Parenting

10 Tips to Prepare Preschoolers for Kindergarten

By dadsplay at March 4, 2011 | 1:31 pm | 0 Comment

10 Tips to Prepare Preschoolers for Kindergarten

10 Steps Parents Need to Take to Prepare Preschoolers for Kindergarten Success

One consistent piece of advice Kindergarten teachers give to parents of preschoolers is the importance of introducing kids to a school setting, when possible, to acclimate kids to the social and formal setting of a classroom.  As one retired kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Miller noted, “Children who have not been to preschool or who have not been taught preschool basics, such as writing, cutting, letters, and following directions,  at home, often begin the school year, academically and socially, behind their peers.”

Many parents ask what they should be doing to prepare their child for school.  First, it is important to note that it is the responsibility of parents to prepare their child for school even if the child is attending preschool classes.

In order for children to be prepared for Kindergarten, children should be capable of the following skills.

Strong Communication Skills

Children need to be able to communicate their needs, verbally, in class and also follow the process in order to communicate, such as raising a hand and waiting to be called on.  Children will also have to share in small groups.

Ability to Listen

Children will need to be able to be quiet and listen to the teacher throughout most of the day.  If children have not learned to sit still and listen to directions,  the child will have an adjustment period.

Follow Directions

From the time children are very young, they learn to follow basic directions, but once they reach their preschool years, they will need to be able to listen to several step directions and then follow the steps.  This is a skill that is easily practiced at home and during play.  Following directions will allow children to finish their work, learn the proper steps to doing an activity and how to order things.

Work with Peers

Most Kindergarten classes have time during the day when children will work in small groups or at stations.  As an example, there may be several reading groups in the class and small groups of children may work at the computer station, or on a science activity together.  Kids will need to be able to take turns, speak to other children, and be patient.

Work Independently

Throughout the day, kids will need to work independently to get specific work done.  This will require children to listen, follow directions, and ask questions if they are not sure how to proceed.  They need to be able to write, practice tracing, cut/paste, or even use the computer on their own.

Fine-Motor Skills (pencil grip, cutting skills, picking up small items)

Children will begin using pencils in Kindergarten and will need to be able to cut with scissors, pick up small objects for counting, and begin writing every day in class.  The more practice a child has had cutting, holding a pencil, marker, or crayon, drawing, and picking up small objects, prior to beginning Kindergarten, the stronger his/her fine-motor skills will be for the the increase in writing and fine-motor tasks they will be asked to do each day.

Basic counting

Although counting to 10 or 20 is not required to enter Kindergarten, knowing how to do some basic counting and manipulating of number objects will set a child up to begin the school year more prepared.  A child does not have to know a lot, but some very basic math concepts is a good starting place.

Basic Number and Letter Recognition

Children should be able to recognize all or most of their letters and numbers and write their name.  Those children that know their letters and numbers when they begin Kindergarten will be able to move onto reading much sooner than children that begin the year with no letter or number recognition.  If a child can read prior to kindergarten then he/she will be in a position to advance beyond many other kindergartners.

Basic Life Skills (put on and take off jacket/backpack, zip jacket, put on gloves, hang up items)

Children who go to Kindergarten being able to put away and take on and off their jackets, hats, gloves, and backpacks will be more independent.  Also, if the majority of the class is able to do these basic things, the teacher will have to spend less time on getting kids started in the morning and ready to leave in the afternoon and be able to spend more time on valuable teaching opportunities.

Basic Computer Skills

Today, most classrooms have a handful of computers available for students to use.  Children are beginning to use computers even as toddlers, so children going to Kindergarten with basic mouse skills already have a beneficial skill that will set them up for school success.

One comment I have heard, over and over again, from parents whose children attend strong academic preschools is, “I pay the preschool to teach my child.”  The concern here is to assume that because a child attends preschool he/she does not need additional help and guidance at home.  Preschool can help socialize children, teach them to follow directions, work with other children, and follow the routine of a school day, but it is in the home that children are encouraged to reach, learn, be creative and follow directions on a daily basis.  Parents need to understand just how important their role is in preparing their children for school and learning success.  It is the foundation parents lay down in the early years that will help shape the type of learner and student the child will become.

