Friday, August 31, 2012

Fun Friday: Bedtime Sensory Tub: Lavender Dyed Rice

How to:
  1. Start by placing your uncooked rice in a plastic bag – double bag as a precaution against tears and spills! 
  2. Then mix up your color: blend blue and pink food coloring to make a lovely lavender shade
  3. Pour the food coloring into the bag of rice and stir, stir, stir to distribute the color
  4. Lay out the rice to dry over night and your rice is ready!
  5. To add an extra sensory element to our bedtime tub, add the flower heads from some lavender stalks. The rice has such a pleasant feel, as it’s soft and pours through your hands. With the added lavender it smells so relaxing too. 
  6. You could add scoops and spoons and bowls for your children to play with the rice. Or hide some little treasures in the tub for them to hunt for
Full article:

A great way to transition the kids to get ready for bed time and help relax them to make going to bed easier on everyone! Do you have any tricks you do to help your kids? Please share with us other ideas you may have!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Are Shy Kids at an Academic Disadvantage in Preschool?

A new study reveals that shy preschool children are at greater academic risk than their chatty and outgoing peers.

The study by researchers at the University of Miami shows that children displaying shy and withdrawn behavior early in the preschool year started out with the lowest academic skills and showed the slowest gains across the year.

“Everybody wants their children to be ready for kindergarten, to know their ABCs and to be able to count, but they sometimes don’t understand that having social-emotional readiness is equally important,” said Dr. Rebecca J. Bulotsky-Shearer, assistant professor of psychology and principal investigator of the study.

Behavioral problems in the classroom arise when there is a gap between the child’s developmental skills and the expectations of the school environment, according to the researchers.

The findings suggest that children who are shy in the classroom have trouble engaging and learning.

The study analyzes information from 4,417 prekindergarten children in the Head Start Program, ages 3 to 5, from a diverse population, living in a large urban district of the northeast.

Six profile types were used to describe the preschoolers:
  1. Well-adjusted
  2. Adjusted with mild disengagement
  3. Moderately socially and academically disengaged
  4. Disruptive with peers
  5. Extremely socially and academically disruptive
  6. Extremely socially and academically disengaged
The teachers assessed the emotional and behavioral characteristics, as well as the academic progress of each child, at three times during the preschool year.

The findings show that older kids and girls tended to be better adjusted, exhibited less behavioral problems, and had higher levels of social literacy, language and math skills.

“Preschool children who are very introverted tend to ‘disappear within the classroom,’” said Elizabeth R. Bell, a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology and co-author of the study.

“It appears that while these children are not causing problems in the school, they are also not engaging in classroom activities and interactions, where almost all learning occurs during this age.”

The results also raise the possibility that children who are loud and disruptive may be more likely to get the teacher’s attention and benefit from specific educational strategies.

“There are many classroom-based interventions for children that are disruptive and acting out in the classroom,” said Bulotsky-Shearer. “I think the children who show an extreme amount of shyness and are withdrawn are most at risk of getting missed.”

The researcher hopes the new findings encourage the development of appropriate classroom interventions tailored to the needs of different children, as well as appropriate training and professional development for teachers, to help them identify children who need help in specific areas.

“This is especially important within early childhood programs such as Head Start, serving a diverse population of low-income children and families,” said Bulotsky-Shearer.

Full article:

Do you have any insight or experience on this subject with your own children, students etc? We would love to hear about it!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Investing in Children's After-School Hours

Each weekday from September to June, at roughly 3:00 in the afternoon, school bells across the land ring, signaling the end of classes for the day. The sound that follows in many classrooms is familiar to anyone who's been in a classroom: books snapping shut, chair legs screeching on floors, and children moving on to their next stop. Just what that next stop is varies from community to community, family to family, and child to child. Some go off to structured activities with adult supervision; some go home to a waiting adult; some go home and are unsupervised; and some have no real option but to hang out in places where trouble is especially likely to find them.

In that first category are about 8.4 million children who are lucky enough to have afterschool programs that keep them safe and inspire them to learn, and that also help their working parents continue to work productively, secure in the knowledge that their kids are under the watchful eye of caring professionals. Unfortunately, a much larger group of children -- 15.1 million -- are left alone -- no parents, no afterschool program, no adult supervision.

The policy challenge those numbers frame for us is obvious: We need to shrink the number of children left on their own in the often-perilous afterschool hours, and we need to invest in growing the number of children who have enriching afterschool options available to them. Unfortunately, we seem to be heading in the wrong direction.

That's the inescapable conclusion from new research conducted for the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education campaign by a team of George Washington University researchers. The report focuses on state funding for programs supporting students who face economic disadvantages, with a particular eye on the effect of the recession on those programs and the children they serve.

Much of the dialogue about such programs these days focuses on the federal level and the ongoing budget debates that have dominated our politics for the past few years. But many states have been fighting budget battles of their own, and the report concludes that one result of those losing battles is that the overall gap between support services and student needs in those states has widened.

That's particularly true in the case of afterschool and summer learning programs, the researchers conclude. (The two programs are often run by the same entities, serving similar groups of students.) After taking a close look at funding levels in four states -- Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia -- they calculated that states had cut afterschool and summer program funding by an average of 16 percent per pupil.

Of course, afterschool programs aren't solely dependent on state dollars. But their other funding sources are no more ample. Fees paid by parents account for the lion's share of afterschool program funding, but high unemployment and recession-suppressed wages make that harder than ever for many families to swing. Support from the business and philanthropic communities are a challenge, as well; both have taken hits from the recession and have fewer dollars to devote to charitable causes, no matter how valuable. And federal support, chiefly from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, has been cut as a result of the budget wars in Washington. Worse, an epic post-election budget battle looms, as Congress tries to come to grips with the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts now scheduled to take effect in January -- again as a result of past budget agreements. A report released this week by the Afterschool Alliance also echoes the finding that afterschool and summer learning program budgets are shrinking, leaving programs struggling to meet the needs of children and families in their communities.

Those who see afterschool programs as expendable budget items likely have never set foot in one. Walk into an afterschool program, and you'll see kids receiving homework help and special tutoring; getting exercise; learning about science, technology and engineering; going on field trips that expand their love of music and the arts; or building robots or cars or computers. And they do these things under the supervision of afterschool providers and with the help of volunteers from community organizations or local businesses

It's exactly that sort of community engagement and that mix of fun and learning that makes these programs so successful. Great afterschool programs don't staple another couple of hours of class time onto the school day; they focus on the kinds of experiential learning activities that engage young people in their own education, connect lessons to the real world, and help students learn more during the regular school day. A number of studies show reading and mathematics gains among afterschool students, as well as behavior and attendance improvements.

