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Focus Article

The Risk of Not Letting Our Kids Take Risks

Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids, has been fighting against laws in the US that seek to punish parents who do things like let their children play in a nearby park without supervision, whose children make undue noise in the streets or who use sharp woodworking implements in kindergarten.

Does that make you chuckle a little and feel grateful you live in Australia? Sorry to disappoint you but this terror of over-protecting children is happening in more and more pockets across our nation.

In Queensland it is illegal to ride to school on a bike under 12 years of age. In NSW, police have been lecturing parents who let their children walk to school alone. In WA last week, a school ban on handstands and cartwheels made news around the country. And it is very common for schools to have a ban on things like climbing trees, or sliding down slopes, just to keep kids safe.

No parent wants their child hurt, anywhere, anytime! However this fear may be shaping the decisions we make around what we feel comfortable with allowing our kids to do and in turn negating our children’s capacity to grow brave and resilient.

A very experienced preschool teacher shared a story about when she enrolled a new 5-year-old student. When shown the woodworking bench with real tools the boy’s mother gasped and said she never wanted her son to play in this area. Perplexed, the teacher asked why? The mother’s response was “He will get hit in the head by a hammer!” The teacher paused and said “In 40 years of working with children I have never seen a child hit in the head with a hammer – ever”. She then suggested that as this was a valuable part of their program this mother may need to consider choosing another preschool.

The lad was left for a trial day and he spent that day working hard on the woodwork bench making a boat. He learned how to use the tools very safely and was deeply absorbed all afternoon. He was very proud of his boat that he took home that afternoon. The next morning the mother came and spoke to the teacher: “I owe you an apology. My son positively glowed last night with what he learned about using tools and he was so proud of the boat he made. I am so sorry I was so scared to let him take these risks with your guidance. He is staying here”.

Children are biologically wired to take risks and to learn how to become more competent. They like to test themselves – to climb higher, to explore further and run faster.

Dr Peter Gray, an evolutionary biologist, has studied play deeply and he has shared research that shows that when allowed to play freely without adult supervision children instinctively take themselves to the edge of their own fear and become a little braver. This may be one reason why there are more injuries in our safe, manufactured playgrounds than in the older more dangerous ones, as discovered by No Fear author Tim Gill in the UK.

By preventing our kids from taking risks we risk them never growing to be independent, brave, capable, resilient and much happier. We need to reign in our irrational fears and embrace risk as being an essential need of all children.

Article source: Maggie Dent May 15, 2017

To read this article in its entirety, follow the link below:

Why Reading to Kids is a Big Deal

Here’s what the experts say about the benefits of reading to your kids.

Albert Einstein was once asked what we could do to make our children smarter. He answered, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairytales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.”

Research & Statistics

Increasingly, the research backs him up. The more we read to our children, the greater their vocabulary. The greater their vocabulary, the better they do at school. The better they do at school, the more successful they will be in life. As parents, isn’t this what we want?

A 2013 study by the University of Melbourne followed more than 4,000 Australian kids from pre-school to mid-primary, and found the single most important predictor of overall success at school was the amount they were read to as toddlers.
Reading to Young Children: A Head-Start in Life found children who were read to 3-5 times a week were almost six months ahead of their peers in reading and cognitive skills (activities of thinking, understanding, learning and remembering) by the time they started school.

Children who enjoyed daily story time were almost 12 months ahead

By age 8-9, these kids recorded higher scores in National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests than kids who went without. In addition to the purely academic benefits, children who were read to regularly as toddlers showed greater school readiness, a better approach to learning and better physical, social and emotional development.

This is one of the most recent studies in a significant body of research that links regular reading to young children with greater success in later life. A 2013 British study, Social inequalities in cognitive scores at age 16: The role of reading, found kids who read for pleasure were likely to do significantly better than their non-reading peers throughout primary and into secondary school. These children tended to be those whose parents had read to them regularly at the age of five.
“It’s likely that strong reading ability will enable children to absorb and understand new information, which affects their achievement in all subjects,” says study co-author Dr Alice Sullivan.

Dads also have an important role to play especially when it comes to their sons

Jim cites a study where boys whose fathers read to them regularly were better readers than their peers whose fathers didn’t.
“As you read to a child, you’re pouring into their ears (and brain) all the sounds, syllables, endings and blendings that will make up the words they will someday be asked to speak, read and understand,” writes Jim. Equally important, the stories themselves fill in gaps of knowledge they need to understand things outside their immediate surroundings.

Ten Minutes A Day

Australian-literacy advocate Love2Read recommends reading to children for 10 minutes every day.

“I’m the daughter of a time-and-motion expert who would never admit ‘there is no time’,” says author Jackie French. “There are a million ways to share a story with your child once you tell yourself this is something you must do.”

1. While you cuddle them to sleep.
2. When they need comforting.
3. While you’re having a coffee break.
4. On Skype from your hotel room on your next business trip.
5. Over the phone from your office.
6. The cereal-box in the supermarket queue and entertain the shoppers.

“When you are really bushed, put your feet up, shut your eyes and let your child read you a story,” says Jackie. “It doesn’t matter if they can’t really read the words; if you have read to them often enough, they will make up a story just for you as they turn the pages.”

Article source: Why Reading to Kids is A Big Deal
April 10, 2017
To read this article in its entirety, follow the link below:

The benefits of imaginary play

When I think about what I want for my children as they grow up, I think of the kind of people I’d like them to become: Adults who are kind, thoughtful and grateful, who laugh often and find passion in life. I hope they surround themselves with whatever brings them joy, that they find a career they love and that they forge meaningful relationships with people who cherish them as much as I do. Above all, I want them to be happy.

As parents, it is our job to guide our children in so many areas. We toilet train them, we teach them self-care and manners, we teach them how to read, what to do in an emergency, how to cross the street safely. We might teach them how to play a musical instrument or a sport we loved growing up. But can we teach them how to be happy?

Mike Ferry, a long-time middle school teacher, father of four and author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation, maintains that we can. Contrary to what many believe, success does not always bring happiness; but research has shown that the reverse is true —happier people are more likely to be successful at school, work, and in their personal lives. Ferry defines happiness as “an optimistic, communal, and disciplined perspective on life.”

The happier we are, the more successful we become. And thanks to the plasticity of our brains, Ferry explains that happiness and innovation can be taught, nurtured and practiced. He goes on to say what Shawn Anchor of The Happiness Advantage has expressed: that when we are in a positive mindset, “our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient and productive at work.”

It turns out we can teach our children how to be happy by encouraging certain habits.

The first is gratitude. Teaching children to be grateful in a world of overabundance can seem like a daunting task. It is easy to get sucked into the consumer mentality of society; children are constantly inundated with the idea that more is better and that they need the next new gadget or toy and then on to the next.
But the importance of saying “no” to children in order to instill a grateful attitude cannot be overstated. Help them focus on being grateful for what they already have rather than on what they want next.

Another way to teach this is to get into the habit of observing a “moment of gratitude” every day. This may be upon waking up, or as the family gathers around the dinner table. Take a moment to reflect, then go around the table taking turns sharing one thing for which you are grateful. For older children, encourage them to keep a gratitude journal. Practicing gratitude daily can rewire our brains to recognize appreciation rather than to dwell on disappointments. In turn, we will become happier.

Kindness is another skill we can teach our children to help them find greater happiness. Ferry highlights research that has shown a link between the “feel-good” brain chemical dopamine and kindness. Acting with kindness increases the flow of dopamine within the do-gooder’s brain, making him feel happy.

