In a comprehensive piece of writing that summarizes the latest research on the topic of fatherhood and the role of father figure(s) in a life of an individual, Joshua A. Krisch talks about “the Father Effect”, a term coined by social scientists to describe the numerous benefits of the paternal presence. It turns out, that the notion of “a good father” has clear objective implications. Scientific data demonstrates that when fathers are actively involved with their children starting in early childhood, kids tend to grow up doing better in school, avoiding an array of high-risk behaviors, developing healthier, more stable relationships and even moving on to higher-paying jobs later in life. In other words, every drop of attention given to your toddler today, every game played together, every book read before going to bed form the building blocks of a child’s future well-being. And perhaps, equally so, if not more, these moments elevate the well-being of the parent himself.
As we spend yet another holiday in today’s radically changed social climate, we celebrate our fathers, grandfathers, and any other paternal figures who influence the way we see the world. We wish a very happy Father’s Day to all of the engaged, funny, attentive, and attuned dads we got to meet through our work at ECDA. We have no doubt that your patience and love will light up your little ones’ path as they navigate this big and complicated world.
By Margaret Miller
The youngest of readers will enjoy seeing their little colleagues in this collection of adorable portraits. They will see that smiles, pouts, and wrinkly noses, come in many different shades and colors. Because babies learn to recognize faces long before they recognize objects, seeing a representation of racial and ethnic diversity in the first year of life will help them understand and appreciate the differences between us as they continue to grow. Global Babies is another book worth considering.
by Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee
Babies are born every day and everywhere. They’re kissed and dressed and rocked and fed, cared for by their loving families. This board book is an exuberant celebration of the world’s babies, playing, sleeping, crawling, and other little adventures in the new big world.
By Ezra Jack Keats
A touching series of books about the little protagonist discovering the world around him. This is an intimate portrait of the playful little boy, who is also thoughtful, attentive, and sensitive. Other books in the series A Letter to Amy, Hi, Cat!, and Whistle for Willie are worth exploring as well.
By Karen Katz
This book follows a little girl who wants to paint a picture of herself and discovers that her skin is just one shade of brown amongst many many others. After taking a walk through the neighborhood, she begins to see her familiar world in a new way. Through the beautiful story and colorful illustrations, author invites us to celebrate the differences and similarities that connect all people.
by Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee, and Kadir Nelson
Toddlers and parents will recognize the adorable antics of the main character, described with delight and exasperation by the authors/parents, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Spike Lee and his wife, producer Tonya Lewis Lee. Artist Kadir Nelson’s illustrations capture the exuberant moments of childhood in all of its glory.
By Vera Williams
No amount of tickles, kisses, and hugs from the beloved caretakers is enough for the children in Vera B. Williams’ book! The book shows three little vignettes, each taking place in a different family. While each family comes from a different ethnic background, love for the adorable youngest members is equally strong in all of them. Rhythmic text and colorful illustrations help make this book one for the most recommended pieces of writing on cultural diversity for ages 1-4!
By bell hooks
A beautiful classic from a feminist author and activist bell hooks talks about the love of a family, which is made sweet by the intimacy, forgiveness, and shared joy. This is a priceless read at a time when learning to love each member of our global family is all that we need to build a better, “sweeter” world.
By Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
This book may be targeted towards pre-school aged kids, but your toddler might be able to appreciate it all the same. The author brings together two pen pals from across the globe, who may be different from each other in many ways, but also have a lot in common. Turns out, climbing trees and playing with pets is as fun in America as it is in India! This is a great book to show that cultural differences exist, but our humanity is what brings us together.
(Originally published March 1st, 2020)
The topic of race and ethnic differences is endlessly complex, no matter how we approach it. It is not surprising that when it comes to discussing race with children, many parents (especially white parents) tend to address the subject superficially or avoid it altogether. Even social scientists believed for a long time that simply calling attention to race at an early age was how racial and ethnic biases would enter a child’s mind. However, recent studies in the field revealed that children not only notice differences in people’s physical characteristics but begin to assign meaning to those differences at a very early age. (You can read more about toddlers’ perception of race in our blog post 5 Reasons to Teach Your 2 Year-Old About Race and Diversity Without proper guidance, children run the risk of turning to social biases and trends to make sense of the differences in skin tone, hair texture, traditional clothes, or cultural practices. Parents’ willingness to openly discuss variations in racial, ethnic, and cultural characteristics can help children understand and process this information and develop positive attitudes about people whose race or ethnicity is different from their own.
Here are some tips that can help you when approaching issues of race and ethnicity with toddlers:
Start naming and identifying race as part of your description of the world
As we read books or watch TV with our children, we try to describe the world to them. We can introduce a description of racial differences naturally when we talk about the characteristics of our environment. It might sound like: “Here’s a picture of a little girl. She has brown skin. She might call herself “black” or “African-American”. Here is a picture of a little boy. His skin is pale. We call that “white.” This is how we begin to make it clear for a child that while there may be clear differences in our appearances, “different” doesn’t equal “bad”.
