Pretend and Imaginative Play

My three-year-old grandson, Parker, gravitates towards playthings with push buttons while we stroll down the toy aisle. He hopes the buttons will make sounds and “talk” to him. As a child development specialist, I’m not too thrilled with his fascination because these toys don’t leave much to the imagination.

“Grams, this one doesn’t make any noise,” he comments rather confused.

“You’re right Parker, it doesn’t. You have to use your imagination. You can pretend and make the stuffed dog say anything you want.” I’ve given an interesting concept to a child living in a computer-generated world where imagination is virtually untapped.

Benefits. Pretend play helps children gain developmental benefits including creativity, imagination, self-confidence, mastering new concepts, and communication skills. So how can parents encourage pretend and imaginative play in a technological world? Provide open-ended toys and materials, dramatic play items, games, and interactions that facilitate children’s play.

Open-Ended Toys. Choose “open-ended” toys and materials. This means toys that offer different ways children can play with them. Examples of open-ended play items are blocks, cardboard boxes, wooden train sets, dress-up clothes, play dough, and art materials. Items children can build and create anything they dream of are ideal for imagination, such as: Duplos, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Mega Blocks, and magnetic blocks. One day a child builds a zoo while another time he/she constructs a ferry.

Dramatic Play. Another way parents can enhance children’s imaginations is through dramatic play. Building forts, houses, hospitals, and stores using common household items provides infinite creativity and pretending. Sheets, blankets, pillows, cardboard boxes, large appliance boxes, stools, chairs, and boards are great materials.

Children can also imitate real-life events to advance pretend play. For example, if the dog goes to the vet, children can invent a pet hospital at home. Set up a dentist’s office, doctor’s office, grocery store, classroom, hair salon, pet store, or auto shop. The possibilities are endless.

Dress-up Clothes. Children also enjoy dress up clothes in adult sizes that you can discover at used clothing stores, such as Goodwill. Choose items that represent both genders as well as clothes from different cultures. You’ll enjoy watching your children try “adult” roles as they express themselves in pretend play.

Games. Games provide another way for expressing imagination. Once children learn rules to traditional board games ask them to create a new game with different rules. You can also provide children with common game items and ask them to create a new game. “What kind of game can we play with a Frisbee and a ball?” You’ll be amazed at how much fun they’ll cultivate for your family

Benefits. Finally, talking to children while they play not only promotes children’s vocabulary, communication skills, and storytelling, but helps children’s imaginations. Suggestions like, “What else can you build?” or “How can you make your store higher?” stretches children’s problem solving abilities and the beginnings of abstract thinking. Puppets are another great way to facilitate pretend play and vocabulary. A chair with a towel over it becomes a puppet stage.

Encouraging your children to use their imaginations by providing a wide variety of play items and interactions will build skills that will last a lifetime.

 

6 Year-Old Stabbed in Neck with Pencil

pencil-and-postit-796599-mWas it a stabbing or a poke with a pencil? Was it bullying or an accident? Why didn’t the school call an ambulance or the police? Did the Turlock Unified District follow established protocol?

The questions ruminating around California’s Central Valley abound. But the one question that bothers me the most is, Why didn’t the school intervene when the family previously reported bullying incidents?

Bully Workshop

I’m teaching a workshop next month at the California Association for the Education of Young Children’s annual state conference in Pasadena, California. The workshop, Bullying 101: Helping the Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander; How Educators Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence, is based on a course I created for Merced College. This specific workshop is for adults working in kindergarten to third grade programs or schools.

Stories Abound

Any time I’ve had a conversation about my speaking engagement, someone shares a story. A story not unlike the “stabbing” story. “My (daughter, grandson, neighbor, friend, relative) has a child who was bullied. They reported it to the school over and over and nothing was done. The child changed schools.”

More Columbines?

How many more Columbines will it take for all schools to wake-up? How many more kids will take their own lives because of bullying, also called bullycide, before society demands bullying stops? How many times will I hear stories where no one intervened?

The Movie: Bully…

I’ll write more about bullying in the future and strategies that work. In the meantime, view the 2012 movie, Bully: It’s Time to Take A Stand produced by The Weinstein Company and Where We Live Films, rated PG-13. I’d sure like to hear your thoughts on the film and bullying in schools.

What is Bullying?

Bully Free Zone StockPholio.com 2500644518_da89dba048_b

How would you describe bullying? Has your child been bullied? Have you? Last week I taught a workshop at the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC) in Pasadena for adults working with children in the primary grades.