For some reason, too many budget-writers seem to see afterschool and summer learning programs as add-ons, something that's nice to have when we can afford them, but not something we can pay for when times are tight. They're exactly wrong. Key to stemming the summer learning loss that drags down academic achievement among low-income students, and thus wastes precious school dollars, these programs are a terrific investment, particularly when economic times are tough.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why Fathers Matter

Bringing up a child in most societies is considered the exclusive duty of the mother. But the role of a father is as important as a mother's in a child's development. Numerous studies have revealed that children with involved fathers are at an advantage, socially and academically, over children who have little or no relationship with their fathers.

A father's love is as important to a child's emotional development as a mother's, a large-scale study has confirmed. In the new study, it revealed that the love of a father is one of the greatest influences on the personality development of a child.

In the past, psychologists studying the development of children focused mainly on children's relationships with their mothers. But these days, they have come to realise that fathers play a exceptional and vital role in nurturing and guiding children's development.

A lot of people now agree that fathers can be just as nurturing and sensitive with their babies as mothers. As their children grow, fathers take on more roles of bringing up their children intellectually and socially.

Examining the cases of more than 10,000 sons and daughters revealed how a cold or distant father can damage a child's life, sometimes for decades to come.

The review of 36 studies from around the world concluded that the love of a father is as important to children as that of their mothers According to a researcher, Professor Ronald Rohner, he said that fatherly love is key to development and hopes his findings will motivate more men to become involved in caring for their offspring. 'In the US, Great Britain and Europe, we have assumed for the past 300 years that all children need for normal healthy development is a loving relationship with their mother,' he said.

A father's input is particularly important for behaviour and can influence if a child later drinks to excess, takes drugs or suffers mental health problems. The study underlines the importance of intact and stable families where both the father and the mother are committed to bringing up their children together.

It is generally assumed that fathers are just there as support for the mothers and to support the family financially but are not required for the healthy development of the children.

That belief is fundamentally wrong and people have to start getting away from that idea and realise the father's influence is as great, and sometimes greater, than the mother's.

According to a child care expert, Mrs Rebecca Adams, children and adults everywhere irrespective of race, culture, and sex tend to react the same way whenever they perceive any form of rejection. Therefore, a father's love is just as important as a mother's, she said. She explains: "Bringing up children is not the duty of mothers alone. Most children are better off when their mothers and fathers bring them up together. This involves spending time with children, providing emotional support, giving everyday assistance, monitoring children's behaviour, and providing consistent, fair and proportionate discipline".

Take education for instance, a father's role during his children's school years has other positive outcomes. When children start school, the first years are usually difficult for them but fathers around they can help their children adjust, she notes. "When fathers are supportive, their children have little or no problems at school such as poor performance. This is s true even after taking into consideration the influence of the children's mothers".

Another aspect of child upbringing where fathers have special influence on children is moral development because fathers provide guidance and direction, Adams said. Fathers also influence their children's moral development by providing models for their children. The expert also noted that a father's special influence on child's development of personal morality lasts into adulthood. Children whose fathers were highly involved when they were growing up tend tolerant, understanding and engage in more socially responsible behaviour than those with little or no fatherly involvement, she said.

While the overall belief in parenting remains that mothers are the caregivers and fathers are the financial providers, one thing is certain: a father has a crucial role in a child's development, Adams said.

Several studies have found that a child's wellbeing depends heavily on the relationship between the father and mother. The quality of the marital relationship, for good or bad, affects parents and how they interact with their children.

The involvement of a father not only affects the children but their mother as well. When fathers are emotionally supportive of their spouses, mothers as well as children are more likely to enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Helping Children Build Skills for School Success

Getting ready for school means more than purchasing notebooks, pencils, and a backpack. Being truly prepared for school means that students walk into their first classroom having already developed important skills that allow them to learn.

Children starting school should have certain cognitive capacity, socio-emotional skills, and verbal abilities. To a certain degree, these are complicated scientific concepts with somewhat loose benchmarks. But parents recognize many of the specific goals as their children achieve them: babies who pay attention when adults speak to them, toddlers who have a grasp of sharing or taking turns, children who can describe their feelings of frustration rather than throwing tantrums.

If a child arrives on the first day of kindergarten without these key abilities, even the best teacher in the world will find it difficult, if not impossible, to teach that child. Trained staff in early intervention and early education programs teach these skills to children who are developmentally behind.

Children aren't the only ones getting ready for school. The District government has taken two important developmental steps forward recently -- and I hope will take a third step next year.

D.C. took its first step last year when it started the Strong Start campaign to urge parents and others who see children regularly -- extended family, day care providers, pediatricians -- to think critically about their child's development in an effort to identify potential delays early. You may have seen the ads on Metro buses with eye-catching photos and phrases like "If your child isn't walking, maybe you should take the next step." Families need to know that a child won't just catch up on his own. The earlier help is given, the better the child's chance to be on par with his peers by the time he starts school. The campaign is working -- this message is getting through. And many more parents are calling to get evaluations and services for their children.

D.C. is taking its second step this summer. D.C.'s Office of the State Superintendent of Education,which runs the city's early intervention program, has proposed widening the eligibility criteria for early intervention, potentially doubling the number of children who receive services.

But this second step wouldn't have been enough for "David," a Children's Law Center client we met just before he turned 2. David barely spoke at all. When he was 24 months old, an early intervention test showed David was at the speech level of an 18-month-old. Being 6 months behind meant David had a 25 percent delay in speech. An average 18-month-old will use at least a dozen real words with many words only understood by family; he may still call his bottle a "baba." A 24-month-old typically has about 50 real words in his vocabulary and can make two- and three-word phrases; he would probably be able to say "no more bottle."

David's CLC lawyer knew that he was a smart and engaged little boy despite his verbal delay. She saw David's potential to excel in school, graduate, and give back to the community if only he could get a little boost now. She also knew that without help, David would fall farther behind and start kindergarten without the verbal skills he needed to succeed. D.C. does provide some services, but David did not qualify. D.C.'s program only provides services for children who show at least a 50 percent delay. Through creative and tenacious advocacy, however, our lawyer secured services through medical insurance.

When David started kindergarten last year, he was at or above grade level in all areas -- including speech and language. The services made the difference and meant that David could spend his time in a classroom with his peers and not be left behind or pulled out for a special education program.

What's more, D.C.'s school system saved money as well. The earlier children are identified as having special needs, the easier it is to address those needs, meaning more children can avoid costlier special education services. I've testified to this in front of the D.C. Council repeatedly.

Hopefully D.C. will learn from children like David -- and make another developmental leap this year. Currently, 17 states have expanded their early intervention eligibility to include children like David. D.C. should join them. A little investment now will save heartache and financial cost down the road.

School supply drives and the donations they gather (including some that came through our office recently) make it clear that everyone knows children need backpacks, pencils, and notebooks to be ready for school. I hope that more and more people realize that children also need a critical set of skills, no less important because they're less tangible.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fun Friday: Marble Painting!