In an effort to help parents and preschools to prepare preschoolers for kindergarten, the National Kindergarten Readiness Initiative was developed to provide the tools and list the  recommended skills and knowledge preschoolers should be introduced to prior to kindergarten.  You can learn more at NationalKindergartenReadiness.com

by Kristin Fitch at www.NationalKindergartenReadiness.com

Kristin Fitch is co-founder and editor of ZiggityZoom.com and a network of family-oriented websites, including CuriousBaby.com, Mommie911.com and HamptonRoadsParents.com.  Kristin’s first inspirational parenting book, which she co-authored with Sharon Pierce McCullough, Parenting without a Paddle: Navigating the Waters of Parenthood has just been published.

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New USDA Food Guideline: What does it mean for your children?

By dadsplay at February 10, 2011 | 4:23 pm | 0 Comment

New USDA Food Guideline: What does it mean for your children?

The federal government released its Dietary Guidelines for Americans earlier this week, a process it goes through once every five years to keep the public informed about the nutritional choices they should be making to stay healthy. And as the nation’s obesity crisis continues, our culture’s need for dietary change was reflected in the unusually blunt tone of the latest edition. Instead of vague terms and polite suggestions, federal regulators are being more direct than ever, explicitly saying that Americans need to consume less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day, get no more than 10 percent of our total caloric intake from saturated fats and reduce our daily calorie consumption, especially the “empty” ones often found in heavily processed, prepackaged foods. Some items on the chopping block are sugary soft drinks, fried and processed food, refined grains and processed meats that are high in saturated fat.

Do you find all these percentages confusing? You’re not alone.

The new guideline also urges Americans to eat more vegetables (as an easy visual guide, it suggests half your plate at every meal should be vegetables) and calls for a drastic reduction in the amount of salt people are consuming. The average American gets up to 3,400 milligrams of salt a day in his diet, nearly 1,100 mg above the recommended limit. It’s suggested that children consume even less salt, so parents should monitor their children’s sodium intake to make sure they’re getting no more than 1,500 mg a day. When talking about salt, it’s important to note that your daily dosage goes far beyond what comes from the shaker. A good deal of the salt we eat is hidden as a preserving agent in packaged food and beverages, especially frozen and canned ones, so it’s important to always check the label to see how much sodium is lurking inside, even if the product in question doesn’t taste particularly salty.

Much of the information in the 2010 guideline may seem obvious, but singling out certain foods as unhealthy, and telling Americans to eat less in general, is actually a big step forward. Previous guidelines have called for less sugar, solid fats and salt, but failed to target the specific foods or let people know which ones had unhealthy additives hiding inside. In contrast, the 2010 guideline clearly defines foods that over-contribute to empty calorie consumption among children ages 2 to 18 (sorry pie, pizza and soda, but according to page 10 you’re the worst offenders), and offers easy to understand advice on making healthier choices for adults and their children.

As obesity continues to lead to more and more health problems—becoming a bigger and bigger drain on the country’s health care resources—eating less may seem like common sense. But believe it or not, this the first time the Dietary Guideline for Americans has recommended that Americans eat less overall, indicating how serious an issue poor nutrition and over consumption has become in our society.

So now that we have a clear understanding of what we SHOULDN’T feed our kids, what can we give them? Fortunately the new guideline has good advice in that department as well. Here’s a brief wrap-up of their suggestions.

More veggies; more variety. Not only do we need more vegetables in our life, (remember the half the plate rule), we need more types as well. Dark leafy greens like spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce and broccoli tend to have the most nutrients, but red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, as well as beans, are also packed with essential vitamins and nutrients. If you think of your plate as a pie chart, the dark green slice should be big, but save space for other colors as well.

