My childhood memories of nature include holding soft baby kitties, bicycling on the dusty gravel road, watching ants in the grass, hanging upside down in the swing in the big oak tree, collecting rocks, and digging tunnels in snow drifts. What are your favorite outdoor memories? Did you know that those experiences, in an unstructured, extended time frame, form the foundation of curiosity, learning and development of empathy? Scooping and dumping sand, making mud pies and stacking wood scraps were how you might have begun to learn physics and mathematics? Climbing a tree, running on uneven ground and carrying branches help a child develop body awareness, strength and visual spatial skills. Want your kid to be able to parallel park when he learns to drive? Give him outdoor experiences manipulating large natural materials and chances are he’ll be at the head of his driver’s ed – or graphic design – class. Kids also learn to manage risk and problem solve when they have early experiences in natural settings. Pokémon Go the virtual reality game may be a way to get kids outdoors, however unless they pay attention to the surroundings and explore those spaces, it does not substitute for actual experience with nature. Geocaching is another way for families to explore the out of doors.
I’ve been a certified Nature Explore trainer since 2009. Thousands of Iowa early childhood professionals – teachers, child care providers, naturalists, parks and rec staff and parents – have learned to use tested design principles to help children connect to nature. Imagine my joy when I was invited to participate in a research project on Nature Explore backyards in Iowa City. It was magical to watch families embrace the concepts and open their backyards to transformation. My memory of watching a toddler explore sound in his family’s new outdoor ‘classroom’ sustains me whenever I do a design consultation or teach a workshop. Excerpts from that research are in the book At Home with Nature.
My own backyard contains the Nature Explore principles and I’m having fun seeing how they will change over time as my 16 month old granddaughter grows up. Watching her pick and eat berries for the first time, check out the wren’s nest and sing back to the momma and papa birds, stack river stones, fill a pail with pinecones, turn sea shells over and over in her tiny hands and swing in the mosquito netting hammock all fill my heart with gratitude and hope for her future.
How do you help your kids connect to nature?
This week we welcome guest blogger Kristi Cooper. Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life and new grandma.
I had no idea I’d be taking my own advice years after I wrote about the overspending of grandmothers and aunts on new babies. I’m very excited to provide my 11 month old granddaughter with as many new experiences as she can handle. Her parents are practical and their home is small so the oodles of toys, clothes and other baubles that are bestowed upon her by well-meaning relatives create stress. Besides, my grandgirl is pretty happy with simple household surfaces to pound and pull up on, and a human or two to keep her entertained.
Marketers of baby stuff focus on female consumers – aunts and grandmothers in particular – because their hearts are as big as their wallets. By keeping our wallets closed and our hearts open we can avoid turning our grandchildren into beggars and entitled teens. Here are 5 ways to love those precious little ones without creating strained relationships, stress over stuff and maintain our financial wellbeing.
- Gift of Talent/Skills – We all have the need to contribute to our family and community. Share age-appropriate activities with your grandchild or grand baby. Play together – Teach a game from your childhood such as kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
- Gift of Words – Talk Together – Encourage grandchildren, nieces, and nephews by highlighting the positive values you see in them. Ask about their goals in life. Talk about how they can reach those goals. Point out the characteristics that you admire in them.
- Gift of Time – Nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention – sharing conversation and activities. Work together Do household chores, homework, bicycle repair or volunteer in the community with your younger generation. Working together teaches skills, work ethic and the value of contributing to others.
- Gift of Objects – We all like to receive objects that have been thoughtfully selected just for us. Keep material gifts to a minimum and consider the life-span of the object. Create together – Choose toys and consumables like art materials that stimulate critical thinking, imagination and are age-appropriate. Ask yourself, who is doing the thinking – the child or the manufacturer?
- Gift of Touch/Self Care – Wrap these gifts in plenty of hugs and kisses, bedtime backrubs, tickles and laughter. Practice relaxation techniques so you can be fully present for your grandchild.
YOU are the best gift your grandchild can receive!
When my oldest child was one year old, I was introduced to the world of ‘Temperament’. I remember thinking at that time, “She’s already 1! Am I too late! What if I already ruined her by not knowing her temperament!?”
It sounds silly now, as she teeters on the brink of 18, but back then all I could think about was the year I had missed BT (Before Temperament). I can tell you this with 100% confidence. It is NOT TO LATE! Learning to understand your child’s temperament, along with your own temperament, can happen at any time. It can happen right now regardless of your child’s age.
This month we talk about taking the time to learn your child’s ‘temperament style’ and then parent according to that style. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’. Taking care of any child (grandchild, neighbor, niece, nephew, sibling) isn’t even close to ‘one size fits most’. Building relationships with children means taking the time to learn to appreciate what their genetics granted them, find a way to build their confidence and self-esteem and guide them into social competence.
Where can you start? By learning about their style. By appreciating the unique characteristics of that style. By implementing one thing to show them you understand that style. Here are a couple of GREAT places to start.
What is that ONE thing that you will do to parent ‘to their unique style’. Share with us!
As we come into a season of spending time with family I thought I would dig into how to manage those times of ‘togetherness’. Grandparents and grandchildren can be both excited and nervous to spend time together during family functions. Children may exhibit behavior grandparents aren’t used to and that can be a confusing dilemma. Extension.org has a great article on understanding children’s behavior during these exciting family times.
Understanding Grandchildren’s Behaviors
Don’t get me wrong, spending time together with extended can be a fabulous time. In fact another article I read made me smile and think of how much I miss my own grandparents and the wonderful stories they told.
Stories about Granparents and Grandchildren
I am grateful for the many stories I heard, for grandparents that understood my nervous behaviors and for countless times spent with extended family members.
I’ve got my list and I’m checking it twice. No, I’m not the jolly old Santa whose lap the kids climb on with those endless “I want” lists. Rather I am the Grandmother wondering what I can get the grandkids that they will appreciate and use. Gone are the days when it was so easy buying for the babies.
So what to do? Well I could get a list from the kids or ask their parents for ideas. Or, I could figure out ways to give of myself to strengthen the bonds of connection. Perhaps there is a combination of the two that makes sense for me.
Kristi Cooper, a co-worker, recently wrote two handouts that are filled with practical ways to create meaning.
Giving and receiving gifts is an expression of love. It can be done in a manner that is respectful to needs, wants, finances, and family values. When gift giving occasion arise – holidays, birthdays, and special events – I give from the heart. Honoring the special connection with my grandkids is priceless.
How do you handle gift giving with your grandkids?
Isn’t that a great word? I’m still smiling typng it. I found it on the AARP website while I was looking for statistics. According to their site, 4.9 million children under the age of 18 live with their grandparents. Thus making them ‘grandfamilies’ . In fact to quote the site, “As increasing numbers of grandchildren rely on grandparents for the security of a home, their grandparents are taking on more of the responsibility for raising them in a tough economy — many with work challenges of their own. For these grandparents, raising another family wasn’t part of the plan. But they step up to the plate when their loved ones need them.”
Grandfamilies, yes that’s a great word for those that are stepping up to take care of family members in need. Celebrate their commitment to family. Share their stories of greatness here.
I am the proud grandmother of seven young adults. They range in age from 14 – 24. Obviously they are well beyond the days of cuddling on my lap or arriving at the door with little suitcase in hand ready for a sleepover. As grandchildren grow up, it becomes a challenge as to how to keep connected.
Fascinating information from a new AARP survey reveals that more than 80% of grandparents speak to their grandchildren on the phone at least once a month. More than 1/3 do their communication via new technology – think Skype, Facebook, texting. So I started asking myself if I fit these results. I use Facebook for keeping up day-to-day. I text when I want a quick check-in. Phone calls follow if we need a longer conversation.
And what do we talk about? Again I’m right in tune with the survey results. The AARP survey says 50% talk about morals and values; religion and spirituality; peer pressure or bullying; illegal drugs; and drinking and alcohol use. Dating or sex are topics for 37% of the grandparents. I have to laugh as I often start conversations with some of the grandkids with this question, “And are you making good choices?”
The data about frequency of communication, as well as topics, fits well with grandparents serving a role as mentor and teacher. We have a wonderful chance to help grandchildren by sharing our experiences and knowledge, all wrapped up in a big dose of love. A personal aside – I always end my texts with Love, Gma.
How often do you communicate with your grandkids and what do you talk about?
Historian, mentor and friend are some of the roles that today’s grandparents play. The relationship of a grandparent and grandchild is second in emotional importance only to the parent/child relationship.This month we will take a closer look at the various roles of grandparents, including grandparents raising their grandchildren. During November we will talk about how important grandparents can be in the lives of their grandchildren.
Time with Grandparents
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Got your attention didn’t I? Now moms, don’t be mad at me because we can be WAY fun, and trust me I am a really fun mom, it’s just that sometimes I feel like fathers are more fun!
So I was curious. Was I just ‘feeling’ less fun? Or is there was a difference in how mothers and fathers have ‘fun’. Here is what I found.
A summary of Fathers Involvement in Their Children’s Schools shared the following (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs98/fathers/):
- Researchers are in agreement that mothers and fathers interact differently with their children (Parke, 1995).
- Fathers spend proportionately more time playing with their children, while mothers spend a greater proportion of their total time with their children in caretaking activities (Lamb, 1986).
- Because mothers spend a greater amount of time overall with their children, they may actually spend more time playing with them than do fathers, yet caretaking is still what best characterizes their time, while play best characterizes the fathers’ overall time with their children. Fathers and mothers also play differently with their children, with fathers much more likely to be rough and tumble (Parke, 1995; Hetherington and Parke, 1993).
Whew!! I’m not less fun! I just play different than fathers do! I would love to hear how you play and have fun. Whether you are a mother or a father, spending time having fun and playing is so important. Share ideas here!
I woke up this morning feeling like cheering!!! I think it was the sun! Yesterday I was thinking about what to write for the blog and spent some time trying to ‘watch’ play. However, I didn’t just watch children play. I watched adults play. I watched infants to the aging play. As I reflected on the play I noticed a common theme. Are you ready?
We really do like to play.
How did I know? We let our bodies show it. We smile. We raise our eyebrows. We open our mouth and laugh. We relax our shoulders. We BREATHE. Yes we like to play and our bodies show the pure un-inhibited enjoyment of it!
I wonder if that’s why sometimes as adults we are tired after playing? Because we finally just let our bodies and brain enjoy the moment we are in. Hmm, so play might really be important in more ways than one.
I would LOVE to know how you play! I want you to recognize the times that you freely let go and allow yourselves to really enjoy the moment! Take time to really pay attention and allow yourself those moments. Tell me abut your play!
I admit to feeling like I had a play deficit when my children were little. So much so that I used to make myself feel pretty guilty because as an early childhood educator I felt like I should be better at ‘PLAY’. What I discovered is that I just play differently. And guess what. So do you!
We all play differently. I found that I like play that is active or has action. Others like to play board and/or card games that are more quiet. While still others enjoy the make believe and dress up adventures. There is no right or wrong way to play. There is just play. Pure and simple. Play. Play is face to face with the children in your life. Engaging their mind and body while creating strong relationships. Back and forth communication. I guess my message really is don’t over analyze how you play or if you play is good enough or right enough.
Pat yourself on the back, give yourself credit and tell me how you like to play with the children in your life.
Don’t forget to join us Thursday evening at 8:00pm!
Teach Appropriate Behavior Information
Wow – I think we struck a note (or nerve) with the opening podcast on overindulgence. Some people are responding with humor and others are seriously questioning what it means. And on occasion, I’ve heard “that surely doesn’t include a doting aunt, grandparents, and so on.”
I confess, I’ve been known to spoil my grandkids now and then. And I’m guessing some of you parents have given in to your child’s desire for that special something. That’s not what we’re talking about with overindulgence which is a pattern of behavior with too much, over-nurture, and soft structure.
Let’s start with one type of overindulgence which is material. That is having too much (toys, clothes, privileges, entertainment, activities) and not knowing what is enough. Researchers use a test of four to determine if there is an overindulgence issue. If one clue is present, then it’s time to stop and see what’s going on.
- Does the situation hinder the child from learning the tasks that support his or her development and learning at this age?
- Does the situation give a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more of the children?
- Does this situation exist to benefit the adult more than the child?
- Does the child’s behavior potentially harm others, society, or the planet in some way?
Do these questions make sense? Have you thought about any of these questions as you make decisions in your family?
Note: As with all our podcasts we intend to share studies and research. Then our blogs are a further look into the topic from our perspective and we encourage your comments. I invite you to check out the research listing on the www.overindulgence.info web page. Links take you directly to research being done by Dr. Bredehoft and others. Another suggested reading is Study 6: Connections between Childhood Overindulgence and Adult Life Aspirations – A Preliminary Report by David J. Bredehoft and Chelsae Armao, 2008.
Grandparents have always been an important part of children’s lives. In fact, many schools celebrated grandparents day on Sept 9th this year. In celebration of grandparents and in keeping with the theme of school success for our September podcast and blog (www.scienceofparenting.org), here are a few tips on how grandparents can help children this school year.
- Ask. But ask specifically! Rather than ask how school is going, be specific. Ask children what book they are reading, what their favorite part of the school day is, or what they are studying in a particular subject.
- Praise. Not for their accomplishments but for their EFFORT! Praise them for the long hours they put into their studies. For eating that breakfast that helps their brain or simply for sharing their activities with grandpa and grandma!
- Participate. Visit or volunteer for activities or functions. Be a guest speaker. Or even join the class online blogs and discussion boards.
- Read. Share stories both written and verbal with your grandchild. Write them notes, letters or emails.
- Plan. Encourage your grandchildren to think about their future plans and goals. Let your grandkids know you believe in them and the importance of trying their best.
“If you as a grandparent are raising your grandchildren, remember that it is important to know the child’s school and teachers. Get involved in your grandchildren’s homework, make school work a priority and stay in contact with the school.”
How have grandparents impacted your child’s school success?
For more information see the link below on Grandparents and School Success: http://www.extension.org/pages/20318/grandparents-can-contribute-to-childrens-school-success
Check out the recorded Parenting Webinar on Helping Children Succeed in School!
We’ve all been there – cheering at the game and having fun watching the kids play. Then somewhere out of the stands comes that loud voice yelling, “What are you thinking, take him out,” or “Ref, how could you miss that call?” Then the tirade continues for the entire game alternately aimed at the coach, kids, and referees or umpires. Embarrassing – yes. Helpful to anyone – no.
I’m going to tackle (ok, its football season) the sensitive topic of adults and sportsmanship. It’s easier and safer to focus on the kids. But the truth is that adults can become overly involved. I am including all adults, not just parents, in this discussion. There’s no age limit, gender, or relationship that precludes an adult from “losing it” at a sporting event.
So what’s an overly involved parent or adult? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Do I get in arguments at my child’s sporting event?
- Do I object to calls and possibly cuss at the referees or umpires?
- Do I insist my child go to practice or play in a game even if she is sick or hurt?
- Do I complain to the coach about the amount of my child’s playing time?
- Do I insist my child is much better than others on the team?
- Do I tell or show my child how to play dirty?
- Do I show more approval when my child plays well?
Ok, it’s gut check time. Did any of these questions make you squirm just a little? Did some of them hit close to home? We’re not perfect and it’s easy to get caught up in an intense game.
But remember, as a parent you are ALWAYS a role model for your child. Sports help character development and what are you teaching your child when you lose control of your emotions and actions. What do you do to keep calm at your child’s games?