard work to wait for your turn to plant your seeds or to wait for your seeds to sprout.  Here are some tips shared by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to help make gardening with young children go a little more smoothly.

  1. Be prepared. Find out what grows best in your area.  Prep the garden area before the children join you.  Have many tools available for lots of little hands.
  2. Chill out. Children will plant 25 seeds in one small hole.  They will plant the leaves instead of the roots in the soil.  Other children will undo what one child has just completed.  Things will happen and it is best to just relax and go with the flow.  Everyone will enjoy it much more if you do.
  3. Have a “can-do” garden. Find all the ways the children can be involved in the garden.  Yes, you may plant those seeds. Yes, you may dig in the dirt. Yes, you can use the hand tools, and yes, you can water the plants.  When attention wanders, allow the children to move to other tasks.  We have incorporated garden yoga into the gardening time and the children love the movement.
  4. Eat what you grow. Remember children are great imitators and if they see you eating and enjoying vegetables from the garden, they too will develop a liking for them.
  5. Have fun! Pretend play is important in all children’s development so see what ideas they come up with for garden fun.  Placing an old chalkboard along the garden path can be fun for impromptu chalk art. Bring out a small pool to have water fun in the garden. Old pots and pans can be hung on the fence and used as “musical” instruments.  The list of ideas is as varied as you make it.  That reminds me, we need to try some singing in the garden.  I fondly remember picking strawberries with my mother in the garden and learning many childhood songs.

 

Source: https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/7-tips-vegetable-gardening

LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Sarah Roberts, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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

  

 

 

 

 

 

Creating Capable Children

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 07:00

Photo source

We all know that children tend to take a little (or sometimes a lot) longer when completing simple tasks such as zipping up their coat, opening a jar, or sweeping the floor. We also know that it would be a lot faster to just do it for them rather than having to sit and wait until they get it done. However, that method does not develop self-sufficiency in your child. So, what approach does then?

Be patient

When your child is trying to zip up their coat, do you wait a couple seconds and then do it for them? Or do you wait until they figure it out or actually need your help? Instead of jumping in right away, try using encouraging words like “Almost!” or “So close!” You will be able to tell when they are ready to give up. If they reach that point, try asking if they would like your help, and if so, you could put your fingers over theirs and zip it up together.

Use examples, not just words

When your child is sweeping the floor, but doing more harm than good, simply take the broom for a moment, show them how, and say, “Here, if you do it this way, you’ll get the floor a lot cleaner.”

Don’t plan every minute of their day

There are a ton of benefits that come from boredom. When you plan activity after activity for your child or give them access to a phone or similar device, they don’t ever have a chance to get bored. If they do experience boredom, they will learn to fill the time up with something by themselves. Boredom is a restless state, and the brain, with practice, will find things to do to get out of it, such as daydreaming, imagining, and problem solving. If your child is used to being occupied, they will grow agitated when they’re not doing something and will look to you to fill their time. So make it easier on yourself, and let your child be bored every once in a while.

Source: Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow

LaDonna 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!

  

 

Playground Safety

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 07:00

Photo source: Jaci Foged

Time to put the winter coats, sleds and ice skates away for next winter. The weather is starting to warm up, which means we get to spend MORE time outside with our children. Zoos, parks and playgrounds — here we come!

I was born in the ’80s; we had big hair, loud clothes and playground equipment that has since been removed for safety reasons. Did a fond memory just pop into your head? Anyone remember a 12–15 foot tall metal slide with a bump in the center? Not only did the bump send you flying, but the sun warmed up the surface of the slide so it was sometimes too hot to touch! What about a merry-go-round?

These were popular back in my day; you could get going so fast the motion could throw you right off ! And what about being the kid who spun the merry-go-round? How many of you ended up being dragged when you lost your footing? Yes, there is a reason playgrounds look differently today than they did over 20 years ago.

Safety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that emergency departments still see more than 20,000 children, ages 14 and younger, for play-ground-related traumatic brain injuries each year. The National Safety Council (NSC) states that nearly 80 percent of playground injuries are caused by falls.

The top equipment associated with injuries includes: climbers, swings, slides and overhead ladders. Some unnecessary risks can mitigate using the SAFE guidelines later discussed in this article. But, there is a healthy degree of risk necessary for learning and development.

Worth the Risk?

The opportunity for “risky play” is not without benefit. In the early years, children should have numerous and varied opportunities to assess risk and manage situations. Very young children assess and take risks daily, which ultimately leads to new learning.

Think about a child learning to walk. At first they need substantial support, from us and the furniture around them. But gradually, they make small changes to their posture and the speed at which they move. Sure, they fall down a lot before they master it fully, but with practice comes skill.

The same goes for risky play on playground equipment, or just playing outside in general. Children are not only learning how to move their bodies to be successful, which develops skills and coordination, they are also learning about success and failure.

Risky play also ignites motivation. We want our children to be motivated — to strive for success, make adjustments and try repeatedly. Giving it their all, and finding success or failure, will also teach them their limits. Research shows us children who do not engage in risky play may have poor balance, appear to be clumsy and even feel uncomfortable in their own bodies.

The Adults Role

Adults do play a part. Our children need us to be there to cheer them on, give them a thumbs up and offer support as needed. We need to take them to parks and playgrounds that offer play movements which are often associated with risk. These include swinging, hanging, sliding and rolling. We also need to educate ourselves on which equipment is developmentally appropriate for your child’s age and personal development.

The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) provides us with the acronym S.A.F.E. as a way to remember the four contributing factors to properly maintain a safe play-ground atmosphere.

S – Provide proper SUPERVISION of children on playgrounds.

A – Design AGE- APPROPRIATE playgrounds.

F – Provide proper FALL SURFACING under and around playgrounds .

E – Properly maintain playground EQUIPMENT.

National Playground Safety Week was celebrated, April 23–27. Parents, childcare providers, schools and communities planned to take time to focus on their outdoor environments. For childcare providers, you might take some time to see if there is a certified playground inspector in your area. You can find out if there is one near you at http://www.playgroundsafety.org/certified. You can also find a public playground safety checklist on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at http://bit.ly/playgroundsafetylist.

 Lincoln Journal Star reports Lincoln has 125 parks and 128 miles of trails. Go play!

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Katie KRause, 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!