Over 50 educators actively participated in my workshop: Bullying 101: Helping the Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: How Educators Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence.

The two months I spent preparing for this workshop were emotionally challenging. It was difficult to read books, research, and view videos about what’s happening on elementary campuses. As I read about bullying definitions, I often thought of the squabbles I observe weekly between five year olds.

When a peer doesn’t do what their friend wants, I hear, “You’re not going to be my friend anymore,” or, “You’re not invited to my birthday party.” If they are really upset, they might say both sentences together. So is this bullying?

Bullying Definition. Although there are numerous bullying definitions, I chose this one because it contains multiple aspects. Three criteria distinguish bullying from other misbehaviors or isolated cases of aggression.

1. “It is aggressive behavior or intentional harm doing.

2. It is carried out repeatedly and over time.

3. It occurs within an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power.” 1, p. 232

Are the squabbling five-year olds bullying? Their behavior is not always aggressive but they are saying these things to express frustration. Most likely, it is the meanest thing they know so say. The words are intentional, although very short lived. Later, they are once again friends and get re-invited to the party.

Yes, it is carried out repeatedly over time, but by different children. It isn’t only one or two children who make these threats against certain children. It seems to be a regular part of their interactions as they learn more appropriate social skills. Is it acceptable? To me, it is not. I’d like the teacher to intervene and explain how that hurts others’ feelings and how to state their frustration in a more specific way. “I don’t like it when you take my cars.”

Finally, is there an imbalance in power? An imbalance of power could be by size, age, or abilities. Although the children are all different, I don’t observe an imbalance of power. In this situation, I’d say that the children are not bullying, but learning how to express themselves; however, they need more adult guidance. What do you think? Are the children being bullied?

Source:

1. Hirsch, Lee & Lowen, Cynthia with Santorelli, Dina (Editors). Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents, and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis. [Companion to the Acclaimed Film Bully] New York: Weinstein Books, 2012, p. 232.

“The Forgotten Garden” Hope Street: My Journey

[www.stockpholio.com]-7574858320_4 on its way out aussiegall

The tomato plants hanging over the grow box creep onto the sidewalk fall chaotically onto my pathway look dead. It appears that someone at Stanford Hospital previously cared for these plants.

There’s evidence that tomato cages and stakes supported the plants growing tall and abundant. Now the cages lean haphazardly with the plants’ heaviness. The plants are left to die during the cool fall days.

The dead plants remind me of my life. Dealing with undiagnosed brain impairment for the past five years, darkness clouds my former bubbly personality and positive outlook on life.

After a long search, the doctors from the neurology & epilepsy department diagnosed me just last week. I’m one of the lucky ones. My diagnosis only took five years, while most people aren’t diagnosed for seven years.

My non-epileptic seizures don’t change my disability status. I’m still unable to fulfill my college professor responsibilities. I feel isolated and alone especially since my life no longer centers on hundreds of students and colleagues.

Then I notice that the plants are not quite dead. I discover two tiny, green tomatoes. I touch them and wonder how they are surviving amidst this tangled and forgotten garden. My eyes burn and overflow with tears. How will I survive another dark day?

During my hospitalization, the garden is the only place where I’m allowed some fresh air. Every day I’m compelled to visit the garden to check on my discovery. Breathing in the crisp air while observing God’s beauty, gives my heart a lift. The two small tomatoes are still growing amongst the neglected plants. If these two tiny tomatoes can thrive in this forgotten garden, maybe I can get better too.

Today as I approach the plants, they look worse than when I discovered them ten days ago. I hope my adopted tomatoes are still growing. But they’re not.

“They’re red,” I exclaim to no one but myself. “My two green tomatoes are turning red.”

I’m so excited I search through other vines parting their branches. I discover six tiny tomato buds on the first vine. On another I observe a dozen buds just forming in a row. Hundreds of tomato buds hang on the unkept plants.

What appears dead is still growing but unseen by those who pass by. I can’t always see the buds God is growing in my life. Yet in His time, I see glimpses of “red” just like my two adopted red tomatoes. There’s life amongst this forgotten garden. On this quiet nippy fall morning, I remember, God hasn’t forgotten me either.

Let’s Make a Deal

one-way-street-signs-1294579-m

All of us have situations in which there aren’t any choices, like work requirements. Children need to learn that they don’t always have a choice. Sometimes decisions are made by parents or other adults.