  • Pan [big baking pans work fine, as long as it has somewhat high edges] or plastic bin
  • White sheet of paper to cover the bottom of pan [can cover edges as well]
  • Marbles
  • Multiple colors of paint
  • Place sheet of paper flat inside of pan
  • Drop a few globs of paint spread out over the sheet of paper
  • Place marbles inside the pan
  • Let your little one at it! They can hold on to the sides of the pan and move it in different directions to let the marbles roll through the paint and create fun lines and scribbles

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Skimping On Sleep To Study Could Mean Worse Grades

Pulling an all-nighter to cram is really just not worth it.

At least that's what University of California, Los Angeles researchers found in their new study, published in the journal Child Development.

The study tracked 535 Los Angeles-area high school students who were in the 9th, 10th and 12th grades. They had the students keep diaries for two weeks on the amount of time they spent sleeping and studying, as well as any time they had trouble understanding a topic in class and any time they got a bad grade on an assignment or test.

The researchers found that the more time a student skimped on sleep in order to study, the worse he or she did on the assignment or test. And this held true even after taking into account the total amount of time spent studying during the daytime.

"Although these nights of extra studying may seem necessary, they can come at a cost," study researcher Andrew J. Fuligni, a professor at UCLA and senior scientist at the university's Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior, said in a statement.

Instead, Fuligni recommends students think of other things they can do to increase their study time during the day without dipping into night hours.

Perhaps this finding really isn't all that surprising -- after all, studies have shown that sleep deprivation drives up anxiety and could even make you work slower.

Plus, it could have negative effects on your health, from raising heart risks, to decreasing the body's insulin sensitivity, reported. It could also take a toll on the body's immune system.

According to the Mayo Clinic, kids and teens generally require more sleep each night than adults. School-aged children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, while adults should get seven to nine.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bedwetting is a normal part of a child's development

Bedwetting is a natural childhood developmental phase that millions of children experience. While it’s quite common, parents still struggle with interrupted sleep and extra laundry loads, and some even wonder where they might have gone wrong in the potty-training process. If not handled properly, children can even lose confidence in themselves, especially when faced with potentially discouraging situations like a sleepover at a friend’s house.

“The most important thing for parents to understand about bedwetting is that it is different than potty training. If your child is able to successfully use the bathroom during the daytime without any accidents, they have matured past the potty training stage. But many children between the ages of 4 and 6 still have accidents at night,” says Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, pediatrician. Forty percent of parents with children in this age group say their child wets the bed at least once a week, according to the June 2012 Bedwetting Study conducted by Strategy One Research. Nighttime wetness is completely normal and part of the developmental growing process.

There are many reasons why children wet the bed. The most important one to understand is that children develop at different rates. This development is something parents and their children will have to let happen at its own speed.

Also, part of that development centers around your child’s bladder. Young children still have developing and growing bladders. Because of this, they aren’t able to “hold it” for an entire night.

Finally, children are also very deep sleepers, which is great to help build energy for all the activities they do during the day. But it also prevents them from recognizing the signals that their bladder is full, leading to bedwetting situations.

According to the survey, 43 percent of parents believe they can train their child out of bedwetting. In reality, there is no training to make bedwetting go away, however parents can help their children maintain confidence by keeping the bed dry, even if the child goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night while asleep. You can help reduce the surprise of accidents by waking your child during the night for a trip to the bathroom. Also, GoodNites Underwear for boys and girls are specifically made to protect children while they’re lying down, and are 40 percent more absorbent than leading training pants. Your child’s pajamas and bed will stay dry, allowing for greater confidence and self-esteem as they grow out of this common childhood phase.

What is your opinion? Is bed wetting a natural part of growing up for a child?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tips for Parents Raising Bilingual Children:

When the Home Language Differs From the Community Language 

Be Intentional

  • Realize that everyday activities such as mealtimes, getting dressed, bath time, and playtime are all opportunities for talking, teaching, and providing quality language exposure. Be intentional about ongoing verbal interactions about things, routines and events in your child’s life. 
  • Arrange for varied opportunities for your child to have diverse contexts for engaging in the minority language such as book sharing and reading experiences, singing, educational videos, children’s shows, play groups, family visits and trips. It is important for your child to have access to other speakers of the minority language as much as possible. 
  • When your child uses incorrect words or grammar, simply model the correct vocabulary and/or sentence structure in response to the child’s utterance.
  • When appropriate, expand your child’s utterances by first affirming what he/she said and then by adding to what was said if the vocabulary or grammar usage was lacking. 
  • Even if your child is tending to speak more in the majority language, continue speaking to him/her in the minority language. When appropriate, recast the utterance, or present it in a different or changed structure while maintaining its meaning. For example, if your child utters a phrase or sentence partly or entirely in the majority language, recast the utterance in the minority language, modeling correct usage where any vocabulary or grammatical gaps were noted.
  • Instill in your child a sense of pride and “need” for the minority language by keeping it relevant and constant in his/her everyday life. Children will inevitably discard a language they do not feel they need.
  • Consider teaching your child to read and write in the minority language. The more competencies your child develops in the minority language, the more internally relevant and important that language will become. 

Be Consistent

  • If you are the primary source of language input for your child in the minority language, consistently speak to your child in that language whether at home or out in the community.
  • Though code mixing, or alternating between two languages while speaking, is completely normal and appropriate for bilinguals, in order to clearly draw a line between the two languages in your child’s      linguistic environment, limit code mixing as much as possible at least at the beginning stages. 

Be Persistent 

  • Don’t lose heart or give up even if your child’s language proficiency or skills seem to fluctuate over time in his/her two languages. Some fluctuation is normal as children learn to navigate between both languages. 
  • Don’t allow for interruptions or long periods of little or no exposure to the minority language. 
  • When it seems hard and laborious, remember the long-term benefits and rewards you are bestowing upon your child by raising him/her to be bilingual.
  • Relatives, friends, and community members may  misunderstand or even disagree with your decision to raise your child bilingually for various reasons. If you can, kindly educate them about your decision, but if not, politely stand your ground based on what’s best for your child. Your dedication, consistency and   persistence will pay off in the end!

Monday, August 20, 2012

7 Surprising Back to School Hazards

Several recent trends combined with long hours in crowded, germy classrooms can put kids at risk for a wide range of problems, from back pain to nerve injuries, infections, obesity, and bullying. In fact, 40 percent of kids ages 5 to 17 get hurt or sick at school each year.

The good news, however, is that simple steps can help protect your child’s health. Here are the health hazards to watch for and how to prevent them.

Problem: Overloaded backpacks cause back pain

A 2003 study of 1122 backpack users aged 12-18 showed that almost 75 percent suffered from back pain.

Solution: Weigh your child’s backpack—and lighten the load. Research from theChildren’s Orthopaedic Center shows that back pain is reduced when children carry lighter backpacks, and use school lockers, so encourage your children to drop off books they don’t need in their lockers between classes. Make sure that your kid’s backpack doesn’t exceed 10-15 percent of his or her bodyweight: they may need to leave some items at home.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons also recommends that students use both shoulder straps so that the weight is distributed evenly. And the National Safety Council recommends padded backpacks with compression straps, in addition to looking out for signs that a backpack is too heavy, such as red marks, pain, tingling or numbness, postural changes and difficulty putting on or taking off the backpack.

