The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: January 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Six ways to help older siblings accept the new baby

Since I have a new grandbaby on the way who will be joining her older brothers, I thought this would be the perfect post! 

When children are accustomed to a parent's undivided attention, and then that attention shifts to the new baby, naturally jealousy will occur.  It's your job to help the older child to understand that he or she is still very important to the family.  Here are some ways to do that:
  1. Assign the older siblings to do a helpful job around the house.  Not only does this cut down on your time to do something, it also shows the older child that he is definitely more capable of doing things around that house than his little brother or sister.  Make sure you notice every time the new job gets done.  This could be as simple as making sure that all the cabinet drawers are closed all the time to loading the dishwasher, or making sure the coffee table stays clear of clutter. 
  2. Take time for your older child that does not inlude the new baby.  Go on an excursion with him while the baby stays with the other parent.  Let him choose the nature of that excursion so it's his idea, not yours.  Let him take some control over his life.
  3. Have your older child make a welcome home card or sign for the new baby and then hang it in her room.
  4. Allow the older brother or sister to help with the infant's care by bringing a clean diaper or helping to hold a bottle.  The older sibling might even be allowed to choose which outfit the baby should wear (give a choice of two or three).
  5. Help the older brother or sister to understand that the baby may be taking up much of your time now, but within the next year, he or she will be able to interact with the older children in the family. 
  6. Most parents can tell when their children need a little extra TLC - give it to them when they need it!
If you want some good to read to your children, here are two examples that I like, but there are many more:
  • The New Baby at Your House  - Text is good for age 3+ but the pictures tell the story, so you can use your own words for younger children
  • The New Baby  by Fred Rogers - 'nuf said!  Good multiracial pictures
Happy parenting!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Things to do for a child's belly ache

Guest blogger today from my friends at www.nannypro.com:

Kids have belly aches for all kinds of reasons and not all of them have to do with illness. Sometimes stress or anxiety is to blame. Finding out the basic cause of the discomfort can help in deciding which remedy you want to use. Here are a few tried and true remedies that have been passed down through the years.
  1. Warmth – Whether you use a heating pad, hot water bottle or a sock filled with uncooked rice and heated in the microwave oven, putting a warm pad on the tummy seems to help in many cases. If you use a heating pad make sure there is at least one layer of cloth between the pad and your child’s skin and use the lowest setting. Hot water bottles can be covered with a towel and if you choose to use the rice in the sock method make sure there are no holes in the sock. Put in just enough rice to make the pad flexible and make sure it is securely tied before heating. Check the temperature before you place it on the child’s belly.
  2. Ginger ale – Sipping on ginger ale can help calm an upset stomach and also help reduce nausea. For the most effective result look for ginger ale that is made from real ginger as opposed to an artificially flavored drink.
  3. Salt water – Older folks swear by this remedy: take a spoonful of salt and mix it in warm water and drink it down. The tummy ache should be relieved within minutes.
  4. Apples – Kids will love this one for a tasty remedy. Core an apple and cut it up with the skin left on. Sprinkle a little ground ginger and sugar on the pieces and heat in microwave oven for around 30-45 seconds. Have them eat it while it’s warm and soon your little one’s belly should feel good again.
  5. Burnt toast – This sounds a bit drastic but it works. Slightly burn a piece of toast in the toaster or oven. To make it more palatable you may want to put some butter or a bit of jam on it. The charred bread absorbs toxins in the tummy and makes it feel better.
  6. Ginger root – Though it’s a bit spicy and some kids may not like the taste, it’s definitely worth a try. Chewing on a piece of fresh ginger root is best, however, sliced crystallized ginger works also and can be found in the produce section of the grocery store. Just be aware that the crystallized ginger is covered in sugar. Have your child chew on a piece or two. This also works very well for motion sickness or tummy ache due to anxiety.
  7. Tea – There are some specific homeopathic teas expressly made for tummy aches and these can be found at larger grocery stores or co-ops. For more readily available teas try mint or ginger. Adding honey and/or lemon also helps.
Sometimes all a kid needs to feel better is a little TLC. If the tummy ache continues or gets worse see a doctor to make sure there is not a more serious problem involved.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Classroom Yard Sale