Safety Reasons

For example, parents are responsible for their children’s safety. Dr. Sue Grossman, Assistant Professor at Eastern Michigan reminds parents that children can’t play with everything, like the stove or burner controls when helping make cookies. (1)

Primary and Secondary Decisions

Sometimes they can’t do something because of time constraints, like when parents need to drop the children off at pre-school and get to work. Parents make the primary decision, it’s time to get ready, but then children can make subsequent, secondary choices, like what to wear or whether they want to pour in flour or chocolate chips for the cookies.

Accepting No

Dr. Grossman adds, “When children know that they will be given sufficient opportunities to choose for themselves, they are more willing to accept those important ‘no choice’ decisions adults must make for them.” (1)

Source:

1. Offering Children Choices: Encouraging Autonomy and Learning While Minimizing Conflicts, Sue Grossman, Ph.D., Early Childhood News, 2007. www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?…607. Accessed 3/25/2014.

Preschoolers and Choices

[www.stockpholio.com]-8413684208_4 Rex Boggs I Luv Pencils

As a college professor, I chose what committees I happily wanted to serve on. If the college dictated which committees I must be on, I wouldn’t have been happy.

 

What about you? Do you serve well if you have choices or have choices made for you?

Our preschoolers are no different. They too like to have control. Giving them the power to choose encourages autonomy (independence) while minimizing conflict.

Choices Can Begin Early

Choices can actually begin when babies become toddlers. Simply asking, “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt today?” as you hold up the items provides a choice. A toddler can point which empowers them.

This or That?

Limiting choices helps preschoolers select. Many restaurant menus offer innumerable choices that sometimes overwhelm adults. Instead of asking your preschoolers, “What do you want?” ask, “Would you like chicken bites or a grilled cheese sandwich? Do you want milk or juice?” If the preschoolers are verbal, have the children order their own food.

More Choices Examples

Here are some more ways to give children choices. Instead of asking, “Do you want to take a nap?” (Why do parents ask this?) Inquire, “Do you want to nap with your teddy bear blanket or your doggie blanket?” When it’s cold outside, don’t ask, “Do you want to wear your jacket?” ask, “Do you want to put your shoes on first or your jacket?” After preschoolers make decisions based on two choices, gradually increase the number of choices. For example, “Do you want raisins, a granola bar, or yogurt for snack?”

You’ll discover that your preschoolers do better with choices just like we do.

Book Review: The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study

divorce-book-cover

Twenty five years ago, the general population was told that children and teens adjust to divorce within five years after their parent’s divorce. The controversial, New York Times Bestselling book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study, came along in 2000 and tells a different story. A story that is difficult to process and challenges American society’s beliefs about divorce.

The Study

Wallerstein studied children of divorce since 1971, when she began observing some 131 children of divorced families in affluent Marin County, California. The original “children of divorce” study was funded by the Zellerbach Family Fund. Subsequent studies were done with the same children that ultimately led to The 25 Year Landmark Study.

The Book

The five-part, twenty-two chapter book presents a long-term perspective of children of divorce after they reach adulthood. “…when children of divorce become adults, they are badly frightened that their relationships will fail, just like the most important relationship in their parents’ lives failed,” (p. xiii).

College Students’ Responses

I used an article based on this book in my college Child Growth & Development course for small group discussions. The topic stirs up intense emotions alongside powerful opinions based on students’ personal experiences. The vast majority of students from divorced families agree with the authors’ long-lasting effects of divorce.

Interesting Chapters

Some interesting chapters include: Growing Up Is Harder; The Wages of Violence; Our Failure to Intervene; Undoing the Past; and Growing Up Lonely. Since divorce is so prevalent in our society, this is a well researched and documented book on the effects of divorce that should be read by anyone touched by divorce.

Book Information

The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study by Judith S. Wallerstein, Julia M. Lewis, & Sandra Blakeslee, New York: Hyperion, 2000. Available from Amazon.com hardcover $17.56; paperback $11.62; audio cassette $5.48; and Kindle $9.99.

Book Review: The Hurried Child: Growing up too fast too soon

The Hurried ChildOne of my favorite contemporary psychologists is David Elkind, author of the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Hurried Child. The message in his original book published in 1981 was, “Give childhood back to children.” As a child development specialist, his message echoes mine.

25th Anniversary Edition

Unfortunately, in his revised edition, the third edition, and now the 25th anniversary edition, the prefaces to his books sadly state that children are increasingly hurried. Interestingly, he includes all his previous prefaces in this edition.