Practice pushing past your own discomfort
If you feel like talking about race doesn’t come easily, know that you are not alone. A recent MTV survey found that millennials, who overwhelmingly profess a belief in equality, also find talking about race challenging. If you find this is a difficult conversation to have, look for help! In our parenting groups, we facilitate lively discussion and role-play that helps patents overcome discomfort and develop the appropriate vocabulary to speak to their children about race.
Talk to your children about when and where to discuss ethnicity and race
It is not uncommon for a parent to worry about how and when their toddler will choose to express their awareness of racial differences. A small child’s directness, curiosity, or naiveté might produce the most cringe-worthy question or statement. But if a child makes a comment about someone’s hairstyle or skin color, however embarrassing it may be for the parent, it could become a teachable moment. We can explain that even though we might notice the color of someone’s skin or hair, or their size, it’s not respectful to point to people and say something about their appearance. A child may be able to appreciate the idea that it is better to refer to people by their names and not by what they look like. We can also help the child understand the difference between a public and a private space, and explain that the in-depth conversation you can have a home may need to be abridged in a subway car or in the supermarket.
Find a way to include discussion of cultural biases in talking about race or ethnicity
Make sure that images or messages about race or ethnicity that you find unacceptable do not go unnoticed. If you can find a way to talk to your child about racial biases and prejudices, it could be a key conversation in the child’s understanding of fairness and equality. Because fairness is a concept that kids grasp early in life, they may be able to comprehend the unfairness of prejudice and discrimination. Once they understand the problem, see if you can inspire them to plan action. Your child’s future contributions to the culture-wide change may start with those early conversations. As an example, if you see a book that lacks diversity, you can talk to your child about writing a letter to the publisher and asking them to include more diverse characters.
Attend a range of cultural events
On any given day there might be a number of cultural events held throughout the city, especially in a metropolitan area like Los Angeles. Be it Obon festival in Little Tokyo, or a Kwanzaa celebration in Mid-City, these events are not only rich in cultural tradition, but they are inclusive and fun. Attending these events, meeting new people, hearing different languages and music, and sampling exciting foods can be a special way to demonstrate to your child the many benefits of cultural and ethnic diversity.
Make lots of friends!
When it comes to helping children accept and celebrate our differences, nothing is more effective than having direct contact with people from different groups without relying on stereotypes. Learning and playing together is the best way to celebrate our differences and similarities. It is equally important that our own social lives are in line with what we try to teach our kids: that we spend time with people who don’t look like us and whose cultural background differs from our own. The bottom line is: if we want to live in a diverse and inclusive society, we need to address institutional problems that keep us apart in every way we can.
While we want to believe that the world that our children come into is a hospitable and welcoming place for all, it is difficult to deny today’s reality. Today’s world is complex and can be unfair, cruel, and difficult to navigate for so many, far more often than we would like to admit. For parents of young children, the global protests following the death of George Floyd as a result of police brutality may become the source of the children’s first questions about race and racism. Finding ways to describe the reality of things and to encourage children to start thinking about ways to improve it could be beneficial for parents and children, alike. Experts urge that parents do not underestimate children’s ability to comprehend issues around injustice. During the time of unrest, we can assure our children that their safety will always be our priority. We can validate their feelings about concrete events, but also use this time as an opportunity to talk about discrimination, and why so many people are rebelling about the unfairness of what’s going on.
To help parents start this conversation, we are reposting one of our earlier blog entries that addresses age-appropriate ways to speak about race and ethnicity with young children. Teaching kids to appreciate racial and ethnic diversity as one of the most enriching aspects of our lives will undoubtedly be a step towards making our world a better one indeed.
Introducing children to scientific concepts in the early stages of their development can be as easy as one, two, three! Presenting real knowledge in the form of games, poems, and board books during the first five years of your child’s life can help bypass feelings of intimidation so often associated with school curriculum-based learning in the future. Toddlers are naturally curious and inquisitive, so they get genuinely excited about new concepts. It’s not a coincidence that curiosity and inquisitiveness are considered to be the characteristic traits of some of the world’s most renowned grown-up minds. There is no guarantee that playing and reading together with your toddler will turn them into the next Albert Einstein or Sofya Kovalevskaya. It will, however, help them fall in love with learning, which will enrich their world for years to come.
By Angie Hewitt and Anna Award
There are many board book versions of this classic nursery rhyme that emphasizes numbers and introduces little kids to subtraction as a means of going from “more” to “less”
By Cottage Door Press and Sarah Ward
Another board book based on the familiar silly nursery rhyme introduces little readers to counting, while also encouraging interactive play, hand-eye coordination, and language development.
By Eric Carle
Can you tell how many cherries there are? How many apples? In this brilliantly colorful book, children can find the number of fruits in the bottom half of a page that matches the number of boxes and numerals in the top half.