Are you looking for a new, unique way to motivate reluctant students without spending a fortune?  Consider having a monthly classroom yard sale.  Here's how it works...
  1. Get a roll of Single Raffle Tickets. Keep it in a secure location.
  2. Create a display of envelopes on a bulletion board - one for each student.
  3. When a student completes a task, stays on task, or does something exceptional, give him or her a ticket. 
  4. Immediately, the student writes his or her name on the back and then inserts it into his designated envelope.  (Or if you want to limit classroom movement, have the students put their tickets in their envelopes at one time. Personally, I think that movement is a good thing! See The Kinetic Classroom: Activities that Move Students to Learn)
  5. Throughout the quarter, have kids bring in "stuff" for the yardsale basket (could be a laundry basket or a simple box).  They might bring in books they've already read, toys they no longer want, etc.  Encourage classroom parents to participate by contributing items. Consider investing in Assorted Novelty Toys so everyone has the opportunity to buy at least one item. 
  6. On yard sale afternoon, arrange the items on tables labeled 1 Ticket, 2 Tickets, and 3 Tickets, depending on the size and relative value of the items.  Students without tickets can be the ticket takers behind the tables.  This will encourage them to earn tickets next quarter.  If you have no students who are ticketless, the students with the most tickets will go first, and then become the ticket takers.
  7. Arrange students by who has the most tickets in the front of the line to the least in the back of the line. 
  8. Students "buy" what they want, pay the ticket takers (who make sure the proper name is on the back!), and then sit down with their prize.  If they have tickets left over, they can put them back in their envelope for the next classroom yard sale.
This scheme has the added advantage of avoiding the unhealthy practice of rewarding good work with candy.  It also keeps the students working throughout the marking period, and even to the end of the year.

Happy Teaching!

Monday, January 23, 2012

What is a 504-Plan?

What can you do if your child does not qualify for special education, but you know he needs some extra help dealing with a mild disability? The answer is to request a "504-Plan hearing" at your child's school.

A 504-plan is a legal, binding document that began with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is designed to help students with special physical, mental, and psychological needs to feel comfortable with the regular learning environment. According to this document: "No otherwise qualified individual with handicaps in the United States … shall, solely by reason of her or his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." All public schools fall under the category of offering this assistance.

Your child is eligible if she is considered disabled. This is a broad term that includes physical and mental problems not ordinarily associated with having a disability. Perhaps your child has a disfiguring scar on the right side of her face; a 504-Plan accommodation might request teachers to sit her on the right side of the room so her scar is less noticeable. Or maybe your son is severely overweight; a 504-Plan accommodation for him might include a separated desk and chair in each room so he doesn't have to fit into one of the attached models. Many other disabilities apply, because according to the 504-Plan, a person with a disability is someone who is unable to perform "major life activities" with the rest of the class. These activities include caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, breathing, seeing, speaking, hearing, walking, working and learning. Many hidden disabilities, such as seizures, diabetes, and high blood pressure are certainly covered.

What about children with AD/HD? In order for a school to consider accommodating your child with AD/HD, he must have been evaluated by a neurologist who certifies that your child actually does have this problem. Without the doctor's note, the school's hands are tied. AD/HD has become a controversial diagnosis. Some schools see it as a catchall for students who just don't want to cooperate. Other schools see it as a problem that is as real as blindness. Talk to your child's counselor if you are unsure about the school policy. However, the 504-Plan is a valuable resource because it will allow your child to bring home an extra set of books, will give him preferred seating to eliminate distractions, and will alert his teachers to remind him to constantly stay on the topic. However, although accommodations have been made for AD/HD students, success is not guaranteed because the child may not choose to cooperate with the program.

A 504-Plan does ont become part of achild's permanent record. In fact, some 504-Plans are temporary. If your daughter had a serious illness, such as mononucleosis, and was absent from school for six weeks, a 504-Plan would help her to get back on track again. If your child is a recovering alcoholic or addict, the 504-Plan would provide for temporary relief from stress-producing situations to help him regain confidence in his ability as a student. Remember, in both of these cases, a professional must certify that your child is temporarily disabled. Not all schools will provide a temporary 504-Plan because it is so legally binding. Check with your school for local policy.

The first step to implementing a 504-Plan is to contact your school's counseling department and fill out the referral form. Then, a meeting is scheduled between you and your child's teachers, counselors, principal, support staff as needed (nurse, speech therapist, etc) and of course, your child. After discussion, a 504-Plan is developed that will list the special accommodations. When everyone agrees upon the terms, the document is signed and sent to all of your child's teachers, who are legally bound to provide the accommodations.

Does a 504-Plan cost anything? Not directly. Your taxes pay for the special transportation or other building changes such as ramps. Some federal grant money is also available for meeting the needs of 504-Plan students. As parents, you pay nothing to have your child's 504-Plan needs met.

