Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bringing the Classroom Home - Week 5 - The Smell Game

Well, if you read the post for Week 4 (here), it gave us a head start on our senses! Senses are pretty cool and a ton of fun to talk about. Once you start describing what your nose smells or your ears hear, it's amazing how in tune with your surroundings you'll become!

My daughter sang a new song that totally made me cry! It went something like "God gave me ears that hear, eyes that see and hands that feel. God gave me a nose to smell and a heart that beats for You. A wahm-bahm-bahm, a wahm-bahm-bahm, a wahm-bahm-bahm, a wahm-bahm-bahm. A wahm-bahm-bahm, a wahm-bahm-bahm and a heart that beats for You."

It was shortly after this that she told me she wasn't going to sing me any more songs "because they make you cry. I know, I know, they are happy tears." Ok, I digress!

I wanted to work on the sense of smell with Big Sister. We have a short scratch-and-sniff book that she likes to read, but she typically will exhale air when I put the sticker near her nose. Then my favorite is when she says "oh, that smells good." Right, like she could tell. So, this week seemed as good as any to work on developing that skill.

I remember a game my father used to play with us when my siblings and I were young. He would hold a small piece of some food in his hand and we would have to guess what it was by smelling and tasting it. Usually it was something easy like pickles or cheese. I remember always saying "don't give us onions!" And he would always reply "I'm not going to give you something you don't like." He earned our trust and kept our trust by never giving us something that we didn't like.

So before lunch the other day, I collected a variety of distinctly scented and beloved foods for my daughter. I put them on the plate and covered them with a paper towel.

One by one I held them under her nose for her to smell. She would guess. Then I'd let her taste it to see if her answer changed.

She thought this game was quite fun and made a guess (incorrectly) for each item. Mostly she thought it was "peppermint" How does a pickle smell like a candy cane? It doesn't but this is a skill that we are developing. She has to learn to use her senses and incorrect guessing is a part of the process. She did learn to sniff in instead of breath out when trying to smell something. Some of the times she did a little panting-type sniff, but as I demonstrated how to breath deeply she did it more and more correctly.

She was excited to talk about our game at dinner that night with dad and I know that she is excited about playing it again. In my book, that's what I consider a winner!

I hope that your family can play a Smell Game and have a great time laughing over missed items, smiling over delicious treats and bonding over shared trust!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bringing the Classroom Home - Week 4 - Questions to Get Your Kids Talking!

Manners are an important skill that children need to be taught. It's easy to see that we need to teach our children to say "please" and "thank you" but manners go much farther than that. We need to be teaching our children to wait outside of an elevator for the people who are on to get off first. We need to teach them to say things like "excuse me" when they pass gas or burp. But what manners are important to teach them first and which ones can you let slide until a little later?

Early manners, say at age 1 through age 2, would be using "please" and "thank you" and using greetings when they see someone they know. These are easy to model since we (should) do this multiple times every day.

By age 2 through 3, they are beginning to learn to share and using words more than gestures or actions. This is a good age to help them learn the words to use to share and interact with peers. "I don't like it when you push me" or "I'm playing with this right now" (if they already have the toy) or "may I play with that when you are done?" are good sentences to model for your child. At this age they probably won't be saying all of those words, but they can get the message across in their own way using their words and not hitting, pushing, biting or grabbing.

The manners that my daughter's preschool (ages 3-6) teachers focused on were health related manners like coughing into your elbow and using a tissue to blow your nose (not pick it). Other manners include saying "bless you" or asking "are you ok?" when a friend coughs. Preschool is good time to be working on these skills...and your preschool teachers will appreciate it!

Here is some of what she brought home this week:

By early elementary school children need to be using manners to interact with teachers and peers, following directions and help out around the house. They need to be taught how to meet and introduce friends and adults. They can clean up toys and help set the table.

Role playing is my favorite way to work on manners. We have had to role play lots of social skills at our house. Last school year, she had to work on the skill of greeting her friends. She had the habit of "hug-tackling" She would be so excited to see her friends she would run up to them, throwing her body onto them (usually shouting their name) and knock them to the ground. If they were prepared for it, they seemed to think it was pretty fun. However, when they had their back to her and she got them from behind, it was not a pleasant surprise. We had to teach her that hugs and greeting your friends are great things but they need to be done in an appropriate way. We taught her to use her words first and ask for hugs.

This week we've worked on answering questions using complete sentences. This seems like a very language based activity but for me it falls under the idea of having good manners - of being polite. When an adult asks you a question, "I doh' know?" or "nothin'" doesn't cut it. At the same time, I recently did a Child Development Seminar for the parents at her preschool and I got a lot of questions about how to get children to answer the age old question "What did you do at school today?"