We can encourage kindness in children first and foremost by modelling it within our homes. Be kind, especially during disagreements, and praise even small acts of kindness. Teach tolerance, highlight opportunities to give back to your community and volunteer as a family if possible.
Happy homes can also inspire creative minds. Our brains, and those of our children, are most receptive to new information when we are relatively stress-free, happy and engaged, according to Ferry. That means happiness is crucial for learning and critical thinking. We can inspire creativity by embracing humor, curiosity and open-mindedness at home.

Encouraging creative ideas from children can come in the form of including them in family decisions (such as planning holidays or designing bedrooms). You can also play games that involve open-ended questions to inspire them to think critically. Allowing children plenty of time for unstructured play helps, too. Ferry’s book contains a wonderfully detailed list of suggestions and examples.

We should also celebrate the unconventional people in our lives by talking about how some of the most unconventional people in the world have had great impact (think Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela and Thomas Edison).

Happiness is not something that falls out of the sky and into our children’s laps. It is a wonderfully complex state of mind that can be strengthened with practice. And I’m willing to bet that we all want our children to experience happiness and joy in life.

Article source: How to teach our children the art of happiness By: Lauren King | May 08, 2015


The benefits of imaginary play

The demands of parenting are endless. Ensuring that a child (or two or three or four) has what he or she needs to grow and thrive can be as thrilling as it is demanding. We want to give our children all the things we didn’t have, to guarantee experiences to shape them into humans that can take on the challenges of the real world. But the truth is, sometimes we overdo it. Sometimes, instead of adding another toy to the toy box or downloading another educational app on the iPad, all we really need to do is let our children reach for the play thing that doesn’t cost a dime and ensures a lifetime of excellent entertainment: their imagination.

Today the concept of life without instant communication, a phone in your pocket at all times, and endless access to the internet seems like life in the stone ages. Even in an age when our children have constant, instant entertainment at their fingertips, it is more important than ever to ensure they are receiving an appropriate amount of play time using nothing but their own minds. Playing pretend gives children the ability to develop crucial skills that they may not build as easily with technology alone.

Now, in no way are we casting judgment on giving yourself a little downtime after a long day of work by putting an iPad in those little hands; there are many, many benefits to technology and our world wouldn’t be thriving without it. Plus, sometimes that ten minutes of silence is worth it at the end of a long day! We just need to balance tech time with enough creative, imaginary playtime to let our children develop the skills they need to thrive in society.

Imaginary play gives children the chance to role-play and engage in the social and emotional roles of everyday life. Whether they are pretending to be a firefighter, a superhero, or a princess, they are having experiences that allow them to view life from someone else’s perspective, creating empathy that will better equip them for social situations. When they are encouraged to play pretend with friends, siblings, or parents, they are even more likely to develop the social and cooperative skills that will help them as they grow and mature.

Imaginary play is also critical to the development of a child’s language and thinking skills. By mimicking conversations they hear while observing everyday life, children will develop their own conversational skills and make connections between their own enchanted world and real life. This connection is crucial to engaging a child’s critical thinking skills and taking them into higher level thinking. If a child and his playmate both want to play a certain role, they will be faced with the opportunity to problem solve and create a role that allows both to enjoy playtime. This kind of problem solving is the first step in a skill that children must possess to be successful not only in school, but also in adulthood. Additionally, there is research showing that imaginary play can benefit the development of the frontal lobe, thus decreasing the need to rough house or act out.

While it is important to keep up with today’s technological advances, sometimes the old saying “keep it simple” wins. That’s the point of pretend play—simplicity, at least on the surface. Who knows what kind of depths your child’s mind is reaching!

6 Household Items To Help Your Child Imagine:

Crates and Boxes: Instead of throwing them out, let your child transform one into a playhouse, a rocket ship or a boat. Ask them where they are headed on their journey and watch them get excited about pretend play.

Old Clothing Items: Those old scarves, shoes, dresses and hats are the perfect dress up costumes for your little one. Don’t you remember strutting around in your Mum’s old high heels as a kid? Or was it Dad’s boots? Either way, they’ll love pretending to be a grown up.

Old Phone and Magazines: Kids see us use our phone to take care of business daily, so why not let them use an old one to handle a few things of their own. Playing office, house, and library are just a few they can pretend with these old items.

Kitchen Utensils: Old wooden spoons, plastic bowls, kid-friendly serving pieces make great supplies for your child to open their very own imaginary restaurant. Grab a few and let them see what they can cook up!

Stuffed Animals and Dolls: Whether Hoot and his friends are on an adventure, or the farm animals need feeding, these little guys provide never ending imaginary entertainment for little ones.

Blankets and Old sheets: Remember those old tents made of sheets that you constructed as kids: Why not give your itty bitties a chance to recreate a little of your own childhood magic. They could also use turn one into a cap and transform into a superhero in an instant.

Article source: The benefits of imaginary play By: Brittany Johnson | March 22, 2017

Family Traditions Help Kids Make Sense of Life

“Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.”
– Susan Lieberman

Ben and Tracy Groves’ love Sundays. Every week, Ben gets up early and takes the two kids to the local café for hot chocolates or milkshakes for breakfast, while Tracy gets to sleep in. On the way home they stop at the park for some playtime. If it’s wet, they come home and play board games or card games. And Ben looks after pancakes at lunch (where extended family often join them), and the BBQ dinner in the evening. It’s a family tradition, and the whole family looks forward to their time together.

There is one remarkable, powerful thing that the happiest families do well that most other families do not do at all. They establish traditions.

Stay with me. I know that when you hear the word, “tradition”, it can be easy to roll your eyes and think “Oh no, that sounds too hard. It’s too much work.” But it doesn’t have to be.

Family traditions help life make sense to our children. Like routines, they provide predictability and a sense of security and safety. Family traditions help children feel as though they fit in somewhere. And in time, the traditions come to define who each person in the family is, countering alienation and offering steadiness and certainty.

Traditions differ from our routines or habits because we carry out traditions with a specific purpose and degree of intentionality – we are trying to achieve something very specific to:

1. Create bonds
2. Impart values
3. Promote shared experience, and
4. Build memories.

Whereas routines are designed to become automatic and to make life simpler, traditions and rituals are about being mindful of the moment, and are designed to demand attention and imbue life with meaning.

Traditions don’t need to be big things. They can be small and simple. Here are more ideas to get you thinking about starting some traditions in your family.

Daily Traditions
Some traditions become a daily habit – but with meaning. They can include:
• Playing a wake-up song every morning to get everyone moving on time and with a positive attitude.
• Saying hello/goodbye in a special way.
• Eating dinner as a family and talking about your day
• Special bedtime conversations that follow a familiar format, such as asking your children what they’re grateful for, or what they’re looking forward to.

Weekly traditions
There are some traditions that we can easily implement each week, like Sundays at Ben and Tracy Groves’ house. You can try:
• A regular Sunday roast (or any meal for that matter)
• Playing/watching a particular sport on the weekend
• Dad takes kids for a Saturday morning milkshake while mum sleeps in
• Friday movie and pizza night
• A regular games night
• One-on-one date between parent and individual child
• Watching a favourite TV show as a family
• You might even decide to have a date night once a week with your spouse or partner. They need your focus and attention too.

