I don’t have to like everybody. However, I tend not to dislike anybody and this is my most demanding lesson still to be learnt. We are all driven by different stereotypes, false prejudice, negative memories and fears. I am aware that when being judgmental I may be totally wrong. That is why I need to be tolerant, in order for somebody to point where does my false assumption lie. But most of all, tolerance is to constantly remind me that my knowledge about other people is mere. Also, the more tolerance I have for strangers the less impatient I am with my closest ones.
We have so different hair, complexion, character, background, temperament, virtues, values etc. Babies tend to notice these differences quite quickly by smiling to other kids and crying when, for example, a bearded man appears within an eyesight. When a child becomes more attentive it can distinguish a boy from a girl. Consequently, it usually unconsciously chooses a peer to play with. The choice is based on the individual preferences such as social attitude, corresponding temperament or even the preferred activities. It is evident that preschool children prefer to stick to kids whose intentions are easy to follow. As a consequence, a child feels safer, accepted and fulfilled – this is so great! Eventually and sadly, there always comes a moment of rejection when kids begin to complain: ‘I hate Eddie, he’s so fat!’, ‘Kate is stupid, I don’t like her red hair!’, ‘I don’t want to play with Hassan, he’s from Iran and speaks strange’.
This the moment for a parent to act! Let’s explain to our wee intolerant child that ‘different’ doesn’t mean worse and every difference has a CAUSE. Spell out that nationality, religion, believes, skin tone don’t matter when choosing a kid to have fun with. Diversity is essential in our world. It may not be obviously easy for you to understand ‘why’ is that so, but eventually somebody needs it and likes it and even loves it. Just like it is in a forest. One animal has a feather on the top of its head, other has spikes or red fur. They are different, yet sharing the same forest and as far as I am concerned they coexist quite peacefully, unless not in danger. If such the case they still have feathers, spikes or fast legs to escape from any risk
Imagine someone close and special to you who prepares all of your meals every day. It is a responsible and important task. Food needs to be selected, bought, brought, unpacked, prepared and served in order to feed you. A tough job. Now, imagine that the very same person decides how much and when you have to eat, plus watches whether you succeeded in EATING IT ALL. No leftovers. You are obliged to clean your plate! It doesn’t matter that you hate liver or black pudding. As long as the person believes that it’s good for your health, you can’t mess around. Otherwise, the person will be sad or angry with you and forbid you from watching your favorite series or going out shopping. You are also at serious risk of losing that everyday cup of your lovely coffee unless you EAT IT ALL!
Kids who are forced to eat usually have problems with hunger and satiety self-regulation. They are less responsive to the natural hunger and fullness clues. Moreover, due to the constant parental fear of a starving child, these kids are regularly overfed. As a consequence, they are prone to develop higher weight status. It is still not so rare to see mums who always have kids’ snacks at hand, asking every hour, ‘Aren’t you hungry, honey?’ It is not only a nuisance for a little one. Such an attitude can negatively affect a child’s feeding patterns in future life. As an adult, it won’t be attentive enough to recognize and respect the subtle differences between hunger, gluttony and healthy appetite. The lesson that an authoritarian parent gives to a child at the table may have serious consequences down the road in the form of eating disorders such as obesity, anorexia or bulimia.
Force-feeding parents don’t mean to harm their child when asking them to clean their plate. Nevertheless, they usually forget or don’t realize that eating is a very personal act that depends on various factors. Human appetite is regulated according to the time of day, amount of sleep, physical and mental effort, changing temperature, illness, child’s developmental stage and even mood. Although it is crucial for a child to have a sustainable and healthy diet, a parent cannot decide on the exact amount and frequency of every child’s meal.
Even when parents’ intentions are good, force-feeding is a form of emotional abuse. Therefore, instead of urging a child to finish that bowl of soup, let them assume that it’ll be ready when a chap feels hungry. A child instinctively knows how much to eat. It won’t starve itself.
