Posted in Education, Family, parenting, toddlers

Imaginative Play

I don’t understand why LARPing isn’t a job. As an adult, it’s hard to get away with it sometimes, but that’s the beauty of having children! 

There are a lot of advantages from imaginative play for your kids. Part of early literacy education stresses the PLAY factor. Most parents don’t think of playing as a form of learning but it most definitely is.

“Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about two and one half through ages six or seven.”- Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph. D.
For one thing, imaginative play requires problem solving and creative thinking skills. Building things, designing a playhouse, making a blanket fort; all require your child to use their problem solving skills to make something that will actually work as a fort.

Children use role playing and dramatic play as a way to understand things they have seen. Usually, kids want to pretend to be people they have seen in real life (nurse, veterinarian, doctor, teacher, parent, etc) or people they have read about or seen on TV (knights, princesses, scientist, etc). They may also want to play by doing…what you do everyday. Cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, all the tasks you may think are completely mundane may actually be really fun for your child.


By pretending to be these people they are learning more about them. This teaches them flexibility and gives them an understanding of other people. They may also use this to understand things that scare them. For instance, many times you see a child playing doctor you will see them give a shot. This is because the idea of getting shots is scary to most children and they are working out the situation for themselves.

Imaginative play also helps your child to improve on their communication skills. They will be speaking about things and using words while playing that maybe they wouldn’t know otherwise. They also need to communicate their ideas and what they want to play to you or to other children.


For some parents, coming up with imaginative play ideas is easy. For others, it’s a struggle. Below are some ideas to get you started and help you bring imaginative play into your home.

 

COOKING/KITCHEN

If you don’t have fake food/kitchen tools, do yourself a favor and get some. A play kitchen can occupy a kid for hours. It’s a great learning tool too. They learn colors, vocabulary, numbers, how to sort, problem solving. There are so many cool ideas out there for creating a play kitchen too.

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You don’t have to just buy a brand new one from WalMart. My husband and I built a small lemonade stand style play kitchen for my daughter when she was one, and she still uses it.

(She was still in a big Winnie the Pooh phase so the stand says “Time for something sweet”- I know it’s adorable…okay moving on)

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DOCTOR/VET

I always thought that all kids hated going to the doctor. My daughter has since proved me wrong; however, a lot of kids do hate going but LOVE to play doctor. It’s something they Vet-Clinic-Dramatic-Play-Activity-1024x683know and something that is fun for them to pretend. Playing doctor or veterinarian can be as simple as giving a stuffed animal a check up. Or you can get dressed up and play out having the plague, the whole nine yards. This site has free printables for pretend play that I think are amazing and worth checking out.

 

 

KING/QUEEN/KNIGHT/PRINCESS

Some of the play castles I have seen online make me extremely sad my house isn’t bigger. However, even with lack of space, playing castle is pretty easy. You can find many items online on purchasing or making a play castle, most are relatively reasonable too. If you don’t want the whole castle, or don’t have the room, then just make some of the accessories.

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Some ways to play would be to save the princess (or fairy, or
king, or anything else). Have one person be the dragon and “take” the princess. The other must steal her back. Have sword fights (with paper or cardboard swords preferably.

 

 

 

SUPERHEROES 

Obviously, not just for boys anymore. Any kid likes to be a superhero. Again, this can be as easy as making a mask out of a paper plate. Creating a brand new superhero just for your child is a fun way to go about it. But if they really love a certain character than try to capture that.

Superheros may be an imaginative play game you want to take outside (you don’t have to, but flying can get iffy indoors).

 

SCHOOL
Playing school is one of my favorites because I’m a nerd. But your child may actually love to play it. Especially if they have an older sibling they see going to school. Playing school can mean your child is the teacher, and “reads” you a book. Basically they can make up a story to go with pictures in one of their books.

If you have a child chalkboard or dry erase board, then that’s a great way to play school. You can even have snack time and recess during your imaginative play time!


This is a great article with some more ideas.

 

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Posted in Education, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Just sit still!

With summer about half way over, you may be wondering how you can get your child to actually sit and focus this year at school.shutterstock_68372572

Many children struggle with focusing and being able to concentrate on instruction. There has been a huge rise in the diagnoses of ADHD and ADD among children  preschool age to third grade. There are arguments to both sides of this issue. Some believe that the reason the rise in diagnosis has occurred is because more people are becoming aware that these issues exist and help is more readily available. Others believe that children are being too easily diagnosed because more is expected from them academically now than in the past. The age for starting Pre-K can be as low as 2 in some areas.