Other family traditions
Some traditions really do fit a particular season. Or perhaps they might occur on an occasional basis. These could be:
• Camping trips (in our home or a brief trip every month)
• Regular holidays at the same place each year
• Religious or cultural traditions that bring meaning to your family (Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Baptism or even watching the Boxing Day cricket match or visiting the Boxing Day sales)
• A trip to the beach on the first weekend of summer
• Lighting the first fire of winter

In a 2015 study involving approximately 250 teens (aged 15-20), researchers discovered that the practice of family rituals and traditions had a significant and important protective role in increasing social connectedness for teens, and for reducing their experiences of anxiety. Those who participated in family rituals also experienced less depression. It seems that the sense of family connectedness tradition and ritual provides deep roots in which our children’s self-esteem and wellbeing can develop and grow, and protects them from the stresses that so many teens experience.

Traditions are about recognising the uniqueness of our family identity, and should be fun, simple, and designed to bring us closer to the people we love.

Be mindful of what you do with your family. When you see something enjoyable, find a way to repeat it regularly and make it part of what it means to be in your family. Before you know it, you’ll start reaping the rewards of having created a new tradition

Dr. Justin Coulson is one of Australia’s leading parenting experts and is a highly sought-after international speaker and author. Find more about family traditions and other ways of making families happier in his bestselling book 21 Days to a Happier Family
Source: https://www.happyfamilies.com.au/blog/family-traditions-help-kids-make-sense-life/


superfoodsAre ‘super foods’ really so super? What foods should my children and I mostly eat?

The term ‘super food’ has no real medical meaning and is a relatively new term. It’s been applied to some foods that are rich in particular vitamins and minerals, particularly some of the foods that have recently been introduced into the marketplace. There’s no particular reason why these foods should be bought and eaten in preference of others, especially if they’re not liked.

The basic principles still apply to the dietary needs of children. They need to be offered a wide variety of fresh, unprocessed or minimally processed food. All these foods have value and it’s the balance of these within the child’s eating plan that will help determine their relative nutritional value.

Dairy products or a suitable substitute are important for children. Small children need full fat rather than low-fat dairy products, as their nervous system requires fat to ‘insulate’ developing nerve fibres. This doesn’t mean they should have a high-fat diet. The so-called ‘super foods’ have no unique qualities that cannot be found in a normal, well-balanced eating plan. While fresh juice is good occasionally, it can be loaded with fruit sugar, as often the juices are made of four or five pieces of fruit. It’d be preferable to have whole fruit to eat and water to drink.

Foods that are good to include in a child’s eating plan are fish for protein and omega three, berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, acai and goji) for vitamins, fibre and antioxidants, and also oats for protein, fibre and B group vitamins.

The cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, cabbage) are also rich in antioxidants, calcium and some iron. If your child can tolerate nuts, all nuts are full of protein and some have calcium and Vitamin E. Small amounts of good quality red meat three times a week is also a great source of iron and vitamins.

All of these foods are good to include in your child’s diet, but not to the exclusion of other foods like bread, pasta, rice, eggs, poultry, cereals, tofu, pulses and the other fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit.

Article and image from: http://www.childmags.com.au/child/health/8488-superfoods-for-kids

The positive effects of laughing and smiling

focus photoThe ability to laugh and smile is an innate human experience. Many children start to play with their smiles within their first six weeks of life – sometimes all day long, but especially when they’re well fed, happy and encouraged by those around them.

Smiling is a child’s first language that evolves into laughter between four and 10 weeks of age. Children laugh instinctively to indulge in fun and play, and to radiate and receive love.

German psychologist and pioneer of humour therapy Dr. Michael Titze points out that studies have found that children can laugh up to 300-400 times a day, but by the time they’re adults it reduces to less than 15 times a day, if at all.

Laughter is a powerful tool to accentuate positivity, create happiness and infuse optimism to bring about hope and propensity for life and living. Encouraging your child to enjoy the gift of laughter is fun; parents need to laugh themselves and establish a connection between body and mind. When a child grows up with happiness, cheerfulness and lots of laughter, that child is happy. Their smiles and laughter, once established, stay with them throughout adolescence, adulthood and old age.

Indian physician and founder of the Laughter Yoga Clubs movement Dr. Madan Kataria says, “Laughter influences more than just our mental framework; it has positive physical benefits as well”.

The Benefits of Laughter
• Laughter strengthens the immune system. Psychoneuroimmunologists have proved negative emotions weaken the immune system, while positive emotions make it stronger. According to Dr. Lee Berk from Loma Linda University in California, laughter helps to increase the count of natural-killer cells and raises the antibody levels in the body.
• Bouts of laughter reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and trigger the flow of endorphins from the brain, which relaxes the whole body and increases a sense of wellbeing. Laughter is an antidote to anxiety, anger, irritation and depression, and induces good sleep.
• A good belly laugh – or ‘internal jogging’– boosts vital organs by enriching the circulatory system with oxygen, helping filter the lymphatic system and strengthen the muscles and organs of the respiratory system.
• Laughter is an effective form of aerobic exercise. Dr William Fry of Stanford University in California claims laughter is a whole-body experience; one minute of laughter is equal to 10 minutes on a rowing machine.

Life is full of surprises and parenting can be challenging. Laughter is a free, therapeutic tool that can help you create a happy and positive family environment.

Source: www.childmags.com.au, writes Mahes Karuppiah-Quillen.

Oral Health for Toddlers

Focus ArticleIf you’re the parent of a toddler, you’ll be well aware that you’re in possession of a full-speed-ahead bundle of energy. Getting them to do anything can be a challenge, but when it comes to their oral health, it’s important that you teach them early on that they need to look after their teeth and gums.

Get started early
Waiting until your child has a full set of teeth before they visit the dentist for the first time might seem sensible, but the general rule of thumb is that this visit should happen by 12 months old or when their first tooth becomes visible. Early dental visits will help protect your child from tooth decay by educating you on what you need to do to keep their teeth healthy.

Brushing your child’s teeth
One of the first things your dentist will discuss with you is the importance of teaching you how to brush and floss your child’s teeth. Initially using just cold water on a soft children’s toothbrush – toothpaste can be used from around 18 months of age – you should gently brush each tooth and massage the gum using a soft, circular motion.

And yes, even flossing is necessary as soon as two teeth touch; your dentist can show you the correct technique if you’re not sure. You can make cleaning your toddler’s teeth more fun by creating a brushing game, put on their favourite song or find a toothbrush or toothpaste with a beloved TV character on it.

Stopping the rot
Kids will often put up a fight when it comes to cleaning their teeth but the reality is if it’s not done regularly, tooth decay can set in, with a host of painful problems resulting including the removal of teeth in extreme cases.

Along with a twice-daily regime of brushing and flossing, try to limit their consumption of sugary foods and drinks such as lollies, soft drinks, and even savoury biscuits, snack bars and muffins. If you do give your child a snack – it’s best to stick to meal times only and limit grazing – choose unprocessed food like vegetables, cheeses and lean meats.

Checking for decay
You can easily check the state of your child’s teeth by lifting their top and bottom lips and checking for white patches, which are the early warning signs for decay, and can be reversed. Grey, brown or black spots indicate more serious decay; in either case, book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

Source: www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Children-0-11/Toddlers

Dental Health Week, which takes place in the first full week of August, is the Australian Dental Association’s major annual oral health promotion event. Its aim is to educate Australians about the importance of maintaining good oral health in every aspect of their lives. Go to http://www.dentalhealthweek.com.au to find out more.

A Practical School Readiness Guide

focus article crop
This information sheet from The Centre for Community Child Health provides parents and carers with facts they need to consider when thinking about whether their children are ready for school.

