Encouraging Resilience and Perseverance in your Child

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Resilience and perseverance are essential traits for children to develop. They are life skills that children take into adulthood and can affect how they grow up.

Building resilience and perseverance in your child is important for their mental health as well as their physical health. It helps them to overcome obstacles more easily and reduces the chances of developing anxiety or other stress-related diseases.

Here are some tips you can use to help your child build resilience and perseverance:

  1. Building supportive relationships

The reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship can help lead your child through adversity. Your child will learn to develop vital coping skills and your presence can also help to reduce any changes that are activated by stress. This can prevent any damaging physiological effects on their developing brain, body, and immune system.3 Children learn better when they are loved, accepted, and understood.

  1. Encourage and support self-regulation

Self-regulation refers to how we regulate our behaviours and emotions. It is extremely beneficial in the long run for your child to learn how to manage their behaviours from a young age. It is important to talk to your child about their behaviours to help develop their understanding — what is the impact of their behaviour on others, what are the benefits? It will also help them to regulate any stress-induced anger or frustration they might feel in challenging situations.4

  1. Encourage regular mindfulness practice

Mindfulness creates structural and functional changes to the brain that can help regulate stress. It has a great positive impact on children’s, and adults’, cognitive development. There are numerous life skills that your child can develop when practising mindfulness and these skills can help build perseverance and resilience. You can read more about mindfulness and find exercises here.

  1. Read to them, or let them read good books

Children are more perceptive than we give them credit for. They can infer and learn from the stories they read. Here are a few books that share stories about problem-solving, self-regulation, and perseverance1:

  1. Engage in risky play

Risky play is thrilling and a perfect challenge for children to test their limits and build perseverance. It can also help your child develop risk management as they figure out boundaries and develop perseverance.1 Take your child to the playground, bring them hiking, let them play in nature. It is important that you don’t let your fear get in the way. Let your child take risks and learn from them. Experts suggest practicing the 17-second rule — i.e., instead of telling your child not to run too fast or climb too high, take a moment (or 17-seconds). Step back and observe how your child is responding to the situation so you can have a better sense of what they are capable of.5

  1. Set an example

Like many other life skills, modelling resilience and perseverance is beneficial for your child. They are more than likely to learn from watching you persevere through a problem you are facing. If it’s an appropriate discussion, share with them what you’re going through and what you’re doing to get through the problem. Studies have shown that showing persistence and perseverance yourself can affect how much your child perseveres through their tasks.1

Child-led learning is effective in developing resilience and perseverance

Resilience and perseverance are skills that can’t only be taught verbally. Your child will have to go through challenges and sometimes tough situations in order to develop these skills. By being in challenging situations, they will not only develop perseverance and resilience but also learn to problem-solve and manage risk.

If you enjoyed this week’s blog, and would like to find out more about encouraging resilience and perseverance in your child, head over to Piptree Kids to check out the full post!

References

  1. Arnerich, M. How to Build Resilience and Perseverance in Young Children. (Link)
  2. Bobbermen, J. Why building resilience in children is important. (Link)
  3. Young, K. Building Resilience in Children — 20 Practical, Powerful Strategies. (Link)
  4. Cowley, S. How to Build Better Behaviours in the Early Years. (Link)
  5. Toole, B. Risky Play for Children: Why We Should Let Kids Go Outside and then Get Out of The Way. (Link)

Teaching your Child the Importance of Diversity and Inclusiveness

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In a world of globalisation, we are living in an increasingly diverse society. Your child will interact with people of different races, cultures, and abilities. They will have friends from child care or school who come from different family structures.

Children notice these differences from a very young age but they haven’t been exposed to real-world prejudices and stereotypes yet to put a label on those differences. Teaching your child about diversity and inclusiveness from a young age will shape how they view the world and how they interact with others as they get older. Here’s when children start noticing differences: 1

2 to 3-year-olds:

Your child will start noticing differences in skin colour and appearance, including the names of those features. However, they don’t assign meanings to those names and labels.

4 to 6-year-olds:

Your child will learn to identify their own race or ethnicity. They might have a positive or negative label on that identity.

7-year-olds and above:

Your child’s understanding of their own identity will only deepen. They might start forming opinions about people of other race, abilities, etc. as well.

It is important to teach them to acknowledge these differences and that they are not wrong, just different. We all want to raise accepting, tolerant, and empathetic children. Learning about diversity and inclusion starts at home. Here are some ways you can encourage and teach your child:

  1. Allow them to consume media that celebrates diversity and inclusion 2

The media shapes a lot of our understanding and perception of the world. Think about how in recent years, many people have been campaigning for more diversity in TV shows and movies because of the importance of representation. As children are exposed to more screen time now, the type of content they consume can affect how they view people of other races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, etc.. It is important, therefore, to ensure that they are exposed to a wide range of media that celebrates diversity and inclusion.