A concentrate. A tomato concentrate. Squeezed, tightly packed beautiful tomatoes. 300% tomatoes more than usual. To concentrate. To squeeze, tightly hold, the thoughts on a firm leash and walk them proudly out. 300% more effort than usual. Damn! Focus!
Nowadays, more and more kids are diagnosed with attention deficit, while surprisingly, those without an ADHD diagnosis face many similar problems. There is no need to panic if the problem affects a two-year-old because it is quite natural to gradually gain attention skills at that age. Moreover, it is much more difficult for younger kids to eliminate/ignore distractions in the form of different impulses. The colors, scents, sounds and even light can cause problems when giving attention to a particular activity. Parents are usually advised to support their distracted child and create a nondistracting environment in order to better prepare them for future school life. However, a six year old child should be able to focus on a single task for at least 20 minutes. If the span is significantly shorter, then a quick cause and solution analysis may hopefully be helpful.
1. SOUND, SCENT, LIGHT, COLOR – hypersensitive children may often have difficulties sustaining attention in tasks or play activities while surrounded by the overwhelming impulses. The easiest solution is to eliminate these bombarding distractions (move over to a room without noisy siblings, turn off the TV, stop using intense perfumes when working arm to arm, remove brightly colored things from the child’s eyesight, secure good light etc.). In order to win the battle with the unwanted impulses, parents should analyze the child’s working environment and create the most appealing environment for their small geniuses. Sometimes it’s about a wee change: sitting beside a child instead of walking to and from a kitchen, choosing the optimal place for a desk, pausing the washing machine.., plenty of details to consider and a bit of a Sherlock Holmes’s intuition job.
2. FATIGUE – we can hardly learn anything when our brains are overloaded. This is why a good rest should precede any intellectual effort that a child is about to undertake. Let them cool down after an exciting event, wild walk or long day at school. It also includes a computer and TV as such media quickly exhaust young brains due to the high frequency changes. Flashing pictures, mixed sounds and usually loud music are a huge challenge for the attention. No wonder kids are protesting when cut off and asked to shift the very same attention towards tasks that develop cognition and association. A jigsaw puzzle, counting or drawing are far less attractive than a previously watched cartoon. Effective learning, like any intellectual skills improvement, requires favorable conditions and a relaxed, sharp mind is essential here. Think about yourself and what helps you to focus. It might be a short nap, listening to relaxing music, a cup of coffee or some petty excuses like the urgent need to trim my nails that usually delays the moment while I know it’s high time to work. These all small moments are essential when recharging the brain.
3. ILLNESS, MALAISE – an unwell child must recover first before taking on anything else. The same applies to an upset or worried kid. Good physical health as much as mental well-being enable intellectual effort. Therefore a definite homework embargo should be prescribed in some cases by doctors. Can’t imagine how a coughing or feverish pupil does his schoolwork in order to achieve the best marks and thus satisfy an ambitious parent. It reminds me of an exceptionally good wine that mostly depends on the sun. We want only the best fruit to be transformed into a noble drink. Therefore, most desired are the grapes grown in the most favorable season. Healthy, relaxed and cheerful children can climb any educational mountain once supported by our parental cordage. Illness and malaise should be the base camps where the hikers take a rest.
4. INADEQUATE SUPPORT – if the act of supporting your child while learning at home makes you loosing your control or feeling irritated – leave and look for someone else to do it until you gain your calmness back. Tension obstructs effective memorizing and the only thing that a child is able to then remember is a sense of defeat. However, not every parent must be gifted with precious talents of creative and patient educator. There are many clever tips supporting this job. Take, for example, rewarding every task: you can try to motivate your child with points/tokens for each finished part. Let a kid count the tokens first, explain the rules and place these symbolic triggers in a visible place. Once collected, exchange them for a prize: a kiss, cookie, 30 minutes more with that addictive tablet or joint movie watching. We all like small accomplishments for our everyday efforts and we can reward ourselves too! A giant chocolate cookie for my child’s smooth support is what makes me happy.