The education system sets an age when your child should start school; this varies slightly between systems and states across Australia. Age is usually the first consideration for parents when making a decision about when their child will start school. You may have some concerns about whether your child is ready to start school even if they are the “right” age. There is an eleven-month difference between the youngest eligible child and the child that just misses the cut off date.

To make a decision about school readiness, you may want to consider:

  • Language skills: communication is used to engage with and teach your child. A child needs to be able to follow instructions and understand what teachers are saying, as well as being able to communicate well with teachers and the other students.
  • Physical well-being: a child who has a disability or a chronic illness may have difficulty with some aspects of school. This does not automatically mean they are not ready for school but any physical or functional limitations need to be considered.
  • Motor co-ordination and skills: a child needs co-ordination skills to allow them to dress and undress, unwrap lunch, use a pencil and scissors, and participate in other activities that require eye hand and motor co-ordination.
  • Concentration and emotional adjustment: a child needs to be able to socialise and play with their classmates. They also need to be able to deal with the structured nature of a more formal learning environment, such as being able to focus on tasks, follow directions and instructions from teachers, cope with transitions, and understand the rules.
  • Independence: a child needs a range of skills so that they can cope with minimum adult supervision. This includes going to the toilet by themselves, dressing, and being able to follow a structured classroom routine.

Some simple activities that you can do to help your child get ready for school are listed below:

  • Read to your child and use books as a pleasurable daily shared activity.
  • Make everyday things an exploration of language – ask the child questions, listen carefully to their answers, and encourage the child to ask why.
  • Encourage the child’s natural curiosity – do different things with them, encourage them to try different ways of doing things. Make a walk in the park a nature tour.
  • Encourage the child to learn to dress and undress independently, and to use the toilet appropriately.
  • Make sure the child has crayons and pencils and a supply of paper to draw and write on, and always praise their efforts.
  • Encourage your child to mix with other children in different supervised activities so they learn to socialise with their peers, take turns and share their toys and books.

If you are concerned about whether your child is ready to start school, then it is important to get advice that can support you in making this decision. You should talk to the preschool/ kindergarten teacher, the primary school teachers, and other health professionals; they can assist in assessing your child’s development and readiness for school.

For more information on school readiness, the first year and much more go to earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/parent-resources/transition-school/

References: Community Paediatric Review A national publication for community child health nurses and other professionals. Supported by an educational grant from Wyeth Nutrition.

Digital tablets in pre-school settings

Focus ArticleWhat does the research say?

Touch-screen tablets are not only being used in primary and secondary classrooms, pre-schools are also employing the technology as a literacy-learning tool. Griffith University’s Dr Michelle Neumann and Professor David Neumann have reviewed current research in this area, exploring teaching strategies and the impact tablets are having in early years settings.

As the Digital Education Research Network (DERN) reported recently, Michelle Neumann has also carried out her own study into young children and screen time in a home context. The Queensland academics’ review of the literature, published in the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, looks at dozens of studies that have been carried out in pre-school settings across the world, and offers pointers for future research.

Using the technology

In terms of the skills needed to use tablet devices such as iPads, research has shown that the majority of preschoolers can open apps on their own, finger trace on the screen, swipe to turn eBook pages and use story making apps independently. Nuemann and Neumann’s literature review found, in addition to independent access, pre-school educators are using tablets for whole class and group work, including scaffold instruction, through apps such as iWrite, Doodle Buddy and Drawing Pad. This scaffolding extends to skills such as pinch and zoom or stretch. ‘…it has also been noted that tablets allow children with limited letter-shaping ability to write because they can use the pop-up keyboard to type words,’ the authors add. Letters can be moved around on the screen and the portability of devices means youngsters can get up and move around the classroom looking for words and letters. Drawing and painting apps allow preschoolers to change the thickness of brushes and colours and use stamps.

Digital versus traditional

So, how does the tech stack up against traditional methods? The academics say, according to current research, there are pluses and minuses when comparing digital to paint. On the plus side, continuous touch movements are more frequent with iPads and youngsters were able to keep their focus because they didn’t have to keep going back to the paint palette to reload their brush or dip in their finger. However, it was suggested they may not be able to have the same sensory awareness with digital – the feel and consistency of the paint, and differences in touch pressure (pressing down hard with a pencil, for example). ‘Therefore, it is suggested that both non-digital and digital tools are needed to support a greater range of tactile experiences.’

The Queensland authors also point to studies from 2013 showing ‘tablets and literacy apps do not significantly improve literacy skills (phonemic awareness, alphabet knowledge),’ although they caution that those studies do have their limitations and call for further empirically designed studies to clarify the impact of digital devices on emergent literacy development in pre-schools.

Strategies to support learning

Summing up, they say parents and teachers need to be given strategies to scaffold learning and it really is a case of choosing the most appropriate resources for each task. ‘The research to date suggests that tablets and apps may have potentially positive and negative effects on children’s emergent literacy development. For example, a tablet may be a more effective tool to foster children’s letter shaping … Alternatively, reading a paper-printed storybook may be better at fostering aspects of emergent literacy than reading an e-book on a tablet due to an app’s distracting features.’

References: Neumann, M.M., and Neumann, D.L. (2015). The use of touch-screen tablets at home and pre-school to foster emergent literacy. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. Prepublished December 2015, DOI: 10.1177/1468798415619773


Further reading: Neumann, M.M. (2015). Young children and screen time: creating a mindful approach to digital technology. Australian Educational Computing, 30(2).


How to…  Protect and optimise your child’s vision

Focus 2aRebecca Jamieson shares some simple tips to help children enjoy optimal vision.
A child’s world is loaded with technology and intense study throughout the school years, and it’s easy for them to fall into bad habits that can affect their vision. Fortunately, there are a number of measures we can take to encourage children to protect their vision.

Ensure adequate lighting in study areas: Room lighting alone is fine, as long as it also illuminates the reading matter. Rooms should also be well lit when children are watching TV.

Limit TV time: Children’s vision develops better during activities such as reading and active play.

Encourage regular breaks from close-up work: Our visual system is designed to ‘move’ by looking up close, far away and mid-distance. When we spend prolonged periods staring at screens or reading books, the visual system can exhibit signs of stress. Ensure children take breaks every 15-20 minutes to keep their eye muscles moving. Get them to look up, focus on other objects around them, close their eyes and roll them widely a few times before resuming work.

Encourage children to read at the appropriate distance: Children often hold written material too close; knuckle-to-elbow distance between eyes and a book is ideal. A computer screen should be 70-80cm from your child; to help measure the distance, get them to hold their arm out straight like a policeman when stopping traffic. The top of the screen should be 10 degrees below the ‘straight ahead’ eye position; the middle of the screen 20 degrees below. When watching TV, encourage children not to sit closer than they have to.

Establish workspaces that encourage correct posture: Where possible; get children to read and work at slope-topped desks to encourage a balanced body posture. It’s recommended your child’s eyes be knuckle-to-elbow distance away from their work materials; both of their eyes should be used equally.

Ensure pens/pencils are held correctly: Children should grip the pen or pencil between their thumb and next two fingers so they can see the tip of the pencil while writing. A rubber pencil grip can help.

Understand the purpose of glasses: If your child wears glasses, make sure they are kept clean, well adjusted and worn straight on the face. Ensure your child wears their glasses when needed and for the purposes prescribed.

Don’t put pressure on eyes when unwell: When children aren’t well, prevent them from doing large amounts of reading or time in front of the TV or computer. Illness lowers the body’s energy reserves and reduces visual skills.