Problem: Too much time parked in a chair

According to a 2006 School Health Policies and Programs Study cited by the CDC, only 3.8 percent of elementary schools, 7.9 percent of middle schools and 2.1 percent of high schools provided daily physical education or its equivalent for the entire school year for students in all grades.

There’s a new recognition that “sitting disease”—a deadly epidemic of health problems linked to a sedentary lifestyle, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease—can be as dangerous to kids and adults as smoking.

Solution: The CDC recommends at least an hour of physical activity for children and adolescents. Make sure your kids are supplementing the exercise they’re getting—or not getting--at school by playing outdoors after classes let out. As I recently reported, fun in the sun improves everything from kids’ vitamin D levels to their weight, mental health and even vision.

Problem: Crowded, germy classrooms

A 2010 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases linked the start of school (and the two weeks following) with a large spike in flu infections. Kids lose 60 million school days a year to flu and colds alone.

Solution: Common-sense precautions, such as making sure your kids wash their hands with soap and water, and avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes. Also tuck tissues and hand sanitizer in their backpacks. A yearly flu vaccine can also be helpful.

Problem: Weight gain

Although many schools are banning sodas from vending machines, sugary sports drinks are still widely available. As I’ve reported previously, sports drinks are not necessary for electrolyte replenishment and, in fact, lead to childhood obesity as well as tooth decay.

Solution: Although sports drinks may be available in the vending machine, encourage kids to stick to water. And pack a healthy bag lunch rather opting for cafeteria meals where ketchup may be counted as a "vegetable".

Problem: A rise in cyberbullying

72 percent of students reported at least one incident of cyberbullying, according to a study published in the Journal of School Health. These incidents, which typically involved name-calling and insults through instant messages or social media have led to increased social anxiety.

Solutions: 90 percent of students stated they didn’t report the cyberbullying to an adult, and “only a minority of participants had used digital tools to prevent online incidents,” the study authors wrote. Talk to your children about cyberbullying, so that they’re comfortable to discuss it with you or another adult if it happens to them. Also, make sure they know how to prevent unwanted contact electronically—such as blocking certain users, and reporting the harassment to the content provider. The Cyberbullying Resource Center further recommends saving evidence of cyberbullying, and contacting the police if you feel your child is in danger.

Problem: Sleep deprivation

Adolescents average as much as two hours less sleep per night during the school year, according to a 2005 study published in Pediatrics. Skimping on slumber has also been been linked to lead to higher rates of teen driving accidents on school days.

Solutions: Help your children set a schedule that allows them to complete all of their homework in the afternoon, so that they’re not staying up late finishing it at the last minute. The National Sleep Foundation also recommends avoiding eating, drinking, exercising, phone and computer use and watching television for the last few hours before bed, replacing them with quiet, calm activities instead.

Problem: Stress

School-related stress affects 2 out of 3 students, according to research by Mollie Galloway and Dr. Denise Pope, involving more than 10,000 middle school and high school students. The top source of stress reported was schoolwork, including projects and papers, homework, tests, deadlines and grades.

“Students who spent the most hours on homework each night experienced more stress-related physical symptoms and poorer mental health than the other groups,” the study authors wrote. And those who spent the most time on homework were more likely to drop out of hobbies or activities, gain weight and suffer from exhaustion and other physical symptoms of stress.

Solutions: Provide homework assistance if necessary and set a schedule so that kids aren’t struggling with assignments for longer than necessary. A balanced diet, getting enough sleep and more exercise can also help children cope with the tension in their lives.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fun Friday: Paper Towel Roll Owls

Here’s what you will need:

One full length Kitchen roll or two toilet rolls
Contrasting Colored paper for the body & wings ( any color except white & yellow)
Yellow paper / foam for the beak
Googly eyes


Cut the toilet roll to size. We made one 6 inch & 1 3 inch one.
Cut the colored paper to size that is about an inch larger than the tube height
Paste around the roll firmly using glue
Gently fold at the top end to form ears
Paste Googly eyes (larger the better)
Cut the yellow paper in a triangle shape and paste to form the beak
Cut contrasting patterned paper into 2 leaf shapes
Paste to form the wings.

These owls form real pretty garden accessories and can be placed on pots or allowed to hang from the balcony rails

full article: 

Do you recycle stuff to make crafts? Please share other ideas with us!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Finger Foods and Choking Hazards

I get a lot of questions in my office and via email about when to start children on table foods. In reality, as your 9 – 12 month old child begins to eat soft table foods there really are not foods that are off limits. With that being said the issue is not allergic reactions to some foods, but rather airway obstruction and choking. By that I mean that your child can eat almost any food that can be cooked, mashed, squished, slurped, or can dissolve in saliva. (Only rule is no unpasteurized honey until 1 year).

I saw a mother last week who was so nervous about finger foods that she was cutting up cheerios! How can you even cut up a Cheerio? I haven’t tried it, but it seems to me that the Cheerio would just disintegrate into little particles of dust. In actuality, if your child put a Cheerio into their mouth they might gag from a new texture, but the Cheerio itself would break up in the child’s saliva and would not obstruct the child’s airway as it was swallowed. The newer version of Cheerio’s is the Gerber Puff and also the Mum-Mum. Any of these work well as an early finger food.

Young children, under the age of 2 ½ to 3 years, don’t know how to chew. Even if they have a lot of teeth they instinctively put the chunk of food in their mouths and swallow (have you seen teenage boys eat?). If the chunk is large enough or cannot be broken down by the saliva in the mouth, the chunk of whatever might be aspirated and go down the wrong way and cause a child to choke. This is obviously true with not only foods, but with small objects.

So, a child can have peanut butter, but not a peanut. Almonds and cashews are a no-no too, but almond and cashew butters are fine. No worrying about allergies anymore, those guidelines changed several years ago, but I still hear gasps when I tell parents to try peanut butter!

A child can have a strawberry or melon that is really ripe and has been cut into very small pieces, but not a fancy melon ball. No need to worry about allergies to berries or exotic fruits, just watch for choking issues.

What about fish? Flaky fish is a great finger food for a child and very healthy too, but avoid scallops or shrimp that are difficult to eat unless you can chew. (maybe you know of a way to prepare mushy shrimp?)

Questions continue about veggies, and they are all fine. Just cook them well done, some might even say overcooked, and then cut them into little pieces and just hand your child several pieces at a time.

A brussel sprout may be a choking hazard if it is not taken apart, but green beans, peas, carrots, beets, spinach are all great for young children. Experiment with as many fruits and vegetables as you can. You may even find some new foods that you like.

