Category Archives: Milestones & Learning

Young Children and Effective Communication

Young Children and Effective Communication

Written by: Catie Chun


Effective parent-child communication beginning in early childhood sets the stage for trusting relationships and development of self-esteem. Researchers have even been able to predict life satisfaction based on the strength of parent-child communication! 

When we communicate orally with children, we are not just saying words — we are also communicating our values, expectations, and beliefs. With this in mind, it is important to consider what unspoken messages we are sharing. When we set our children up for success, praise their strengths and show them that we are listening, they receive the message that they are capable and worthy. 

Using Effective Commands Tells Children “You Can Do It!”
Young children want to do a good job. As a caretaker, giving clear instructions makes it more likely that your child will follow through as instructed. We want to make our commands as effective as possible to set children up for success! 

Give direct commands to eliminate confusion and to make it clear that the child, not you, should complete the task.
• Direct: “Pick up your toys.”
• Indirect: “Let’s pick up your toys.”

State commands positively and tell the child what to do instead of what not to do.
• To do: “Sit in the chair.”
• Not to do: “Don’t climb on the table.”

Break up multi-step directions into several single tasks so it is easier for your child to remember. This also gives you more opportunities to praise your child!
• Single: “Put your shoes in the closet.” Give praise. “Make your bed.” Give praise.
• Compound: “Put your shoes away and make your bed.”Single: “Put your shoes in the closet.” Give praise. “Make your bed.” Give praise.

Be specific and let your child know exactly what is expected. This can make it easier to decide whether the child has followed through.
• Specific: “Please walk.”
• Vague: “Behave!”

How Using Specific Praise Tells Children “You Are Working Hard!”
Young children crave their caretaker’s approval! To sweeten the deal, be sure to name the action that you like. Naming the quality or action in your praise increases the likelihood that your child will repeat the action in the future. To promote a growth mindset, it is important to praise the process and the effort that your child puts into a task rather than the outcome.

Examples:
• “I love the way you are sharing with your younger sibling. You are being so kind!”
• “Way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to a new friend! That is really brave.”
• “Thanks for giving your best effort at saying these numbers — I can tell you were working your hardest!”“I love the way you are sharing with your younger sibling. You are being so kind!”
DO praise immediately: praise is most effective when delivered immediately after the action.
DO praise frequently: the golden ratio is five praise statements for each command.
DO praise enthusiastically: young children respond to energy and encouragement!
DON’T tag on criticisms, reminders of past failures, or requests for future performance: praise should be a celebration of the child’s work, period.
DON’T praise undesired or inappropriate behavior: this is confusing for children — wait for something more constructive, then praise positive behavior.
DON’T be vague: your child is more likely to repeat the desired behavior when they know what you liked!

Using Your Listening Skills Tells Children “You Are Important to Me!”
Consistently engaging in meaningful conversation with your young child shows them that their words and thoughts matter to you. Using some of these listening skills can help emphasize that you are listening.

Ask open-ended questions to encourage your child to elaborate on their answers. Questions that begin with “what,” “where,” “whom,” or “how,” are helpful tools to start conversations with young children. 

Acknowledge your child’s feelings and let them know that it is okay to feel that way. Children need to have their feelings supported by their parents to feel understood. 

Let your child talk! One-sided lecturing and nagging is not a meaningful conversation. Use these communication builders to open the lines of communication: 
• “I’d like to hear about it!”
• “Tell me what that’s like.”
• “Go ahead. I’m listening.”
• “I understand.”
• “What do you think about… ”
• “Would you like to talk about it?”
• “Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?”
• “That’s interesting.”
• “Explain that to me.”

Resources:
•  CDC’s Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers: Communicating with Your Child 
• The REACH Institute at Arizona State University has brief videos on Making Clear and Effective Requests and Using Positive Praise and Incentives
•  Boys Town Guide to Communication Skills



Authentic Learning at Home

Authentic Learning at Home

Written by: Emalise Mitchell


What is Authentic Learning?
Authentic learning is an approach that allows children to learn through hands-on activities. Authentic learning gives children an opportunity to discover and investigate while connecting to the real-world context of what they are learning.

How Do I Make Learning Authentic at Home for My Child?
Below are a few tips for inspiring authentic learning:

  1. Ask: What Interests My Child?  What excites your child or sparks their interest? Is it seeing a caterpillar on the sidewalk, or the airplanes flying overhead, or mixing paint colors to discover new colors? Identifying the topics and concepts that are interesting to your child is the first step in organizing ideas for authentic learning and exploration. 
  2. Make Real-World Connections with Interests  Once you know what your child is fascinated by or curious about, you have an opportunity to connect practical learning skills with their interests. For example, if your child is excited by insects and bugs, you can go on a walk to count as many bugs as you can find. Then, you could draw a few pictures of the bugs, and then listen to a read-aloud of the story The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and discuss the process of how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. By engaging in these activities, you encourage your child’s exploration of math skills (counting bugs), literacy skills (listening to a story), and science (the life cycle of a caterpillar).  hat excites your child or sparks their interest? Is it seeing a caterpillar on the sidewalk, or the airplanes flying overhead, or mixing paint colors to discover new colors? Identifying the topics and concepts that are interesting to your child is the first step in organizing ideas for authentic learning and exploration. 
  3. Engage in Exploration with Your Child  As much as possible, explore and discover with your child as they are learning. Children are energized to learn when you are as interested and curious. It is encouraging for children when they see how fun and useful learning can be alongside their parents and family.
  4. Encourage Sharing   Supporting learning through sharing helps a child make real-world connections. Your child can share their drawing with classmates, virtually or in person, or give a family member a tutorial on how to mix red and blue paint colors to make purple. Giving children the chance to share their knowledge and excitement empowers them to keep learning and discovering.

