Category Archives: organization

School Readiness: How Can We Help PLAY a Role in Our Childrens’ Success

In beginning a new school year we want to help our little ones adjust and succeed, whether they are starting at a new school, or returning to a familiar classroom.

WHAT SKILLS DOES YOUR CHILD NEED TO RECEIVE THE MOST BENEFITS SOCIALLY AND ACADEMICALLY WHEN BEGINNING SCHOOL?  In writing this post I interviewed a local teacher to ask what she views as the most important skills for children entering kindergarten.  Her response included academic skills, but in addition focused on social-emotional skills as well.

We can think of our children’s minds as buckets we want to fill.  In order to fill their buckets and increase confidence and enjoyment of learning we need to “plug the foundational holes” in their buckets.  Having solid skills prior to beginning school enables our children to regulate, learn, and thrive.

Some pre-academic skills to consider included:

Number Recognition

Letter Recognition

Letter Sounds and Blends

Simple Sight Words

Following 1-3 Step Simple Directions

Zipping a Coat

Some Social Emotional skills to consider included:

Sharing

Taking Turns

Learning to Raise Your Hand in a Group

Actively Listening while Someone Else is Speaking

Self-Awareness

Self-Regulation

Mimicking

Taking Turns Speaking

Sitting in a Spot for an Extended Period of Time

 Children’s Academic Skills are impacted by their Social Competencies and vice versa.

For Example: Being able to sit and attend impacts your ability to remember and integrate concepts; identifying one’s own emotions and the emotional cues of others impacts: picking up on teacher’s non-verbal cues for following directions, and managing peer relationships; and linking actions with thoughts and emotions impacts reading comprehension and personal narrative development.

Children who have difficulty interpreting social situations may have underlying lagging skills such as: comprehending the new information or situation, organizing the information into the desired response, retrieving language to express that response.

https://childmind.org/article/social-challenges-kids-learning-problems/

The Focus Point: So how can we help our children connect? 

How Can We Help Our Children Connect Using Emotional & Logic Learning

  • Learning Through Play: Engage in pretend play, use emotional vocabulary, incorporate numbers, incorporate letters, BUT in a way that involves engaging higher level thought processes
    • Ex: Playing Kitchen “I really want this food…but I forgot the name! It starts with an E…it has a shell….,etc.”
    • This engages children in Big Picture Thinking: Pulling Salient Detail Together
    • It also targets sound awareness
    • AND/OR “I want more than three eggs…but less than four…how would that look?”

Another Tool is Using Real Time Situations and Play Based Learning: Ex: “Mom, Can I have a juice?”, “Why do you need a juice?”

  • Teaching Reasoning, Expressing/Identifying Emotions, and Advocacy.
  • Taking pictures on family outings and placing them on a table, but out of order. Have your child arrange the photos in order, and tell you the sequence of events.
  • Shared Reading: Acting out scenes in a book, mimicking character emotion, having them predict the next part of the story (and act it out!)  *This practice has also been linked to increased comfort levels of public speaking.
  • Play pretend school: Have child sit for circle time, then you be the student.  Model HOW to sit and listen in play! Your child’s mind is typically great at generalizing play skills to learning skills (Albert Einstein knew this!)
  • MOVEMENT helps integrate the brain! Learn outside, learn through movement!
  • Go outside and HUNT for categories, hunt for objects that begin with ‘B’, or specific colors.
  • Turn Questions Around!
    • “Mom or Dad, why are the street lights red, yellow, and green?” ASK your child “Why do you think they are?” ENCOURAGE guessing, predictions, and any chances to develop and discuss logic!
    • In the morning go over the weather, and have your child pick their clothes.  Step outside quickly, and talk about whether it’s hot, cold, rainy, sunny, and what clothes go with certain weather.  (They may not match BUT they have engaged higher level thinking!)
  • Encourage story telling!  Have them repeat, pause, etc.
  • Play “What would you do?” games.  Give hypothetical situations or problems, and talk about what they would do.
  • Acknowledge and explain emotions physically and mentally, talk about what it looks like to listen!
  • Resources
    • Whole Body Listening Larry
    • The Whole-Brain Child
    • The Explosive Child

Finally, You Are Your Child’s Greatest Model

  • Talk about everything and anything! Talk about what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, what your child is doing, what you see, etc.
  • Your child is watching HOW you listen.  If you are multi-tasking, looking away, moving around, your child is going to observe that as actively listening.
  • Give them time to respond.  Children learn conversational rules from us! If we interrupt or rush, they model the same!  Show signs of actively listening (more obvious than usual): nodding, smiling, verbal acknowledgement, eye contact.
  • Teach Delayed Gratification (this skill is a very large indicator of future successes and persistence during education and in relationships.)
  • Teach Positive Self Talk: the things you tell your child about themselves, will begin to be how they see themselves.
  • Schedule mind wondering time into your routine!  Leave educational materials out, let them explore their interests in down time.