There are children’s books for various ages that teach inclusion. Here is a list of kid-friendly TV shows and movies that educate them about diversity. Many children are also consuming YouTube videos and TEDEducation is a good channel that has speakers of various backgrounds sharing their experiences.

  1. Encourage positive discussions about differences2

It is important to have honest, age-appropriate talks with your child about the differences they recognise in others. It is counter-productive when adults pretend these differences don’t exist. When children grow up and are exposed to more of the world, they see how these differences exist in real life. This can have social implications on how they see themselves and how they perceive other people. By acknowledging these differences and having conversations about them at a young age, your child will grow up to be more understanding and compassionate. They will also learn how to appreciate these differences.

If your child points out how another child at their child care or school have a different skin colour, for example, you will want to acknowledge that and say, “Yes, people do have skin colours, they may look different to you, but that’s the beauty of the world we live in.” If you notice your child staring or asking questions about someone with disabilities, say they are in a wheelchair, you can say, “I see you looking at the little girl in the wheelchair, and you might be wondering why she needs one. Some people’s muscles work differently, and her wheelchair helps her to move around, just like your legs help you.” Keep your explanations positive, like how their aids (hearing aids, wheelchair, etc.) help them, instead of saying that they can’t hear or walk.3

  1. Prepare them about what they will read on the Internet or hear from others2

If your child is older and they are in school or they have access to browse the Internet, they can come across incorrect facts, toxic comments, and cyberbullies. It can be hard for you to monitor everything they do on the Internet and impossible to control what their friends are saying to them, especially if they are older children. It is, therefore, important that you prepare your child for what they might come across online or in real life.

When dealing with Internet content, you might want to discuss how some people use platforms on the Internet to spread extreme views. You might also want to talk about how negative and incorrect stereotypes can grow online and spread hate, and what harm those stereotypes can do. This is a good time to teach them how to be critical when reading articles or stories online — train them to ask questions about whether content is written intentionally to be inflammatory, is it only written from one person’s perspective, etc.. Teach them to stand up against any negative stereotypes that their friends might bring up at school. Teach them to try to educate people about such issues and know when to pick their fights as some might not be willing to learn.

  1. Be a role model4

Like all other important life-skills moments, ensure that you set a good example for your child to follow. As adults, we know how difficult it can be to unlearn many prejudices and stereotypes that we were taught as children. By setting a good example for your child, they can start learning from your actions and words from young. Seeing you respond positively to diversity in a supportive and empathetic way can teach your child to have a positive attitude and to respect people regardless of their differences. There might be times when you slip-up but don’t fret because you can use that as a teaching opportunity.

Growing up to become a respectful person

It is crucial that we teach our children to acknowledge differences and that being different doesn’t make anyone “lesser” than others. By teaching your child about diversity and inclusion, they will grow up to be a more compassionate, empathetic, and respectful person.

 

References

  1. Foundations Counselling, Teaching Your Kids About Diversity and Inclusion. (Link)
  2. Kloss, K. The Parent’s Guide to Teaching Kids About Cultural Diversity and Inclusion. (Link)
  3. Hutton, L. 6 Tips to Talk to Your Kids About Disabilities. (Link)
  4. Brookes Publishing. 8 Ways to Show Young Children that Diversity is A Strength. (Link)

Tips on Maintaining Positivity in your Household

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Even though coronavirus lock-down restrictions are being eased, we know that being holed up at home for a long time can be mentally and emotionally draining for a lot of people, especially children. The fear, uncertainty, and unexpected change can cause great stress on your child causing them to feel anxious or restless. This is completely normal given the current circumstances, however it can result in an anxious household. But don’t fret, here are some tips that can help you to build and maintain positivity in your household!

1. Talk to your child

Communication is important. You child needs to know that they can go to you to talk about anything. Listen to what they are saying and acknowledge their feelings.1 When they are upset, recognise that they are feeling like that right now but guide them into thinking of things they can do to resolve what they are upset about. Children learn best when they think of their own examples as they learn to problem-solve. For example, if they’re upset that they can’t go out to play with their friends, you can calmly say, “I can see that you’re upset you can’t go out to play with your friends right now. How do you think you can stay in touch with them?”2

Don’t forget to ask questions about what they are talking about to show that you are listening to them. Always try your best to explain your decisions or answers to their questions. When they understand the ‘why’ and/or the ‘what’, it can alleviate their fears and anxieties, making them less likely to lash out. This can also build their communication skills and they learn that they can go to you whenever they have problems in the future.