Whole grains over refined grains. At least half of all grain consumption should come from whole grains. This means no white bread, no “white wheat” bread and far fewer white bread bagels. Often in the refining process, which is what happens to grain before it becomes the flour used in most white breads, the bran of the grain (the fiber-rich outer layer) is removed to make it easier to turn into mass produced food. In this process a lot of the nutritious elements of the grains are lost. By letting grain keep its natural plant chemicals, they promote better overall health than grains that are stripped and bleached.

Milk does a body good, assuming it’s the right type. Milk is a great source of calcium, which is essential for growing bones. But whole milk and milk products (cheese, yogurt, etc…) can have a lot of saturated fat. When picking milk and dairy products, the guideline says you should stick to fat-free or low-fat options or try products that use soy as a dairy alternative. For parents with very young children it should be noted that cholesterol and fat are thought to be important for brain development, so kids under 2 may benefit from their consumption. Please talk to your child’s pediatrician about what the recommended levels are for your child.

Eat high quality protein. Protein is very important to help young children grow, but excessive amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol found in some animal products can be problematic. Seafood, lean meat, beans, eggs and poultry are recommended, while parents are urged to avoid feeding their children processed meats like ground beef, cold cuts or hot dogs and sausages. When cooking it’s also important to use oils like olive and vegetable oils, which are healthier alternatives to solid cooking fats or butter and margarine spreads, which contain high levels of saturated fat and partially hydrogenated oils which can be very unhealthy.

An improved Dietary Guideline for Americans can’t hurt in the fight against childhood obesity, but eventually the responsibility is in the hands of parents. As adults it’s up to us to prepare healthier food for our children, model healthful eating habits at home and educate children about how and why making better food choices are so important. We still have a long way to go, but additional support from the White House, school systems and Federal government may indicate that the dinner tables are turning, and it’s time for parents to heed their call.

By Tripp Underwood, Children’s Hospital Boston, used with permission.

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Vary Exercise for Physical & Mental Development of Your Child

By dadsplay at January 28, 2011 | 3:56 pm | 0 Comment

Vary Exercise for Physical & Mental Development of Your Child

Did you know that the more physical exercise your child gets, the more his brain develops?  Studies have shown that exercise actually helps further develop the areas of the brain that affect learning and memory.  Another good reason to limit time sitting around watching television or computer games.  Exercise also continues to help brain development in adults, so be sure to join in the fun.

For preschoolers, there are many different types of exercises you can encourage:

  • Play hopping games, hopping on one foot, then on both feet.
  • Teach your child to swing.
  • March to music, inside or out.
  • Walk up and down steps. Walk a straight line.
  • Run.  Have races in your backyard.
  • Practice playing with a ball.  Bounce, throw, kick and catch the ball.
  • Play on climbing equipment at the playground.  Go to a rock climbing center.
  • Dig holes in the sand or dirt.
  • Learn how to swim.
  • Ride a bike.
  • Practice balance.  Walk on the curb.
  • Do a crawling game.
  • Play Hot Potato
  • Dance to music.

There are so many fun types of exercise.  Try to vary them and incorporate some form of exercise on a daily basis.

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Letting Your Kids Learn Through Failure

By dadsplay at January 9, 2011 | 9:16 pm | 0 Comment

Letting Your Kids Learn Through Failure

It’s tough being a parent. It’s tough trying to figure out parenthood throughout all of the
different stages our kids go through. Whether it’s helping them to walk, starting school,
discipline issues, driving, or college, we are continually faced with new challenges and
even with multiple children; the same stage has different challenges as each child can
be so different. One aspect that is often overlooked is letting your child fail. I’ve found
this to be an extremely volatile topic for different parents. I knew one parent that did not
allow her seven year old son to cook anything, even with her supervision. I’ve let my six
year old daughter get out a drill to install a shelf. A shelf!! When looking at why each
parent made the choice they did, the common theme was the same…failure.