Don’t read in the car: The movement of the vehicle puts too much strain on their eyes when they try to focus.

I recommend the entire family have their vision checked every two years, regardless of whether or not there is a vision problem. A regular eye test enables an optometrist to check for eye diseases and ensure the visual system is functioning optimally.

Rebecca Jamieson is a behavioural optometrist and board member at the Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists (ACBO). For more information about how to protect and improve vision visit www.acbo.org.au

This article was sourced from http://www.childmags.com.au/child/health/4600-how-to-protect-and-optimise-your-childs-vision

focus article 1Penny the Pirate

OPSM have developed a story called Penny the Pirate. Written into the story are three eye screenings, for distance vision, colour vision and depth perception. There is an iPad app and a physical book available. This is the first step in understanding your child’s vision, but it does not replace a full eye test.

Go to http://www.opsm.com.au/eye-care/children/penny to find out more.


Therapeutic Benefits of Playing at the Park

By Cindy Chuan Occupational Therapist

Focus ArticlePlaygrounds and parks have always been a place for families to gather to enjoy their natural surroundings, picnic, ride bikes, play on the fields with a ball . . . happy times with friends and family.

Besides the obvious physical fitness benefits, there are so many awesome therapeutic benefits of playing at the park!

Here are a few reasons you should get out to your local park with your kids:

Kids love playing with other kids. They can play with their siblings, cousins, and friends or make new friends. There are opportunities for social skill development in turn taking and waiting for pieces of equipment, collaborative play when they share equipment, parallel play alongside another and imaginative play such as shopping, pirates, princess, fishing, camping, etc.

Kids can use the large muscles of their body to develop gross motor skills in stepping, climbing, crawling, swinging, pulling, pushing, hanging and jumping. Using their own bodies, kids can work on balance, eye-hand or foot coordination, strength and stability.

Kids learn about faster, slower, up, down, around, under, over, backwards, forwards and a range of other language and concepts. They can practice their expressive communication skills with their friends as they negotiate turn taking or imaginative play sequences.

The park is full of sensory experiences from visual information (eg playground, people, nature), smells (eg flowers, grass, food) and sounds to process (eg sound board, children’s squeals). There are also opportunities for tactile “touch” of natural textures (eg bark on trees, grass, sand, dirt, mud, pebbles, water) and a range of playground equipment that provide proprioceptive input to the muscles and joints (eg rock climbing wall, tunnels). The vestibular system can be stimulated with swinging, spinning, rolling, hanging, etc on equipment (eg tyre swing, flying fox).

Unstructured play in a park provides children with an opportunity to self-regulate their bodies. When they have had enough swinging they will move onto something else.

Free play at the park also provides children with opportunities for “risk taking” (eg how far can I reach, how high can I climb). It also provides opportunities for children to make decisions and solve problems. This in turn can build self-esteem and confidence in children.

Research is showing us that children spend less time outdoors than we did as children (Clements, 2004), they are playing more indoors than outdoors (Karsten, 2005) and their access to public play space has declined (Wridt, 2004). Are these things better for our children? What are our children missing if they do not play outside? All children benefit from playing at the park.

Source: http://mamaot.com/therapeutic-benefits-of-playing-at-the-park/

Separation Anxiety

Feature ArticleDoes your little one cry or cling to you or both as you’re leaving the room or heading out the door? Your toddler may be experiencing separation anxiety. At this age, your child doesn’t have a strong sense of time, so he doesn’t know when you’ll return. Learn how to identify signs of toddler separation anxiety in order to soothe away the tears.

Why Do Toddlers Experience Separation Anxiety?
Children go through feelings of separation anxiety for different reasons, but on a basic level, they believe their survival is dependent on having a primary caregiver close by. Toddlers are also still too young to understand the concept of time. Leaving them in a room for a few minutes or at day care for a few hours feels like the same amount of time for them. So instead of sneaking off, which a toddler can interpret as leaving forever, be sure to say adieu, but keep the parting simple and short. Try to convey that the time apart is temporary and is not a cause for alarm.

What Are the Signs of Separation Anxiety?
Anxiety is “typically most prevalent between 8 and 18 months or so.” Erin Boyd-Soisson, Ph.D. Indications of separation anxiety are usually present while a caregiver is departing or has left. Children may cling, throw a tantrum, or resist other caregivers in an attempt to convince the parent not to leave, whether for work or to run an errand. A child can also show signs of fear and restlessness when a parent is in another room, when he’s left alone at bedtime, or is being dropped off at day care. The outbursts usually subside once the caregiver is out of view. “This anxiety serves to keep the child close to the caregiver, who is their source of love and safety,” Dr. Boyd-Soisson says.

How Can You Ease Separation Anxiety?
Although it may be difficult to hear a child cry, remember that separation anxiety does have a positive aspect: It indicates that a healthy attachment has bonded a caregiver and child. Try talking a child through the process of leaving; tell him that you love him and let him know you will return. If it helps, offer him a favorite stuffed animal as a soother in your absence. Keeping a regular routine can help children develop a feeling of control over daily situations. Say “See you later, alligator” or share a secret handshake as a clear and consistent indicator when saying goodbye.

Source: www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/starting-preschool/separation-anxiety/dealing-with-separation-anxiety/

Raising an entrepreneurial child

Focus Article JanRachel Goodchild introduces strategies for raising children with a get-up-and-go mentality

Once, long ago, career paths were simple. You did what your parents did, or you went to school, got a trade or a qualification, and you stuck with it until your working days ended. Futurists say the current generations of children will have at least seven careers in their lifetimes. The ability to adapt, grow and find jobs to meet will be important attributes for all of our children as adults. Plus many will use their skills to start their own business, to ignite a spark, and create an income out of a passion. While it might be incredible to think about your two or five year old being employed as an adult, it is important to help your child be all they can be, and find ways to support him or her. Many of the skills and qualities beneficial for success in an adult are easiest learned as a child.
Entrepreneurs and business starters tend to possess three chief character traits. You can find ways to proactively develop these traits in your children.

Business owners need to be robust, and trust themselves. Owning a business is difficult, especially in the first two years, and it’s very common to receive setbacks and difficulties. Successful business owners know who they are and what skills they have, do not take things personally, and are not swayed by negativity. Developing self-confidence is not about constantly telling your child they are perfect and fantastic. It’s about balancing loving compliments with fair and balanced age-appropriate feedback. Be the person your child trusts to give a fair response when they ask you how they did. Point out their strengths, and if asked, also illuminate one or two areas they could improve on while offering help to do so. Reward effort, and acknowledge achievement.

The ability to bounce back and deal with obstacles is incredibly important. Linked closely to self-confidence, this attribute helps children to cope with change and the unexpected. Ironically, the majority of children develop resilience through unexpected change in their life including family change, moving, circumstances and health. Some children thrive in the midst of great adversity. None of us wants to create these circumstances on purpose, but we can help develop resilience by allowing our children to take small risks, and not jumping in to rescue them unless they’ve got no other option than to use our help.

Entrepreneurs need to be able to think outside the square and be able to find low- to no-cost solutions for the challenges of building a business. Providing time, space and an organised environment best breeds creativity. You can’t be creative within a jam-packed schedule, or in chaos. Give your child a small space they can create in, such as a desk, a floor space or a spot outside, and organise it so it can be used multiple ways. Expect them to keep the place ordered and tidy (you need to teach them how) so they can use it whenever they want to. Creators are often daydreamers with great imaginations. Help your thinkers learn to put ideas down on paper – whether you are the pen for them, or they record their ideas in their drawings and words.