Here is a sample 504-Plan for a child with diabetes so you can see how the system works: http://www.theparentaladvocate.com/sample-504-plan.htm  And a question/answer sheet for even more information on this accomodation: http://www.theparentaladvocate.com/what-is-a-504-plan.htm.

Happy parenting!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gender bias - real or imagined?

Read this article and then my comments on this case of bizarre parenting: http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/couple-finally-reveals-childs-gender-five-years-birth-180300388.html

While the motivation may have been admirable, the method was ridiculous and will likely have long-reaching effects into the child's future.  Who does that to a child?  Obviously this couple in the UK who wanted their child to grow up gender-neutral. 

Gender bias is not such a bad thing.  Girls learn to behave in a feminine manner while boys become masculine.  What's wrong with that?  Nothing, if the parents don't go overboard and put their little girls in tiaras or expect their little boys to use their muscles on the playground against other children. 

My point here is that obviously, gender bias in school or the workplace should not be tolerated. However, there's absolutely no reason to force children to go against their genetic code.  When my girls were growing up, they had dolls, but could just as frequently have played with trucks in the dirt.  They played with their toy of choice at the moment.  My daughter has boys.  They have all their trucks and footballs, but they also have a stuffed animal and a favorite blanket.  That, in my opinion, is a normal childhood.  My girls grew up feminine, yet strong (I always said, "I don't raise no wimpy girls!") and I'm sure my grandsons will grow up to be masculine, yet caring (My daughter wouldn't have it any other way!)

Amanda Chapman in her paper, Gender Bias in Education, sums up gender bias implications in school:
"Sitting in the same classroom, reading the same textbook, listening to the same teacher, boys and girls receive very different educations." (Sadker, 1994) In fact, upon entering school, girls perform equal to or better than boys on nearly every measure of achievement, but by the time they graduate high school or college, they have fallen behind. (Sadker, 1994) However, discrepancies between the performance of girls and the performance of boys in elementary education leads some critics to argue that boys are being neglected within the education system. Across the country, boys have never been in more trouble: They earn 70 percent of the D's and F's that teachers dole out. They make up two thirds of students labeled "learning disabled." They are the culprits in a whopping 9 of 10 alcohol and drug violations and the suspected perpetrators in 4 out of 5 crimes that end up in juvenile court. They account for 80 percent of high school dropouts and attention deficit disorder diagnoses. (Mulrine, 2001) Departments of education should be providing mandatory gender-equity resource modules to in-service teachers, and gender bias needs to be addressed with all pre-service teachers. Educators need to be made aware of the bias they are reinforcing in their students through socialization messages, inequitable division of special education services, sexist texts and materials, and unbalanced time and types of attention spent on boys and girls in the classroom. "Until educational sexism is eradicated, more than half our children will be shortchanged and their gifts lost to society." (Sadker, 1994)
References:
Mulrine, A. (2001) Are Boys the Weaker Sex? U.S. News & World Report, 131 (4), 40-48.
Sadker, D., Sadker, M. (1994) Failing at Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls. Toronto, ON: Simon & Schuster Inc.


Hmmm.... is there really a gender bias in school or does that gender bias begin at home where well-meaning parents require their little girls to sit demurely at a table to finish their homework, but allow their little boys to toss a football around instead of concentrating on homework?  Or is it a genetic code that sends a message somehow?  I don't have any easy answers, nor do I have any solutions.  I simply know that children need to make intelligent choices about their activities, their toys, their attire, and their futures.  And that can only be achieved when parents respect their children for who they are and what they decide.  End of story.  Period.

Happy parenting and happy teaching!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anger Management for Children