Cooking mom said she was afraid her daughter would mess up dinner (fail) or get hurt by
the stove or a hot pan. I used a stud finder and verified no electrical wires were anywhere
near the drilling site and showed my daughter how to mark a stud by marking the first
one for her. I felt she would learn more from trying it herself and build her confidence if
she succeeded and she would learn a lot even if she messed it up (failed).

Each parent had very different approaches to thoughts about their child failing. Should
you let your child fail? If so, how do you know when it’s appropriate to let them do so?
As your child goes through life, they WILL fail. You can’t always be there to stop it, but
you can teach them how to prepare to mitigate the failure as well as help them cope with
failure when it does occur. When letting a child fail, the one thing we all must remain
alert to is dangerous situations that can cause serious harm to our children. Bumps and
bruises are part of growing up as evidenced by my youngest daughter who has taken
a long time to learn that you can’t run in one direction while looking in a completely
different direction…

I tried to mitigate the danger (by checking for electrical wiring near the drill site) and
preparing my daughter for success by also showing her how to find the stud for the
second brace. She will still have to learn how to drill straight, make the holes even in the
stud for a level shelf and screw everything into place. My daughter had ‘helped’ me do a
few other projects with the drill and had shown an excellent understanding of the drill, so
I felt she should have a chance to try using it. While she was making the attempt, I had
to step in twice (at her request) to assist, but you should have seen the look on her face
when it was done and the pride she exuded that SHE had done that. From the pure adult
perspective, the shelf was too low to the ground, it wasn’t level and one of the screws
may have missed the stud (or only partially in due to the angle of the screw hole), but it
didn’t matter, even if it’s not perfect, it’s HER success more than anything else. Now
the purist in me asks, why not let her fail by not stepping in, but as long as I don’t step in
ahead of the request from my daughter, I’m allowing her the ‘opportunity’ to fail.

Cooking mom’s concerns, about her son getting hurt, are completely valid. No one
wants to see their child hurt, but the question here becomes how long does your child
need to prove they’re capable of accomplishing a task before we let them attempt the
task on their own? I know to watch out for a burning stove and hot pans, but have still

burnt myself. Odds are her son will get burned at some point in his adult life as well. I
asked her if he had ever helped with the cooking and he had on a number of occasions.
If cooking mom has taught him to be aware of the hot pans and he has shown this
awareness, what’s the harm in letting him fail at cooking dinner? She can be available to
him by staying in the kitchen or nearby, she has a great opportunity to let him succeed,
but also can also help him learn to cope with the failure if he does fail.

None of us like to fail and we certainly don’t want to see our kids fail either, but they
will….just like we do on occasion. You can’t stop failure from happening all the time,
but you can teach your children how to prepare to minimize failure. You can teach them
to be aware of the challenges/dangers of attempting something new and probably most
important, if they do fail, that it’s ok. The world won’t end, the failure doesn’t define
them, most likely they’ll be able to fix whatever went wrong. Your children want to try.
Let them. Encourage them….and if they fail, teach them that it’s ok.

RS Pierce

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How to STOP your child from wanting to read with you….

By dadsplay at November 24, 2010 | 3:58 pm | 0 Comment

How to STOP your child from wanting to read with you….

This is not what I set out to do, but it’s what I effectively accomplished with my first
born daughter. I’m a hands-on dad who loves teaching my daughters and assisting with
their homework (which includes reading with them). When my oldest was first learning
to read, I would sit and read with her. I would let her read some ‘sight’ words (simple
words that they learn to recognize, such as “the” or “I”) while I read the rest of the story.
This actually worked out well, as I would praise her constantly for remembering various
words. Each reading, I would try to introduce or re-introduce sight words and continue
to praise her as we read. Everything was going great, until….I tried to teach her HOW to
read….sounding out words/letters.

Well, to be clear, it wasn’t that I’d chosen to teach her to sound out words/letters, it
was the way I would correct her
. When we were working with sight words, I’d simply
remind her of words, if she couldn’t remember the word, and praise her when she got it right. When
she would attempt to sound out a word, I would quickly (or sharply sometimes) correct
her and, I’m fairly certain, I probably said “no, it’s this….”. It’s the “No” or negative
feedback that I did for a long time that shut her down and pushed her to not want to read
with me. While I would still praise her when she’d get it right, the ‘no’ was coming way
too often. Eventually, she would cry or put her head down if I asked her to sound out a
word and she couldn’t get it right.