A well balanced diet is the most important rule. Even if your child pushes some of their finger foods away, keep offering a wide variety of foods. Children only learn to try new foods and textures with repetitive exposure. It may take 12 times for your child to smoosh the broccoli between their fingers before they even put it in their mouths.

So… remember airway protection is what you are concerned about, and not reaction to foods. Although food allergies do exist they are much less common than previously thought to be. Let your child try different foods all of the time and eventually you may be surprised at what a good eater your child becomes. It takes practice and time. A little patience with the mess of finger feeding is important too, toddlers do not start out neat, they have too learn those manners along the way.

When did your kids(s) start eating more solid foods? What is your kids favorite finger food? Any suggestions on types of finger foods for other parents?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dyslexia Caused by Faulty Signal Processing in Brain; Finding Offers Clues to Potential Treatments

Many children and adults have difficulties reading and writing, and the reason is not always obvious. Those who suffer from dyslexia can exhibit a variety of symptoms. Thanks to research carried out by Begoña Díaz and her colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, a major step forward has been made in understanding the cause of dyslexia.

The scientists have discovered an important neural mechanism underlying dyslexia and shown that many difficulties associated with dyslexia can potentially be traced back to a malfunction of the medial geniculate body in the thalamus. The results provide an important basis for developing potential treatments.

People who suffer from dyslexia have difficulties with identifying speech sounds in spoken language. For example, while most children are able to recognise whether two words rhyme even before they go to school, dyslexic children often cannot do this until late primary school age. Those affected suffer from dyslexia their whole lives. However, there are also always cases where people can compensate for their dyslexia. "This suggests that dyslexia can be treated. We are therefore trying to find the neural causes of this learning disability in order to create a basis for improved treatment options," says Díaz.

Between five and ten percent of the world's children suffer from dyslexia, yet very little is known about its causes. Even though those affected do not lack intelligence or schooling, they have difficulties in reading, understanding and explaining individual words or entire texts. The researchers showed that dyslexic adults have a malfunction in a structure that transfers auditory information from the ear to the cortex is a major cause of the impairment: the medial geniculate body in the auditory thalamus does not process speech sounds correctly. "This malfunction at a low level of language processing could percolate through the entire system. This explains why the symptoms of dyslexia are so varied," says Díaz.

Under the direction of Katharina von Kriegstein, the researchers conducted two experiments in which several volunteers had to perform various speech comprehension tasks. When affected individuals performed tasks that required the recognition of speech sounds, as compared to recognize the voices that pronounced the same speech, magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) recordings showed abnormal responses in the area around the medial geniculate body. In contrast, no differences were apparent between controls and dyslexic participants if the tasks involved only listening to the speech sounds without having to perform a specific task. "The problem, therefore, has nothing to do with sensory processing itself, but with the processing involved in speech recognition," says Díaz. No differences could be ascertained between the two test groups in other areas of the auditory signalling path.

The findings of the Leipzig scientists combine various theoretical approaches, which deal with the cause of dyslexia and, for the first time, bring together several of these theories to form an overall picture. "Recognising the cause of a problem is always the first step on the way to a successful treatment," says Díaz. The researchers' next project is now to study whether current treatment programmes can influence the medial geniculate body in order to make learning to read easier for everyone in the long term.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Future of Apps for Young Children: Beyond ABC & 123

Apps on multi-touch devices like the iPad or Android smartphones have the potential to revolutionize early childhood education, and help build a stronger foundation for lifelong learning in the 21st century. But, this potential needs to be realized. It is not a given that technology in the hands of young children will benefit their development.

We need everyone who is involved in developing digital tools for children to be thoughtful, purposeful and not settle for second best. Investors, developers, producers, authors, programmers and parents all need to be alert to understanding how and why these tools can support children and make sure we all do our part to make their experience a valuable one.

The "natural" user interface that now exists on screens is cleverly designed to respond to children's core fine motor skill development. This means the tool is designed to meet the capacity of little hands and introduce them to a world of virtual objects, images and sounds that even the youngest children can manipulate as they touch, swipe, or pinch their way around the screen. Designers can even create new ways for children to play with the properties of letters, words, numbers, musical notes and other symbols fundamental to success in modern life.

Interactions like these could be combined with physical world activities to create new ways of engaging children across the early childhood curriculum. While this potential is enormous, the current market of children's apps is relatively narrow. Literacy, math and collections of "early learning" topics -- letter, numbers, shapes and colors -- are the most common. Very few apps promote gross motor activities like running, hopping or jumping, or help children navigate the emotional ups and downs of playing with their peers. Even fewer provide a foundation for developing 21st century skills like network literacy and critical thinking.

So what's the right way to look at potential areas for more app development? We see two major ones. First, consider the full circle of child development that encompasses cognitive, social-emotional and physical development. Second, look to the future of learning in the 21st century, and re-consider what kind of foundation will be most useful to this generation. The remainder of this blog post focuses on the first point.

How can apps address the "whole child"? Children's cognitive development and learning include many domains other than literacy and math. Science, art, music, geography and other traditional subject areas involve unique knowledge and skills that even very young children can engage with in some essential form. For example, Sid's Science Fair lets children think and act like scientists as they categorize objects and observe events unfolding both forward and backward in time.

Social-emotional capacities can be addressed with apps that engage children in imaginative play, collaborative activity or knowledge of emotions. Toca Store is a good example of an app that lets children participate in imaginative play by providing support for taking on multiple roles and playing collaboratively. Toontastic provides a more open-ended set of tools for children to create and share their own animated stories. These kinds of apps provide just enough guidance to get kids started on a play theme, while letting the motivation and content come from them. They learn in the process of playing alone or with a friend, and from the seeing and sharing the results. Apps like Feel Electric! and ABA Flash Cards & Games - Emotions offer other ways of teaching children about feelings and how to express them.

Even children's physical development can be supported when apps are used to prompt off-screen activity, or inform children about health and nutrition. Of course fine motor development can easily be engaged by on-screen drawings, mazes or letter-writing apps. However, gross motor skills can be also be supported by apps like Out-A-Bout, which prompts parents and children to act out a story, photograph each scene, and then enjoy their own personalized ebook creation. Similarly Color Vacuum prompts children to physically move around their environment, hunting for colors and capturing them to their screen. In these cases, apps act as a guide to vigorous physical activity, rather than constraining it.

Healthy eating and hygiene are other aspects of physical development that have great potential for app design beyond what exists to date. They could provide age-appropriate nutritional information to children in a stand-alone game, for example, or in a context-aware app that turns grocery shopping into a nutrition safari. Similarly, apps could use game structures or interesting information to provide new kinds of engagement during tooth brushing, or washing hands before meals. For instance, Brushy Brush is a Sesame Street video that works well as a guide to fun and effective brushing, and as a reward for a job well done. When shown on a smartphone it can be integrated easily into a morning or evening family routine.