5. FAILURE – well, it doesn’t always has to be perfect. Let our children make mistakes. Let them forget about a homework, an exercicse or any other duty. The world will not end and our parental authority will still be there. By allowing a child to fail we give them an incredibly important lesson about life, about being fair and why it is so good not to disappoint the others. Earlier the lesson gained, better for the future adult in our child.
I hate the word 'NO' and want NOvember to be YESember!
‘He doesn’t listen to me! She is so absent-minded! I can’t find a way to get his/her attention.’ Parents often feel helpless when confronted with a child who is easily distracted and self-absorbed, whilst the only comfort is that such an attitude is normal amongst kids during particular stages of their childhood. Listening is not about obedience to rules or values that parents chose to promote. Listening is about the ability to notice, segregate, process and react to the different auditory impulses. It is also about choosing a particular stimuli for further processing that usually involves learning. A very basic skill to ensure such complex reactions is auditory attention. By encouraging listening skills from infancy, we can also significantly improve child’s speech and language development as well as interpersonal communication.
0- 1 NEWBORNS and INFANTS: ‘LEARNING TO DISTINGUISH’
A newborn doesn’t understand our spoken language except from recognizing their parent’s voice. They begin to understand particular words (such as their own name) between 3rd and 6th month. However, we can support the child’s auditory skills acquisition by changing our voice tone, singing or playing soft music when lulling a child. Parents are also advised to use nursery rhymes with rhythmic movements. When a child begins to vocalize, an adult should copy it in order to reinforce such an important development. The TV should be absolutely excluded from a child’s life at this stage.
1-2 TODDLERS: ‘MASTERING MOVEMENT’
Toddlers are focused mainly on gross motor skills improving such as walking, running, kneeling, climbing, getting up the stairs, jumping, picking up toys without falling. Vocabulary is made up mainly of nouns as a child labels as many interesting things as possible. By the end of this stage, kids can speak between 150 and 300 words and their speech is 50% intelligible. This means that auditory attention is in full swing and verbal turn-taking while communicating with our child should be the main principle. Kids at this age also recognize familiar songs and can raise pitch when asking questions. Thus, recommended activities include identifying whether the toy/speaker is angry, happy, terrified, sad; finding an object that’s associated with particular sound; and noticing the difference between loud and quiet when banging objects or playing simple instruments. It is also a good time to introduce books as a source of interesting, yet spontaneously read stories.
2-3 YEARS: ‘LEARNING TO COPY’
Two-year-olds love to copy adults by participating in home activities like hoovering, dish washing and food preparation. It is also natural for children of this age to copy animal sounds and observe their behavior with gesture imitation. Kids additionally learn how to combine the words into the short sentences and produce the new speech sounds. Awareness of and ability to produce rhyme emerges and speech is 75% intelligible, therefore LISTENING becomes a major skill. It’s a parent role to listen patiently and react when a child asks. Games including series of two related commands are recommended, as are short stories. The TV can be a serious culprit when it comes to a speech delay, therefore it should be still absent from a kid’s life.
3-4 YEARS: ‘LEARNING TO COOPERATE’
A lot of 3-year-olds start to attend a nursery. It’s the beginning of gaining social skills. Suddenly, the world becomes bigger, with many different stories and experiences to deal with. A child is naturally interested in listening to short stories, participating in role-play games, learning short nursery rhymes and singing simple songs. All of these factors add immensely to kids’ listening skills as they become more advanced. Joint singing, book reading and photo discussions can create a great opportunity for a parent to support this process while a child becomes refocused onto another person. The TV may be introduced now, but not for longer than 30 minutes a day.
4-6 YEARS: ‘IMPROVING ALL SKILLS’
Kids become more independent, as they can now play with other children while their parent is absent.