Here are some more tips on how to talk to your child about serious topics.

2. Keep healthy routines2

In a time of uncertainty, it is especially important to keep to a routine. Having a structure to the days offers reassurance to your child. The routine should be predictable but flexible enough for individual needs. If possible, keep to their usual routine — same wake-up and bed-time, follow their usual school timetable, etc.

3. Encourage cooperation to avoid sibling rivalry3

Sibling rivalry is normal, and you can’t avoid it completely. However, you can reduce its frequency. Every child has their own individual needs that you should focus on. Younger children might not understand why you’re spending more time with the baby or toddler and might feel as if they’re not getting any attention. This can be worse now when everyone is stuck at home. Explain to them why the baby needs your attention most of the time. Let them know that because they are older, they have different responsibilities and are more independent. Reassure them that you will still help and be there for them. Set aside some one-on-one time with your older child. Even a 10-minute uninterrupted ‘catch up’ with all your attention can make a huge difference to a child.

Encourage cooperation and don’t set up your children to compete all the time. Organise fun family activities that they can work on together. Plan some arts and crafts time, nature play that can be done in your backyard, practice physical mindfulness exercises with your children, or pretend play!

Ensure that your child has their own space and time to be on their own. If they fought with their siblings, some alone time can help them both calm down and play on their own. When they’re calm, talk to them and listen to their complaints of each other. Reinforce the positive things that they see in each other. When children feel like they are being listened to, they are less likely to fight for your attention. You can also learn more about their sibling rivalry and take steps to reduce the frequency of it happening again.

4. Let your child be the boss (sometimes)4

Toddlers tend to push the boundaries as they grow and develop. This is a good sign of their development and their growth in independence. They are generally toying with what they can or can’t get away with, which is a good time for them to learn what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviours — i.e. they are experimenting and learning.

Give your child the choice when it is safe to do so. Give them two acceptable choices to choose from. For example, when you’re at the park, let them choose between carrying their toys or ball on the way home. That way, the only option is to leave the park, but they get to choose how they do so. This will make them feel respected and heard and might make them less resistant in other situations.

Focus on using positive behaviour and tone. Children will generally tend to defy you if you shout at them. “Don’t bang the door!” can translate to “Bang the door!” in your child’s mind. Kindly tell them what you want them to do. If they’re resting their leg on the table, you can say, “Please put your feet down. Can you wiggle your toes under the table?”. Give them another option or explain why it is wrong.

If that doesn’t work, learn to pick your battles. Letting little things go can reduce stress for both you and your child. It will also make them more inclined to listen to you when things matter more. At the end of the day, remember that your child is only pushing their boundaries because they feel safe and secure enough to experiment and learn what is right and wrong.

5. Lead by example5

Young children copy and learn from how you behave. Take some time for yourself to relax and reduce your stress level. When you find your anger or stress levels rising, find a good and healthy method to calm down. It might not be possible to be positive and happy all the time but having positive and healthy ways to calm down and react to situations can have a good effect not only on yourself but also on the other party. Your child will most likely mimic that behaviour and it is important that the behaviour is positively reinforced.

 

Take this opportunity to bond with your child

Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. We make mistakes and emotions tend to get the better of us. But learning how to overcome those negative thoughts and feelings is a big step to building and maintaining positivity in you and your child and as a result, building and maintaining positivity in your household.

Don’t be too hard on yourself and your child in these hard times. Not going to school and being cooped up at home are very big changes but these tips can, hopefully, help your household readjust. When life goes back to normal, these tips can still be used to keep up the positivity built during your time stuck at home together!

 

 

References

  1. Center for Mental Wellness. Building a Positive Family Environment — 5 Practical Steps. (Link)
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Parenting in a Pandemic: Tips to Keep the Calm at Home. (Link)
  3. Marcoux, H. 6 Expert Ways to Stop Sibling Rivalry. (Link)
  4. Benjamin, J. When Your Toddler Starts Testing His Limits. (Link)
  5. Molina, K. 10 Ways to Help Your Children Develop a Positive Attitude. (Link)

 

Inspiring a love of reading in your child

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There has been a substantial decline in the number of children who enjoy reading through the years. Many children see reading as a chore, instead of something that can be done for recreation. By encouraging good reading habits from young, it can inspire a love for reading in your child.

Reading has many benefits to your child’s development:

  1. Reading can help your child get to know sounds, words and language, and develop early literary skills1

Children can learn new words as they read or are being read to. They absorb information on sentence structures and how to use different language features in writing and speaking2.