Either way, ADHD is something hard to target. There’s no physical or neurological testing that will show definitively if a child has some sort of hyperactive issues. Basically, a counselor or therapist (sometimes even your child’s primary care provider) will try to pinpoint certain triggers or activities that your child struggles with. If they struggle in more than one area (ie behaviorally, socially, academically) they may be apt to say there’s a problem.

With the rising demands on children to sit, be still, and focus, sometimes it’s just a matter of helping your child become comfortable with sitting still and being able to calm themselves. I have discovered the amazing world of fidget toys. Things you’ve probably seen a hundred times and never really got their purpose or thought much of them. I’ve seen them work wonders with my own daughter so I thought I would share some ideas.

 

 

Oil timers- these have been amazing with helping us learn how long to sit and also to use for “calm down” time. Watching the colors is soothing and helps distract your child from whatever was getting them amped in the first place. Since the oil doesn’t take more than a few minutes it’s a great toy to teach patience as well.

 

Fidget seat- That’s what we’ve been calling it but there’s a bunch of different names for these blow up cushions. One area we have majorly struggled is eating dinner together at the table. Sometimes sitting at the dining room table tends to take it’s toll so I decided to give one of these a try. They are designed for chairs and desks. So far I can honestly say I have seen some improvement with being able to stay in her chair for the whole meal (usually).

 

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Sensory bottles- look on Pinterest and you can find plenty of ideas on making your own sensory bottles. Or you can now purchase them. Sensory bottles and I Spy bottles basically are more for distracting than for letting the child with their fidget needs, but it does help them sit still.

 

 

 

Water tubes- Again something that helps with fidgeting and to help your child calm down. Something about the feeling of water and watching whatever is inside seems to help children get distracted in the right way.

 

 

Weighted stuffed animal- This is next on my list to try. Weighted blankets and stuffed animals tend to be expensive (the one pictured here seemed reasonable from what I’ve seen) but I’ve read great reviews. The weight and feeling of security that comes from weighted items can help calm an anxious or fidgeting child. If the restlessness seems worse at nap or bedtime then these items may be a great idea for you.

 

Sometimes just simple wood block games, putty, clay, or stress balls can help your child when they start to get restless. If you are having issues with that try sending them to school with a fidget toy for them to keep in their desk. Let the teacher know ahead of time so that they don’t get in trouble for “playing” during class.

 

 

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, Opinion, parenting, summer, Uncategorized

Review of Geek Parenting

Occasionally, I actually get to read. As a librarian, I get asked all the time for recommendations and I’m sorry to say I don’t get to read nearly as much as I would like. However, some books just stick with you and I recently read Geek Parenting by Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it. 

 

A short book that uses examples from other books, movies, and shows to mirror life as a parent. It’s an easy read, and an entertaining way, to show parenting through glimpses of literature and cinema.

One analogy references The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (if you haven’t read it, read it). The argument made is that in the book, Nobody Owens is raised by everyone in the graveyard. It’s not only his adoptive parents who raise him, but many other people and ghosts who prepare him and educate him. He says, “ In the modern world, it is rarer than perhaps it once was to be closely tied to the people who live around us. We may live our lives behind fences, both literal and metaphoric, but there’s something to be gained by turning nearby strangers into real neighbors.”

My favorite section (surprise) uses The Princess Bride to show the importance of reading to your children. In the film version the grandson is sick in bed playing Nintendo. His grandfather comes to read to him but the boy is extremely reluctant to sit and listen. However, once the story gets interesting and he starts to fear for Wesley and Buttercup, you can see his excitement start to rise. In those moments he has developed a new love for reading and storytelling. “Today’s kids have more forms of entertainment competing for their time…let’s not forget the unique appeal of reading a story aloud to our kids. We can pick up the pace, slow it down, or hit pause, depending on their interest. We can revisit favorite parts again and again.”

Another point the authors mention, along the same lines as above, is that children need to be allowed and be prompted to use their imaginations. They use the Chronicles of Narnia series as an example. “Now take a moment and imagine what might have happened if Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy had smartphones or iPads.” They say “boredom is creative potential.” Which is now going to be a motto in my house whenever it looks like boredom may be kicking in. Don’t just assume that because there is downtime, and because you’re inside, that the television has to be on. Just because it’s a long summer day doesn’t mean everyone needs to be on the computer or on their phones. There’s plenty to do and plenty of resources now to help you come up with imaginative play.