By Eric Carle
Turns out, you don’t have to peruse academic literature to find a book that masterfully combines a study of math and biology! Eric Carle’s illustrated classic talks about metamorphosis, while also letting the kids see and count all the foods a caterpillar eats as he strives to become a beautiful butterfly. Make sure to opt for the board book that comes with a little stuffed figurine of the caterpillar: the interactive element helps little ones feel more engaged with the story.
By Yusuke Yonezi
A beautiful die-cut board book from master artist and designer Yusuke Yonezu shows kids the presence of geometry in our lives through minimalist graphics, color, and shapes. This author’s books are known for the delightful visual surprises and jokes that are not lost on babies and toddlers. Other titles in the series include Triangles, and Squares.
By Danica McKellar and Alicia Padron
An actress/math whiz Danica McKellar gives your toddler a head start on learning math by creating a series of books that introduce mathematical concepts into a young child’s daily routine. Take one messy baby, two busy feet, three rambunctious friends, four wayward ducks, and five floaty bubbles–and get a tubful of fun as one family’s bath time routine turns into a nightly ritual they can “count on”! Make sure to check out other titles in the series, including Good Night, Numbers!
By Chris Ferrie
The author of the book believes that toddlers’ natural curiosity allows them to go beyond the basics. His series My First STEM Words and Baby University cover topics from physics to biology, from astronomy to geography, from medicine to thermodynamics and beyond. This book is a unique way to provide a young budding scholar with a bright and simple introduction to the essential vocabulary.
By Cara Florance and Jon Florance
The world of bacteria and microbes is complex, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Learning about health through a simple narrative and cute illustrations is not only timely, but essential for your child’s understanding of hygiene and medical care. This book will empower kids with useful information, as they can begin to understand the basics of biology.
by Elizabeth Verdick and Sarah Ward
Sharing might be one of the important lessons we teach our kids, but that generally excludes sharing germs. How and why we try to protect ourselves and others from getting sick is something this book explains simply with a help of lovely illustrations. Read the book more than once, so that your child becomes very familiar with the essential principles of hygiene.
By Herve Tullet
Another experimental book from the man who knows how to engage a child’s imagination. This might be considered the first textbook on physics, as it simply and elegantly explains the relationship between cause and effect. By simply moving the book around, we can observe what happens to an object when it’s manipulated in space (even if the object in question is a simple painted dot).
By Jill McDonal
If you’ve been wondering about how to begin the conversation about astrophysics with your toddler, wonder no more! This book is the coolest point of departure in a talk about planets and stars. The author offers a fun and thoughtful way to to bring science and nature into the dynamic world of a toddler. Check out other books in the Hello, World! series, as they do a fine job introducing first nonfiction concepts to babies and toddlers in clear and easy terms.
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…AND NOW FOR SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT!
Mother’s (or Father’s) Little Helper
This super-fun activity is known to adults by it’s not-so-glamorous name: chores. While many parents are aware of their toddler’s aptitude for making a fine mess, few understand that the same child’s willingness and ability to help and take part in household chores is just as great. The important thing for a parent is to recognize and nurture this tendency for altruism. This will require some patience from a parent, who can complete a chore with far greater ease and convenience if a child is purposefully excluded. But, in fact, stirring some pancake mix, even is some of it ends up on the floor, is a potential “gateway” to later and far more sophisticated experiments in cooking. Washing a few plastic dishes, water splashing every which way, may be the first stage of learning an actual chore, one that will be performed in the future with ease and commitment. Remember how much a child can benefit from collaborating with you, as you empty the dryer together, match clean socks, sweep the floor, or dust the shelves (socks put onto a hand of a toddler make hilarious and effective dusting mitts). Understandably, not all chores are developmentally appropriate for a small child, but if you can find a way to make work play, everyone will benefit in the long run. An informative perspective on children’s contribution to household tasks was explored in this 2018 NPR piece.
A combination of kids dress-up kits, Halloween costumes, thrift shop finds, and your old outfits and fashion accessories would be perfect for your kid’s special dress-up trunk. Dress up offers opportunities for dramatic play, an important part of child’s growth and development, a way to stretch the imagination, and experiment with role identification. There is an added practical benefit for the little kids who get to work on their fine motor skills by buttoning, zipping, tying, and lacing. Most importantly, dress-up enhances the world of make-believe where a child get to safely work through real experiences and emotions. Remember that imaginative play in early childhood is the key to creative thinking during the adult years.
