One of my favorite things during the Spring season is watching my husband and daughter start our garden. They start the seeds in small peat pots in our kitchen and nurture them until the sprouts are big enough to move outside to the back porch. We all take turns bringing the baby plants out into the sunshine for a few hours and then back in to stay warm overnight. Once they are big enough, Tim and the girls plant the little plants in our garden.
The impact of gardening has often been studied and written about before. I’m sure you’ve heard that the more active your children are in growing and/or preparing their food, the more likely they will be to eat it, or at least taste it. While this has not exactly been the case in my family, the girls certainly enjoy the process of growing and picking tomatoes for dad or zucchini for the neighbors.
There are also health benefits to being outdoors and to doing meaningful activities with your hands. In fact, there have been studies that show the more outdoor experiences a child has, the more positive his attitude tends to be. Many adults I have talked to, use gardening to relax and reduce stress which can help grow a positive attitude, or at least squash a negative one.
A garden does not need to be huge. In fact, if you don’t have an area in a yard to use, you can grow a small container garden. Even just experimenting and trying a few things with your children can be fun and help grow the connection between you and your child. We have planted apple and orange seeds from our snacks and the excitement and joy of watching them sprout was awesome. Parsley is an easy plant to grow in a small cup in your kitchen. We have also taken empty egg shells and grown hair for our “Egg Heads” (thanks mom for that fun idea while I was growing up!).
To grow your own “Egg Heads,” next time you use eggs, carefully crack your eggshells so that you save at least 2/3 of the shell intact. Wash them well and let them dry. Draw a face near the top of the cracked shell. You can even glue on some googly eyes. Fill the shell about 2/3 full of dirt and then put some grass (or parsely) seeds in the dirt. Water it as needed and watch the hair grow. My girls enjoyed giving our Egg Heads an occasional haircut .
Whatever type of garden or kitchen experiment you try, allow your kids to explore, experiment and get dirty. You can always hose them off or throw them in the bath tub!
I would love to hear what is growing in your garden! Comment below or send me an email at DrRenee@HelpingParentsParent.com and I’ll respond personally!
Here’s a website I recently found: KidsGardening.org . It is full of fun ideas and lots of information about gardening.
Organizing the Disorganized Child
Your son/daughter has been in elementary or middle school for a while and things should be flowing along smoothly at this point. Right?
Unfortunately, for many kids, this is not the case! Papers from school might, or might not, make it into your child’s backpack. Homework assignments that are done, seem to vanish into thin air between your kitchen table and the classroom.
Just like learning to read, learning to be organized to succeed in school, needs to be taught in small steps and reinforced regularly. When a child first learns to read, he learns what the letters look like and sound like. Then he learns that when you put letters together, you create new sounds and eventually words. Many letters together in groups (words) can make a sentence, a paragraph, or even a story!
Once we’ve taught our children to read, we don’t send them off to fend for themselves. We don’t even let them choose whether or not they want to read. We encourage them to read, and even require it of them in school. Our world constantly provides opportunities to read (street signs, words on food packaging, t-shirts, etc.). And all of this happens at a stage where the brain is open to and able to learn this new skill. Notice I said ‘stage’, not ‘age’ because this does happen at different times for different children, and that is OK!
The executive functioning of the brain, the part that acts as a personal assistant, or office manager, doesn’t fully develop in humans until they are almost 25 years old. Our executive functions enable us to make a list, remember to look at it, and then cross things off as we complete things on that list.
So, GIVE YOUR CHILD A LITTLE BREAK, and GIVE YOURSELF A LITTLE BREAK!
Your child’s brain is still developing!
Your child is really not mentally capable of keeping track of all of the things that he/she needs to keep track of during the school day. Can some kids do it? Sure. But many can’t remember all of the details without a little bit of help.
So what do you do?
Put strategies in place.
Just like reading, your child will get to practice certain skills on a daily basis (i.e., bringing assignments home and bringing completed homework back to school). Many teachers will provide your child with tried and true strategies. One example is having one duel-pocket folder for all papers. One side is marked “HOME” and the other side is marked “SCHOOL.” All papers coming home are put on one side and then all papers going back to school go on the other. While this might seem obvious to you and me, it really isn’t that obvious to your child.
If you would like to learn more simple strategies to help your child succeed in school, please contact me at DrRenee@HelpingParentsParent.com .
I will be facilitating a local in-person book club starting on September 30th: Register here.