In the hands of a knowledgeable parent or teacher, mobile multi-touch devices can bring new
learning dimensions to children's everyday activities in the home, car, school, museum or any other setting. This flexibility means that the educational potential of apps is not just in their content, but also in how they can be used in various contexts to address children's cognitive, social-emotional and physical development.

Most parents, of course, don't have a degree in early childhood education, and have to turn to trusted guides for help. For instance, YogiPlay is a new personalized mobile platform that recommends apps based on principles of child development and learning to help parents discover gems in the current morass of "educational" kid apps. We call on everyone involved in the design, development, marketing, and use of apps for young children to consider the whole child, and not to be limited by traditional academic curriculum. This is a theme that we expand further in a future blog post on 21st century learning.

Going off this tech theme we posted about the last few days, what is your opinion on using technology to help children learn? Is it a new and better way to improve their skills? Or is it too much? Let us know what your opinion is!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Question of the Century: Does More Tech in Classrooms Help Children Learn?

As more educational programs turn digital, teachers are finding that blending technology into the learning experience offers kids a crucial leg up in the classroom.

Karen Martinez’s daughter, Daniella, graduated fifth grade with honors this year and is now reading at a sixth grade level. Just two years ago, she was diagnosed as a special-needs child who struggled with reading. What made the change? Her mother pulled her out of a school that rarely used computers for learning, enrolling her in Rocketship Education, one of five charter schools in San Jose, California. Students there spend 25% of their school day in a computer lab with online content targeted to their development level. “My daughter was broken and now she’s starting to mend,” Martinez says.

The goal of Rocketship is to help close the achievement gap by serving low-income students who don’t have the advantages of their wealthy peers. It’s just one of the many schools following a fast-accelerating trend called “blended learning,” where students spend a portion of their day engaging in technology. And it seems to be working. Rocketship schools were the highest-performing elementary schools serving low income students in California last year, according to scores on a state standardized test — outperforming even schools in more affluent areas.

Technology As a Way to Bolster Achievement

But it’s not the technology alone that bolsters learning, says Michael B. Horn, executive director of the education practice at Innosight Institute, a non-profit think tank that focuses on education and innovation. Districts that see the most advantages use technology for active, not passive learning, giving students control over the pace of their learning. He says that’s proven to be an “exciting way to bolster student learning as it allows us to customize an education for each child according to his or her distinct learning needs.” Horn says blended learning is far more cost effective, since schools can use it to offer advanced courses online that otherwise would be unavailable, especially in core subjects like math and reading.

Mary Beth Hertz, a technology integration specialist for Philadelphia schools and a blogger for Edutopia, says technology allows for better use of class time through a “flipped classroom,” where students can view online lectures at home. The programs also allow teachers to put content, assignments and guided questions at the beginning of a unit and students can move through the material at their own pace, she says. This way, the students learn in the way that works best for them, whether it’s a competitive game, a collaborative activity or a visual approach, says Tom Vander Ark, a partner in Learn Capitol, an education venture fund, and author ofGetting Smart, How Digital Learning is Changing the World (Wiley, 2011).
Tech for the Real World

As more schools come online, there are even more ways to engage with technology. Ann Flynn, director of education technology and state association services for the National School Boards Association, says students can take advantage of programs like the Futures Channel, which shows how math can be used in the design of skateboards. This “helps students start to see where science and math intersect with real world careers that they never thought about.” That digital engagement and passion for math and science often can translate into an interest in careers in those fields, an area where the U.S. had been lagging behind, says Paulo Bliksten, an assistant professor of education at Stanford University. As a majority of schools nationwide have internet access, Vander Ark calls digital education “the great equalizer,” that will extend “a quality secondary education to every young person on the planet.”
How to Find a Tech-Savvy School

So how do you know if your child’s school is using technology to its fullest potential? Here are some tips from experts for finding a school that provides the best setting for blended learning.
Make sure schools have a team of teachers, or specific administrators, who are responsible for overseeing the technology.
Visit classrooms to see how technology and learning relate to and complement each other. Nix schools that focus on using technology solely for memorization in favor of those fostering student inquiry and problem solving.
Make sure staff have training in how to use the technology.
Avoid schools with only a dial-up system or minimal wireless hotspots.

Full article:

What do you think about having an overload of technology in order to help children learn? Are there some benefits? What about consequences?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fun Friday: Mess Free Finger Painting

Squirt blobs of paint into ziplock bags and seal the bags tightly!

Place a white sheet of paper under the bag and tape it securely to the table.


Ask your kinds what the two colors mix to become

Tip: try and remove all the air bubbles you can before sealing the bag!

idea from blog:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thinking about others is not child's play: brain study

When you try to read other people’s thoughts, or guess why they are behaving a certain way, you employ a skill known as theory of mind. This skill, as measured by false-belief tests, takes time to develop: In children, it doesn’t start appearing until the age of 4 or 5.

Several years ago, MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe showed that in adults, theory of mind is seated in a specific brain region known as the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ). Saxe and colleagues at MIT have now shown how brain activity in the TPJ changes as children learn to reason about others’ thoughts and feelings.

The findings suggest that the right TPJ becomes more specific to theory of mind as children age, taking on adult patterns of activity over time. The researchers also showed that the more selectively the right TPJ is activated when children listen to stories about other people’s thoughts, the better those children perform in tasks that require theory of mind.

The paper, published in the July 31 online edition of the journal Child Development, lays the groundwork for exploring theory-of-mind impairments in autistic children, says Hyowon Gweon, a graduate student in Saxe’s lab and lead author of the paper.

“Given that we know this is what typically developing kids show, the next question to ask is how it compares to autistic children who exhibit marked impairments in their ability to think about other people’s minds,” Gweon says. “Do they show differences from typically developing kids in their neural activity?”

Saxe, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences and associate member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, is senior author of the Child Development paper. Other authors are Marina Bedny, a postdoc in Saxe’s lab, and David Dodell-Feder, a graduate student at Harvard University.

Tracking theory of mind

The classic test for theory of mind is the false-belief test, sometimes called the Sally-Anne test. Experimenters often use dolls or puppets to perform a short skit: Sally takes a marble and hides it in her basket, then leaves the room. Anne then removes the marble and puts it in her own box. When Sally returns, the child watching the skit is asked: Where will Sally look for her marble?

Children with well-developed theory of mind realize that Sally will look where she thinks the marble is: her own basket. However, before children develop this skill, they don’t realize that Sally’s beliefs may not correspond to reality. Therefore, they believe she will look for the marble where it actually is, in Anne’s box.

Previous studies have shown that children start making accurate predictions in the false belief test around age 4 — but this happens much later, if ever, in autistic children.

In this study, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look for a link between the development of theory of mind and changes in neural activity in the TPJ. They studied 20 children, ranging from 5 to 11 years old.