First Edition

The first edition focused on the way parents, schools, and the media hurry children. Concerns about sports and schooling that he considered developmentally inappropriate, as well as the effects of sex and violence on television were key components of his book.

Technology & Hurry

The latest edition adds information on the effects of technology on children with the pervasiveness of our hurried society and media. “In many ways, our new technologies have radically transformed childhood, and not always for the better,” (p. viii). Other significant cultural changes include the focus on infant education, such as Baby Einstein and computer programs for infants and toddlers. Out of home child care for 12.5 million children under age five with an average of 36 hours per week is yet another cultural shift, as is the child as a consumer, and the technology empowered student.

Two Parts

This ten chapter book is dived into two parts: Our Hurried Children and Hurried Children: Stressed Children. Part one addresses the dynamics of how parents, schools, media and technology hurry children. Two excellent chapters in part 2 include Growing Up Slowly and How Children React to Stress.

Hurrying Children

Elkind’s documented so many significant cultural changes around hurrying children, he’s amended the closure from his first book to state, “In the end, a playful childhood is the most basic right of children,” (p. xvii). This book is counter culture to our hurried society which is exactly why I like it. Let’s give childhood back to our children. They deserve nothing less.

Book Information

The Hurried Child: Growing up too fast too soon by David Elkind, Ph.D., Da Capo Press, 2007, 25th anniversary edition. Available at amazon.com; paperback deluxe edition $12.42; Kindle $10.33.

 

To exercise or not to exercise?

5Bwww.stockpholio.com-5D-5032496501_4-Pilates-U-S-ArmyHas your doctor suggested you exercise for health benefits? Did your friend suggest exercising as a way to lose weight? Do kids ask you if you’re going to have a baby because of your tummy pouch?
Should I exercise today or not?
It’s a question you may ask yourself on a regular basis. Nah, not today, I tell myself. It’s raining. Maybe tomorrow…or if I’m lucky, maybe it will rain again. This week I spoke to a group of Mothers of Preschoolers in Tracy about The Physical Perspective. Most of us know that exercise is helpful to prevent weight gain, promote weight loss, or maintain our weight, but that doesn’t always do the trick. (1)

 

Some of us are motivated by health

Exercise reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. (1, 2) It also reduces stress, depression and anxiety. (3) Enhancing mental performance and work productivity (whether your “work” is in your home or outside your home) are other benefits. Exercise can even improve your skin.

But some of us are motivated by sex

The benefit the mothers’ giggled about is that 20 minutes of exercise a day improves your sex life. (3) Who knew that the Harvard School of Public Health studies such things? It’s true. Just 20 minutes/day Improves sexual response in women, leaves you feeling energized, and helps you feel more desirable.

Dr. David Katz from Yale adds, “Working out with your partner not only will allow you to spend time together, but it will trigger adrenaline & other feel-good hormones to get you in the mood.” (3)

I shared with the ladies, “If your husband finds out about this, chances are he’ll ensure you get exercise time in!” Maybe that will work…rain or not!

Sources:

1. Physical Activity and Health, www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/ Accessed 10/23/2013.

2. The Benefits of Physical Activity, Harvard School of Public Health, www.hsph.harvard.edu › The Nutrition Source. Accessed 10/25/2013.

 

Our Heart Attitude

5Bwww.stockpholio.com-5D-4266283238_3-Heart-seyed-mosafa-zamani

Perhaps you’ve grumbled about a co-worker, “She always has such a bad attitude. I can’t stand being around her.” Maybe you’ve been told, “You have a bad attitude,” or said to your teen, “When you change your attitude, I’ll talk to you.”

Last week I spoke to a group of moms. One segment of the talk was checking our heart attitude. I adapted these questions from a book, Checklist for Life for Moms.1

  • Do you recognize that your attitudes can have far-reaching effects on your family?
  • Do you acknowledge that a negative attitude can easily develop into a critical way of life?
  • Do you accept that you can choose your attitude toward a particular person or situation?
  • Do you consider that your thoughts & attitudes should reflect those of Christ?
  • Do you trust God to show you the positive qualities in those who usually engender negative feelings?
  • Do you appreciate the common ground that can be found in negative or difficult family members?

So how do you check your own attitude? How is your attitude critical to your daily life?

Source:

1. Checklist for Life for Moms, Thomas Nelson, 2005.