  1. Reading can fuel your child’s imagination and stimulate their curiosity1

As we read, we translate the descriptions written in the text in our heads. The more engaged we are in the story, the more we feel what the characters are feeling. Your child will most likely bring that into their everyday play2.

  1. Reading will help your child’s brain, social skills, and communication skills develop

Reading strengthens brain connections and builds new connections. It is a complex activity that works our brain more than watching TV. It also helps your child develop empathy as they begin to imagine how they would feel in that character’s shoes.

  1. Reading can help your child achieve better results in school

Children who read tend to have good concentration skills as they have to sit still and quietly so they can properly focus on what they are reading. This skill will further improve as they continue to read. Many children who read tend to do better across the curriculum.

  1. Reading is a great way to spend time together

The time you spend reading with your child promotes bonding and helps to build your relationship.

Here are 5 tips you could use to help your child fall in love with reading:

1. Read to your child3

Establish a reading routine early on in your child’s life and continue even after they are capable of reading independently. Reading to your child before they learn how to speak can facilitate their language development — the more words they are exposed to as an infant, the larger their vocabulary will be by age 3.

2. Model good reading habits

Young children take their cues from adults. You might find that your child would mimic your actions or the way you speak. You might also find yourself trying to get your child to repeat after you when they’re learning how to speak. The same principle applies to helping your child fall in love with reading.

3. Start a family book club

With older school-age children, schedule time where the whole family reads together. If they have older siblings, encourage them to sit down and read to their younger siblings. This can strengthen their bond and build trust as they sit and interact in a stress-free environment.

4. Listen to audiobooks

Instead of having the radio on, maybe consider having audiobooks playing while your child is in the car. Hearing someone read aloud confidently is a good way to expose your child to fluency and improves their critical listening skills. It is a good way to introduce books that are above your child’s reading level and new genres that they might not have been exposed to6.

5. Give them something to read!

The best way to help your child fall in love with reading is to give them something they actually want to read. You can start small by giving them short magazine articles, blog posts, graphic novels or a short story. The medium does not matter as long as they are reading.

Here are some books you can introduce to your child:

  1. Book adaptations

Many children’s television series have book adaptations that can help your child get into reading. Peppa Pig has a series of picture books and activity books that can engage your pre-schooler and get them started on reading. Disney also has book collections based off of their movies. If your child loves Frozen, the Disney Before the Story series that follows Elsa and Anna’s story could be of interest to them!

  1. Feeding your child’s curiosity

Pre-schoolers have a lot of questions about how the world works. You can help them learn the alphabet while connecting them to the world to help them better understand the little things they experience daily. Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic series that engages your child with the bright colours and artwork.

  1. Books that cater to your child’s interests and hobbies

Any child interested in forensic science should read National Geographic Kids’ Solve This! Forensics as it includes G-rated activities for them to solve mystery cases. Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s Write! Write! Write! is a series of poems about writing that will encourage any young budding writers to pick up a pen and start writing their own stories! Katherine Holabird’s Angelina Ballerina series will inspire young dancers to keep dancing.

  1. Non-fiction books

Non-fiction books can inspire your child while teaching them life lessons. Malala Yousafzai’s Malala’s Magic Pencil tells the story of how a young girl can change the world for the better. Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted tells the stories of 13 American women — Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, etc. — who changed the world, proving that children can do anything if they set their minds to it. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is a good read for school-age children that helps them think more critically about injustice and hate and to learn compassion for others.

  1. Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi

Young adult novels for teenagers are usually books that get teens into reading again. The Harry Potter series is a good starting point for children of any age who want to escape into a world of magic.

Dystopian novels for teens often engage teenagers and young adults to start reading again. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is a powerful series that touches on government corruption and the effects of that on the people.  

Make reading fun!

The most important part about helping your child fall in love with reading is to make it fun. Don’t force them into reading as they will think of the activity as a chore. Let them lead in the process. Help them explore different genres and figure out what type of stories they enjoy reading and build their collection from there!

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about the benefits of reading, head over to the full blog post on Piptree Kids!

 

References

  1. Raising Children Network. Reading and Storytelling with babies and children. (Link)
  2. Cam Everlands Primary School. 10 benefits of reading. (Link)
  3. Chen, G. 5 ways parents can inspire children to love reading. (Link)
  4. Reach Out & Read. Child Development. (Link)
  5. Ruddy, E.Z. 18 Genius Ways to Make Kids Love Reading. (Link)
  6. Johnson, D. Benefits of Audiobooks for All Readers. (Link)

 

 

 

 

How to talk to your child about serious issues

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In today’s world children can more often than not, be exposed to current local and global tragedies and dangers, no matter how much parents try to shield them. It can be hard for them to process these serious issues and their imagination can run wild.