Each child participated in two sets of experiments. First, the child was scanned in the MRI machine as he or she listened to different types of stories. One type focused on people’s mental states, another also focused on people but only on their physical appearances or actions, and a third type of story focused on physical objects.

The researchers measured activity across the brain as the children listened to different stories. By subtracting neural activity as they listen to stories about physical states from activity as they listen to stories about people’s mental states, the researchers can determine which brain regions are exclusive to interpreting people’s mental states.

In younger children, both the left and right TPJ were active in response to stories about people’s mental states, but they were also active when the children listened to stories about people’s appearances or actions. However, in older children, both regions became more specifically tuned to interpreting people’s thoughts and emotions, and were no longer responsive to people’s appearances or actions.

For the second task, done outside of the scanner, the researchers gave children tests similar to the classic Sally-Anne test, as well as harder questions that required making moral judgments, to measure their theory-of-mind abilities. They found that the degree to which activity in the right TPJ was specific to others’ mental states correlated with the children’s performance in theory-of-mind tasks.

Kristin Lagattuta, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, says the paper makes an important contribution to understanding how theory of mind develops in older children. “Getting more insight into the neural basis of the behavioral development we’re seeing at these ages is exciting,” says Lagattuta, who was not involved in the research.

In an ongoing study of autistic children undergoing the same type of tests, the researchers hope to learn more about the neural basis of the theory-of-mind impairments seen in autistic children.

“So little is known about differences in neural mechanisms that contribute to these kinds of impairments,” Gweon says. “Understanding the developmental changes in brain regions related to theory of mind is going to be critical to think of measures that can help them in the real world.”

full article:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Generic Language Leads Children to Develop Social Steryotypes

Consider the following statements: "Girls have long hair"; "Jews celebrate Passover"; "Italians love pasta." These statements make claims that we view as generally true of groups, even though we can easily call to mind exceptions (e.g., girls with short hair, Italians who dislike pasta, etc.). In linguistics these statements are called "generics." Generics are frequent, found in every language studied to date, and often appear harmless.
Nevertheless, recent research that Dr. Sarah-Jane Leslie (of Princeton University) and I conducted, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that generics play a troubling role in child development. In our first two studies, we showed 4-year-old children pictures of a fictional group of people, which we called "Zarpies." The group of Zarpies was diverse for sex (half were male, half female), race (equal numbers of white, African-American, Latino, and Asian characters), and age (including children, young adults, and elderly people).
Children were shown Zarpies one at a time. As they saw each new Zarpie, some of the children heard generic sentences (e.g., "Look at this Zarpie! Zarpies are scared of ladybugs"), while others heard non-generic sentences (e.g., "Look at this Zarpie! This Zarpie is scared of ladybugs"). A few days later, we examined what children in the two groups thought about Zarpies.
Hearing generic sentences had striking effects on children's beliefs. First, several days later, children who had previously heard generics more often assumed that Zarpies would share new traits. For example, we told them a new trait of a particular new Zarpie (e.g., "This Zarpie makes a buzzing sound"). Children who had previously heard generics were more likely to assume that other Zarpies, even those that differed in sex, race, and age, would share the new traits (e.g., would also make buzzing sounds).
What does this mean? We believe that the previously heard generics prepared children to develop new stereotypes about Zarpies. In this way, hearing seemingly harmless generic statements about girls, for example (e.g., "Girls have long hair") may prepare children to develop other, more problematic stereotypes about them (e.g., the belief that if one girl dislikes math, other girls will dislike it, too).
Second, the children who previously heard generics were more likely to view Zarpie traits as inborn and inevitable. To test this, several days after children learned about Zarpies via either generic or non-generic language, we told them stories in which a baby was born to Zarpie parents but grew up with non-Zarpie parents.
Children who had previously heard generics were more likely to assume that the baby would still grow up to have Zarpie traits (e.g., being scared of, instead of liking, ladybugs). Children saw developing these traits as an inevitable consequence of being born a Zarpie. This shows that generics can lead children to view stereotypes as inevitable and natural -- to believe, for example, that girls will always dislike math, regardless of the environment they grow up in.
Seemingly innocuous generic sentences, including sentences such as "girls have long hair" or "Italians love pasta," not only communicate specific facts (about hair and pasta) but also prepare children to develop more stereotypes.
In a third study, we examined the circumstances under which parents produce generics when talking to their children. For this study, we first introduced parents to the Zarpies, in one of two ways: We told some parents that Zarpies are very different from other people, but other parents that Zarpies are very similar to other people. We then gave parents a book of pictures of individual Zarpies, with no text, and asked them to talk about the pictures with their children.
Parents who had been told that Zarpies were very different from other people produced more generics when talking to their children. For example, upon seeing a Zarpie sleeping in a hammock in a tree, parents who had been told that Zarpies were different from other people produced more generics (e.g., "Zarpies sleep in trees"). These sentences were very rare in the group of parents who had been told that Zarpies were similar to other people (instead, they said things like, "He is sleeping in a tree").
What do all these findings mean? We believe that when parents view a group of people as very different from others, they are more likely to produce generics to talk about the group with their children. Hearing these generics then prepares children to develop stereotypes about those groups. In this way, parents may unknowingly transmit tendencies toward stereotyping particular groups to their children via generic language.
These findings do not show that generic language creates social stereotyping. Thinking of people in terms of group memberships is a pervasive component of human psychology. However, these findings do show that our language can influence whether children develop tendencies to stereotype certain groups. For example, hearing less generic language about gender, race, or religion should help reduce tendencies toward forming stereotypes based on those categories.

Do you have any personal experience with development of stereotypes in your children? Do you do anything to help prevent this development?

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Lessons of health, wellness follow children through their lives Read more: The Herald-Sun - Lessons of health wellness follow children through their lives

Who is responsible for solving the problem of childhood obesity? It surely exists. Nearly 10 percent of infants and toddlers have excess weight and almost a third of children are overweight or obese. Research tells us that excessive weight gain in infants and toddlers is more likely to lead to overweight children. And evidence indicates that for children under the age of 6 with a high Body Mass Index (BMI), adult obesity is likely to follow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 4 percent of elementary schools nationwide offer physical education daily.

The threat of long-term chronic and serious health-related issues aside, childhood obesity impacts school performance and outcomes, including increased school absences, repeating a grade, or lack of academic engagement. And that fact should be reason enough to turn parents and early childhood educators into advocates for childhood obesity prevention.

This past spring, when Durham’s Partnership for Children (the Partnership) participated in the Great Human Race, we asked our supporters to donate funds to the cause of obesity prevention. With the fundraising dollars we collected from our generous donors and advocates in prevention, we purchased health and wellness equipment to distribute to a dozen child care centers across Durham. At the end of this month, as preschoolers enter their pre-kindergarten classrooms, they will see the shiny new equipment we were able to deliver. Some of the new items include gardening equipment and rain barrels, athletic balls, jump ropes and hula hoops. Community members and Partnership staff were eager to assist in enhancing health and wellness practices at these centers.