I’m not sure when I realized what I was doing, but once I did, I completely changed my
approach
. I still correct her, but I make it a point to give her positive feedback first, then
say something like “try changing the sound of this vowel” or “make the ‘c’ have this
sound”. We now have lots of fun reading and she isn’t afraid to read with me anymore,
but it took a lot of self awareness and control, on my part, to ensure I wasn’t beating her
down, but rather praising her up. Reading SHOULD be fun, focus on that always and the
rest will work itself out.

By R.S. Pierce

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Geocaching Is A Fun Fall Outdoor Activity With Kids

By dadsplay at November 10, 2010 | 12:32 pm | 0 Comment

Geocaching Is A Fun Fall Outdoor Activity With Kids

Fall is officially here in most of the country.  With leaves changing colors and crisp mornings and early sunsets, it’s hard to miss.  Now that the weather has shifted and we’re all bundling up a bit more, finding outdoor activities to do with kids becomes more difficult.  One activity my daughters and I like to do is “geocaching”.  Just last weekend, we hiked through Seashore State Park in Virginia Beach, VA for about 2 hours, with a nice picnic break after we found the ‘treasure’ and swapped out some of the girls own toy trinkets for new trinkets in the newly found treasure.  Treasure found, treasure traded, bellies full, we headed home talking about all the cool stuff we found/did along the way.

Taking the definition from www.geocaching.com, geocaching is: “a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online.”  “How does a geocache get created?” you ask.  A new geocache comes into existence when an individual (anyone that would like to hide their own container) hides a container in a public place, where geocachers are allowed to travel, then logs the container’s GPS coordinates at www.geocaching.com along with a description, size of the container and other miscellaneous details.  Then, would be searchers log on, identify the area they would like to hunt and identify the various geocaches they are interested in hiking to.

Here are some basic steps I go through prior to our adventure.  First I identify what area we’d like to explore and pull up the map of that area (Here is a map of one area we explore in Hampton Roads area of Virginia.)  Once I have the map, showing geocaches in the area, I mouse over each cache looking for our search criteria.  Criteria 1) Cache must be medium size or larger as this improves probability of toy trinkets (largest criteria for my girls).  Criteria 2) Difficulty and Terrain shouldn’t be greater than medium, as I don’t want my girls stressing over the trip.  As they get more experienced, we may change the criteria, but for now this works for us.  If a cache meets our criteria, I will click on it and upload to my GPS device.  While I am doing the research, the girls are packing the backpack with picnic items and toy trinkets as well as fall gear (hats, gloves, compass, flashlight).  Once they are packed and I have identified 3-5 caches, we head out the door for our next adventure.  Often Lola our dog accompanies us as an added bonus the girls really enjoy.

As a side note, geocaching.com has an iPhone app and probably apps for other smart phones.  The one issue I had using my iPhone was the signal would ‘bounce’ when I was in deep woods and could not hone in on the actual GPS location.  One moment, I’d be 10 feet away, 2 steps later, I’d be 50 feet away… in low wooded areas, I’d suggest using the phone app, but not for any serious woods geocaching.  Happy Hunting!!

By R.S.. Pierce

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More Than Meds: A Multifaceted Approach to ADHD

By dadsplay at October 17, 2010 | 12:17 pm | 0 Comment

More Than Meds: A Multifaceted Approach to ADHD

ADHD often interferes with a child’s ability to follow directions. This can be perceived as misbehavior or “not paying attention” and lead to problems at school.