Discussing these issues with your child may not be easy but by discussing them in age-appropriate language, it will help your child feel more secure and safe. This is particularly important as we go through the current coronavirus global pandemic. Younger children might not understand why they can’t go to school or childcare, or why they can’t see grandma and grandpa.

Here are some tips you can use to talk to your child about the pandemic, or other serious issues:

1. Provide just enough information about the issue1

Pre-schoolers

Most young children don’t have enough life experience to understand complex and abstract issues. News reporting can use words and phrases that can scare your child. Try as much as possible to limit your child’s exposure to the news to avoid causing too much anxiety and choosing media that is targeted to younger children.

Use age-appropriate language and examples to explain the issue2. For example, if they are asking about how people catch coronavirus, explain that when someone sneezes or coughs, they can spread germs through the air. Explain to them that the germs can also get on their hands and therefore, it is important to wash their hands and avoid touching their face. Here are some exercises you can do with your child to help them understand why they need to practice good personal hygiene:

 School-age children

At this stage, most children can read and write independently and are exposed to more complex news in the media. Wait for them to come to you if something is worrying them. When you encourage open dialogue and discussion in your house, they’re more likely to come to you when there is a difficult issue bothering them.

With teenagers, they’re often exposed to news on social media or television. As we know, there is a lot of false information out there on the Internet! Engage in discussions with them about the news and make sure your child knows you are listening. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have all the answers2. You can work together with them to fact-check information and calm their worries at the same time. With a lot of misinformation on COVID-19 circulating on the Internet here are some reliable sources of information:

  1. World Health Organisation Myth busters
  2. Australian Government Department of Health
  3. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

2. Acknowledge their feelings

Pre-schoolers:

Address their emotions when talking about serious subjects. Let your child know that it is normal to feel scared, sad, or confused about the situation. Share your feelings with them as well and reassure them that you will be there for them, and that the family is safe3.

Children are very observant and sensitive to how things affect the members of their primary relationships — parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. It is important that you are calm and reassuring when talking about the issue.

Do look out for reassurance seeking in young children — i.e. your child could be repeatedly asking the same or similar questions; try to determine whether their anxiety seems to be increasing despite the fact that you’ve been answering their questions. Health Direct has a list of resources catered to young children, or you can contact your family doctor or psychologist for more resources or help.

School-age children:

Similar to pre-schoolers, always acknowledge your child’s feelings and emotions. Teenagers might be less likely to open up about what they’re feeling but as a parent it’s still a good idea to check in with them from time to time. With COVID-19, restriction measures by the government will disrupt their daily routine — schools are now online, they’re not allowed to hang out with their friends; social activities like sports and dance classes are cancelled and can have an impact on their mental health. Direct them to online mental health resources if they feel more comfortable talking to a professional:

  1. Australian Government Department of Health – Head to Health
  2. Headspace
  3. Beyond Blue
  4. More resources can be found at Health Direct

3. Take care of yourself3

If your child is bothered by a serious issue that is covered constantly in the news, it is likely that you’re just as, if not more exposed to the story. With the current global pandemic, adults are likely dealing with higher than normal pressure and having to juggle between working from home and taking care of your children.

Take a break from the news and turn off the TV. Do some physical exercise, or just spend time with your family playing games or watching movies. Taking a much-needed break from the constant news cycle can be beneficial to both you and your child to calm down and relieve the stress and anxiety. This can make discussions about difficult topics a lot more productive and effective, rather than being too caught up in negative emotions.

Don’t avoid difficult topics!

Opening up about serious topics will not only reassure and reduce anxiety in your child but will also strengthen the bond between you. It lets them know that you’re willing to listen and help them, and it makes them feel safe and secure. The next time they have problems, they know that they can come to you for help without feeling judged.

References

  1. Sperling, J. How to talk to children about the coronavirus. (Link)
  2. Knorr, C. How to Talk to Kids About Difficult Subjects. (Link)
  3. American Psychological Association. How to talk to children about difficult news. (Link)

 

What can parents do to help children learn from home?

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As more schools move to online classes, you might now find yourself juggling between home-schooling your child while working from home.  This can be daunting especially if you have never done this before. This is new to many parents who are now stuck between work, caring for children, and ensuring that they are still learning effectively.

We have put together a few tips and tricks that you might find helpful to home-school your child:

1. Set up a learning space

A learning space for young children is a place where they can play safely. Unstructured, free play is the best way for young children to learn. If you have a backyard, let your child play and explore the natural environment. Nature play can reap many benefits such as problem-solving, risk assessment, and improved mental and physical health. Let their imagination run wild to fuel their creativity. You can be a part of your child’s unstructured play too, if you choose to, and if they want you to join!