A Tea Party for All
Help your little one throw an impromptu tea party. Even without a special cause, this celebration could become one of the real highlights of the weeks spent in quarantine. Don’t be afraid to get a little silly: you can set a table or put a picnic blanket down on the floor, you can use regular-sized kitchenware or mix it up with play dishes and cups. Create an impressive guest list that includes all members of the household, as well as your child’s favorite stuffed toys. Cookies, fruit, or any other snacks can be arranged on platters and accompany tea, which could also be water or juice. This is a unique way to engage with your toddler, to promote dramatic play, and to strengthen your relational bond. It is also an opportunity to give yourself, the parent, a permission to experiment with the set of prescribed rules, and to do that which we so often exclude from our busy adult lives: play.
Written by Marilee Hartling, RN, LMFT and Yelena Tokman, AMFT
WE ARE GOING TO THE ZOO!
Going to the Zoo. Really.
While an actual trip to visit the animals might have to be postponed, zoos and aquariums all over the country are offering a glimpse at their inhabitants via stream from live webcams. Here are some of the places you can visit with the little ones from the comfort of your sofa, a rug or a play mat. Don’t forget to bring your own snacks, but please, don’t feed the animals!
San Diego Zoo
Smithsonian National Zoo
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Aquarium of the Pacific
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Paper Plate Fauna
Paper plates are round, study, cuttable and paintable, which makes them the ultimate crafting material. A panda’s head, a peacock’s tail, a cute baby chick are just a few of the cool things that you and your little one can build with the help of paper plates. Add two cutouts for the eyes, and you have a one-of-a-kind animal mask! Don’t be afraid to bring in other crafting techniques: paper plates painted with marbles, for example, can become very fancy fur or insect wings. If you can schedule a crafting hour with your little one every day, your collection of cute paper plate animals (or insects!) can help you grow a zoo of your own. For ideas, take a look at ECDA’s past crafting projects. Pinterest is another fantastic source of inspiration.
Written by Marilee Hartling, RN, LMFT and Yelena Tokman, AMFT
Image by https://www.firstpalette.com
Many of us find our regular schedules brought to a halt as we combine our efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus by following Safer-at-Home emergency order. As a result, we are now tasked with creating the “new normal” for ourselves and for our kids. Much of what the children are so used to – classes, libraries, zoos, park outings, play dates and visits with family members – is currently out of reach, and few things can provide a comparable substitute. Children (and, likely adults) will inevitably miss these things, and we have to be ready to help them experience and process feelings of frustration about this loss. But in trying to help kids fight bouts of cabin fever during this challenging period, we can’t underestimate a well of educational and fun possibilities that is the familiar environment of the home. Learning, creating, and exploring under the care and in the company of the child’s favorite adults can have immense developmental value, even (especially!) if its disguised as fun interactive play.
To keep the child moving (and laughing!) you can create an impressive obstacle course that includes things to jump over, things to roll onto, and things to crawl under. Stable pieces of furniture, sofa cushions, tumbling mats, blankets and sheets, empty cardboard boxes and large plush toys would be your most reliable building supplies. You might need to jump, roll, and tumble a couple of times yourself to demonstrate the nuances of this process. Little kids are likely to grasp the concept fairly quickly; after all, most of the world looks like an obstacle course from the perspective of a toddler! It may be worth browsing Pinterest for many creative takes on homemade obstacle course designs.
Traffic, the Fun Kind
With the help of masking tape, create your own roads on the floor or the carpet. These roads can occupy a small section of a room or traverse your entire home. You can use toy cars and trucks to utilize this new urban development, or you can become cars and trucks yourselves, making your way (on four wheels, of course) from one room to the other.
You can hide anything, from differently shaped blocks to favorite toys around the house, draw a simple map key, and guide your little one on the journey of discovery. It might be helpful to stick with a single theme: colors, shapes, animal or insect toys, or anything that your child might be particularly interested in. Depending on the items you choose, this could be a lesson in directionality, classification, or addition, all while being combined with the fun of an Easter egg hunt. The experience of it can be the reward in itself, or you might place a valuable prize (a new toy or a treat) at the final destination. This activity can easily be adjusted to the developmental level of your child. Here are some great suggestions on specific directions and themes for the game: https://entertainyourtoddler.com/indoor-scavenger-hunt-ideas/
MAKING A MESS
Shaving Cream with a Greater Purpose
One of our favorite sensory play activities at ECDA involves shaving cream. Not only because it makes the children smell like college graduates going to their first job interview (although that can be considered a bonus by some), but because it provides a pleasant and safe sensory experience and offers many creative possibilities. Most importantly, it can become the messiest of messes (to benefit the little one) and can be just as easily cleaned up (to benefit of the adult). As simple a recipe as a tray filled with shaving cream with a few plastic toys thrown in can unleash the power of your child’s imagination. Shaving cream mixed with food dye is a great teaching tool for color theory, as we mix blue and yellow to come up with green, red and yellow for orange, etc. Same mixture also makes for a lovely rainbow, or can be used to make impressive marbling patterns. But the fun doesn’t end there! We can use the marbling pattern to dye Easter eggs in unique and creative way. Mixing shaving cream with baking soda and fluffing up the mixture with a fork can help us make pretty convincing snow. We can also mix shaving cream with school glue and flour to create puffy paint. If you can think of any other creative uses for shaving cream, please share with us!