Billy is sitting in a chair in his third grade classroom, but can’t seem to find a comfortable position. He fidgets and adjusts, creating enough noise in the process to distract the other children around him. Sensing the disruption his teacher asks him read out loud, but after several attempts, Billy admits he isn’t sure what page the rest of the class was reading from. Some of the other students laugh as his teacher points out their place in the story, visibly annoyed at his inability to remain focused…

Though fictional in nature, the frustration portrayed in this scene is all too real for many children and teachers. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders in children. Recent numbers show 4.5 million students age 5 to 17 have been diagnosed with some form of ADHD, where impulsivity, hyperactivity, inattentive behavior or a combination of all three, interferes with relationships at school or home.

While the number of reported ADHD cases has risen slightly over the past few years, there is little evidence to support sensationalized news stories labeling ADHD a growing epidemic. Michael Neessen, PsyD, co-director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s ADHD program, believes the public’s increased awareness (and media’s burgeoning obsession) with the condition has less to do with a higher prevalence of ADHD, and more to do with better understanding of its symptoms. He says today’s teachers and parents are simply more informed and are therefore better at picking up on ADHD’s warning signs, which are made all the more visible due to the fast-paced, technological climate we currently live in. “Kids today have larger home work loads, busier schedules and just a general increase in the demands placed on them,” he says. “It’s not that there are substantially more kids with ADHD out there, it’s that there is more awareness of what ADHD is and the current education climate calls more attention to their condition.”

Science has yet to determine the causes of ADHD, but a combination of genetics and environmental factors is suspected in most cases. Because ADHD often affects multiple aspects of a child’s behavior, a multi-tiered approach to treatment is usually the most successful. Medication and evidence-based treatments are important, but there are many other teaching and parenting methods adults can adopt to make life easier for the thousands of kids with ADHD.

“Using slightly altered parenting techniques and behavioral management is especially helpful for kids with ADHD,” Neessen says.

Outside of medication, here’s a look at some ways parents and teachers can help children with ADHD gain more control over their bodies and environment, and likely improve their grades, personal relationships and quality of life in the process.

Consistency. Children with ADHD are more likely to be confused by changes in routine and often have a hard time adapting to new surroundings or expectations. Variances in their expectations, or what is expected of them, can often trigger symptoms of their condition. “One of the hallmarks of kids with ADHD is inconsistency in their behavior,” says Neessen. “Creating more structure in their lives leads to improved consistency, which is vital to helping kids with ADHD function better in school or at home.”

Neessen says parents who are in agreement about their expectations for their child, as well as how they express and reinforce those expectations, provide the most consistent environments.  Once a successful behavioral/positive reinforcement model has been established, parents can act as advocates to educate teachers, relatives, sitters and any other authority figures in the child’s life about how to best implement it. When expected behavior and the reward system associated with that behavior is clearly defined by every adult the child’s life, it’s much easier for him or her excel in their daily functions.

Exercise. The belief that there’s a positive correlation between a well-exercised body and academic success has been around for some time, but evidence of this relationship as it relates to kids with ADHD isn’t particularly clear. “The empirical data on how exercise effects kids with ADHD is somewhat lacking,” Neessen says. “But many pediatricians will tell you that some amount of regular exercise is going to help positively regulate a child’s mood and attention.”

Exercise is important for all students, especially those with hyperactivity

Neessen says children with ADHD, especially those that display hyperactive tendencies, often benefit greatly from regular exercise, both to expend excess energy and improve brain function. “Getting outside and working their bodies allows these kids time to help regulate all the systems involved in attention,” he says.

Self-esteem. Self-esteem plays a very important role in a child’s social and academic development. A child with ADHD who has difficulties at school or with interpersonal relationships may have a lower sense of self-worth, which can exasperate his or her symptoms and create a vicious cycle. Modifying tasks or activities to better suit the strengths of a child with ADHD can do wonders for self-esteem and confidence.

“If you can help kids with ADHD break bigger tasks down into smaller pieces, it can give immediate reinforcement that they’re succeeding,” Neessen says. “The gratification of a job well done can help build confidence. In some cases that boost can be as important, if not more important, than the assignment itself.”

By Tripp Underwood, used with permission from Childrens Hospital Boston.