Young children can also benefit from unstructured indoor play with toys. Toys such as building blocks and threading strings can not only fuel your child’s creativity but also improve their fine motor skills.

2. Create and keep to a routine

Children need structure and familiarity. Creating and keeping to a routine can help your child be more productive. Having a routine for young children can have long-term benefits — including increased skills and responsibilitiesbuilding healthy habits, and cultivating a sense of safety and belonging. Keep to the normal daily routine you might already have in place. If your child used to attend child-care, try as much as possible to follow the schedule typically set for your child. It will create a safe, normal, and healthy environment for your child to continue to learn through play.

3. Facilitate and support child-led learning

Child-led play is good because children learn best when they’re interested in an activity. When you follow your child’s lead, you can facilitate their learning by taking advantage of the things that interest them to help them learn something new or build on a skill. You can start by noticing what your child is doing or playing, and ask if you could join in. If they stop playing with their current toy and move on to another, move to the other toy with them.

4. Let your child get bored

If you’re working from home and can’t entertain your child 24/7, you might find that they can get a little bored. Instead of dropping your work to play with them, let your child work through it themselves. When your child can push through the boredom, it fuels their creativity and imaginative capacity and builds their problem-solving skills. They will learn the necessary skills needed to deal with slightly stressful situations while building on their independence and resilience.

Learning should be fun!

By encouraging your child to self-regulate their learning, you are allowing them to take ownership of their studies and gain independence. It is still important for you to ensure that they are progressing in their learning and hold them accountable.

But don’t forget that learning should be fun! You can encourage your child to draw, bake, paint, or go out to the garden. Take this opportunity to spend some time with your child — whether it is talking about school or playtime in the garden!

If you found these ideas helpful, head over to Piptree Kids to check out the full blog post with more tips and tricks to help your older children learn from home 🙂

Nature Play in Early Childhood

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Children learn best while playing. The best place for them to play is the outdoors, where there are no physical, mental or emotional restrictions. Children can be left to their own devices as the adults supervise from afar, or participate in child-led play.

Nature play will reap many benefits. It will significantly improve all aspects of childhood development — including physical, cognitive, social, and emotional. It will also allow your child to build the necessary life-skills that will be extremely useful in the long-term.1

Benefits of nature play2

  1. Risk assessment

Playing in nature will teach your child how to assess and negotiate the risks that are involved. Whether they are climbing on trees or other objects, or playing with sticks and stones, they will learn how to protect themselves and also problem-solve if they are stuck. Even if they sustain a minor injury, they learn to brush it off and pick themselves up again. Building resilience is an important part of childhood development!

  1. Building social skills

When your child heads outside to play, chances are they will meet other and interact with other playmates. You child will learn to collaborate with others, problem-solve, and be a team-player. They will learn to listen to their peers, to come to a compromise and negotiate when there is a need to. They might find a friend to reach out to console themselves in times of need.

  1. Physical health benefits

Children who engage in regular outdoor play benefit from increased flexibility and gross motor skills. Because your child is exposed to nature more often, they are more likely to build a strong and healthy immune system that will enable them to combat illness better. It will also improve their vision as they are not overexposed to electronic screens.

Children who care for plants or grow their own food are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables, reducing their risk of obesity. They are also more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout their lives.

  1. Mental health benefits

Being in nature has been proven to improve mood and reduce depression and mental fatigue. It can help reduce feelings of anger and anxiety, and can also boost confidence and self-esteem.

  1. Academic benefits1

Nature play has shown great academic benefits including reduced stress and ADHD, while improving concentration and focus. This results in improved classroom behaviour and increased motivation and enthusiasm to learn. Playing outdoors also encourages creativity and experimentation. Overall, it results in higher scores in standardised tests.

Nature play ideas

At home nature play3

  1. Sensory Potpourri from the Garden

This activity can be done at home, in a park, or when you’re camping!

  • Give your child a basket and get them to collect leaves and flowers — anything they think that smells nice, or has an interesting colour or texture
  • Let the children run around to find their items and get them to share why they have chosen their items
  • Using a bowl, mix the potpourri items together
  • Spread the mix over a flat surface, which can be easily stored in a dry location for a few weeks. Leave it to dry out.
  • After the mixture is dried, fill a dry glass jar and cover it with a cloth. Use a ribbon to secure it.

This activity is very good at building your child’s awareness of the smells of nature that is around us.

  1. Pressing flowers

This is a very good activity to fuel your child’s creativity. You can use this opportunity to start scrapbooking, or even create a bookmark out of the pressed flowers.

This activity can be done at home, or in a park. Make sure to only pick flowers that have fallen on the ground, and not pluck them from the tree itself.

