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Learning to Talk

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Some professionals believe that children who are spoken to a great deal in early infancy talk sooner and better than children who aren’t spoken to a lot.

While this is difficult to verify by means of tests, the idea matches findings that toddlers and preschoolers who are read to a great deal do read more easily and better than those having less experience.

A baby’s receptive language—that is, the language she hears—depends upon her good listening and looking habits with parents or other familiar people.

The very young child doesn’t understand the meaning of words, but she does understand something of what is meant because the words are delivered along with feelings, facial expression, gestures, and body movement.

For example, when Father says, “Come here”, he holds his hands out to receive the baby.
When Mother says, “Give it to me”, she reaches out for the object, and when she says, “Here, I’ll give back to you”, she hands it back.
Another example is when an adult pretends he can’t see the baby and says, “Where’s Baby, where’s Baby” as he dramatically searches for the baby,
and finally exclaims: “Here she is!”

Babies also like the game of peek-a-boo. To play, cover your face with a towel and encourage the baby to pull it off.
If she doesn’t, peek through the towel to be sure she is looking at you. Remove the cover slowly as you say, “Peek-a-boo!”

When you play games, talk to the baby: be a ham—put lots of drama into your voice. Make it rise and fall; change from soft to loud; alternate from slow to fast.
Activities like this contribute to a baby’s developing capacity to understand language. 

“Which Ones Go Together?”

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Here’s a language learning game that helps children understand how objects are related.

Materials: Handy household and clothing items which have something in common (such as their use) but which also have basic differences:

Some examples:
tissue – handkerchief
pen – pencil
comb – brush
fork – spoon
shoe – boot
glove – mitten
glass – cup
paper clip – rubber band

Select one item and ask a child to: “Find the one that goes with this.”
When she makes a selection, you can ask “How are the items alike?” and “How are they different?’
You can add or subtract items, or increase the difficulty by making the similarities a bit harder to understand. Thinking and reasoning is definitely required.


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Big or Little?

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Here’s a game you can play anywhere, anytime — riding in the car, waiting in line or at the doctor’s office.
Think of two common objects and ask your child which one is bigger”
A grape or an apple?
A cat or a cow?
A house or a bicycle?
When this gets old, or you can’t think of any more objects, switch the game by asking which is littler?
Finally, give your child a turn and be patient at some of the more bizarre combinations. That’s the way kids learn.

Discipline is Teaching

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Discipline is our way of teaching children about safety and societal norms.
Whatever type of discipline parents choose, the key is that some form of it is essential.
When you are faced with a two-year-old who is throwing a temper tantrum, or who is being unkind to a playmate:

1. Be specific. Instead of vague instructions like, “Cut it out,” use specific ones like: “Don’t take Jeremy’s toys. It’s not nice.”

2. Use body language. Move next to your child, put a hand on her shoulder, make eye contact.

3. Toddlers like to say the word “no.” So, avoid the word as much as you can when dealing with the child. Instead save “no” for times when you describe unacceptable behavior.

4. With older children, set guidelines in advance. If your child knows the consequences of his misbehavior, he will think twice about acting up.

5. Be consistent, even when it’s hard to follow through. Children need to know their parents’ word is good—for punishments and for rewards.

School Readiness

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Here are some suggestions that will lead to good experiences for children before they attend school.

1. Be consistent in your enforcement of rules, but be certain that your rules can be defined, that they are reasonable and enforceable.
Rules in the home help children feel more secure and comfortable when they meet rules in the school and community.

2. Permit children to be wrong, make mistakes and even fail sometimes. Children learn by doing, rather than by absorbing the experiences of others. Making mistakes is one basis for future independence, self-direction and intelligent decision-making.

3. Keep promises. Children develop cause-and-effect relationships when they know that they can anticipate the consequences.

4. Resist the temptation to over-organize or over-structure children’s free time with lessons, sports or other activities.
Children need time to “kick cans,” be leisurely and work through problems with play.

Schedule some “down time” for yourself!