All Our Marbles
All you and your little one need to create a painterly tribute to Jackson Pollock are a few marbles, some tempera paint and a piece of paper on a tray. Rolling the marbles in the paint and then letting them loose on the surface of the paper by rotating the tray every which way will create a unique and beautiful pattern. This is one of the most popular projects at ECDA, which means that kids and teachers alike enjoy it very much.
What if you, the parent, were allowed to make a big mess, just this one time? Dumping all the Lego pieces you own onto a table or a rug and spending the entire day truly playing together before it all has to go back into the box, might be fun and memorable for all the kids in the household. Even the grown-up ones…
While many kids we work with at ECDA enjoy playing with toy food in a kid-sized kitchen, nothing compares to the real thing. If you are able to, free up a lower cabinet and fill it with your toddler’s personal collection of inexpensive mixing spoons, bowls, colanders, pots, and pans, or any other kitchenware you are willing to spare. Let you child play with the utensils first, before you begin to demonstrate their “appropriate” use. Then, it’s time to try some mixing, measuring, and sorting. Manage your expectations: this is the earliest introduction to the complex world of cooking and baking, one that will take many years to perfect. Don’t be afraid to let your child be an active participant in meal preparation, be it ripping lettuce, washing vegetables, pouring dry items, or sorting silverware. Let your little one help, even if that requires extra patience and extra cleaning. Your kitchen is not only the ultimate lab for creative experimentation, it is also the fertile ground for collaboration and bonding.
As we follow numerous news reports on COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, we, as parents, are tasked with managing our own anxiety. It becomes particularly important as we try to become a source of comfort and assurance to our children. Our life experience and knowledge allow us to view the events inspired by the COVID-19 outbreak in context, but for small children this is an experience that has no point of reference, making it difficult to process and understand. People in masks, worried adults talking in hushed voices, lines at grocery stores, and changes in daily routines as companies and schools close, may be strange and even scary to a child. Even as we navigate through rough waters of external challenges, we can help our little ones organize their experience and provide the necessary emotional containment.
Stay calm and reassuring
It matters not only what you say, but how you say it. Children often pick up the subtlest cues from the conversations you have with them and with others. If you feel frightened, try talking to a friend, a partner, or a therapist, do a relaxation exercise or just take a deep breath before talking to your child. Try to make your child feel safe in coming to you for information and support. Offer realistic assurances, like the fact that many grown-ups – doctors, nurses and scientists – are working very hard to keep everyone safe and healthy. Try to maintain a stable and familiar routine with regular mealtimes and bedtime to help your child feel comfortable and well-regulated.
Answer questions honestly
Minimizing the problem or making unrealistic promises can affect children’s ability to trust you or your reassurances in the future. Provide information that is honest and accurate, but is appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. You might have to repeat information and explanations several times, as your child could be struggling to accept or understand it. Remember that asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a child to get reassurance.
Validate children’s feelings
Acknowledge and validate thoughts, feelings, and reactions that children share with you. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate. If their fear is minimized, it might leave kids feeling dismissed or unheard. Helping children recognize and talk about difficult feelings, offering your empathy and support will be far more helpful.
Disappointments about missed parties, play dates, or music recitals in the time of “social distancing” might seem minor to us, but to a small child these feel like real losses of something good and concrete at the time of worry and uncertainty. As a parent, you can acknowledge their disappointment, but also let them know that by making these sacrifices they are doing their part in helping protect themselves and their community.
Avoid language that might blame or stigmatize others
Viruses don’t care about race, ethnicity, social status, or geographic locale. Remember that we are all in this together, and avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19. Empathy and compassion for the suffering of others, no matter what they look like or where they come from, is something you can model for your child.
Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.
Limit the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Endless news reports intermixed with sensationalized stories, and distorted information can provoke anxiety in adults and children, alike. Try to limit children’s exposure to violent or scary movies or TV shows. During a stressful time, a child’s mind can be particularly receptive to frightening images representing fear or worry.
Help children feel empowered
Jamie Howard, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, said “kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.” Discuss the importance of good hygiene behaviors as a way to keep yourself protected. For the hundredth time, remind kids to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when water and soap aren’t available. Make the required 20 seconds of hand washing fun by singing “Happy Birthday” song twice through together. Talk about staying away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick, and protecting others by coughing or sneezing into a tissue or their elbow (and throwing the tissue into the trash).
Talk to children about the strength and resilience of their bodies. Based on the current statistical evidence, you can explain that COVID-19 doesn’t pose a major threat to children.
