Category Archives: Early Childhood Development

School Success Rx

 

Guest Blog by Calgary’s Child — original link here

With Preschool and Kindergarten Registration starting now, Calgary’s Child share their prescription for school success:

Read, read, read to your child

“Being read to is the single most consistent and reliable predictor of academic success later in life,” says Kurumada Chuang. She recommends reading to your preschooler for 20 minutes every night at bedtime. While you’re at it, stop every so often and ask your child a question about the story before turning the page, such as: “Gosh, why do you think she was sad?” Or, “What do you think is going to happen next?” Making reading more interactive makes it more fun and helps build your child’s comprehension skills.

Help your child learn to follow directions

To help your preschooler get the hang of following directions, practice at home by giving simple commands, such as: “Please help me pick up your toys and put them in the
toy box.” Then, encourage your child to follow through by offering an incentive to do whatever it is you’re asking. Tell your child they can play outside, for example, once they’ve finished putting away their toys. An incentive helps your child understand that following directions makes other fun activities possible. If they don’t follow your directions and, for example, don’t put their toys away, calmly explain that they won’t be able to play with those toys for the rest of the day or go, for example, to the park. Keep it positive by focusing on how clean the playroom will look when you’re done. Then praise your child when they’re successful. “You followed my directions so well. Thank you for helping me put your toys in the toy box like I asked you to! That was so helpful.”

Help your child master sharing and turn-taking

From age 3 to 5, children tend to hoard coveted toys and objects. They’re not really ready to grasp the concept of sharing yet. But you can help your youngster practice by having them ‘take turns’ with toys and catching your child when they share on their own. To help them develop the empathy that true sharing requires, state what they did and how it makes others feel, such as: “Thank you for sharing. It makes your sister feel good when you share the ball.” Your child should be able to ‘own’ special or new toys, though, so keep them out of sight on playdates or in their room, away from siblings. By Kindergarten, children are capable of sharing well and taking turns. If your child isn’t there yet, help them get the hang of it by inviting a friend over for a cooperative task such as baking cookies. If things aren’t going well, calmly ask your child to sit out. Pretty soon, they’ll get the idea and want to join in on the fun again. You can also read your child books about sharing and discuss them. In the classic tale, Stone Soup, retold by Heather Forest, two hungry travelers make soup from ingredients everyone in the town contributes. What makes the soup extra delicious is the sharing it took to make it.

Help your child make friends

If you get the sense your toddler or preschooler needs a little help in the social department, try hosting playdates with others your child likes or with whom they have common interests. Playdates offer an opportunity to break away from the group and foster individual friendships. You might begin by asking your preschooler: “How about a playdate with Grace? I notice that she likes to draw too.” If you’re not sure whom to invite over first, ask your child’s preschool teacher if there’s anyone in the classroom who might be a good match for your child. Then feel free to go from there and make the rounds so your child gets the chance to know several children better. To help your child play host(ess), let them pick the snack and ask them beforehand what games and activities s/he and their friend might like to do. On the playdate, feel free to play along and stay close by to make sure everyone stays safe. But give your child and their friend the chance to play on their own too. To help things go smoothly, keep playdates to two hours; children start to get tired after that. And keep it simple by inviting just one child over at a time.

Practice sharing

From age 3 to 5, kids aren’t yet capable of grasping the concept of sharing, but you can help your preschooler get the hang of it by having them ‘take turns’ with toys and catching them when they share on their own. “Stating what she did and how it makes others feel, such as: ‘Thank you for sharing. It makes your sister feel good when you share your toast,’ helps her develop the empathy that true sharing requires,” says Marcy Guddemi, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Gesell Institute of Human Development. You can also read your child books about sharing and discuss them together. Hone your child’s listening skills. At the dinner table and during car rides, help your preschooler hone their listening skills by asking them to wait to speak until their brother (or vice versa) has finished his sentence. When it’s her turn, remind her, “Now it’s your turn to talk. Thank you for being patient and for being such a good listener while your brother was talking.” Explain that being a good listener shows respect for the speaker, whether it’s her brother or her teacher and the other students at school who are trying to hear what the teacher has to say. Mention that it’s a two-way street: When she’s a good listener, she’s showing the same kind of respect that she gets when others listen to her. If she continues to interrupt, keep reminding her that she’ll get the chance to talk. Becoming a good listener, like many things, can take lots of practice.