  • Carefully choose the flowers you want to press
  • Cut several flowers from their stems and arrange them on a blank paper
  • Lay the sheet of paper with flowers between two paper towels
  • Lay a heavy book over the top of the sheet, and use place several bricks or books over top of the original book
  • The weight will press and flatten the flowers. Wait for at least 6 weeks for the flowers to dry out
  1. Worm Farm Wrangler

Worms are nature’s greatest recyclers. Instead of throwing away our vegetable or kitchen scraps, it is a good idea to turn to composting, and use worms to turn our scraps into fertiliser.

  • If you can find a polystyrene box, use a screwdriver to make 8 small holes at the bottom.
  • Line newspaper shreds at the bottom of the box with the holes.
  • Add several large handfuls of soil or compost. Lightly moisten the soil with some water from a watering can.
  • Add a handful of worms to the soil along with some vegetable or kitchen scraps.
  • Cover the soil with hessian or newspaper to keep it moist and dark.
  • Place a brick in another box and place the soil-filled box on top.
  • Let the worms settle in for a week before adding more scraps.
  • Always keep the soil moist and don’t overfeed the worms.
  • Excess moisture and useful fertiliser will seep through the holes at the bottom of the box.

Things to do during a bush-walk4

  1. Use your ‘Super Eyes’

Use your super eyes and observe your surroundings. The goal is to look for a safe insect to observe, and then watch it carefully for a whole minute. Discuss what the insect was doing.

  1. Scrunch and sniff

Try to find a scent that will take you back to this bush trail when you smell it. Take a handful of fallen leaves or flowers and crush them in your hands. How do they smell? Which one is the best?

  1. Watch the birds

If you sit quietly, you will notice that birds begin to fly and perch closer to your group. Watch as they hunt for food, feed their babies, bathe, and sing. Observe the differences in the birds — their size, colour, shape, and behaviour. If you have a bird guide-book, bring it along so you can learn to identify the different species.

  1. Find national treasures

Decide on a theme — colours of the rainbow, alphabet, size, texture — and hunt down treasures that fit in the category. At the end of the bush-walk, take a photo of your treasures to capture the memories and then return them to nature.

  1. Sit silent and still

Different cultures, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, practice a type of sitting that requires complete silence and engagement of all the senses. Discuss how you felt, what you saw or heard.

Things to do at the beach5

  1. Coconut band

Find coconut, rocks, and sticks along the beach. Gather your friends and family and create a band!

  1. Sea Turtle race

Pretend that you’re a sea turtle! Crawl out of your sand nest and race down to the seashore.

(You can get the children to dig their own sand nest and hide in them.)

  1. Sea-shell museum

Walk along the beach and collect seashells that have washed up ashore. Create your own sea-shell museum. Visitors can only enter with one seashell or a sand dollar.

  1. Build a sand-castle

Make use of the wet sand and other safe objects available on the beach to create your very own castle!

Nature and pretend play

These are some basic ideas you can either do with your child, or encourage them to engage in by themselves (with supervision of course)! The best kind of play activities are ones where your child is unrestricted which allows their imagination to run wild!

You can bring them to a park or a playground and they will eventually form friendships and start running their own play-time. We hope this week’s blog post has given you some some fun activities to do with your child! If you need more ideas on how to get your child interested in nature play, you can check out this website.

 

References

  1. Whittle, I. Nature Play in Early Years Education. (Link)
  2. Wenzel, C. Ten benefits of playing in Nature. (Link)
  3. DIY Nature Play. (Link)
  4. 10 things to do as you go bushwalking. (Link)
  5. 10 things to do at your beach. (Link)

The Importance of Teaching Your Child Personal Hygiene

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Personal hygiene is an important form of self-care that will ensure that your child will lead a healthy life. Forming good hygiene practice from early childhood can have a positive effect on your child’s growth and development. Your child will also learn to be independent and boost their confidence and self-esteem.1

These tips can be very useful to ensure that your child is equipped with the best defence against all forms of bacteria and viruses.