If you've seen the movie, Anger Management, you know that adults sometimes behave in unusual ways to provide anger management therapy.  However, when the angry person in need of management is a child, the therapy takes on a different approach.  Angry children tend to grow up into angry adults, abusive to spouses, and dissatisfied with their lives.  Early intervention can help these children live long, successful, healthy lives.  Here are some suggestions you can do at home to help an angry child.  When all else fails, however, you need to seek professional assistance:
  1. When a child throws a temper tantrum, remove objects from the area so she doesn't hurt herself, and then walk away.  Say, "Come see  me when you're ready to talk calmly."  Sometimes this is one of the hardest things to do - walk away from a screaming child.  The natual tendency is to scream right back, or as my mother liked to say, "Stop crying or I'll give you something to really cry about."  (That tactic never worked, by the way!)  If the temper tantrum occurs in a public place like the mall or grocery store, there's nothing wrong with walking out with the crying child, getting into the car, and driving home.  Chances are, he or she will still be crying when you get home.  Simply bring her inside, sit her someplace safe, and repeat the message above about coming to see you when she calms down.  The worst thing you can do is buy into the tantrum by trying to placate her at the store ("Calm down and I'll get you an ice cream."  WHAT?  Positive reinforcement for negative behavior?  Not on my shift!)
  2. Provide a positive role model for your children.  If you and your spouse have an argument, try to do it in an adult manner, or at least out of earshot of the children.  If you or your spouse has a true anger management problem, professional help is indicated to prevent a breakdown of the family.
  3. Show children that they have alternatives to getting angry: breathing deeply, exercising, and rethinking the problem are all socially acceptable alternatives to yelling and hitting during anger.
  4. Speaking of socially acceptable outlets for anger, show your child that you can write about the problem, then destroy the paper, which is a power catharsis and defuser for an anger trigger.
  5. Help your child to understand that everyone gets angry; it's the method they choose to respond to that anger that determines whether there will be a productive outcome or a meltdown of communication. 
  6. Children should know that they can't change everything to suit themselves, which is the usual triggger for most children's anger.  Help them to see that they can accept a trigger situation by rethinking the source of the problem. 
  7. Most importantly, when a child gets angry, he or she should know that you'll be there to support him through the difficult times, rather than making those times even more difficult.  Respond to your child's body language.  If he looks like he needs a hug to calm down, then hug him. However, if he looks like he needs to be alone for a while, then respect that as well. 
Happy parenting!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tips for Grandparents

Most of my blog entries have involved parents or teachers interacting with their young people. Today's blog is about grandparenting ... not because I've joined the ranks of happy grandparents, but becuase I had the misfortune of sitting at a restaurant booth back to back with the most annoying grandfather I've ever met.

Throughout lunch, he TOLD his three-year-old granddaughter what she should do (my comments in parentheses): Eat with your fork (sometimes it's okay to use your fingers), eat your soup first then your salad (Really? What does it matter?), show Grandma how you can be a big girl (he never did tell her what he expected of that big girl behavior), tell Grandma what you did in preschool (a question about her week would have been so much more effective), and the list went on and on and on and on throughout the meal.  Maybe because I am super-sensitive to allowing children to make their own decisions, but I found this man to be extremely obnoxious and wondered how Grandma stayed with him for so long!

So the reason for this rant is to provide grandparents with some guidelines for interacting with their grandchildren:
  1. Remember that you are the grandparent, not the parent.  Gentle discipline is acceptable, but leave the heavy duty discipline to Mom or Dad.
  2. Ask whether your grandchild wants to make a craft, sing a song, do a puzzle, hear a story, or (God forbid) watch TV with you.  Let the child decide, rather than saying, "Let's read a story while Mommy takes a shower."
  3. Don't walk in the door with a present every time you visit.  You don't want your grandchildren to become mercenaries, expecting a gift every time they see you.  It should be enough that you are there for them to enjoy.
  4. The rules have changed for some child care techniques.  For example, babies are now placed on their back to sleep, some older cribs do not meet modern standards, and children must be appropriately buckled in an approved seat when riding in a car.  If you're not sure, don't be afraid to ask your son or daughter.  And don't be offended if they don't want the crib they slept in as babies. 
  5. Avoid telling your son or daughter how to parent.  Remember, they learned from you how to raise a child.  If you did your job, they'll do their job just fine.  However, if they ask for advice, go ahead and give them the benefit of the wisdom of your years!
  6. What will your grandchildren call you?  Anything that makes you and them feel comfortable.  There's Grandma, Nona, and Momom.  Or Grandpa, Poppy, and simply Pops.  Personally, I think adding the first or last name like Granny Miller is not as informal as simply Granny.  If there are two Grannys in the family, one can be Granny and the other might be Momom.
  7. Don't be a yes-man.  Kids will see you as a pushover and will literally walk all over you.  You wouldn't have done that for your own kids; don't do it to your grandchildren when you watch them. 
  8. It's so easy to go overboard on birthdays and Christmas. I admit I'm guilty on that count!  However, there's a limit to how much I'll spend.  Each grandparent knows what he or she can afford and should stick to the limit, even if it means each of the twelve grandchildren get only one small present at Christmas.
  9. Speaking of presents, try to give presents that encourage creativity and have more than a single purpose.  Your grandchildren will get more miles of fun for your money.
  10. Above all, enjoy your grandchildren.  Laugh with them, play with them, and teach them that life is definitely good!
Happy grandparenting!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ten Ways to Encourage Creative, Independent Thought

When I was young, I had few toys.  I made my own fun from available resources, like natural objects and discarded items around the house.  I wasn't particularly poor ... there just weren't that many toys to be purchased in those days.  I didn't have TV until I was five years old, and even then the program choices for young people were limited. As a result, I read, drew pictures, made crafts, and played with my dog.  Our phone was a party line.  That meant I might lift the receiver and hear someone else's conversation.  I would politely lower the receiver and try again later ... and later... and later.  Consequently, I wrote letters to my friends during the long summer months rather than calling them on the phone.

Where am I going with these reminiscences?  To the unthinking generation that can pick up a plastic toy for amusement, turn on the TV for entertainment, and use a phone to talk to friends.  Where's the creativity?  Where's the thought?  Where are today's youth headed?

My daughter recently gave her accelerated seventh graders the ubiquitous bridge project.  I'm sure G&T teachers around the country have offered the same challenge:  Build a bridge from paper and tape that will support (fill in the blank).  As a child, I would have been thrilled with the challenge to consider different bridge designs for stability and endurance.  I would have tested and retested my designs until they met the required criteria.  However, my daughter's class was disappointed that they were not able to use the computer lab that week.  What?  They wanted to sit in front of a screen rather than get their hands and minds busy with a real project?  What's wrong with this picture?

Similarly, when I was teaching and would pose a thought-provoking question to my students, many times they would answer, "I don't know."  ACK!  I would not allow that answer.  Sure the student might not actually know the answer to the question, but I expected an intuitive response - anything is better than "I don't know." 

So, the bottom line with today's rant is that I've developed ten ways that you can get your children to start thinking and stop receiving all their information:
  1. Offer more choices and reduce the number of requests.  (Instead of saying, "It's time for bed," say, "It's bedtime - do you want to brush your teeth first or get on your PJs first?"  A simple choice, but one that still involves thought.
  2. Encourage your children to read some of the choose your own adventure variety.  Here are a few examples: Books at Amazon.
  3. Encourage outdoor activities, none of which involve TV, phones, or computers, all of which involve creative exploration. Let your kids get dirty!  They'll have more fun in the tub later.
  4. Teachers: Develop more bridge-building style activities, even if you don't teach G&T.  Average students crave the need to get up and move around to explore your curriculum rather than completing a tedious worksheet.  (See my book, The Kinetic Classsroom, for ideas!)
  5. Ask open-ended questions.  Questions that require a one-word answer don't usually involve creative thought. (Example: What kind of bird is that?)  An open-ended question usually begins with Why or How rather than What or When.  (Example: Why do some birds migrate south and other birds stay in the area?)
  6. Buy thought-inducing games and toys.  Puzzles, legos, logic problems, and similar activities encourage children to think creatively.  Single-use toys like a silly Magic 8-ball don't encourage creativity or thought.
  7. Discard coloring books and replace with plain paper. Let your children develop their own pictures to color!  You might be amazed at how creative they become when presented with a blank piece of paper.
  8. Encourage letter writing, especially to grandparents and other older relatives who may not understand computers and email. 
  9. Encourage dramatic play with costumes, props, and a list of possible scenarios (child-produced, of course!).  If your children are old enough, ask them to write a story about their dramatic play.
  10. Supply your children with the opportunity for craft activities.  Dollar stores are a treasure trove of junk, useful for holiday craft experiences.  Play doh allows children to create anything without criticism.  What a great rainy day way to develop creative thinking!
Research has proven that children who think independently and creatively are more socially aware and morally considerate. So turn off the TV, send your kids outside, and make the phone off-limits for a mutually-agreed upon period of time.  Help your children at home and in the classroom to think before they act by encouraging creative thought when they are young.  You'll be glad you did when they are presented with life-threatening choices as teenagers.

Happy parenting and happy teaching!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What to do about teacher burnout

If you're feeling overwhelmed and burned out, putting in long hours without seeming to get ahead, becoming irritable with your students, then there are things that you need to do to take care of yourself. Here are a few suggestions...
The paragraph above and the list below came from another website.  The bolded comments are mine, as observations about whether they would work!
  • Enroll in a fun workshop, seminar, conference, or personal, non-teaching interest. In other words, get a hobby!
  • Change teaching grade assignments in the school. Right - a whole new set of curriculum guidelines is sure to relieve stress!
  • Change schools. Easier said than done, folks!
  • Go into a different teaching role such as resource, administration. At a reduced pay grade for the resource and even more stress for the admin!
  • Take on a new task such as a school or district committee. Whoopie!  More things for the overworked teacher to do!
  • Take up swimming, jogging, walking, rowing, cycling.  That's more like it - get those endorphins swimming around your blood stream!
  • Get more sleep.  Again, easier said than done if you have children and a household to run in addition to your day job.
  • Use deep breathing, meditation techniques, music to relax.  Another excellent suggestion!
  • Cultivate allies among students, staff, and parents.  Yes!  Misery loves company!
  • Find friends outside of teaching.  You'll definitely have different topics of conversation this way!
  • Go to out-of-town conferences.  And who's going to pay for this??
  • Collect and mount motivational posters in your classroom. Provided you have time to do this in addition to planning, grades, conferences, etc. etc. etc.!
  • Take a vacation, a week-end getaway, or go to a spa retreat.  On a teacher's salary?  Get real!
  • Be flexible, or you'll be permanently bent out of shape.  Excellent suggestion and funny metaphor!
  • Join a charitable volunteer group.  My favorite suggestion - when you're thinking about someone else, you don't have time to worry about yourself.
  • · Get a pet (rabbit, cat, dog...).  Unless you have allergies!
Happy Teaching!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The First Nine Sounds Your Baby Recognizes

Today we have a guest blogger from the folks at www.findababysitter.org.  I think new parents will find this information very interesting:

New moms and dads spend a lot of time trying to interpret their babies actions and determine what was a reaction based on sheer coincidence and what was a reaction because of something they said or did. You can always tell when a new parent believes that something happened based on what they did in the knowing head nod and accompanying smile saying “yes – that just happened because I said xyz… my baby knows what’s up!”

However, it can be hard to judge when a baby responds to something because they were able to actually distinguish a certain noise or voice or if they responded simply because they saw something out of the corner of their eye or they just were hungry or fussy at the same moment as someone said or did something.
These days, when children are born in a traditional hospital setting, infants get their hearing tested before they even leave the hospital to ensure that everything is progressing the way it should be and diagnose any potential hearing problems early on. So what is it that babies really hear and recognize first?

  1. Sounds around them before their born - The whole concept of pregnancy is a fascinating one – there is a tiny human growing inside of you and everything that is going on in and around you is impacting them in some way. Doctors have been able to determine that as early as 21 weeks into a pregnancy babies are beginning to hear sounds occurring outside the womb. Since each surrounding is different, the first sounds they hear are different too – whether it’s the voices of you and your husband or your other children running around playing loudly – these all are things your baby has begun to store into their sound knowledge.
  2. Nearby noises - Any louder sounds that are happening close to your baby will cause them to react in the first month home. They may not respond to noises that are farther away from them, so there’s no need to be concerned if they don’t react right away.
  3. Regular voices - The voices that your baby hears regularly during their first month home – whether it’s you, your spouse, your other children, your dogs barking, etc. – are starting to become familiar sounds to them during that first month. Anything that they hear on a constant basis becomes a distinguishing sound for them, allowing them to respond accordingly. You can tell when they’re beginning to pinpoint different noises because they will turn their head in recognition or cry to be picked up.
  4. Their own voices - In addition to regular voices that babies hear, during the first month they will also begin to determine what is their own voice and will practice hearing it by making different cooing and gurgling noises.
  5. High-pitched noises - If you ever wondered why people talk in annoyingly high-pitched octaves when around infants, it’s not because they’re intentionally being annoying, but more because that’s what babies respond to most during their first few months. This doesn’t mean you should solely rely on baby talk and cooing though – by mixing in regular, adult words and high-pitched baby talk, you are encouraging your baby to respond and speak themselves.
  6. Music - There’s a good reason that most doctors encourage you to immerse your child with music – babies respond and recognize the lyrical notes early on in their hearing. And you don’t need to limit your musical choices either – by watching your baby’s responses to a variety of music, you will eventually see their own musical preferences evolve as they begin to respond to different types in favorable or unfavorable ways.
  7. Everyday loud noises - In the first six months home your baby will begin to recognize the louder noises that they hear on a daily basis, such as a the loud roaring that accompanies the vacuum cleaner, the sounds of the TV when it’s turned on, or the chiming of your cellphone when it rings. To help develop a broader range of hearing you should stimulate louder noises by giving them toys such as rattles to play with while you’re doing household chores or running errands.
  8. Quieter sounds - By the time your baby passes the six month mark, they will start to respond to and distinguish quieter noises when they’re paying attention, such as whispering between two people and the rustling of leaves outside. Their hearing is fine-tuning itself at this point, so you should continue to immerse them in all sorts of everyday environments to encourage continued development.
  9. Names - By 10 months you should be regularly telling your baby his or her name and the names of other people and things around them, and they should be beginning to distinguish and identify people they interact with regularly by their names.

Watching your baby develop their hearing is an exciting time. Sounds that we typically tune out or take for granted, such as the neighbor mowing the lawn next door or the sound of a school bus or garbage truck rumbling through the neighborhood, are all sounds that are going to be new, exciting, and stimulating to your infant. As they continue to grow and mature different noises will become apparent to them, and while they may have been sleeping through the night just fine one week, the next they will be intent on determining what certain noises are. You just have to remember that, while you may be used to certain sounds, your baby is hearing them all for the first time and is trying to pinpoint what each and every new thing is.
It can be interesting and entertaining to introduce them to new noises and see how they react to them one by one – just make sure not to surround them with too many loud noises, their hearing is still delicate early on in life and you don’t want to do anything to damage that!

Happy Parenting!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Feng Shui Your Faculty Room

I've written a book and many articles about the value of Feng Shui in classrooms.  But how about adding this spiritually uplifting concept to the faculty room?  Typically, those dens are havens for discarded newsletters, yesterday's newspapers, and inedible leftovers in the faculty fridge.  Some, as in the first school I ever taught, don't even have windows to allow fresh air to filter through the mess and odors.  The picture I chose for today's blog is of a faculty room at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah.  WOW!   Is that a fireplace???

Here then, are some suggestions for Feng Shui-ing the faculty room if you don't work at Westminster College!
  1. Reduce clutter by adding a paper recycling bin near the door.  Make sure someone empties it frequently.  Also, at the end of the day, all lose papers should be placed in that recycling bin.  If they were so unimportant that they were left on the table, they can certainly be easily recycled.
  2. Clean out the fridge once a week.  Discourage faculty from leaving anything except a lunch bag or box in the fridge.  Old bottles of catsup, half-full bottles of soda, and leftover hoagies begin to grow a personality all their own after a while.
  3. Add a touch of the natural like round-leafed plants near the window.  No windows? No problem.  Most plants tolerate flourescent lights just find.  Remember to avoid pointy-leafed plants and cactus, as they bring in the "poison arrows."  Use those Glass Plant Watering Bulbs so the plants get enough moisture.  Plants also replace the oxygen and remove carbon dioxide in a stuffy faculty room.
  4. For a different touch of the natural, and a calming influence, add a fish tank near the door.  Remember to assign someone to feed the fish daily or get an Everyday Fish Feeder Programmable Automatic Food Dispenser and refill it as needed.  This also solves the problem of who's going to feed the fish over vacation or on snow days. 
  5. Follow the Bagua when you plan the areas in the faculty room.  For example, if you have wooden mail boxes, they should be on the left side of the room as you enter.  Metal mailboxes should be on the right side of the room.
  6. When your district indicates that they are upgrading the walls and floors, make this suggestion:  Pale green is a calming color that works well in an eating area.  Floors should be linoleum or other similar material that is easy to clean.  I've been in faculty rooms where the carpet smells like yesterday's spill... for the rest of the year.
  7. If you don't have any windows, create one.  No, I don't mean you should knock out the brick wall.  Simply place an interesting, scenic poster on the wall and attach curtains around it to give the illusion of space.  That's what I did forty years ago in my first school before I even knew about the value of Feng Shui!
  8. Finally, consider the needs of your faculty.  If they like to chat all together, arrange the tables in a square or U-shape.  If you find that they prefer to sit with their departmentalized buddies, then use separate tables place far enough apart to avoid bumping into each other when they get up. 
All of the Feng Shui suggestions I have in my book, Feng Shui for the Classroom, also work for faculty rooms!

And now to make you teachers out there really jealous.... here is a video of a faculty room makeover: http://www.5min.com/Video/How-to-Makeover-a-High-School-Teachers-Lounge-93890400

Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bed-Sharing and SIDS

Since the late 1980s, studies have indicated that the incidences of SIDS decreased dramatically when parents began to place their infants on their backs to sleep.  However, a new study in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics indicates that an additional risk factor is involved - placing a sleeping infant in the bed with a sleeping parent.  Additionally, the study analyzed the difference between smoking and non-smoking parents as another contributing factor for SIDS when babies are placed in the bed with their parents. 

The 20-year study used 2,464 cases and 6,495 control subjects.  Here's what the very reliable study indicated:

1. There is a direct correlation between bed-sharing and an increased risk for SIDS. 

2. When parents smoked, the risk of SIDS increased even further. (However, they could not separate in utero maternal smoking from those who smoked around their infants.)