One strategy that I've used with students for years is the "What did your eyes see today?" technique. When you ask a child to try to think back through their entire day and give a detailed report, it can be very overwhelming. Instead of asking an open ended question, ask a targeted question.

My favorites revolve around the 5 senses: 
   1. What did your eyes see?
    2. What did your ears hear?
    3. What did your hands feel?
   4. What did your nose smell?
   5. What did your mouth taste?

You can also add in some other targeted questions:
    6. What book did you read?
    7. What friend did you play with?
    8. Where did you go?
    9. Who came to visit your class?
   10. What song did you sing?

Check out my handout for a visual for the first 5 questions here.

By asking very targeted questions, your child can think back through their day and focus on finding an answer to that question. At first it's going to be challenging. And you may continue to get the "I doh' know" answers, but keep prompting and helping them to give an answer. The sooner they realize that you are going to keep pressing until they give you an answer, the faster those answers will come! Plus, then they'll be in the habit of answering you and not giving a non-answer.

Be prepared, though. One day at dinner or in the car, your child will ask you: "so, Mom, what did you do today?" Make sure you are ready to give an answer! Even if all you did was do the laundry, empty the dishwasher and change a few diapers, tell your child that. You could even make it exciting. "Oh, I washed the reds so you can wear your favorite top tomorrow. And I put the dishes away so we can put the dinner dishes into the dishwasher now." Expanding on what you did, why you did it and what the next result will be will also help them to give you more details when they are answering your questions.

Big sister has started asking "what did you learn today?" Yikes! Some days it's hard to come up with what I learned! But I think it through (a fast answer is not always best, it shows that we are really thinking about what to say), and come up with something that is true to share with my daughter.

On a side note, if your child really is having difficulty remembering what happened at school, talk with her teacher. If you have the information, it will be easier for you to ask targeted questions. Instead of "what did you sing today?" you could ask "Did you sing I'm a Little Tea Pot?" or you can give options "Did you go to music or art?" I am not a big fan of yes/no questions but sometimes you have to start there to get the ball rolling!

Enjoy talking with your child about their day. I hope my little tips will help you have a more meaningful conversation with your child!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bringing the Classroom Home Week 3 - Edible LoveBugs

I was not planning on talking about fear this week as part of our "Feelings" unit, but since Big Sister has been freaking out because of the lovebugs that are everywhere right now, it was something that needed to be done anyway. In school they talked about happy and sad, which are great beginning feelings to discuss. Be careful, though, that your children don't just learn the "-ad" feelings: glad, mad, sad. There are so many other feelings that can better explain what your child is feeling. Frustrated. Disappointed. Excited. Nervous. Content.

Here's what she brought home:

I love the "sad" comment. It was perfectly fitting since that morning she was not allowed to buckle her toy into her seatbelt with her (since that would not be safe). So she was sad that we were keeping her safe. I'm ok with that! And as a mom, who doesn't want to hear that playing with your kid makes them happy! Yea!

Ok, now, onto a timely discussion about fear and bugs. We discussed that not all bugs are bad and reminded her that she loves butterflies, ladybugs and caterpillars. To which she replies "oh yeah." But mosquitoes and bees and lovebugs are "bad" bugs to her.

(there are some lovebugs on the screen in the pic. you just can't see them!)

Not quite lovebugs but I thought that they would look creepy with the little legs that lovebugs really have.

Why a lovebug snack? Well, it gave us a chance to talk about them in a positive light while they were not flying around our heads and landing on our arms and faces! Also, I thought some desensitization was in order. I don't have much psychological training (that's my husbands area!), but I know that if we can talk about things that are scary, touch them when they are not real and then eat them when they taste this good, it would only help our situation. And it has helped.

I wanted her to earn the chance to make the edible lovebugs again the next night so the "rule" was that she couldn't freak out (scream, cry, run around like crazy, etc...) at school the next day. And it worked! The teacher said that she did fine with the lovebugs at school that next day. Let me tell you, after dinner she was ready to make and eat some more oreo lovebugs! 

The next day I wanted her to earn the edible lovebug again by taking a picture of some, but they were so hard to capture with the camera...I was hoping to post a picture but none were clear enough so you'd get the idea of the lovebug. But she tried and did earn them again (again with no freaking out!).

I don't want to go as far as saying she won't have any more issues with lovebugs, but we have finished this lovebug season on a very happy (and not-so-scared) note! I hope that you can find a fun way to deal with childhood fears (and that they taste as yummy as edible oreo lovebugs)! Have you done any crafts or snack to help your child overcome a fear? I'd love for you to share it with us!

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