If you are an entrepreneur, it’s likely you’ll naturally pass on the skills to your child via modelling, conversations and expectations. If you’re not, there are a few skills you can help your child develop to give them the readiness to start their own businesses.

Is background music okay for kids?

Parents are often shocked to learn that background TV can be detrimental to children’s development. In many homes, background TV is like the soundtrack for everyday life and seems quite benign. So it comes as quite a shock to most parents to discover that background TV can have some unintended and undesirable consequences for young children. (So please don’t fret if you didn’t know this.)

Much like second-hand smoke leaving the TV on when it’s not being watched is not good for little ones. Background TV can interfere with their play patterns and changes the ways parents communicate with their children. So it can hamper their language skills and disrupt their attention.

So it’s only natural that parents then ask about background music. Is it okay if the radio is on, or I listen to CDs?
This isn’t an easy question to answer because we don’t have a definitive answer from the research, especially when it comes to young children.

Music has three broad effects on children:
1 – It distracts their attention; 2 – It arouses them; and 3 -It alters their mood.
So music can help or hinder depending on the types of the task your child is engaged in and the type of music being played.

What we know about background music
1. Repetitive, low-level tasks benefit from music – upbeat music, with or without lyrics can improve efficiency and accuracy (however, it’s important to note that this finding is based on factory workers’ performance on assembly lines). If lyrics are used they should be familiar or boring for the listener! We don’t want their mind wandering or processing new language.
2. Zen-like music for high concentration – When children need to really concentrate, monotonous, “zen-like” background music may promote better performance. The trick is to find music that allows children to focus, without distracting them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Mozart!
3. Keep it slow and soft – the evidence suggests that children’s cognitive performance is not compromised if background music is slow and soft. Play carefully selected music at appropriate levels. Relaxing background music is less likely to interfere with processing other information.
Again, make sure it’s familiar music so their mind doesn’t wander.
4. Keep it familiar – popular music with lyrics might interfere with children’s play. Play popular music when your child doesn’t need to intently focus or when they aren’t playing.
5. Keep it age-appropriate – When I was a Kindergarten teacher, I’ll never forget the day a 5 year-old boy started singing “My socks are on fire” (instead of the correct lyrics- “Sex on Fire”) while he was working at his desk! Little children are absorbing language and concepts, even if they don’t appear to be understanding everything. If you don’t want to fret about what disc jockeys might say when you’re driving your children around in the car, or if the radio is on at home, then use CDs or music streaming services where you can select children’s content. If you’re after age-appropriate audio content, check out Kinderling. It is digital radio for babies, toddlers and school-aged children (and their parents).

Silence is also important
It’s important to note that young children also need to experience silence (or as close to you can get with little ones in your house). They need opportunities throughout their day where there’s little or no stimulus. They need opportunities to hear the birds and the background hum of “everyday life”.

There are obviously significant individual differences in how children respond to music. Some children will prefer silence, where other children find it unsettling.

You need to figure out what works best for your child. Generally, you don’t need to fret as much about background music as you do about background TV. In a nutshell, slow, soft and familiar music is likely to be okay for your little one.

Read more: This months focus article was sourced from Dr. Kristy Goodwin. Dr. Goodwin is a children’s technology & brain researcher (and mum!). Find additional information at http://www.everychancetolearn.com.au

Sun Safety

focus article pictureIt is that time of year again, the weather is getting warmer and we are spending more time outside in the sun. ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ is one of the most important messages you can teach your children.

The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 80% of lifetime sun exposure occurs during childhood — and that just one blistering sunburn can double the risk of getting melanoma later in life.

Follow these guidelines to limit and prevent dangerous sun exposure:

SLIP on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Wearing protective clothing and hats is one of the most important ways of warding off UV damage. When wet, light-colored clothing transmits just as much sunlight as bare skin. Keep your kids covered with dark colors, long sleeves, and pants whenever possible. And don’t forget the accessories: sunglasses with UV protection to guard against burned corneas, and hats to prevent sunburned scalps and faces. Protective clothing, hats with brims, and sunglasses are just as important for babies. At the beach, bring along a large umbrella.

SLOP on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ (or higher) sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards or after sweating or swimming. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun. Scented and colorful sunscreens appeal to some kids and make it easier to see which areas have been covered well. Don’t forget nose, ears, hands, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck; lips can also burn, so apply a lip balm with SPF protection.

SLAP on a hat – broad brim or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck and ears.

SEEK shade. Limit outdoor playtime between 10a.m. and 4p.m. Avoid unnecessary exposure when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Even on cloudy or cooler days, ultraviolet (UV) rays remain strong. Shady spots can be just as tricky because of reflected light. If your child is playing outdoors during these hours, make sure to apply sufficient sunscreen.

KEEP watch on medications. Some medications increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so make sure to ask your doctor whether your child may be at risk. Prescription antibiotics and acne medications are the most notorious culprits, but when in doubt, ask.

SET a good example for your kids. If your child sees you following sun-safety rules, he’ll take them for granted and follow suit. Skin protection is important for every member of the family, so team up with your children to stay protected when venturing out in the sun.

What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the skin.  Cancer that only affects cells in the skin’s top layer is called superficial cancer. Cancer that spreads deeply into the skin or to other parts of the body is known as invasive cancer.

Skin cancer symptoms
Skin cancers don’t all look the same, but there are some signs to look out for:
• A spot that is different from other spots on the skin
• A spot, mole or freckle that has changed in size, shape or colour
• A sore that doesn’t heal
• A spot that bleeds.

Read more: http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/skin-cancer/

September spells ‘outdoor play’

Do you remember playing in the “great outdoors” as a kid? It was always fun to be outside with friends, whether talking, cycling, walking or playing games and sports.

Then, as time ran out or dusk fell, you knew it was time to go home for supper or get ready for bed. Or, perhaps your parents had to come and get you, because you were having so much fun outside that you lost track of time.

For a wide range of reasons, today’s children are simply not experiencing as much active, play time as their parents did. In fact, a new term is used to describe this trend; it’s called nature deficit disorder (Richard Louv, 2008).

Read on to learn more about why your kids should be outside more often, the value of outdoor time and experiences in nature, and what you can do to increase and enhance outdoor play for your kids.

What’s the Big Deal about Being Outside?

For starters kids engage in more active play when they are outside, as opposed to inside. Active kids are healthy kids, and outdoor activities are especially healthy for them!

Among a wide range of benefits, outdoor play is vital, because it:
** Gives kids a chance to burn off energy
**  Can be calming and allow kids to “recharge” their energy levels
**  Kids learn to interact with and understand the natural world
**  Offers a chance for more social interaction with peers
**  Helps to develop their powers of observation and their assessment of risk
**  Offers more opportunities for creativity and free play
**  Helps to build a strong link between physical health and outdoor play, at a young age

A Natural Experience

Almost all children (and adults) have a “natural attraction” to the outdoors, playing outside, and learning about nature. Being outside and playing outside is vital to a child’s growth, and their physical and mental development; it’s important to allow and encourage our kids to spend lots of time in the natural world.

They can “connect” with the outdoors and nature by climbing trees, wading in streams, lying in tall grass, inventing games, or just digging in the sand or mud! It’s not rocket science; if the kids are outside, they will find any number of ways to play in natural settings.

By interacting often with nature, and with other kids outside, it helps to stimulate the curiosity and creativity of children, and also boosts their confidence as they learn new things.