They participate in longer dialog, report on past events, create imaginary roles, use indirect requests, develop narratives and become very intelligible. Their speech is still not perfect but the purpose of it becomes more complex. It’s a reciprocity era, because a child wants to participate in a social life. Auditory skills are focused on decoding others’ intentions, and this is why a parent should be very attentive and responsive when spending time with a child. It’s good to have an everyday routine that is based on communication, like reading a book, sharing a familiar game, drawing etc. As a result, a child learns that sharing experiences is worth the effort. The TV and computer may be only a short distraction from other activities, under strict parental control.
6 AND MORE YEARS: ‘MASTERING NEW POSSIBILITIES’
Schoolkids are familiar with most social norms and try to respect them. Their speech is 100% intelligible, despite occasional omissions or substitutions of consonants. They ask for the meanings of the words and become interested in the particular fields by exploring, for example, dinosaurs, space, cars, rocks etc. Kids at this age should be able to conduct a dialog, recognize and name their feelings, listen to the others, tell stories and share their attention. If this doesn’t occur, then we should quickly check a child’s routines and look closer at their auditory skills. It is possible that a child is lacking proper attentiveness and reciprocal behaviors. Nevertheless, it is never too late to improve them. All tips addressed to younger kids’ parents may help here, but the main remedy must be patience and real involvement. A child will listen to others only when it is listened to by them. Therefore we, as parents, should become an ear for our kids – a role that requires a lot of empathy and time.
I am always the first person to play with newly-bought wooden toys. It is, of course, all about my serious professional quest for therapeutical adoptions (functions), but underneath I simply LOVE these toys. Wood makes me smile, evoking the best memories from my childhood when the wooden blocks were always at hand. I also remember my dad making for me the wooden doll cupboard that was my favourite toy ever.
Nowadays, wooden toys are available in many shapes and sizes. A kitchen set, grocery or tool kit can be the best friends of boys and girls of nearly all ages. Wood is warm, friendly and universal. Wooden toys are not battery-hungry, and they are much more durable and thus safer than the plastic ones.
There are also other reasons why we should go for them:
1. SIMPLICITY – the process of making a wooden toy requires more effort due to the simple fact that wood is hard. Therefore, wooden toys are simple, symbolic and bit crude. Cars lack blinking lights, dolls don’t cry and horses can gallop thanks only to the imagination. The shapes are modest. The colours are often bit faded or restricted to the natural wood colour. All such proprieties add to the child’s development, creativity, symbolic play instead of luring them with the overstimulating options that the plastic toys offer. It is also beneficial for language development, as most wooden toys are perfect for role playing, building dialogue and expanding vocabulary. Additionally, every time we hand our child a beautiful wooden toy, we invite them to meet an example of great skill and artistry.
2. GOOD VALUE FOR MONEY – wooden toys are paradoxically better for our home budget. I say paradoxically because they are more expensive than their plastic counterparts due to the less efficient and thus more laborious manufacturing process. However, they stay with kids longer and are usually passed to the next generations. Besides, by buying mainly reliable and solid items we reduce the amount of the rubbish toys that create ‘visual noise’ without any educational value. Spending on good quality wooden toys seems to be a great investment, judging by the number of years when in play and the number of children using each single wooden toy.
3. ECO-FRIENDLINESS – wooden toys are better for kids’ health and for our planet by creating less waste. Toy production is safer for environment because wood is a sustainable natural material, unlike synthetic plastic or rubber derived from petrochemicals. Some wood manufacturers additionally avoid painting or varnishing their wooden toys and use only vegetable oil to finish them. Eco-friendliness also includes non-toxic paints and recyclable packaging.
4. DURABILITY – wood outlasts many other materials. Sufficient to recall all incredible examples of wooden architecture or artifacts that most of us have seen in the museums. They are all beautiful, and as time passes they become even more sophisticated. The same applies to wooden toys, which are not so easily broken and can thus survive many sharp manipulations.
5. MANUFACTURERS – most of wooden toys are made by craftsmen according to the long tradition skills of a particular place. Many of the toys also preserve traditional designs by recreating the old patterns and shapes. There is no place for mass production or hasty decisions. By spending on a wooden trolley or a car, we support a designer, craftsman, artist – and quite often all those three persons in one.