Make yourself available
Like any serious conversation, talking about COVID-19 outbreak with your child requires focus and presence. Give your child your fullest attention, make sure that you listen attentively, not just talk. If you find yourself at home during the weeks of the quarantine, make sure that you engage with your child more, play and read together. Try to create a warm and supportive environment where your child feels free to experience a range of emotions, talk about anything and ask questions. This will help your child learn effective coping mechanisms and self-regulation in times of stress and uncertainty.
This blog post contains information from the article published by the Center for Disease Control, which can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/talking-with-children.html.
You can find more helpful information and suggestions on talking to your children about COVID-19 coronavirus by following these links:
For comprehensive information on COVID-19 coronavirus and current preventative measures please follow these links:
Around their first birthday, children start realizing that they are entities separate from their parents. This realization can be accompanied by the fear of being left alone or abandoned. Without a developed concept of time a child cannot yet comprehend the idea that a parent who is heading out the door has every intention of coming back. It’s easy to see how this could become a distressing experience for a little one. We know this phenomenon as separation anxiety, aka moments in the doorways of houses and preschools, filled with sobs, tears and tantrums, as well as bouts of parental guilt and the oh so familiar feeling of “doing-it-all-wrong.”
In moments like these it is important to remember that separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood development. It is a sign of healthy attachment to the primary caregiver, a unique bond between a child and a parent. Eventually your child will begin to use the memory of your many returns as a comfort during the time of your absence. In the meantime, remember that several effective coping strategies are available to you as you weather this unsettling phase.
- Be attentive. When separating, give the child your full attention, be present and affectionate, but make sure that the goodbye that follows is quick and firm.
- Create a quick goodbye ritual. Whatever it might be: a hug, a kiss (or several kisses), a line from a favorite song, or a special handshake, try to create a special goodbye ritual. Rituals are meant to be familiar and reassuring. Make sure you keep it brief: lingering will extend the transition and, consequently, the anxiety.
- Be calm and consistent. When possible, try to avoid unexpected factors and follow a routine during your goodbyes. For working parents this might mean leaving the house or doing the same drop off with the same ritual around the same time each day. This will help your child be less frightened by the temporary separation and gradually build his or her trust in being able to handle time apart from you. As difficult as it may be, try to remain calm and composed through the sobs and the pleas: your child will absorb your emotional state. Attending to your child’s capacity to self-regulate as well as developing your own ability to tolerate and manage feelings of anxiety and guilt will be beneficial far beyond the early years of parenthood.
- Keep your promise. Stick to the terms of your departure as well as your promised return. When you talk about your return, help your child quantify time by giving it a “child-friendly” definition. For example, if you will be back at 4 PM, you can say: “ I will be back after your afternoon snack.” If you will be away for a couple of days, you can say: “I will be back after 2 sleeps.” Try not to change plans under the pressure of your child’s protests: this behavior can quickly develop into a tactic to avoid future separation.
- Practice. Practice being apart from each other for short periods of time and introduce new people and places slowly. If you plan to leave your child with a new caretaker, be it a friend, a relative or a babysitter, let that person spend some time with your child in advance while you are in the room. If your child is about to start new daycare or preschool, go for a few visits together before the full-time schedule begins.
As you remain patient and diligent in implementing these strategies, remember that like most early storms, this too shall pass. For most kids severe separation anxiety rarely persists beyond the preschool years. If, however, you are concerned that your child is not adapting to the separation or the state of anxiety intensifies, consult your pediatrician and/or a licensed therapist who specializes in work with young children and their families. We at Early Childhood Development Associates are here to help.
Our Summer Preschool Prep Program culminated with Llama, Llama, Red Pajama. This story is one of our favorites and children were asked if there ever had to wait for mama like Llama, Llama did in the story. Everyone nodded, “Yes!” Children and adults were invited to wear red all week. They made red collages and “llama, Llama Red Pajama” puppets out of paper bags. Water play in the sensory table was very popular as the weather was very warm during the last weeks of August. Snacks during Llama, Llama week were red and included strawberries, raspberries and water melon in addition to the usual cheese and crackers.
It was a fun summer and we saw great growth in all of our Preschool Prep kids in all areas: fine motor, gross motor, speech and language, and social-emotional growth. Some of the children in summer Preschool Prep are continuing in the fall and some are leaving for preschool. We wish our friends who are leaving all of the good things that preschool has to offer. Please come back to visit us sometime!
Our Preschool Prep kids enjoyed reading our Little Blue Truck book so much that they asked to read our entire collection! They learned some new songs about other vehicles too, including “Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Firetruck”, “Taxi, Taxi, Riding in the Back Seat”, and our favorite “Wheels on the Bus” toddlers painted their own paper trucks awith blue paint. Teachers added a picture of each child to the cab of the blue truck and children enjoyed seeing themselves and all of their classmates “driving” their ouwn blue trucks as their pictures were posted on the wall. Water play in our sensory table was fun as toddlers washed the cars and trucks with soap and water. One toddler excitedly said “Hey, it’s a car wash!”