For children, the basics of good personal hygiene include:2

  • Hand-washing
  • Covering their nose and/or mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Regular baths or showers
  • Brushing and flossing their teeth

Hand-washing is the best defence against any bacteria and viruses. You can teach your child good hygiene practices from home. Here are some ways you can explain and teach your child basic personal hygiene:

Hand-washing

One of the most important, and the easiest, hygiene practice your child should master is hand-washing. It is important to explain why your child needs to do this regularly. You can tell them that “we wash our hands to get rid of dirt and germs that make us sick”.3

Another way you can explain the importance of hand-washing is to show what happens to germs when we wash our hands. A recent viral video done by a pre-school teacher is a good way to demonstrate what happens when you wash your hands with soap:

  1. Fill a plate with water and black pepper
  2. Dip your child’s finger into the water and hold it there
  3. When they remove their finger, there will be bits of black pepper stuck to it
  4. Dip the same finger into a plate of soap and swish it around to ensure that the soap coats their finger
  5. When they dip the same finger into the plate of black pepper water, the black pepper should repel away from the soap-coated finger

By visualising what happens to germs and viruses, your child will most likely understand why they should be washing their hands regularly. Encourage your child to wash their hands with soap and water:

  • When their hands look dirty
  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating
  • After going to the toilet
  • After blowing their nose, sneezing, or coughing
  • After touching animals
  • After playing outside

Now that they understand why it is important to keep their hands clean, it is time to teach your child the proper hand-washing techniques:

  1. Teach your child how to wash their hands. Ensure that they wash:
  • Their palms and fingers
  • The back of their hands
  • Their fingers and knuckles
  • Their thumbs
  • Their fingertips and wrists
  1. Make sure that they are washing with soap for at least 20 seconds. You can make this fun by singing some songs together:
  • Happy Birthday
  • The Alphabet Song
  • Wash Your Hands (to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat)4

     “Wash, wash, wash my hands

      Make them nice and clean.

      Rub the bottoms, and the tops

      And fingers in between.”

  1. Ensure that they wipe their hands dry after washing them.

The best way to teach your child is to lead by example. Remember to wash your hands after doing any of the above activities and your child will follow suit. By teaching your child to wash their hands and keep themselves clean, it also teaches them to practice social responsibility.

Coughing and sneezing etiquette

Coughing and sneezing is a common way for germs to spread. You can explain this to your child by showing them how a sneeze or cough travels.

  • Take a spray bottle and coloured water (e.g. food dye in water)
  • Pretend that the water is a sneeze/cough
  • Spray it on a blank paper or tissue to see how far and wide the coloured water ‘germs’ can reach5

This will teach them that it is important to cover their mouth and/or nose when they cough or sneeze to prevent the germs from spreading. It is crucial that they cover their nose and/or mouth with a tissue or cough/sneeze into their elbow to prevent the ‘spray’.

Leading by example

The easiest way to develop good hygiene habits is to keep practicing and lead by example. By washing their hands regularly, your child will lower their risk of contracting COVID-19 and also prevent the spread of any other virus or bacteria to their peers.

As long as your child is able to do the 2 basic hygiene practices, they have mastered the best defence against many types of bacteria and viruses, while developing self-help skills and learning about social responsibility.

 

References

  1. Ivy Prep Team. Developing Good Personal Hygiene Practices in Children. (Link)
  2. Health Direct. Personal hygiene for children. (Link)
  3. Reece, T. Teaching Toddlers About Hygiene. (Link)
  4. Columbus Public Health. Teaching Handwashing. (Link)
  5. Understanding Germs for Kids: 20 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids about Germs. (Link)
  6. Proper Hand washing for kids and parents. (Image Link)
  7. Teaching children social responsibility (Link)

The Importance of Breakfast for a Child

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Whether or not your child eats breakfast can determine how they will fare for the rest of the day — will they be happy and energetic, or grumpy and tired? Breakfast is important because:

  1. It helps maintain a healthy weight for your child
  2. It provides energy and stamina for the rest of the day
  3. It improves mood and concentration
  4. It can affect your child’s education

However, more and more children are skipping breakfast before going to school. This can cause a huge impact on their growth and development. But, don’t worry! Here are 3 tricks you can use to encourage your child to eat breakfast:

  1. Model the behaviour you want your child to learn
  2. Keep breakfast light
  3. Give them options

Check to see if your child’s school offers a breakfast program if they can’t have breakfast at home!

Read more about this topic here.

How can you Help Your Child Settle into a New Environment?

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It can be stressful for both you and your child when they are introduced to a new environment. It could be their first day of school, a new classroom, or a new childcare. It can be emotionally challenging for children to be separated from their parents, even just for a little while. Settling into a new environment for young ones is a huge step and it is normal if they are having trouble with it.

Here are 6 tips you can use to help your child manage separation anxiety and settle into a new space:

  1. Familiarise your child with their educators and classmates
  2. Ask if they want to bring a comfort object with them
  3. Establish a goodbye routine to prepare them for the separation
  4. Empathise with them
  5. Stay connected with your child
  6. Create a routine — a fixed sleep/wake-up time

With these 6 tips, your child will be ready to step into a new social environment and learn how to manage their anxieties and worries!

Read here to find out how you can use these tips to help your child.