I will also be leading Evening and Online Book Groups in October: Pick your best date/time here.
6 Back to School Tips to Ease Your Child’s Anxiety
It’s that time of year! Most kids, parents and teachers are excited to jump into the new school year. Yet for some kids, it can be terrifying, or at the least, be overwhelming. It is NORMAL for kids (parents and teachers, too) to feel a mix of excitement and nervousness. There are a lot of unknowns when starting a new school year. What will my teacher be like? What will I learn? Who will I sit next to during class? During lunch? What if it’s too hard? Too easy?
Leaving parents, the ‘not knowing’, and even the transition from a less structured time to a more structured time can all be possible causes of anxiety. But have no fear (pun intended), YOU can help your child get through this! Here are 5 tips to help you with a smooth transition to school this year.
Start getting into a routine a week or two before school starts. Practice morning and bedtime routines so your child gets develops a habit and can get the required amount of sleep. (see blog on Morning Routines or Bedtime Routines). Most elementary school aged children need 9-11 hours and older children need 8-10 hours of sleep. Practice walking to school or walking to the bus stop. Time your morning routines and the walk to see how much time it takes. Add 15 minutes to that time, once school actually starts, in case there’s a delay or someone gets side tracked. You can always have a special activity (i.e., cuddle and read a book together) if you get done early.
2. Stay Calm.
One of the most important things is for you, the grown-up, to remain calm. If you get all worked up or appear anxious, your child will pick up on your feelings. That’s not to say that you can’t feel anxious or sad – my kids are going into middle and high school and I still get tear-y eyed after they walk into the school. Notice I said “after” they walk into the school. Do your best to keep a calm appearance when you are with your child.
3. Stay Positive.
For kids who are anxious or scared about school, focus on the positives of school. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about things that worry your child, but answer them in a calm and positive manner. Mention things your child feels confident about (she is good at math, he has met the teacher and she has a nice smile). Smile when you talk about school and offer things that you remember enjoying when you were in school, even if it was playing on the monkey bars at recess.
4. Ask Questions.
Think of a list of questions and pick one or two each day. Ask your child as he heads off to school and then ask for the answers when he returns home. You could even make these ‘special missions.’ An example question/mission could be: “When you get home, I’d like to know who you sat next to in lunch today and one food that person had that you might want in your lunch in the future.”
Remember to ask the question again when your child gets home.
5. Something Special.
Do or have something special for your child. You could designate a special snack that she only gets when she’s at school (not an ‘at home’ snack). Maybe there is a special shirt you bought him to wear on the first day. Pick out special notebooks for school together. Decorate the notebooks if they are plain. Don’t forget to take and/or use pictures!
Before my daughters could read, I would put a new picture in a zip top bag taped to the inside of their lunch boxes every Monday. I still put a picture in on the first day of school, but now I write little love notes every once in a while, throughout the year. “Good luck on your test!” “Smile!” “You are Awesome!”
6. Do Something for YOU.
If it’s been a challenging few weeks, or if it is difficult for you to see your child go off to school, make sure YOU have plans after you drop him/her off that first day. Go out for coffee with another parent, walk the dog, schedule a playdate with your friend. Do something to take your mind off your child. Teachers are aware that the first day can be tough for some children. They have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves to help their students feel welcome, comfortable, and included. Most kids who cling, or leave their parents tear-y eyed at the door (meaning the kids, not the parents), are fine moments after the door shuts and their little minds are engaged in doing something fun.
YOU CAN DO THIS!!
Do you feel like you are doing all of the work around your house?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little help so that you could play, too?
Young children love to help! If your children are young, you have a huge advantage here, please don’t let this slip away. If your children are older, it’s a bit more work, but in the end, you will have well rounded, knowledgeable children who can take care of themselves when they are off on their own- not to mention a little more time for yourself before they leave!
It’s important to find age-appropriate chores and to realize that you will need to teach, and re-teach these chores on occasion. It’s also important that you pick chores you can live with being done at a ‘child-level.’ If you need to have the mirrors wiped without streaks, or it will bother you all day long, this is not a chore you should give to your child. If you don’t care that there is a smudge here or there, give it away and put your feet up for a few moments!
Obviously young children will need more help and supervision, and older children will need to be taught and supervised in the beginning, too. Just remember, you are training your child for the long run. If you can stick with it, the benefits are worth it.