Outdoor time is vital for kids of all ages, but it’s especially good for younger children to learn and grow as they explore local parks, different water bodies like creeks or ponds, playgrounds, walking trails and other natural settings. Parents and caregivers can be with children during these activities and interact with them along the way, or they can supervise them from nearby.

With a little freedom and independence while outdoors, and a bit of guidance or supervision from an adult, a child can learn a lot and get health benefits from each and every outdoor experience.
Older children can be given wider boundaries and guidelines, and allowed to roam a little further and explore on their own. At any age, children and youth are “born to be outside,” so encourage them to be outdoors more often!

Ideas to Increase Outdoors Play

In today’s society, the two biggest parent-identified barriers to outdoor play are “safety… and safety.”

You can play a vital role in your child’s well being, while not giving in to false fears. One good way to deal with general safety issues or concerns is to teach your kids to “be watchful” instead of “careful.”

This type of small wording change or change in approach is one way to encourage kids to not to be immediately scared of a perceived or real danger, but to recognize it and deal with it.

One of the best ways to help make your area safer for outdoor play is to be active in your community and to walk or cycle often in the area.

It’s also very helpful to get to know your neighbours, including parents, families, other residents and kids. The more people interact with each other in a community, the more they can watch out for each other and all the kids in the neighbourhood. This type of community effort can go a long way towards supporting more outdoor play for children.

Try some of these other tips:

** Backyards can be full of adventure for younger children, Consider having a sandbox, water table or other toys and play stations. Create small natural spaces or areas where kids can build forts and create their own play space.
** Allow your kids to plant a garden in raised beds or planter boxes. Have your kids make all the choices and do the work; from seeding through harvest.

Keep in mind that it’s truly good for all of our kids to be outside more often! As a parent, provide varied opportunities for outdoor play, exploration and games.

Read more: http://www.healthyalberta.com/729.htm

10 Reasons Why You Should Read to Your Kids

What’s the most important trait you’d like to develop in your child? If you’re like most parents, intelligence is probably around the top of your list. We all want bright, smart children, which is why we spend so much time choosing the right schools and making sure teachers are exceeding expectations. But remember: as a parent, you have the power to boost your children’s learning potential simply by making books an integral part of their lives.

We all know reading to our kids is a good thing—but are you familiar with the specific advantages your toddler or preschool-age child can receive by being exposed to the merits of reading? Below are some benefits that highlight the importance of reading to your child between the ages of two and five.

  1. A stronger relationship with you. As your child grows older, he’ll be on the move—playing, running, and constantly exploring his environment. Snuggling up with a book lets the two of you slow down and recaptures that sweet, cuddly time you enjoyed when he was a baby. Instead of being seen as a chore or a task, reading will become a nurturing activity that will bring the two of you closer together.
  1. Academic excellence. One of the primary benefits of reading to toddlers and pre-schoolers is a higher aptitude for learning in general. Numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. After all, if a student struggles to put together words and sentences, how can he be expected to grasp the math, science, and social concepts he’ll be presented with when he begins school?
  1. Basic speech skills. Throughout toddlerhood and preschool, your child is learning critical language and enunciation skills. By listening to you read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, your child is reinforcing the basic sounds that form language. “Pretend reading”—when a toddler pages through a book with squeals and jabbers of delight—is a very important pre-literacy activity. As a pre-schooler, your child will likely begin sounding out words on his own.
  1. The basics of how to read a book. Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading.
  1. Better communication skills. When you spend time reading to toddlers, they’ll be much more likely to express themselves and relate to others in a healthy way. By witnessing the interactions between the characters in the books you read, as well as the contact with you during story time, your child is gaining valuable communication skills.
  1. Mastery of language. Early reading for toddlers has been linked to a better grasp of the fundamentals of language as they approach school age.
  1. More logical thinking skills. Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is their ability to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgement. As your toddler or pre-schooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his own world, he’ll become more excited about the stories you share.
  1. Acclimation to new experiences. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition. For instance, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows her that her anxiety is normal.
  1. Enhanced concentration and discipline. Toddlers may initially squirm and become distracted during story time, but eventually they’ll learn to stay put for the duration of the book. Along with reading comprehension comes a stronger self-discipline, longer attention span, and better memory retention, all of which will serve your child well when she enters school.
  1. The knowledge that reading is fun! Early reading for toddlers helps them view books as an indulgence, not a chore. Kids who are exposed to reading are much more likely to choose books over video games, television, and other forms of entertainment as they grow older.

Books have the power to benefit toddlers and pre-schoolers in a myriad of ways. As a parent, reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do to prepare him with a foundation for academic excellence.

Read more at: https://www.earlymoments.com/promoting-literacy-and-a-love-of-reading/why-reading-to-children-is-important/

Transition to school

Transitions, including home to early childhood settings, between settings, and early childhood settings to school, offer opportunities and challenges. Building on children’s prior and current experiences helps them to feel secure, confident and connected to familiar people, places, events and understandings. (Early Years Learning Framework)

Your child can start Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn five on or before 31 July in that year. By law children must be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday. As we start the second semester for 2015, families start to consider what they need to do to prepare their child for school.


The transition to Big School is often more daunting for the parents than the child. Often, focus is usually on the cognitive skills of their child and whilst skills such as recognising their name, interest in books and enjoyment in group experiences are all beneficial, qualities such as confidence can make the transition to school far more positive.

Some questions to help you know if your child is school ready.

Deciding if your child is ready to begin school is an individual matter for your family to consider. The following questions may assist you in making a decision:

  • Is my child emotionally ready for the challenges school will present?
  • Can my child mix well with others in a variety of new environments?
  • Does my child separate from me easily?
  • Will my child flourish in a structured environment or does he/she need a more relaxed, unstructured setting?
  • Does my child listen well and respond appropriately to instructions?
  • Does my child communicate effectively?
  • Do I want my child to go to school because it will be more convenient for me, or because he/she is ready for greater independence?
  • Will another year at a prior-to-school service be more beneficial for my child?
  • Will my child cope with the demand of five full days in a structured environment?

Talk to your child about the change in the environment from preschool to big school.

Little things such as separate boys and girl’s toilets can be confronting. For boys using a urinal can be a daunting experience if they have never used one before (a trip with Dad to the local shopping centre can help with this). Lunchtimes are very different. Your child moves from 20 children in a room, to being one of 200 to 600.

Self-help skills like negotiating food wrap, opening a muesli bar and eating yoghurt without spilling it are all things that your child needs to be prepared for.

Consider your involvement in school transition experiences:

  • Give children a positive understanding and experience of school as a safe, enjoyable place.
  • Acknowledge that children have individual needs, interests and skills.
  • Involve the community of children, families, childcare, school and relevant others.
  • Allow and encourage positive communication between children, families, childcare professionals and school educators.
  • Allow children to spend plenty of time in the school environment before starting.
  • Have a lunch box day at home where your child can master the art with your support.
  • Read to your child and use books as a pleasurable daily shared activity.
  • Make everyday things an exploration of language – ask your child questions, listen carefully to their answers, and encourage your child to ask why.
  • Encourage natural curiosity – do different things with them, encourage them to try different ways of doing things. Make a walk in the park a nature tour.
  • Encourage your child to learn to dress and undress independently, and to use the toilet appropriately.
  • Make sure the child has crayons and pencils and a supply of paper to draw and write on, and always praise their efforts.
  • Encourage your child to mix with other children in different supervised activities so they learn to socialise with their peers, take turns and share their toys and books.