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What parent wouldn’t love to have a day off to enjoy the quiet, enjoy being alone, and enjoy the freedom from chores and schedules?
The effects of pleasant experiences can last for several days and can provide you a new perspective on your role as a parent—energizing you to face your daily life anew.

Here are five ways to relax and get rid of some of the stress of everyday living.
• Don’t have time to read? Borrow a book on tape from the library. Listen to it in the car or while you’re doing chores (on a personal player).
• Simplify your life. Cut back on less-important obligations by saying “no.”
Instead of crowding in activities for your children, engage in simple activities at home—like playing board games, blowing bubbles outside, or playing “tag.”
• Keep something special on hand just for you. If may be favorite cookie, flavored coffee, or fresh fruit. Pamper yourself.
• Get up early one morning a week. Before the family is awake, block off some time to read, pay bills, watch the sunrise, enjoy a cup of coffee, or take a long shower. What a way to start the day!
• Get in touch with an old friend. Call or write and set up a date for lunch or just to talk on the telephone. It’s good to talk about shared experiences and what’s going on in your present life with someone you know well.

Just making a conscious effort to slow down, reduce stress and enjoy the simple things of life can benefit everyone in your household.

Meaning What You Say — Saying What You Mean

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How does a child perceive what is said?

An adult usually knows that people don’t mean it when they say, “I could just kill him for doing that.”
But children—especially young children—often have not had enough experience to know that what someone says is not always to be taken literally.
Young children also tend to take things at face value and to be concrete and specific in their way of looking at things.

An example is the child who came home from a birthday party in tears because the hostess showed him to his seat and asked him to “sit there for the present.” But, as he told his mother, she never did give him a present!

So, what does a child understand when he hears, “Stop that or I’ll break your arm.” Or “When I get you home, I’ll pull your nose off.”
How can we be sure that that the child won’t believe the threat and be afraid the adult will break his arm?

There is another side of the story. When the threat is not carried out and the child does not have his nose pulled off, he begins to learn that nothing happens because of his problem behavior.

So, take a minute to listen to what you say to your child. It may not be what you mean to say at all.

Teaching Manners in the Home

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While there are many influences which shape a child’s personality, it is the family and the home which set the dominant tone. Here are several ways for parents to instill courtesy in their children.

• Start with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
The first polite term a child can be taught to use is the word “please.” That should quickly be followed by “thank you.”

Letitia Baldrige, author of The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, tells how to do it: “As he begins to form words and stick out his cup for more milk, whoever is feeding him should ask him, ‘Say ‘Please?’ and eventually back will come the word, “Please.”
‘Thank you’ follows along right after ‘Please.’ As the child develops verbally, his parents should teach him to say ‘thank you’ for each meal, car ride, toy or cookie offered to him.”

When these two phrases are reinforced consistently, a time will come when the child will automatically say, “Please” and “Thank you” to the various people with whom he will be in social contact: scout troop leaders, waiters, nurses, physicians, teachers, bus drivers, friends and store clerks.

• Use everyday experiences
An effective way to teach manners and set standards in the home is to use everyday experiences. For example:
• Require children to wash hands before eating.
• Train children to wait until everyone has been served before starting to eat.
• Encourage a child not to interrupt when someone else is speaking.
• Explain that is it not polite to speak with your mouth full.
• Teach a child that if she cannot reach an item on the table, to ask the person nearest it to please pass the plate or bowl.
• Remind a child to say, “excuse me” if he must leave the table.
• At the end of the meal, everyone should thank the person(s) who prepared the food.

Kids love ‘slime’

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Of course, parents think that ‘slime’ is gross, and that’s probably the truth!

But kids love to mess around with it, and sometimes play like they’re “sculpting.”

Here’s how to make your own slime:

Start with a quantity of water, and slowly add cornstarch, mix­ing with your hand (or your child’s hand). Add enough cornstarch so that the slime feels wet when you’re pour­ing it, but feels dry when touched. Color can be used but do it first by adding powdered tempera to cornstarch before mixing or add food color to the water before mixing.

Is this really art? Who knows, but the kids enjoy it enormously!

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