Here are some examples of a few age appropriate chores and a few tips:
Young Children (3-5 years old)
Pick Up Toys: You can make a game of this or have your child race a timer.
Set/Clear the Table: If you put the items on the table and have taught your child (or continue to teach) where to put the plates, napkins, forks and spoons, your child can start this task as early as 3-4 years old. Encouraging your child to clear his/her plate and silverware can start as early as they are able to carry something from the table to the counter.
Vacuum/Mop: Young children love to help. In the beginning, a toy vacuum is a great way to have children help and enjoy doing the chore.
Laundry: Children love to make pairs and find matches. Have them help by sorting socks.
5-8 Year Olds
All of the above chores with a little more responsibility.
Pick up Toys: We have a saying at our house: “Whatever you take out, you must put back.”
Set/Clear Table: Your child can set the table with items you have put on the table and can also start helping to bring food to/from the table. Clearing can include not only his/her place setting, but also parent place settings, too.
Vacuum/Mop/Dust Mop: Children can start using ‘real’ vacuums and mops at this age.
8+ Years Old
All of the above chores and…
Pick Up Toys and Crafts: At this age we added the saying: “If you can’t clean it up withing 15 minutes, it might be too much.” My daughters prefer to spend more time playing than cleaning, so this saying seemed to resonate with them.
Load/Unload Dishwasher: When my children first started unloading the dishwasher, they were too short to put some of the dishes and cups away in the high cupboards. They started by putting the things on the counter and I would put them away. As they grew, they were able to stand on a stool to help them be tall enough to finish the job. And, yes, for those of you who know me, I have to use the stool sometimes, too!
So, there you have it. A list of a few age-appropriate chores you can try at your house. My suggestion would be to pick one or two chores and experiment with those chores, not to try all of them this week. Once you have established a routine, or a system that works with one or two chores, you can add another one. Slowly, over a few months, you can continue to increase the responsibility. Just don’t forget to figure in the “Fun Factor” to keep things from seeming too much like work.
Check out my upcoming Webinar:
How to Get Your Child To Cooperate and Complete Chores
If you sign up through this link: http://supersweetdailydeals.com/
by May 25th, 2016, you will be able to attend this $27 Webinar for FREE!
There are a multiple dates/times available.
Are you struggling with getting your child(ren) ready and out of the house in the morning? Here are a few tips to help make it a little easier…
Make a simple routine to follow and provide simple directions. Keeping the same routine every morning will help create a habit. Providing a simple direction sheet, will make it easier for you to point to the directions instead of being the ‘bad guy’ or the ‘nag’ every morning.
For example, in our house, when my daughters were younger, we had the “High Five” morning routine. They needed to:
Let’s face it. In America, holidays are a stressful time of year, no matter what religion you practice. From mid-November through the end of December there are family dinners, travel plans, presents to wrap, extra concerts and activities, school assignments, not to mention meetings and gatherings or parties at work and wrapping up the end of the year activities. (Breathe.) All of that can add up to stress! If you are stressed, your kids will pick up on your stress and become stressed as well.
So what can you do?
Write down exactly what needs to be done, everything you can think of and a guestimate of how much time it will take. Remember things often take longer than anticipated, especially with little helpers or frequent interruptions, give yourself some extra time. Please don’t get overwhelmed, you are going to be able to tackle this list. Note what day/time each of these items needs to be done. Mark the items you can do in advance and start doing them. This will help prevent the last minute rush.
Prioritize. How many of these things need to be done? What can you honestly live without? Do you need place tags at your family dinner table for Thanksgiving? Do you need to make every dish for your big family dinner or can you let someone else prepare a meal for the family to eat? It is OK to share and let someone else enjoy a compliment, even if it’s just for a side dish or hard boiled eggs. Do you have a teen aged neighbor who would like to earn a few dollars by playing with your children while you get things done? Or maybe that teen is willing to do some chores around the house or yard so that you don’t have to do it all. Give yourself permission to drop a few things from your list that would probably be lovely, but not absolutely necessary. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and it also lets other people feel useful and needed.
Take Care of Yourself. In the middle of all of this crazy-ness, plan some Anti-Stress activities. Of course, you can go to an all day spa, but taking care of yourself does not have to be super expensive or time consuming when you’re feeling stressed for time. Take a few moments to sip your favorite tea. Go to the gym or take the dogs out for a quick 10 minute walk if that’s what helps you to calm down. Give your child a big hug! Call or email friend you haven’t talked with in a while.