How You Can Incorporate Mindfulness

In early childhood education many approaches come and go when it comes to teaching children to handle their feelings, many of which they may be experiencing for the first time. One such approach that is prevalent at the moment is mindfulness.

You may have heard of mindfulness, but if you haven’t or you’re not sure what it means, this definition explains it quite well: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”.

On Reachout.com it is described as being “about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way”.

When a person is mindful, they:

  • Focus on the present moment.
  • Try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future.
  • Purposefully concentrate on what’s happening around them.
  • Try not to be judgemental about anything they notice, or label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

It is safe to say that practicing mindfulness is something that just about anyone will benefit from, no matter the age. One way that is frequently recommended is through meditation, often parents and other educators query how on earth it is possible to get very young children to sit still and partake in the act of meditating but it truly is possible through some gentle guidance. It only takes mere minutes of deep breathing and some thoughtful reflection each day for your children (and adults) to feel happier, more relaxed and more in control of feelings and life in general. Practicing mindfulness works towards combating stress, dealing with all the obstacles life throws at us and ultimately (and crucially), building resilience.

Here are three additional tips from ParentsCanada.com that are easy and fun ways of incorporating mindfulness into every day:

Mindful listening: Tell your child you are going to ring a bell or a tone bar. Ask them to listen carefully to the sound of the bell and raise their hands when they can no longer hear it.

Breathe awareness: Have your child lie down on a mat on the floor, or on their bed, and place their favourite stuffed animal on their belly. Have them rock the stuffed animal to sleep with the movement of their belly as they breathe in and out. This is how they can begin to pay attention to their breathing.

Mindful eating: This is a time when playing with your food is OK. Give your child a piece of fruit and ask them to pretend they are from another planet and have never seen this piece of fruit before. Ask them to describe their experience using all five senses. What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? Taste like? Does it make a sound when you bite it?

Try these activities with your child. You may find that it is an activity that needs to be introduced gradually, start small and increase time as your child becomes more comfortable.

Source: http://musicearlychildhoodpresenter.com

Imaginary Play

The word “imagination” conjures up images of children pretending with dolls, pushing dump trucks, or dressing up as princesses or pirates. While young children do spend much of their time in the land of make believe, the imagination is not just reserved for children’s play. It is because of the development of the imagination during childhood that adults are able to do many of the tasks that daily life demands. Adults constantly use their imagination to help them invent new things, visualize, solve problems, enjoy a book or movie, understand others’ perspectives, make plans, come up with ideas, and think creatively. No wonder Albert Einstein felt that “imagination is more important than knowledge”!

Therefore, using one’s imagination is a critical cognitive skill that is used throughout life, and it is important to encourage the imagination in childhood.  But what is the connection between pretend play and language?

The connection between pretend play and language

Pretend play is also known as “symbolic play” because it involves the use of symbols. When we use symbols, we use something to stand for something else. In the case of pretend play, children may use one object to stand for another, such as pretending a spoon is a hairbrush, or a tablecloth is a cape. This type of symbolic thought is also needed for language, as our words are symbols. Our words stand for our thoughts and ideas. Therefore, pretend play and language both involve the same underlying ability to represent things symbolically (Weitzman and Greenberg, 2002). It’s no wonder children start to engage in pretend play around the same time their first words emerge (between 12 to 18 months). Furthermore, children who have language difficulties sometimes also struggle with pretend play.

Why Encourage Pretend Play?

There are many reasons why parents and caregivers should consider encouraging their child’s pretend play skills:

  • Your child will gain practice with using symbols. This strengthens the foundation for your child’s pretend skills and language skills.
  • Pretend play is an excellent way to expose your child to new vocabulary that he may not be exposed to in everyday life, such as “pirate”, “sword”, “rescue”, “castle”, or “fairy”.
  • When you pretend with your child, you will help him learn to play with others. Eventually, your child will start to pretend with other children, where he will learn to take turns and collaborate.
  • When children take on a pretend role, they imagine what it is like to be another person. This helps develop their ability to take others’ perspectives and develop empathy.

Pretend play is fun! When you play like a child and let your imagination lead, you and your child will never run out of things to play with or talk about!

Read more of this article at: http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/The-Land-of-Make-Believe.aspx

Photo credit: Candere Photography from whattoexpect.com

Compassionate Kids

Children have an inborn capacity for compassion. Small in stature themselves, they naturally identify with stuffed animals, other kids, pets, and underdogs. The tricky part is that their empathy must compete with other developmental forces, including limited impulse control, which makes them pull the cat’s tail, and their belief that their needs absolutely must come first, which makes it hard for them to let their cousin push the cool fire truck.

But with so much hatred and turmoil in the world today, it seems more important than ever to to raise kids who can understand and be kind to other people. Teaching this doesn’t mean lectures or visits to soup kitchens. It’s part of day-to-day life: how you answer your child’s questions, how you solve conflict at the park, how you nudge his or her growing capacity to understand and think about other people. Temperament of course plays a role — some kids are naturally more tuned in to other people’s feelings and difficulties, while others are a bit oblivious. Either way, you have influence in fostering your child’s ability to empathize. Age by age, here’s how to do so in small, daily doses:

Monkey see – monkey do: As with much of our parenting, it’s about modelling. If our kids see us showing empathy and compassion, it becomes one of their values and normal behaviour. Research has found that compassionate parents raise kids who are nicer to their peers.

Talking about what we’re thankful for: While it may sound a little “Brady Bunch”, psychologists claim that simple dinner time conversations about the positives in our own lives boosts happiness, well-being and health.

Embrace the good: Acknowledging people who are what’s termed “morally inspiring” has been found to improve people’s feelings of connection to one another and their sense of purpose.

Being nice feels nice: Researchers have measured the amount of the feel-good chemical oxytocin that humans can produce when they’re compassionate. Help kids feel that by encouraging them to do a good deed or be kind to others.

Recognise your kids’ acts of kindness: If your child shares their toys or comforts a sad friend, acknowledge it and talk about how that act made everyone feel as well as what the feelings could have been if the act of kindness hadn’t happened.

Have a family pet: Being nice to animals has been found to help develop compassion as often a child’s relationship with a pet is the first one in which they learn to understand the feelings of others. Research has found that children with pets had higher self-esteem and were more popular with their classmates because they were more empathetic.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” 

– Dalai Lama

Read more of these articles here: www.parenting.com/article/raising-a-compassionate-child  and www.kidspot.com.au/Preschool-Behaviour-How-to-bring-up-compassionate-kids +7090+33+article.htm

Updated Contact Details


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February News

Thu 19 Feb 2015, 9:15 AM

Play is critical to the healthy growth and development of children.

As children play, they learn to solve problems, to get along with others and to develop the fine and gross motor skills needed to grow and learn. Play helps a child do the following:


Develop physical skills

Gross motor skills are developed as a child learns to reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb and balance. Fine motor skills are developed as children handle small toys.


Develop cognitive concepts

Children learn to solve problems through play.  (What does this do? Does this puzzle piece fit here?) Children also learn colours, numbers, size and shapes. They have the ability to enhance their memory skills as well as their attention span. Children move on to higher levels of thought as they play in a more stimulating environment.


Develop language skills

Language develops as a child plays and interacts with others. This begins with parents playing cooing games with their children and advances to practical levels such as telling make-believe stories and jokes.


Develop social skills

Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and play by the rules are all-important skills learned in early games. These skills grow as the child plays. As a result, children learn the roles and rules of society.