Cars, truck, trains and tracks were favorites along in our block area. Everyone had fun during “Little Blue Truck” week.
Week 6 – Summer Preschool Prep: “Oh my, oh my, oh Dinosaurs.”
Our Preschool Prep kids enjoyed dinosaur stories and marched to the Laurie Berkners “We are the Dinosaurs, Marching, Marching”. We all enjoyed hunting for dinosaurs buried in the sand in our sensory table. Children made dinosaurs foot prints in our homemade play doh and noticed differences in the size of the dinosaur’s foot prints. The highligh was making dinosaur sand cups layereing colored sand followed with white glue to seal the top and choosing favorite miniature dinosaurs to decorate teh top. We had lots of fun with this dinosaur theme.
Week 5: Summer Preschool Prep: “Going on a Bear Hunt”
The children enjoyed the story “Going on a Bear Hunt”. Our little
tent became a “Bear Cave” and toddlers enjoyed climbing in and out of the “cave”
with their friends, teachers, and teddy bears!
Each toddler decorated their own giant bears to take home. We made “bear paws” out of paper plates
painted brown and enjoyed a “Teddy Bear Picnic” on the floor with special snack
including teddy bear grahams, fruit, berries and cheese. Fun!
Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving! We had a Thanksgiving feast with a potluck. Children and their parents brought special food from home. We wore our turkey hats and celebrated together; it was a wonderful community building activity. The children also made handprint turkeys and enjoyed our fall sensory table with Indian corn, acorns, seeds, “bumpy” and “smooth” gourds and some of our farm animals. Children, parents, and caregivers all had a great time! Happy Thanksgiving!
Marilee Hartling RN, MFT | Infant & Child Development Specialist | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
Hitting a friend. Pulling the dog’s tail. Running across the street without you. These are typical moments that all come down to one thing: self-control, and toddlers’ lack of it. Expecting more from children than they are capable of can lead to lots of frustration and stress for both parents and children. Findings from a major research endeavor, Tuning In — conducted by Zero to Three and The Bezos Family Foundation — revealed that thousands of parents of children five years and younger overestimate toddlers’ ability for self-control. Brain research shows that these skills start developing between 3.5 and 4 years, and take many more years to be used consistently.
Why do young children have so little self-control? The part of the brain responsible for exerting control over the emotional, impulsive part is not well developed in children under three. This is why toddlers are much more likely to act on their desires, such as yanking a toy out of a friend’s hand, rather than ask nicely for a turn.
Remember too that being able to recite a rule — “Hands are not for hitting” — is not the same as being able to follow it. Clever, verbal two-year-olds make it easy for parents to have an “expectation gap” since they seem to understand so much. But life with your toddler will be more joyful and less maddening when your expectations are in line with his abilities — when you see that your child is acting his age, and that he needs help to learn to manage his impulses. He is not purposefully trying to drive you crazy, as much as it may feel that way.
Here are some ideas for nurturing self-control:
- Recognize that it‘s not easy being a toddler. Let your child know you understand: “You’re really disappointed that we can’t go to the playground today.” “You’re mad that I won’t let you have ice cream before dinner. I totally get that.” Giving your child the words to describe his feelings is the first step toward helping him manage his emotions and developing self-control.
- Play games that require impulse control. Color one side of a paper plate red and the other green, and play some “stop and go” games. Hold up the green sign and let her run. Then turn to the red side and wait for her to stop. Play “freeze dance” with music. When the music is on, your child dances; when you stop it, she has to freeze. Play “Simon -says,” “Duck-duck-goose,” or any game that requires waiting or stopping.
- Use pretend to practice self-control. When a stuffed animal gets really mad or does something it shouldn’t, problem-solve how “Mr. Bear” might deal differently with the challenge he’s facing.
- Set appropriate limits with natural consequences. Even though your child may not be able to follow a rule yet, it is still important to set a few simple family rules. Look at it as an important way of teaching and guiding your child. Stay calm and explain the rule (“No throwing toys. If you throw the truck, I will have to put it away”). If your child tests the limit, calmly implement a natural, age-appropriate consequence, like taking away an object that he is misusing. Through everyday interactions like these, children develop the brain connections they need to master the skill of self-control.
- Take your own temperature. As a parent, you have a lot of power. Your child is taking his cues from you when it comes to managing emotions. Learning to manage and make sense of your own feelings — and getting help when you need it (and we all do) — is the best way to help your child develop self-control. Responding thoughtfully, rather than reacting, is one important way that parents support their children’s healthy development.
Summarized from an article by Claire Lerner and Rebecca Parlakian – Zero to Three.
Marilee Hartling RN, MFT | Infant & Child Development Specialist | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
Last week was Halloween and we completed our October theme of “Fall Family Fun.” We prepared for Halloween by decorating sticker pumpkins with different kinds of mouths, noses, and eyes, and we reviewed various parts of our bodies and faces.