 

 

Freedoms of Choice

Learning to make decisions begins with learning to recognize and respond to provided choices.  As parents and mentors we can cultivate decision making skills, as well as leadership mentalities from a young age.

Confidence in your choices.

Trust in your decisions.

Learning that you are capable of making competent and successful choices results in FREEDOMS.  Freedom to explore new interests, freedom to solve new problems, freedom to grow through the uncomfortable and into successes. 

For young children, even toddlers, we can provide them with opportunities to make choices, while still providing parental or adult guidance.  This may require us to step out of our own comfort zones or add time into our routines (relinquishing control so that our children can exert some in a productive way).  We can lay out different clothing in the morning, and allow them to choose what they want to wear.  When we pack lunch we can lay different snacks out, and ask them which they would like to have.  If it’s family movie night allowing our children to select the movie, and explain WHY they think it’s the best choice for the FAMILY, not just for them.  With my older students, we work on decision making in accordance with time management.  We make a list of what needs to be done, but they can choose the order we complete the tasks.  We trial doing what is harder for us first, or starting with what is easy for us first.  We have a motto in our sessions that “the choice is yours…and the consequence is yours.”

As an adult, and with my older students I am a big fan of the 3 Cs.

CHOICE. CONSEQUENCE. CONTROL.

Reflecting on our actions and decisions.  What was your Choice?  What was the Consequence?  How could and couldn’t you have Controlled it?  Journaling using these can be helpful for children or adults.  Would you make the same decision again for a similar problem OR are you thinking of another decision that you will use for a similar problem next time?  With children, you can talk about the 3 Cs right after they make a choice, whether that choice was expected (had a pretty good outcome) or unexpected (didn’t really work out as planned).

This kind of mapping or connection helps teach that making decisions is an important skill, but we also need to understand the outcomes, and take ownership of our actions.  How great that we as people get to own our actions!  It is a FREEDOM.  We have the opportunity to grow and learn from our consequences, failures, and successes!

As adults we model decision making skills for our childrenWe also model our reactions to our decisions.  Do we make excuses OR do we make connections and corrections?  Do we stress over every little choice OR do we model positive dialogue and self-trust?

We all need structure and guidance in all stages of life.  Moreover, teaching our next generation that there is time for choices, and that they are capable of great ones, helps light the minds of our next great leaders.   

What’s on Your Mental Plate?

Diet is a popular topic no matter what age we are.  We are consistently being reminded to be mindful of what we and our families eat.  It’s important and we know it!

“You are what you eat.”

But you are also what you THINK. 

Do you ever feel run down?  Like you have no time for yourself, let alone for others? So what is on your mental plate?  Are you mindful of the activities that fill, challenge, reward, or deplete your brain on a daily and weekly basis?  How much work is too much work?  How little play is too little play?  What are you doing to positively feed your brain as well as your body? We are all individuals, with individual minds and bodies, that require individual diets.  As adults it is easy to say “I’m just too busy…..”, but what that actually means is “I am choosing to focus my time and energy elsewhere”.  Ask yourself: do you know exactly where, and how much?  An activity that can help with increasing this level of self-awareness is actually tracking where and how you spend your time.   Portioning out your mental plate.  ALL of it! Move over leafy greens……time to chew on some mental game changers.

Taking a simple planner and jotting down the activities during your day and the time they took can help you have that Aha! Moment where you realize it is possible to exercise for 30 minutes! You do have time to do something that brings you JOY.  You are spending way too much time in an area that doesn’t need it, or too little in an area that does! Take that opening that you can now SEE in your calendar (there you are 15 extra minutes!) and schedule that goal you have had on your mind!

Throughout the day we need time to let our brains experience emotional learning through those things that make us feel good!  Your time is your most valuable asset, and you can make choices to make the most of it!

I teach this concept of time awareness and “giving back to your brain” to my students.  I want them to know they can choose to reward themselves with time, rather than simply spending it.  I have used an actual paper plate and I have also used a wall clock and different colored dry erase markers to teach this skill.  The students portion out the time they think it will take to complete activities, the time they need for “brain breaks”, and the time they would want to themselves. These visuals help my students see how much of their time is spent in different areas.  When they visually see what they need to get done, and set a time goal, they are typically excited to find out they have more time for themselves at the end of a session!  A double win: intrinsic motivation and learning executive functioning and organizational skills!

Today

Take a look at your mental plate and take time BACK for yourself.  Give your mind a healthy and BALANCED mental meal…..you deserve it!