Using Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker as an example the authors explain the power of positive reinforcement. They stress that constant negatives are not good for the psyche of a child. The classic phrase “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is one they mention that really shows the outcome of such behaviors. I will admit, the praise for the good things is something I struggle with as a parent and just in general. It’s so much easier to notice the bad then it is the good.

These are just a few examples of things that stuck out from reading this book. I would highly recommend it as a light read for any parent (or anyone dealing with children honestly).

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production

Posted in Education, parenting

Learning Colors

To get away from the classroom/library atmosphere for a little bit I am focusing on some activities I have come across to help teach toddlers their colors. I overheard a teacher talking the other day that she has had students start Pre-K and not know their colors. That, to me, is a lack of communication from the parent to the child. There are so many fun little things to do with your kids to get some basic knowledge instilled into them early on.

Christmas is here! Well, its on its way, so I made on of the felt tree that I have been seeing on Pinterest. I didn’t think my daughter would be a huge fan since she tends to be a wee bit rough with things but she loved it! I’m still working out some kinks as to how I am going to keep it attached to the wall but so far she actually plays with it so I’m happy. The “ornaments” are all basic shapes and easy colors. I make sure to say the color of each one as she places it on the tree, or rips it down.

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I did see one where the mom made a felt tree out of a parking cone, that is genius.

Tree

One of the only times my daughter will sit still is at meal time, and even then I have a small window. So I have been incorporating color learning into lunch and snack time. Fruit Loops work great. You can take something that will stand, like a pipe cleaner attached to a weight, or a chop stick set in clay or putty, and have your child place the different colors onto the stick. I will say “now put on a blue one” and she will look at the Fruit Loops until she finds a blue one. Of course more get eaten then put on the stick but that’s okay.

Pipe cleaners are your friend. If you don’t have your kids playing with them, get some. I just started to use them for activities and for some reason that kid loves those things. You can bend them, make jewelry, make hats which she thinks is hysterical, glasses, so many things. But they can also be a learning tool. I’ve seen the activity where the kids are putting the pipe cleaners into a strainer. I got to say when I first saw it I was like….I don’t get it. However, that did amuse my daughter for about ten minutes. Now we use them to learn colors. I say “put in a green one” and she will find a green one to place into the strainer. Once it’s full we take them off color by color.

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Posted in parenting

Staying Home

I am going to go just a wee bit off topic here for a minute and say I feel like there is a huge rift right now between mothers who want to work and mothers who want to stay home. Not only is there a rift but it seems online and in magazines (and wherever else people can anonymously express their opinions) women are being completely unsupportive of the other’s side. I personally have gotten some slack because I want to work. Now clearly I am running a blog about educating your children. I spend a lot of time with my daughter and we make the most of that time together. However, my fiancé and I are not in a situation where I CAN stay home all the time.

I am fortunate enough that ever since my daughter was born I have been able to work part-time. Granted when she was first born I was still in graduate school but that’s not the point. I also am a writer (hence the blog) and that can be done from home which is convenient but not super lucrative.

I currently have two part time jobs. One is teaching three days a week, all day. I have a wonderful babysitter for two of those days and my mother for the other one. The other job I can make the schedule usually. I go in at night a lot to not have to worry about sitters but it’s only a day or two a week. Now, this second job is about to end (it was only temporary). I have started looking for another to supplement income and I have been given quite the hard time by several people.

I have read many blogs about “How to live with little income” “My life without cable” “Grocery shopping for six under $200 a week”. I get it. It is possible. I also do not have cable. But do I want to spend everyday of my life cutting coupons, stressing about whether I can milk the next day, not being able to take Ri to the mall because we have no gas or lunch money? We are still renting and own three, pretty old, beat up cars. Am I okay with renting until she’s in school and then go to work full time? No. I am not.

I also enjoy work. I need a reason to shower in the morning. I need that push to get me out of the door a few days a week. Basically I understand stay-at-home moms. I really do. If you can afford it and that’s what you want to do then by all means do it. Your kids are only little once. But stop bashing on women because they want to work to make their children’s lives better. This isn’t 1950; most men cannot support a family on their one income. And women that work stop bashing stay-at-home moms for being lazy. I can tell you without any reservation the days I stay home with Ri I am much more tired by the end of the day than the days I actually work.

Posted in Christmas, DIY, parenting

Make Believe Toys

I had a play kitchen growing up. It wasn’t much of a kitchen but it had an oven, a microwave, some stickers that represented burners and knobs and gadgets. I also had a Sesame Street table right next to it. Whenever family or friends came over I would make them a nice meal, sometimes play dough spaghetti to help the effect, sometimes an empty plate.