We also got ready for Halloween by reading the book Go Away Big Green Monster. The children were able to use their voices to say “Go Away” and each part of the monster goes away. This teaches children not only that monsters are make-believe and not real, but also about the power of using their voice to send the monster parts away.
We trick-or-treated in the building and in our neighborhood, where the children were able to connect with local people who provided them with healthy treats and toys for their Halloween bags; this introduced them to the ritual of knocking on doors and saying “trick or treat” and holding out their bags. It was a lovely family time as children and parents dressed up and partied together along with teachers; it was a good community building experience!
Marilee Hartling RN, MFT | Infant & Child Development Specialist | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
October’s theme for the preschool prep program is Fall Family Fun and Pumpkins! Marilee brought in leaves and seed pods from her yard this week – the leaves are turning various, beautiful fall colors, and the children enjoyed exploring them in our sensory table, along with the pinecones we added last week. We brought in gourds and children learned the words “smooth” and “bumpy” to describe the surface of the gourds.
Preschool preppers used wax paper with orange, red, and green colored tissue paper to create “Stained glass” leaves that we have on display on our windows. We also made colorful fall leaves using drop paint. The children honed their fine motor skills using droppers to squeeze orange, red, and green watercolor paint onto white filler paper leaves that we laminated and hung from branches on our ceiling. Children learned a new word: “absorption.” We continued to have fun with orange play doh; our cookie cutters and rollers are fun Fall and Halloween shapes this month!
We added to our sensory play with sensory water beads. Some children enjoyed putting their hands in the water beads and feeling the effects on their hands, while others were not so fond of it! The children also enjoyed building and creating together using our new giant lego set!
For snack time, we experimented with a few new fall-themed snacks, including pumpkin muffins with pumpkin butter, and zucchini muffins that were brought in by one of our students as a special treat. We used our new apple peeler and the children experienced peeling apples with this exciting tool. After watching how the peeler works, they were each able to take small slices of apple for their snack!
October’s theme for the preschool prep program is Fall Family Fun and Pumpkins! This week, we placed potting soil into small, carved-out pumpkins. The children used spoons to scoop the soil into the pumpkins and to add the pumpkin seeds into the soil. They had fun while developing their fine motor skills and they learned about how pumpkins grow in the ground from seeds.
We placed the pumpkins on our classroom window and we will water them and watch them sprout together! Once they sprout, the children will be able to take the pumpkins home so that they can place them in the ground or a pot where they can continue to grow. We also sponge-painted leaf shapes with orange, red, and yellow paint. The leaves will be laminated and hung from our ceiling from tree branches.
During snack time we tasted pumpkin bread and pumpkin butter; we also enjoyed apple slices that were made using our new spiral apple peeler. We had a lot of fun at our sensory table, which is filled with seeds, fall leaves, pine cones, and seed pods!
Check in next week to see what new Fall Family Fun activities we have planned!
Traveling for work can be hard on you, your significant other, and your child. Although many people think traveling for work is a perk, having a child makes it difficult to just pick up your bags and head out the door. As hard as it may be, sometimes these work trips are company requirements and cannot be avoided. Your child may have strong feelings regarding your work trip. He may feel angry or sad at the idea of missing you and not being able to see you for extended periods of time. Here are tips for preparing your child for when you need to travel for work:
1. Help your child prepare special care packages.
2. Make a list of fun trips and things to do for your child.
3. Keep in touch.
4. Be understanding.
1. Help your child prepare special care packages.
While you are away, your child would love the idea of helping you on your trip. This is an awesome way for your child to understand the importance of the trip and that you also miss him just as much as he misses you. This activity keeps your child engaged and encourages her to think of different things that would make you happy while you are away on your work trip. Your significant other or child’s caretaker can help your child draw some pictures, pick out your favorite snacks, pick out a good book to read, etc. This can be a fun adventure to the post office to send you a customized “very special” care package from home!
2. Make a list of fun trips and things to do for your child.
Leave a list of fun things for your child to do. You can ask your significant other or child’s caretaker to take him to special places, such as an amusement park, aquarium, zoo, etc. This keeps your child busy while you’re away and helps your child make positive memories during this transition. Your child will be thrilled to tell you about everything he did when you return!
3. Keep in touch.
Remember…we are in the age of smartphones and screens! This mean you can keep in touch with your child and plan special times to communicate. Talk to them on the phone. Skype or facetime with your child so that he or she can see you. You can even read a bedtime story from afar…how awesome is that!
4. Be understanding.
It is most important to understand the different feelings your child will experience during your work trip. Be understanding. Remain calm. Be patient. Don’t set too many strict expectations. There will be tantrums, crying, lack of sleep, etc. This is a big change for your child. Instead of getting angry for any of their reactions, show your child love and patience. It’s an emotional journey your child is learning to process and navigate.
Written by Marilee Hartling and Daniel Munoz