Suggestions for Activities at Home
Recreate a Recipe from a Story
Check out these children’s books that have recipes to try. These books give your child a chance to connect with a story while practicing math and literacy skills as they cook with you.

Build an Imaginary Fort 
Give children an opportunity to be imaginative and resourceful through building forts out of blankets or castles out of cardboard. These activities expand their creativity and critical thinking skills. They also practice working together, planning, and communication skills as they design and build their magical kingdom or fort. 

Conduct Science Experiments Together
Together, you and your child can explore volcanic eruptions and how to make your own play dough. These – and many more – quick and easy science experiments provide a way to connect curiosity (and hypothesis testing) with science and creativity. 

Check out these websites for additional suggestions for authentic learning:
Virtual Field Trips
•  https://www.discoveryeducation.com/community/virtual-field-trips/
•  https://adventuresinfamilyhood.com/20-virtual-field-trips-to-take-with-your-kids.html
•  https://www.nwtrek.org/visit/field-trips/virtual-field-trips/

YouTube
Thousands of videos for your child’s specific interests 

PBS
•  https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/learning-at-home-5-steps-to-support-authentic-learning-projects
•  https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/simple-ways-to-motivate-your-child-through-curiosity

At-Home Science Experiments
•  https://www.sciencefun.org/kidszone/experiments/
•  https://sciencebob.com/category/experiments/




School Readiness

School Readiness

Written by: Jess Anderson

“Since COVID-19 began, we haven’t really left the house.” I often hear this phrase from parents of young children who are navigating the pandemic. Parents are worried about the social-emotional development of their children, along with their pre-academic learning opportunities now that preschool programs and school buildings have been closed or less accessible over the past year. 

While it is true that researchers often talk about the importance of early learning and how it can predict future academic success, research also shows that parents and caregivers are essential for preparing their children to transition to school.

School readiness is a term often used to describe a child’s preparedness for entering kindergarten, and usual refers to skills in the following areas: language and literacy, cognition, physical development, approaches to learning and self-regulation, and social and personal competency. As the pandemic continues and keeps us socially distanced and often indoors, children are still developing and ready to take on learning challenges at home. Here are some ways to foster school readiness right in your own home.

Language and Literacy
Children in their preschool years rapidly acquire new language. Pretend play can positively influence vocabulary and language acquisition, and more specifically, reading and telling stories are great ways to build language skills. Literacy is also something that can be fun and taught throughout daily activities. Highlight the letter-sounds of words you use throughout the day, saying things like, “G-g-game starts with the g sound!” Brainstorming words that rhyme can help to build phonological awareness, which is a key skill for young children to begin reading. 

Cognition
Developing cognition for school readiness is about promoting early problem-solving skills and often includes early science and math skills. Try counting blocks, or toy cars; play games of take-away (“You had five cars, but three drive away, how many are left?”) or engaging in board games that use the skill of counting (e.g., Chutes and Ladders) or games that require matching numerals (e.g., Uno). Interestingly, a child’s ability to name numerals is one of the most influential skills on later math development, and can be easily worked on at home. 

Physical Development
Supporting physical development requires thinking about a child’s gross motor and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills include running, jumping, and climbing. Fine motor skills include drawing, writing, and grasping. 

To build gross-motor skills, many safe outdoor activities (e.g., running, biking, playing on a playground) engage the large muscles of the body. However, many young children also enjoy short dance or physical activities that can be done indoors, such as GoNoodle.

For building fine motor skills, crafting is an excellent activity! Engaging in beading or drawing can help build the small muscles in a child’s hands to prepare them for writing in kindergarten. Occupational therapists recommend that children practice writing and drawing vertically (on chalkboards, white boards or easels, for example), as this can increase strength in a child’s core, shoulder, and wrist. 

Approaches to Learning and Self-Regulation
This part of school readiness focuses on learner characteristics such as curiosity and persistence, and the regulation skills necessary to cope with feelings and managing one’s own behavior. These skills can be developed throughout daily life. Young children are frequently asking questions. The next time your child asks, “Why?” ask them to make a guess about the answer to their own question, and give praise when they persist in thinking through their questions! 

One of the most powerful ways parents can help to shape strong self-regulation skills for children is by modelling these skills themselves. When you monitor and talk through your emotions, you help your child to build language around emotions and to learn strategies for coping. For example, saying, “I am feeling frustrated right now. I am going to take a short walk and come back to this later,” can help a child to learn how to identify emotions and manage them appropriately. 

Social and Personal Competency
Social and personal competency is about building social skills and personal care skills. Although it seems like relationship building skills are more difficult in a time where play-dates and peer-groups are rare, this skill can still be taught at home. Use books or characters to help children notice similarities in their experiences and the experiences of the characters to build empathy skills. Remind children of social rules such as taking turns speaking, looking at someone’s eyes and face when they are speaking, and changing volume levels depending on location (e.g., loud at the park, quiet in the apartment). Recreate social scenarios through imaginary play at a “restaurant” or “school,” and take turns with different roles.


Additional Resources:
Early Childhood Resources curated by the University of Washington College of Education: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ncAPWG5tPXRPbTKDARsGIw9pJ_yFTi43yK0LLPXtR-Q/edit?_ga=2.182232676.2102303318.1611970959-1935884844.1577913772

Activities for families and caregivers
https://cultivatelearning.uw.edu/resource-spotlight/

Supporting science development at home http://stemteachingtools.org/news/2020/guidance-for-supporting-science-learning-during-covid-19