We believe parents should have high expectations of the facility at which their child receives care and education during the day. 

Among the operation requirements within the child care setting that are regulated by the state – including staff-child ratios, building and space requirements, and sanitation requirements – are health-related activities.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education of the Department of Health and Human Services sets these regulations and ensures our child care facilities are physically safe and healthy environments. Child care settings are required – at a minimum – to provide nutritious meals and snacks at least once every four hours, no less than one hour daily outdoor time, and space and time for rest, as well as limit screen time.

When early childhood professionals use the term “high-quality” in relation to child care, we are referencing 4- and 5-star centers that invest in curriculum and programming that goes beyond the minimum health and safety requirements in providing for young children. These centers are intentional in engaging children in practices that prevent obesity, including utilizing nutrition supports and implementing innovative curriculum that keeps preschoolers and toddlers physically active.

“Nutrition and children being active is a focus area for Child Care Services Association (CCSA),” said Monnie Griggs, Technical Assistance Director at CCSA. Child Care Services Association is one of a number of funded partners of the Partnership, offering programming in early care and education to child care centers across Durham and Orange County. 

CCSA's Meal Service Program provides two nutritious meals plus one nutritious snack per day to children enrolled in participating child care centers. This allows centers to purchase nutritional meals and snacks at cost, without having to maintain expensive kitchens. Following U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, the catered meals provide ample portion sizes that meet or exceed federal standards. Additionally, CCSA provides training on nutrition and activities, with Technical Assistance Specialists spending time in child care centers helping providers incorporate proper nutrition and physical activities into their daily routines. 

“Teaching children how to make healthy choices, introducing them to healthy foods, and providing them with opportunities to be active is just as important to a child’s development as teaching them to read and introducing them to new words,” Griggs explained. “These lessons will follow them through their lives and play an important role in their future success in school and life.”

As part of the Partnership’s Docs for Tots N.C. Initiative and Duke’s Healthy Lifestyles for Children Program, pediatric residents connect with Durham County preschoolers during 30-minute lessons twice monthly to teach nutrition and wellness instruction tailored for 4-year-olds. The children are able to participate in physical activity and learn about healthy eating from medical professionals.

A number of high-quality centers in Durham are making massive investments on their playgrounds through implementation of outdoor learning environments. By developing more natural environments within the playground setting, such as incorporating natural landscapes, gardens and bike trails, child care centers are better able to combine learning with physical activity in the natural setting. Durham Early Head Start sites are great examples of this success. 

Centers that include gardens in their outdoor environments are able to provide hands-on, project-based instruction to children about the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables and the physical opportunity to care and maintain a garden. As new foods are introduced to children, the teacher is able to make connections: “This squash is just like what we are growing in our garden.” Or better yet, “This is the squash we grew and picked. Who wants to taste it?”

“I think that the centers that do this well also make an effort to involve families,” Griggs explained. “If families can reinforce the same lessons at home about the importance of trying new foods and being active it helps to provide a consistent message for the children.”

Children witness teachable moments everywhere they go – their home, their school, their church, even the grocery store. When the message of health and wellness is modeled and reinforced to children from an entire community that places emphasis on the issue of wellbeing, all of our young children benefit.

Full article:

Just how important is it to teach lessons on living a healthy lifestyle early on? What do you do to help your children learn these lessons? Let us know your opinion!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fun Friday: Planning an Olympic Celebration for your Kids!

 The Olympics are fun for everyone to watch - kids included!  Wouldn't your kids love to participate in their own Olympics?!
Thanks to Angie, a great mom & party planner, here's a fun way to get kids more involved in celebrating during the Olympic Games this summer!
When faced with choosing a theme for her son's birthday party this year, Angie thought it would be memorable to host an Olympic-themed party in a local park.  She hosted an amazing party and has graciously shared her photos & ideas below! 

So here's all the details you'll need to put together your own Olympic Celebration!

Decide on Your Events

 Your first task is to choose which events will be included in your celebration.  You can choose events that mirror the ones at the Olympic Games or come up with your own list of events.
Angie decided to combine some individual events and team events in her celebration and also made sure the events were very focused on the kids having fun!  She included: potato sack race, wheelbarrow race, hop on one foot, three-legged race, crab walk, kick a soccer ball, and a spider walk.  The final event at her celebration was a tug-of-war and she told me the kids just LOVED it!

Find a 'Host' Location

If you're planning to have track & field events, look into reserving a local park or finding a large open area.  If you think you may include some swimming events, find a community pool that's also close to a park.
In keeping with the Olympic theme, label your location as your "host site" if you're making invitations for the celebration.

Hydrate the Athletes

 I just LOVE that Angie was so conscious to include healthy behaviors at her celebration.  She supplied sports drinks (colorless and dye free) for the kids to drink during the competitions and printed lables with each child's name so they wouldn't get them mixed up.
Other healthy behaviors you might also include at the event could be warm-up stretches, having fresh fruit available and reminding the athletes to get a good night's sleep to keep their bodies healthy.

Choose Your Countries & Represent!

 Angie had a large group and decided to divide the boys into 5 teams.  Each team had an assigned color (red, blue, black, yellow and green) and all team members were given sweatbands and a headband that color-coordinated with his team.
Remember to focus on team work and supporting one another in the games.  In Angie's words, "We encouraged team spirit by giving each coach face paint markers and the teams had fun decorating their faces. Each boy was also given a flag of various countries."

Let the Games Begin

 Decide how you would like to begin your celebration.  You might go all out and have your own 'opening ceremony'.  And of most importance is the 'passing of the torch'.  Since Angie was celebrating her son's birthday, the birthday boy led the way to the field with an Olympic torch (made from a piece of white cardstock and red, yellow and orange tissue paper). 
You might choose one child to be the torch bearer (maybe a younger sibling who isn't competing in the celebration) or you might have each child bring their own torch.
As you hold the various events, make sure to emphasize the fun part of the games and focus on everyone doing their best.  Remember the Olympic Creed states "the most important thing.. is not to win but to take part".

Award Ceremony

You can choose how you'd like to award the athletes and competing teams.  Angie made chocolate chip cookies and wrapped them in gold aluminum foil. She then attached red, white and blue ribbon with a hot glue gun and made labels that read, 'You're pure GOLD!'  "That way," said Angie, "every kid left with a gold medal".
 At their closing awards ceremony, Angie and the parents handed out Honorable Mention ribbons, Fourth Place ribbons and then bronze, silver and gold medals - so each team got an award, plus their party favor cookies.

In the End, It's All For Fun

 And what's a celebration without a fun way to gather in the end!  You might choose to have a cake with candy rings like Angie did for her party.  Other fun ideas include these great 'Olympic Torch' cake cones for kids, or this fun 'England's Flag' fruit pizza as a healthier option.

full article: 

We would love to hear about what you are doing with your kids and family to get everyone involved in the Olympics!