National Child Day 2016 — Celebrating Every Child’s Right to BELONG

Sunday November 20th marks “National Child Day”, the day we recognize Canada’s commitment to the United Nations’ Declaration of, and Convention on, the Rights of the Child.

On this day we celebrate every child’s right to dignity and respect, and their abilities to be active participants in their own lives and communities!

national-child-day-logo#WeBelong Sign

This year, we asked children of all ages to create images that show ‘what belonging looks like’. We also asked the people that work with these children, adults from all different disciplines and domains, to describe what ‘belonging’ means to them, to create a collaborative art exhibit.

We love what resulted — an explosion of colours and connectivity that helps us remember our own early understandings of belonging, how far we’ve come, and the ways that we still have to grow!

Thank you to all of our families for participating in the early art invocation, and to our colleagues across Calgary for their insight and honesty into this topic.

at-the-fence

at-the-table

a-house

flowers-in-their-hair

giving-hooray

hugs

i-belong

tree

loving-picture

part-of-everything

There are some amazing activities happening in Calgary this weekend to celebrate National Child Day! We recommend that you check at least one of them out, to help your child live out their ‘Right to Belong’!

Multilingualism in the Early Years

Despite years of research to the contrary, the idea often still persists that using more than one language to speak to very young children somehow delays or confuses their language acquisition…

But children’s brains are HARDWIRED to learn language — as much and as many language[s] as they possibly can — and it is actually hugely adaptive and beneficial for them to do so!

We’ve gathered some of our favourite external resources in one place to help spread this message! Let us know if you love one that we’ve missed!

Patricia Kuhl “The Linguistic Genius of Babies”(available with subtitles and transcripts here)

 

Mia Nacamulli “The Benefits of a Bilingual Brain”

 

 

Articles:

“BILINGUALISM FINE-TUNES HEARING, ENHANCES ATTENTION: Dual language speakers better able to encode basic language sounds and patterns” (April 30, 2012 | Northwestern University | by Wendy Leopold)
“Why Bilinguals Are Smarter” (March 17, 2012 | The New York Times | by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee)
“The Benefits of Multilingualism” (May 1, 2010 | Institute of Applied Linguistics, University of Warsaw | Michał B. Paradowski)

“The Pros and Cons of Raising a Multilingual Child” (2004 | Multilingual Children’s Association)
“Preserve rare languages to spread benefits of multilingualism, says expert” (February 15, 2016 | The Guardian | Press Association)

bubble talk watercolor abstract background. hand drawn illustration. language and speech

It is important to remember that multiple languages are best learned from people who can speak confidently and fluently using them! Our models for language-learning can be found easily in a culturally diverse city like Calgary! Make new friends that can speak languages you can’t! Encourage family and friends to speak in their first languages around your children! Join a fun bilingual program! Open your lives up to the sounds of multiple languages and you’ll also open up to some amazing benefits and experiences!

What Does It All Mean? (Nursery Rhymes, that is)

Sometimes an egg is just an egg. And sometimes it’s a cannon.

I am currently in love with this fantastic book about the meaning of nursery rhymes: Half for You and Half for Me by Katherine Govier.HalfForYou

As a children’s librarian, I love all things to do with children’s literature. Nursery rhymes hold a special place in my heart, though, from the many recitations by my mother at bedtime; the impromptu plays my siblings and I would concoct based on the rhymes found in our dog-eared and much loved Real Mother Goose anthology; and the hours now spent repeatedly singing these rhymes with my two-year-old son.

So when I came across this book, I was immediately besotted. A nursery rhyme book that divulges its secrets and that is both beautifully illustrated and Canadian (Albertan!) to boot! Yes, please!

Back to the egg. We are all familiar with Humpty Dumpty. But did you know that while some think Humpty Dumpty is a riddle rhyme, with the answer being ‘Humpty is an egg’, others believe Humpty actually refers to a cannon on a castle wall used to protect the royalists during sieges?

Or that Rock-a-Bye Baby has sometimes been credited as the first poem produced in North America? (Apparently, one of the pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower saw Aboriginals suspending their babies in birch bark cradles in the trees to be rocked by the wind. Ingenious!)

But this next one blew my mind. Many people have often said that Ring Around the Rosie is actually a rather depressing rhyme about the plague. But Govier sets us straight, explaining that the rhyme is probably not old enough to be able to reference the Great Plague we thought it was describing. This rhyme doesn’t appear in history until the late nineteenth century – a full two centuries after the 17th century plague it supposedly describes. Rather than falling dead in the line ‘we all fall down’, it is believed the children are really just curtsying. Isn’t that a much nicer way of imagining this rhyme as we sing it with our children?

I love reading about the multitude of theories surrounding the origins of nursery rhymes. Is there one that you’ve always wondered about? Send us a message and we’ll see if we can find some answers for you!

Prepping for Preschool: Five Tips for Success

The wait-lists are long, sometimes years at a time. The philosophies are broad; Montessori, Reggio Emelia, Waldorf, TLC, Community, Classic Play?! Advice abounds, and with constant conflicts.

No… it’s not the road to your child’s Post-Secondary Education — it’s just the first step on their educational journey, into the wonderful world of preschool.

The early years of life are a critical period of opportunity and skills-building. The things we learn in the first five years of childhood lay the foundation for our successes for the rest of our lives. This is why preschool registration is as intense as it is — finding the right fit for your family is hugely important. Regardless of what route you end up taking, here are some tips to help make sure the transition is as smooth as possible:

  1. Read about it

There are a lot of great books with themes revolving around the start of preschool — many of them involve characters that your child already knows and loves (keeping familiar things close is very comforting during times of big change). Snuggle up together and share a story: you’ll be increasing your child’s feel-good sensations around learning, and practicing one of the most valuable preschool activities, storytime.

  1. Plan a Visit

Most preschools are going to have open houses and parent education nights, but if you miss these, call ahead to see if you can arrange a quick tour through your child’s new school space. Familiarizing ourselves with new settings gives us a chance to manage our expectations. Start frequenting the school’s playground or another in the neighbourhood, so that the adjustment in September doesn’t also have to require an orientation to place!

  1. Practice makes Permanent

Start implementing a more tangible routine at home and practice skills that your child will need to do on their own (like self-care tasks around washing hands, taking off and hanging up jackets, putting on and filling backpacks, etc).

Incorporate imaginative play into your day! Make believe that you’re at preschool with your child and take turns being the teacher and the student!

If you’re worried about aspects of school like sustaining attention or pro-socialization, sign up for a session of early education classes; we cover all sorts of topics around early development, and your child can practice sitting quietly in a circle time, group sharing and conversations, and exploring personal needs, identities, and behaviours. We promise they’re also just a lot of fun!

  1. Validate Feelings

Try not to diminish or deny the feelings your child has around starting school. Avoid saying things like “don’t be nervous” or “there’s nothing to worry about!”. Instead reassure your child, saying “I understand that you’re feeling nervous about school — it’s such a different and exciting experience!” and then brainstorm ideas on ways your child can comfort and calm themselves.

Putting a label to our emotions, allowing ourselves to feel them, and building strategies before the meltdown allows us to move towards action instead of being overwhelmed by feelings. Having a strong emotional vocabulary and sense of resilience is an important pre-school skill to work on, and one even adults need help with sometimes… which reminds us:

  1. Brace Yourself

You are excited for your child’s new adventure, looking forward to regaining some of your alone time, sad to say goodbye to those awesome early years, and worried about your child’s future success. You’re probably feeling a million other conflicting emotions on top of these! Starting preschool can be as difficult for you as it is for your child. Help manage some of those feelings by following your own advice — don’t deny or diminish them; acknowledge them and build in some strategies!
Plan a first-day coffee date with other parents who have school starters this year.
Organize a special event with other family members who are home with you during the school day (they’ll be missing your little one too).
Go ‘back-to-school’ yourself and pick up a new hobby or activity that you’ve always wanted to develop!

This is a time of big change for everyone, but it’s a positive and exciting one. With a little bit of planning and some solid strategies, it’s going to be a good first year of school!