October 8, 2010

Teaching our Children About "Stranger Danger"

Posted by Kristi at 6:29 PM
As with anything we teach our children, it is important to lay ground work early. We are all dreading the inevitable challenges that come as our children get older. If we take baby steps toward each one, our children will be prepared when they get there.

This week's theme at the day care was "Stranger Danger." As a mother, I feel like this is one of those topics that keep us up at night. The lingering questions of, "How will I teach it so they understand?" And, "Will they remember when I'm not around?" Remembering to make just a baby step here will help us, as parents, get through it; and our children will know what they need to know.

The number one rule is, as always, "Don't talk to Strangers." I told the children the story of Little Red Riding Hood all week. We used various media including, online stories, puppet shows, books, role play, and just talking about the story throughout the week.  This story is a perfect example of the importance of knowing about stranger danger.

As I'm sure you remember, Little Red Riding Hood was walking through the woods, when a stranger (the Big Bad Wolf) approached her.  Little Red Riding Hood did not remember the rule about no talking to strangers, and told the Big Bad Wolf where she was going.  Of course the sly, Big Bad Wolf took a shortcut to Grandma's house, and well, you know the rest.

To all of you parents out there, I want you to know that setting the ground work is that easy.  Tell a story, make it fun, and repeat, repeat, repeat!  For those of you who are using sign language with your children, this is a great opportunity to introduce the signs for "Danger," "Stop" and other safety concepts your family uses.  These are great because it allows you to communicate safety with your children even when they are out of ear shot.

With Halloween approaching, no time can be better for talking to your children.  There are many opportunities throughout our day to take advantage of:

1)  On trips to the store or other crowded places take the time in the car, before going in, to remind your children that there will be strangers in there.  Remind them what the number one rule is about strangers; if they can, get them to say it with you.  "DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS"  Being consistent about doing this is key to helping them remember. 
**Here's a little tip though: we're not trying to scare our children out of being sociable.  Remind them that if they want to talk to someone they don't know, that they must ask you if it's okay first.

2)  Going to visit family and friends is a safe thing to do.  Playing a game of "Who's a Stranger" on the way is a great way to engage your children.  Simply use the names of the people you are going to visit and ask if they are strangers (ie. Is Grandma a stranger? Is Aunt Vikki a stranger?).  You can also throw in some actual strangers (like the man walking down the street), to keep them thinking about it.

3)  When approaching houses for Trick-or-Treating, remind your children that while these are strangers, YOU are there and it is okay to say "trick-or-treat."  This will help reinforce their trust in you as the one who is there to protect them from danger and to help them meet new people.

There is obviously a lot more to come as your children get older and become more independant.  This is just a stepping stone toward the greater understanding of the danger of strangers.  But it will teach your children the fundamentals and open the door for them to ask you questions.

August 30, 2010

It Really is that Easy!

Posted by Kristi at 1:42 PM
I recently had a signing experience with a few of my close friends that I can't get out of my mind.

During my workshops and different play classes we often express to parents how easy it is to teach a baby to use sign language. I can not stress enough how natural it is for children to begin signing; many children do it on their own, we just have to keep out eyes open for it.

A perfect example of this was just a few short days ago. My husband's best friend and his wife were in town with their 1 year old daughter. They have not been formally teaching their daughter to use sign, but have witnessed what it has done for our children and have been very open to the concept. Throughout the weekend that they were staying with us I noticed several occasions when Abby would use signs to communicate what she wanted or was interested in.

The first couple of times I didn't say anything, but when I realized that the signs she had "made up" were the exact ones that I teach in my classes I couldn't help but share it with her parents. Of course they were beaming with pride, who wouldn't!

The point of sharing this with all of you is that I want you to see just how natural it really is for kids to begin to sign. We, as parents and caregivers, sign with children all the time, whether we realize it or not. Waving "bye bye" and nodding our heads to say "no" are both common ways we all use sign to communicate.

Children realize at a much earlier age than they begin to speak that there are certain movements they can make with their hands to "talk" to others. The more words or concepts we add to their signing vocabulary, the more they will be able to "talk" with us. Abby and her parents realized this without haveing to be fomally taught...anyone can. The idea is to be open to it and don't feel as though it is something you need to be formally trained on. Follow your child's lead and run with it!!!!

May 21, 2010

Sign for Mommy

Posted by Kristi at 10:28 PM
I know it's a little late for Mother's Day, but I couldn't resist taking the opportunity to post the video for the sign for "Mommy"

There's nothing better than when your baby says "mommy" for the first time.  Except when they begin to sign it long before they can speak!

Check out the video and share this sign with your own children :)

Oh, and I'm really excited to have a picture of my daughter and me in the video...yes that's me rocking the earmuffs!  Enjoy!

May 7, 2010

Giving Your Child an Emotional Head Start

Posted by Kristi at 2:09 PM
So what plays more of a role in the emotional development of our children; our genes or our actions?  It is the classic Nature vs. Nuture question.  Are our children somehow predestined to act a certain way; or are they a blank slate -left for us to mold into who we want them to become?  The answer is neither....or both, depending on how you want to look at it. 

Drs. Goodwyn and Acredolo have a wonderfull book called Baby Hearts that addresses just this point.  Researchers tell us that there are four inborn temperments in babies - Easy, Difficult, Slow-to-Warm, and Active (there's your nature).   As parents, it is up to us to "plant the seeds of faith, truth, and love" in order to help our children develop good character, virtue, and happiness into their lives (there's your nurture).

I've never had a mother say to me that she just didn't care what kind of person her child grew up to be.  On the contrary, most mothers will tell you that they just want their children to be happy.  Of course the word "happy" conjures up different images for all people - but all are dependent on healthy emotional development.  And as with most lessons in life, the sooner you begin to learn, the more lasting the impression will be.

Teaching young infants, toddlers and preschoolers the signs for emotions such as "happy", "grumpy", "sad", "mad", "silly", and any others that are fitting, will allow them to understand their emotions at an early age - and the emotions of others.  Understanding emotions is part of healthy development.

Food for thought:  Children who do not have a good handle on expressing their emotions are more apt to have low self-esteem, and bully others when faced with difficult emotional situations.

April 27, 2010

Manners Are Important

Posted by Kristi at 1:05 PM
There's nothing more adorable than children who use their manners.  Teaching children at a young age to use "please" and "thank you" sets the ground work for them to become polite, respectful adults. 

As with anything, the younger you teach your children (or other people's children) to use their manners, the sooner it becomes second nature.  This is another great way to benefit from using sign with your small children. 

My 13 month old daughter has just started  what I like to refer to as the "verbal explosion."  She has begun repeating every word she hears and spends hours during the day practicing her favorites.  For the last week it has been "please" and "thank you."  Not only has she learned the words, but she understands the concepts!  If you have something that she wants (which is ALL the time) she will simply walk up to you and put an open hand to her chest, moving it in a circular pattern--the sign for please.  After she gets what she wants she says "te-too".  I know, how adorable!  She will spend quite some time "finding" things to give you just so that she can remind you to say thank you.

My point in bragging about this is that she is 13 months old!!!!  I have to say that in my experience with non-signing children, very few of them at this age can get past the frustration of trying to tell you what they want, let alone use their manners when asking for it.

Whether you use sign regularly or not, whether you have an infant, a toddler or a preschooler -- if manners are something that you want to instill in your children, teach them these two signs, and use them regularly.  For the older kids, it will be a game -- one they will have fun with, for the younger ones, it will be a way to communicate with you...it's a win-win!

PLEASE: place one, open hand over chest and move in a circular pattern

THANK YOU: Touch finger tips of one or both hands to chin and pull forward

Oh, and just for fun, here's a little song we like to sing about manners: (tune of "where is thumbkin")

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