3. The risk for SIDS while bed-sharing increased 10X for infants under 12 weeks.  The risk for infants over 12 weeks was not elevated during bed-sharing.  The study indicated that older infants are better able to free themselves from a smothering situation.  The researchers also noted that bed-sharing infants have a higher skin temperature, which may also contribute to SIDS. 

4. Bed sharing during one night when the baby does not routinely share the bed doubles the risk for SIDS.  Researchers suggested that the reason may be because the child is already ill, which would cause the parents to sleep with the child. 

5. Temporary bed sharing for comforting or feeding does not increase the risk for SIDS.

6. Infants who slept with adults on a sofa were at higher risk for SIDS than infants who slept with adults in a bed.

The bottom line:  Bed sharing strongly increases the risk of SIDS..  This risk is greatest when parents smoke and in infants who are under 12 weeks old.  The risk is particularly high with young infants whether the parent smokes or not.

Happy, safe parenting!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

10 Reasons to Encourage Breakfast

You've heard it before - Breakfast provides a strong start to your children's day.  But have you ever thought about the reasons why you should plan a few extra minutes in the morning for a hearty breakfast?  Here are ten...
  1. Boost blood sugar to your brain. After 8-10 hours of no food, your brain needs a boost of glucose to jump start its engine.  That's why the first meal of the day is break-fast!  Without this fresh supply of glucose, your children won't be able to process the information their teachers present in the first few classes of the day.  Most carbohydrates contain glucose, but choose complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain and bran cereals, to give your children brain energy throughout the morning.
  2. Add nutrients to your body. Most breakfast cereals are fortified with essential nutrients that the body can store throughout the day and use as needed.  Nutrients such as folate, B-vitamins, iron, fiber, and other nutrients help the body use its energy efficiently. Without these helpers, the carbohydrates could create an energy spike, making your children energy deficient by mid-morning.
  3. Lower cholesterol. Studies show that people who skip breakfast have higher cholesterol levels.  Start now to show your children the proper way to help their heart later in life.
  4. Decrease risk of diabetes and obesity. Breakfast helps prevent many metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity.  Eating a hearty breakfast early in the day helps children's metabolism throughout the rest of the day.
  5. Discourage anorexia. An Australian study found that thirteen-year-old girls who did not eat breakfast were more likely to become anorexic and have other eating distorders.  Skipping a meal to control weight is very unproductive becuase the teens tend to graze on the wrong foods like donuts later in the day.
  6. Develop healthy skin. Tell your teens that eggs contain lutein, which helps protect the skin's elasticity.   Eggs are packed with nutrients like zinc that are good for acne. 
  7. Feel good! Emotionally, eating breakfast will give you a better view of the world and your body. Add blueberries to your pancakes or cereal.  They are a natural feel-good food because they contain so many antioxidants.
  8. Balance your daily intake.  If you eat three meals a day plus an occasional snack between meals, you have achieved food balance.  If your children eliminate breakfast because they're late for the bus, they must cram all their nutrients into two meals plus snacks.  This leads to chronic overeating in the long run and low energy early in the day.
  9. Boost immune system. A study in the Netherlands indicated that people who eat breakfast have a stronger immune system to combat the common cold and other virus-borned diseases.  Without going into all the technical explanation for their findings, let it suffice to say that they noticed a 17% drop in attendance at work due to illness for adults who did not eat breakfast.  That means that children who do not eat breakfast are more likely to lose thirty days of school each year!
  10. Live longer. Another study showed that people who lived to be 100 years old were consistent breakfast eaters.  If you cancel out other problems like smoking and drinking, by simply eating a hearty breakfast, your children will live long enough to help you in your senior years!
Remember, sugary cereals and pop tarts are not acceptable substitutes for a healthy breakfast choice. Here are two recipes from my other website for make-ahead breakfasts that you can serve all week long: http://www.reneeheiss.com/my_recipes#christmas  The Christmas breakfast casserole has been a favorite of my family's for over thirty years and the hearty healthy oatmeal casserole lasts for many days and can be reheated as needed.

For more information, read this book: SMART SCHOOL TIME RECIPES: The Breakfast, Snack, and Lunchbox Cookbook for Healthy Kids and Adults
And for tips on HOW to encourage kids to eat breakfast, see my other blogpost: http://parent-teacher-child-connection.blogspot.com/2012/04/5-ways-to-encourage-breakfast.html

Added 12-5-12:  I just found more evidence that eating a healthy breakfast contributes to our ability to make good decisions: http://blogs.voanews.com/science-world/2012/10/19/skipping-breakfast-prompts-brain-to-make-poor-food-choices/

Happy parenting!
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