What got me thinking about it is the fact that Christmas is coming (yeah I know I JUST did a fall post but I’m one of those people…) and I want to get/make something for Riley to enhance her imagination at play time. Her father and I decided due to money (and to the fact we think it would be cool for her have something we made) we are going to create a cafe/tea table.

It made me think to do a post because it is a challenge finding DIY Make Believe toys other than a kitchen for girls or a workbench for boys! But there’s so much out there that could be turned into some sort of stand up toy for your child to really get into their playing. Here is a list of ideas we had before settling on the cafe which I hope will turn out like this (Scroll down to the cafe).

 

 

Is is similar to a kitchen? Yeah kind of but at least it’s a little bit different. I understand that toddlers like to do things that they see their parents doing (ie the kitchens, play vacuums, play cars, ect) but there are other examples of this other than cooking. I only cook three hours a week tops so if Riley is trying to imitate me a kitchen is not where she should be!

Some ideas:

 

Vanity: there are a lot of cheap vanities at WalMart and on Amazon but a homemade one would be great for a little girl. I like the idea of having a vanity/dress up closet combo. These people did a great job and it’s a very simple design.

(If this is yours please let me know I will link your page)

Garden: I was torn between the cafe and a play garden to be honest. The play garden has so many learning possibilities to go with it! A Beautiful Mess has a tutorial on making a felt garden like pictured. But you can definitely add to make the garden a play area. We were going to make a play potting station with an area to hang her tools, different flower and plant toys, a little window box to “plant” flowers, and the list goes on rDIY Felt Garden Boxeally. diy little girls room | DIY Indoor Window Boxes for little girl's room | Oh BABY!

Campground: I’m pretty sure everyone has seen the play canvas tents all over etsy and Pinterest. Well why not create a little play campground. You could have an area for the fire, have play logs to collect, a blanket on the ground next to it for a picnic, and have a great place to read and tell stories.

Play store: one of the coolest I saw by far was this play farmer’s market stand.

Home made kids store.  My kids would love this & not hard to make, but great for the imagination!

It was really tempting to try this but I just don’t think we are talented enough to pull this off correctly.

There are also tons of cool ideas for play kitchens to build/make if you go through Google or Pinterest so if you want your kid cooking then let them cook! I will say, some of the outside mud kitchens that I saw were amazing. Might have to wait until spring for that now.

Posted in Education, parenting

We All Fall Down

I. Love. Fall. I can’t express to you how much I love fall. The colors, the smells, the foods, Halloween, cooler weather; everything about this time of year makes me happy. I burn pumpkin candles pretty much everyday and eat candy corn like it’s not available all year round.

Fall is also a great learning time. Even though students are just getting back in school this is a crucial time to really get them interested in things at home. This is also such a great time to be outdoors. I know there’s a lot to do outside in the summer but personally, taking a walk in the woods on a fall day just can’t be beat. I am also a sucker for photography. I used to freelance when I had the time but now it’s pretty much just me and my Nikon and my poor baby that I make model for me all the time. Well fall is prime photo time! Get your kids out playing and snap some photos.

100 Ways to Enjoy Fall

For toddlers and elementary school aged kids this is a great time to get them outside and exploring nature. Have them collect leaves and make a collage. This is also good for more than one child, the younger one can collect and the older one actually do the gluing. Or have a scavenger hunt. Use a board (or just a piece of paper) and write out a few things for your child to find (a red leaf, an acorn, a beetle, a bird, ect). Whenever they see that item they can check it off. Using a pile of leaves as a cushion to jump on is never a bad idea either. A great book for fall is Pumpkin Town by Katie McKy.

Middle school and high school students also have things to do this season. Scarecrows are a great STEM learning activity. Engineering, construction, and design are at the root of creating a sturdy and usable scarecrow. Check out your closet for old clothes or go to your local Goodwill and let them pick out whatever outfit they may want to use. Here is a good site for instructions on building a scarecrow.

Scarecrow Hawk Deterrent from Farmhouse38

 

Taking your teen to a farmer’s market or apple orchard is another good way to get them outside and learning. If you have any experience with canning foods or creating preserves this would be a good time of year to teach your teen. With Thanksgiving around the corner having your teen help make some nonperishable food items for charity would benefit them and others.

Don’t forget fall is a great time to throw a party! Whether it be a back to school thing, a birthday that is in the fall, or just because, teens have a lot of options. Here is a great list of ideas for a fall party.

Scarecrow (Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons)