Socially Addicted: Kids and the Media

12809518_10154087273029382_4024219675046577160_nThe weather finally let up long enough for my husband and I to take our toddler to the park and boy was she excited! While she dug in the muddy rocks and climbed up the stairs to the slide, several teenage boys walked into the little gated park. I was worried they would cause some trouble, however, they proceeded to sit on the swings, one next to the other, and pull out their smart phones. I was shocked that the first thing they wanted to do was play on their phones when they were right next to each other and could have played tag, tug of war, or built a fort. I looked over at my husband and said, “I don’t remember doing that as a kid!”. We eventually started back home and even my husband, while pushing the stroller, was on his phone. My head spun with the realization that this was a huge problem, not only for kids, but even adults in every generation. We are so consumed by what this little box can tell us that we are missing the big picture of everyday life! No wonder children get in trouble, marriages are falling apart, and people lack basic communication skills. So, what can you do as a parent with children and maybe even spouses that have the phone, computer, or Ipad glued to their hand?

First off, be the example.

I know sometimes work or that interesting story on Facebook can seem more important, but when your spouse wants to talk or your toddler is tugging on you to come build blocks or play dolls, GO! For the love of all things good, GO! Your spouse will be appreciative that you chose to have some quality time with them and your child will understand that everything has a place and that they ARE MORE IMPORTANT than whatever can wait on your device.

Set time aside for your digital work, especially if you have to do work at home or you work from home.2

Being a blogger, I have to wait until my kids are in bed and my husband is at work to get any good content out. Having a toddler makes it almost impossible to be pressing buttons and not have her right in my lap “helping” bring you this dgjhksdgjndsvk siu fsjdg sdg sjdn. You see what I mean. This makes my life less stressful because I’m not trying to balance spend time with husband before he goes to work and take care of baby who needs me, what seems like, every second. I also have more time to just sit and do instead of being interrupted a million times with snack requests and where something is in the drawer.

Limit your child(ren)s time using media.

This will benefit them in many ways from being able to sleep better, entertain themselves without media, and allow them to learn things media cannot give (such as practicing the piano or reading a book). I understand most things can be done on the internet, but helping your child learn how to function outside the walls of the World Wide Web will help them function in society and communicate better with others.

Set up activities that do not associate media into your child(ren)s schedule as well as your own.

Go swimming, pick up a real book, color, paint, draw, go for a walk, have a picnic, go to a museum, the activities are endless! These activities will help to strengthen problem solving skills (because weird things happen in the real world), and it gives you a chance for a multitude of teachable moments. For example, let’s say you decide to go to the Children’s Museum with your kids and another child falls and gets hurt or finds they are lost? This is a great time to help the child together and to stop for a moment and talk about compassion and how we can help others around us. These hands on lessons will be a much better benefit for teaching than anything Dora, Doc McStuffins, or Barney can teach.

Take a moment to check out the mess free Finding Nemo Inspired Sensory Bin Activity to get you started!

Finally, instead of using media, whether television or an app on your phone, as a babysitter for your kids try giving them small things to do or pre-preparing activities to keep them distracted while you do the dishes.

I am guilty of this one, big time! If I want to take a shower Mickey Mouse Club House is calling my daughters name! And I am by no means saying that the occasional show while you get something done is always bad, but, just like we like to say about food, everything in proportion. If you say your kids can only have two hours of media time, whether it was the babysitter or not, two hours is it. If you bend on this rule, they will figure it out fast, those smart kids! This would be a great time to sign them up for a class or make them practice piano so you can have a few minutes, but they are not engrossed in the latest Bachelor at 5 years old.

Media is by no means a bad thing. It is actually wonderful, if it is used wisely. Don’t worry about trying to keep it away from your kids completely because they will find it, but be aware of how much they are on it as well as what they are watching and playing. What do you do to manage the media in your house? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Getting Messy: Childs Play, the Mess It Creates, and How to Handle It

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I came across an interesting conversation today while visiting Starbucks for my favorite Venti Frappuccino for my birthday. I had my 18 month old in my arms with a “pupaccino” in her hands eating the whip cream out of this adorable little Starbucks cup (because you know the Starbucks addicts start our kids early haha) as I waited for my drink to get done. A young lady mentioned that I was a cool mom for getting my 18 month old daughter a “pupaccino” and not freaking out that she was covered in it. It honestly didn’t even occur to me that she was rubbing it all over her face, hair, and shirt until she mentioned it. I just didn’t have a problem with my child being dirty because baby wipes or baths fix everything! However, in teaching classes over the past year in a small town, I have come to realize that many parents in more affluent families do not want their children getting dirty. It has become a sort of bad word to talk about crafts or sensory play that may make Johnny or Susie’s clothes a mess. I find this to be very sad because some of the best learning is done during play, especially messy play. Do you remember going out and making mud pies and finding worms (and possibly eating said worms?)? Well, congratulations, you made it to adulthood and your children will make it too, but they need the natural stimulation of play to help them develop to the best of their ability. I myself was very intimidated by the mess my house could quickly become with sensory play or digging in the dirt, however, there are ways to make things easier to clean up. Here are a few ideas on how to get started in Sensory and outdoor play without spending hours cleaning up after it. Once you have tried a few, I am certain you will see the benefit as well as how to handle the mess without ruining you carpet.

When introducing your child to having shaving cream, paint, or other messy play start in the bathtub.

-There are so many fun things you can do in the bathtub with and without water present, one of these is shaving cream. My daughter loves to spread it around and draw pictures in it. We write her name and different numbers and shapes as well. This gives me an opportunity to explain shapes and early writing skills as well as gives her a sensory activity to do while we clean her up. It’s a win-win because she gets to play and she gets clean!!! You can do this activity with or without water, we tend to use water so we can watch the shaving cream dissipate as well. You can read more about shaving cream ideas here.

-Homemade paint is a great bathtub activity because you can use many different ingredients (which is wonderful if you or your child has an allergy) and many of these recipes are edible (so if someone wants to take a taste it is not the end of the world!). You can see activities and recipes for homemade paint here. Grab a few cheap paintbrushes and your homemade paint and let your little ones paint with or without water and when you’re all done wash it away!

Try a sensory table you can put outside.

-Many places such as Target and Walmart make water tables that you can put many different sensory items into. Try using rice and beans out on the porch for a fun sensory experience and then when you are done sweep it up and throw it away! No messy kitchen needed!

Use a bucket inside of a bucket to keep items contained.

This is great for sand! Living in Colorado where the weather changes like a woman who is PMSing I never know when I can take the littles outside, but this method keeps everything contained and off my carpet! Just place your sensory bin into a bigger bin that gives you about 2”-3” of space on all sides and set your little one in the small bin. That way if a bit of sand gets thrown out it will still be contained and easily put back where it belongs. Click here to see some great ideas for sand play!

Put paint into a bag

Sometimes getting in any mess is not something that needs to happen like when you have a really little one who sticks EVERYTHING in their mouth. Get a gallon sized Ziplock bag, squirt a few colors that will not turn brown or black into the bag, zip AND tape it shut, and then tape it to your floor or highchair for baby to mush around. The reason I say colors that will not turn brown is because it turns brown fast! Use primary colors such as blue and yellow and then you have a teaching moment to talk about how the colors made green. Look at some other ideas here.

Put a drop cloth or painters plastic down.painting-1067686_1920

Finally, you can always use a drop cloth or painters plastic to cover up the space you need kept clean. My one advise on this, however, is if you have a toddler make sure they are somewhat contained or you are in arms reach because if you have a runner like me, your not so messy, messy project will be all over your house. This will make for a lot of clean up, but you will also see a lot of smiles and giggles as you chase your child around the house. So mess for memories.

 

Do you have any great photos of a #messformemories with your child? I would love to see them and here your story because life is messy and sometimes you just have to #YOLO

P.S. Want a great Sensory activity you can do right now with no mess (or while you clean the mess)? Check out our Finding Nemo inspired Sensory Bin for those moments when a mess is just too much!

 

 

 

What is Sensory Play?

