Watering your child’s mind

October 2, 2008

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells And pretty maids all in a row.

It’s an everyday nursery rhyme, it’s simple to sing with your small child, and apparently this nursery rhyme about a little child watering her garden is watering your little child’s mind!

Early childhood educators have identified pre-reading skills that are necessary for the learning of reading and the mastery of language. They include phonological awareness, or the awareness of speech sounds and rhyme similarities, vocabulary or knowing lots of words, and the more a child loves the enjoyment and pleasure of using language, the more success they will have in reading and writing and academic studies. Nursery rhymes, with their words of imagery, rhymes and rhythm that children find so fun, have all these qualities!

Let’s look at other ways that you are probably already simply, instinctively and effectively watering your child’s mind, and what the researchers are now saying about it.

Let’s look at songs and music, activities that lots of caregivers instinctively share with their children. The National Network for Child Care at nncc.org/Series/good.time.music explains why songs, action songs, music and rhythm are important for children. They allow children to express their emotions, channel their energy creatively, gain confidence in themselves as they coordinate their minds and their bodies together, learn new words and ideas, and learn about themselves as they explore what they like, what they like when and what they can do. Learning these physical and emotional controls, ways of expression and self-knowledge are necessary for a happy life now in childhood and in their future adulthood. This is the real reason why we let our toddlers take out the pots, pans and wooden spoons and bang them, making a terrible ruckus.

How about even simpler, even more unassuming activities, such as having fun blowing a dandelion’s seeds into the air. The child development psychologists Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn in their book “Baby Minds: Brain-Building Games Your Baby Will Love” explain that such a simple yet fun and stimulating activity will stimulate your baby’s brain development. The practical conclusion that these researchers draw from the latest research is that “If your baby is not having fun, it’s probably not worth doing”.

Thus, the conclusion we can draw is “If your small child is having fun, then it’s probably stimulating your child’s physical and mental development”. We already instinctively knew that, and so it’s wonderful to have researchers and experts confirming and encouraging this. Whenever my toddler pulls the toilet paper still on its roll and runs around the house redecorating it in toilet paper, I just tell myself that this is a fantastic activity for his brain, body and creative imagination.

Actually, small children are programmed to learn and to engage in activities that will develop their minds and bodies. It probably has not escaped your attention that kids will naturally invent a fun and interesting game (fun and interesting to the child) out of absolutely anything. The brain plasticity scientist Lise Eliot explains in “What’s Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life” that there are way too many connections in the brain and communications with the rest of the body – billions of neurons and a quadrillion synapses at last count – for it to be preprogrammed in genetic DNA material. Thus, babies and children are programmed to try things out and to repetitively practise them for days and weeks and months, so that brain circuitry will sprout in the first place and then solidify to become permanent. Actually, this is my own layperson’s description. Lise Eliot refers to it as neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and myelination. It’s the reason why babies kick in the womb, so that the connection between the leg-kicking part of the brain and the actual leg can be developed. It’s the reason why my newly mobile son never tires of playing with the toilet brush in the toilet bowl, developing and practising his hand-eye coordination and his understanding of the physical world, in this visual, audio and tactile activity of splashing water.

We all know that cuddling our babies and children is important for their emotional and psychological development. Lise Eliot gives examples in the chapter “The Importance of Touch” of how touch and physical contact increases physical and brain development. Studies show that premature babies that receive cuddling and massages thrive measurably more and do better on visual baby tests. Children with various medical problems had better clinical outcomes after receiving massage therapy. Perhaps you have seen the famous “Rescuing Hug” (such as at daurelia.com/spirit/rescue or snopes.com/glurge/hug), where the physical touch of her baby twin sister was responsible for the very survival of a premature baby.

Let’s talk about talking. The very experienced authority on early childhood development Dr Burton White gives the following advice. Allow your newly mobile child to explore your home. He’ll bring things back to show you and will have a need to be fulfilled when doing that. Stop, quickly look and see what that need is, and then respond to the need. Dr Burton White says that the secret to teaching language, whether it be verbal language or sign language, is to respond to that need with language and play on that need. Dr White is the author of “First Three Years of Life” and “Raising a Happy Unspoiled Child”, and you can see and hear him giving this advice in Joseph Garcia’s “Sign with your Baby” video. And in my house, you can see me having a conversation with a toddler about a wet toilet brush he has just brought me.

How to increase your child’s mathematics ability? Studies have shown that studying music statistically significantly increases children’s math skills and spatial-temporal reasoning abilities. The question now is why. A “Today’s Parent” article cites a brain-imaging “Mozart Effect” type of study that showed that the same parts of the brain were active when listening to Mozart as when doing puzzles and playing chess, suggesting that music is like warm-up exercises for the brain. Another study cited in that article goes much further, suggesting that music is more than just a cultural artifact; that our brains are actually structured for music, just like our brains are structured for speech and walking. Brain patterns were mapped and assigned musical tones to mark changes in neural activity. When played back, instead of sounding like a random sequence of notes, it almost sounded like a melody of a recognizable style of music!

“No!” – We hear it from those terrible-twos toddlers. Well, Lise Eliot in “What’s Going On In There?” presents a study about the effects of parents saying “No”, “Don’t” and “Stop it” on the development of their children. Research established that children that heard a larger proportion of this type of negative feedback had poorer language skills than children whose parents kept their negative responses to a minimum and instead gave encouraging, positive and dialog-inducing responses. The online games at www.KiddiesGames.com provide a fun model of this positive pattern of interaction. When the child playing a game gets something right, the friendly child character on the screen says “That’s right!” or congratulates the player. When the child playing a game clicks on the wrong thing, the upbeat child on the screen doesn’t actually say “No” or “Wrong”. Instead, it explains in the same positive tone what the child playing just did and what another possible (and correct) answer could have been. The feedback is accurate and positively and cheeringly encouraging. As far as I know, there have been no studies done on the effects that toddlers saying “No” to their parents have on those parents…

Can you remember all this information next time you’re interacting with your small child? Let’s summarize it all like the current Canadian CBS Television campaign slogan – “1) Comfort, 2) play with and 3) teach your child”, in that order. This is how you water your child’s mind, and you’re probably already doing it. So follow your instinct, let your child lead the way to play, go with the flow and enjoy playing with your small child. While the results of recent studies may be news to you, the recommended actions are just a reminder!

The author, Emma Rath, is the creator of free, fun, educational online computer games for babies and preschoolers at www.kiddiesgames.com. These games encourage caregivers to cuddle their children on their lap while participating in games of open-ended exploration that never say “No”, except for one fun game whose serious mission is to undo the instinctive child behavior of hiding in the case of a house fire.

When To Start Potty Training

October 2, 2008

When it comes to potty training timing is very important. You and your child will have a much easier time with potty training if you start at just the right time. Find out how to know that your child is ready.

The Right Time To Start Potty Training

If you can successfully figure out when the right time to start potty training is then you have half of the battle won already. It is a very delicate matter and care should be taken in choosing the right time to start.

Most children are ready to begin potty training somewhere between 18 months and 36 months. If you start too early the child will get confused as it will be unable to control its own body movements. Trying to learn how to use the potty and not physically being able to will not only frustrate the child and yourself but will also make the task much more difficult in the long run. On the other hand, starting too late will also be a problem making it much more difficult to achieve as bad habits will have set in and will be difficult to break.

Your child should be giving you tell tale signs that they are ready to begin using the potty. They should be holding liquids and staying dry for periods of up to two hours or so, they should be at a development stage where they can understand you and follow up to 2 commands given at once, they should start showing a natural interest in the toilet and may even try to imitate other family members. All of these signs normally become apparent at around the 18 month – 2 year mark but can vary greatly from child to child. Each child will have their own time for beginning the process and should be giving you clear signals when the time is right.

Once you have established that the time is nearing and your child is ready to start potty training then first of all you should do a bit of research into the various methods and approaches that exist, choose one and try to stick to it. It will be counterproductive to go switching tactics each time there is a slight hiccup in the progress. If you are certain that your method isn’t working once embarked upon and you find another method more suitable then by all means change but it is not advisable to change between on method and another and then back again simply so as to not confuse the child. The key to success in potty training is to teach your child a routine. The child is young and may take time to adapt to that routine but as with any learning the key is in the repetition. The same actions time after time will eventually lead to assimilation of the idea and soon your child will be using the potty and the toilet as if they had been doing so for ever.

Once you have chosen a method you will follow you should start getting ready for the potty training or ‘pre-potty training’.

You should show the potty to your child, show them how to use it. (Maybe practice with a doll). When getting dressed or undressed you should make a point of trying to get the child to pull up or down their own pants (with your hands guiding theirs if necessary). Read them potty story books and / or show them potty story videos.

After a few days of ‘getting them used to the idea’ you can start the actual potty training itself.

First of all you should dress your child in loose fitting pants so that they will be able to pull them up and down easily themselves without your help. You should make a commitment to not use diapers any more, use pull ups or training pants and don’t be tempted to go back to the diapers as this will confuse the child. You may however want to carry on using diapers at night until the daytime training is well under way.

Give your child plenty of liquids at first so that they will need to go a little more often than usual. After about half an hour of so you can then run them through the process,

Let them know what you are about to do, tell them the words you want them to use when they need to go the potty so they can let you know, e.g. ‘pee pee’ or ‘potty’ or whatever you chose.

Say your chosen words to them then walk them (with a certain urgency) to their potty, have them pull down their pants sit them on the potty and wait for them to do something. If they don’t do anything then spend a short while waiting, read a book or sing to them. If this doesn’t work then have them pull up their pants and wash their hands anyway and try again in another half an hour.

If they do go then make a big fuss of them, tell them they are big and gown up now and that you’re proud of them or other words of encouragement. The encouragement will motivate any child no end and will make them want to repeat the process to please you again.

In the event of an accident you should take the child back to the ‘scene’ of the accident and then walk them to the toilet or the potty, have them pull down their pants and sit in the potty, even if they don’t go any more just so they will associate the potty with the accident. Clean them up and have them pull up their pants and wash their hands. It is important not to be cross or punish the child when they have an accident, simply tell them to tell you and do it in the potty next time.

The whole process of potty training can be a long and slow one but with a bit of patience and a lot of repetition then there will be positive lasting results.

At htpp://pottyaid.com there is lots more information and other articles similar to this one. There is also the 5 day email course you can sign up for free of charge – Potty Training made easy.

Sign up for the free Potty Training E-Course

Additional Resources:

The Potty Trainer
I can highly recommend the Potty Trainer Ebook. Johanne Cesar has done such a great job in putting a tremendous amount of hands on potty training information and advice in this ebook. You will get a step by step guide to potty training your child.

Toddler Toilet Training

October 2, 2008

Toddler toilet training tips from when the best time to start is, to what type of potty to use and other great toilet training strategies for you and your toddler.

Toilet training can be fun and drama free. The most important thing to do to ensure that the process is easy for all involved is to make sure that your child is ready before you start the process.

How do you know if your toddler is ready to be toilet trained? Well, there are some clear indicators that your child might be ready. These include long dry spells followed by a big wet nappy, being able to tell those around that they have wet or dirtied their nappy, and being able to pull their pants down/ up and sit on the potty independently. Those are the main things to look for. If your toddler is showing these signs then they may be ready. So, it is your job to get the environment ready for them to learn to use the potty or toilet.

If you are using a potty then consider putting it in the place where your child spends most of it’s awake time. That way it is easy to access and you can remind your toddler to use it regularly. If you are using the toilet then consider using a toddler attachment to make your child feel more secure and comfortable. A step might also help your child begin to toilet independently.

In order for toilet training to be as painless and smooth as possible, make sure that you and your child are ready. Some toddlers toilet train quite easily, while for others it becomes what seems like a long drawn out battle. If you are incredibly busy at work, moving to a new house or a new baby is due soon, it’s ok to wait a few months to let things settle down. You might need to be prepared for a few accidents and extra dirty clothes during the process.

Above all you need to make this a positive process for your child. They need to learn that this is a natural thing and should never be told that their body is dirty or yucky. Use lots of encouraging words and hugs to reward your child’s successes. Praise is a fantastic motivator! This is probably one of the biggest steps for your child and it’s worth your patience.

In 1995 I completed my Bachelor of Teaching, specializing in Early Childhood Education. I have worked in education since 1996. I started in Child Care as a Preschool teacher. I have also worked as an ESL teacher and have been promoted to the level Teacher of Exemplary Practice.

I’m a mother of two boys, 5 and nearly 2 years old. Although parenting my two wonderful children is my main focus, furthering my understandings about how children learn and develop is something of great interest to me. I have been doing a Master of Education for the past two years.

I am interested in parenting, as a teacher, as a mother and a member of a wider community. How we look after our children does impact on others in the world around us. I believe I have something valuable to share. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

For more information and articles please check out my website http://www.saneparenting.com

Sign up for the free Potty Training E-Course

Additional Resources:

The Potty Trainer
I can highly recommend the Potty Trainer Ebook. Johanne Cesar has done such a great job in putting a tremendous amount of hands on potty training information and advice in this ebook. You will get a step by step guide to potty training your child.

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