 

Sensory play is a very simple concept that has been all but forgotten as parent, early childhood educators, and preschools have started to focus more on academic work than sensory exploration. In September 2015, the Washington Post wrote a great story talking about the decline in play in young children saying

 

 

Research continues to point out that young children learn best through meaningful play experiences, yet many preschools are transitioning from play-based learning to becoming more academic in nature…In fact, it is before the age of 7 years — ages traditionally known as “pre-academic” — when children desperately need to have a multitude of whole-body sensory experiences on a daily basis in order to develop strong bodies and minds. This is best done outside where the senses are fully ignited and young bodies are challenged by the uneven and unpredictable, ever-changing terrain. (Strauss, 2015)

So, what exactly is Sensory Play and how can you make sure your child is getting what they need? Sensory Play is any activity that stimulates the senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, or hearing and engages your child. This play can be very simple, such as playing with a rain stick, or more complex, such as sensory bins and “messy play” involving sand, water, or paint. PBS explains Sensory Play as something that facilitates, “…exploration and naturally encourage(s) children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore. Spending time stimulating their senses helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally, physically and creatively.” (PBS, 2016) Let’s go ahead and pull the ways your child will benefit from Sensory Play as well.

Cognitively

Cognitive development consists of developing problem solving skills, being able to process information, reasoning, language development, memory, and decision making. When your child is playing there are many times that problem solving, decision making, or memory will come into play. For example let’s say your child is playing with Play-Doh and has the choice to use several different colors as well as objects to create a picture that is on the table (such as a butterfly). They have to decide what material they need to do that as well as figure out how each piece goes together using a considerable amount of their cerebrum, the largest part of the brain.

Linguistically

In this same scenario, your child can ask for help either verbally, in Sign Language, or through pointing and gesturing. The great part about language development is everyone is different and, “Recent studies have shown that in around 97% of people, language is represented in the left hemisphere. However, in about 19% of left-handed people, the areas responsible for language are in the right hemisphere and as many as 68% of them have some language abilities in both the left and the right hemispheres.” (Mandal, 2013) That means working on sensory language skills such as American Sign Language, reading to your child, and continually talking with your child is helping their brain develop in many different areas at one time.

Socially and Emotionally

Social and Emotional Intelligence is a fairly new field within the last 20 years. Many studies have found that IQ is important, however, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is more important in everyday success such as communication and leadership skills. In a study entitled Trait Emotional Intelligence as a Predictor of Socioemotional Outcomes in Early Adolescence, researcher Norah Frederickson f, found that Emotional Intelligence is a better indicator of socioemotional competence (ability to act effectively and appropriately in social situations) than IQ. (2012)

Physically

Children can use many different physical activities to learn such as running in a relay with mom and dad, climbing on blocks or rocks, and determining how to get on and off the bed or couch at home.

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This is my favorite part of Sensory Play because you never know what your child will be inclined towards. Doing many different types of creative play will be able to help you figure out if your child likes drawing and painting or playing music. I have had countless parents tell colleagues and myself how they never would have guessed their 7, 12, or 18 month old would like a certain activity until they stepped out of their comfort zone and introduced it and the learning flourished! These are all important areas that should be taken into account when starting your child on the path to learning. I will be the first to tell you that reading to your child and teaching them numbers and letters is fantastic, however, just like many things in life, everything has to be done in proportion. We want our children to succeed in every area, but we do not want to burn them out and have them in so many activities that they are worn thin and run ragged either. 

Take some time to Make a Mess, Play in Water, or Find Fishes to get those creative juices going! You may find you enjoy it just as much as they do!

 If you have any questions please get in contact with me and comment below with things that have worked for your children in Sensory Play as well as academically.

      

Sources for this Article

Frederickson, N. (2012, February). Trait emotional intelligence as a predictor of socioemotional outcomes in early adolescence. Retrieved March 14, 2016, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886911004892

Mandal, D. (2013, November 4). Language and the Human Brain. Retrieved March 14, 2016, from http://www.news-medical.net/health/Language-and-the-Human-Brain.aspx Sensory Play and Early Child Development. (2016). Retrieved March 14, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/parents/child-development/sensory-play/ Strauss, V. (2015, September 1).

The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues. Retrieved March 14, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/09/01/the-decline- of-play-in-preschoolers-and-the-rise-in-sensory-issues/

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