Wednesday, August 19, 2015

iMothering Invited TALK

Head over to iMothering to listen to my 30 minute "podcast" about Child's Play!

Preschool Physics

Child's Play: Science Learning at its Best
This is a story about how to value child’s play. I will talk about what I see when I watch my children play. I will also discuss evidence of learning and the imminent challenges parents, educators and policy makers face when considering quality of early childhood education.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Princess Engineering

My three year old daughter has been increasingly interested in princesses. Aside from the obvious gender hoopla, I find the way she approaches the material fascinating. I'm still trying to figure it all out but a story from the past weekend is worth sharing immediately.

Anna has recently found the Tiara Club Princess series of books. The books are pretty readable and offer a lot of complicated social situations for learning about grace and other "princess" behavior. Each book features a different first-year princess who, along with her friends, has to negotiate a "mean" classmate. I don't think the characters are developed very much but the plots offer plenty of opportunity for discussion. And my daughter just loves to sit and listen and listen and listen to me read. So I do. 

You might have guessed this about me already but I don't often get dressed up and go out for a night on the town. I prefer to hike at sunset or stick my toes in a mountain river. So on Saturday when I prepared to attend my 20 year high school reunion at a fancy restaurant, I transformed into a rarely-seen creature. I wore nice clothes, shiny shoes, a thin veneer of make-up, and smoothed my hair with a flatiron. I looked completely unlike myself.

While I was primping, my children had been in weeding the garden with my sister and brother-in-law. I stepped outside to tell them I was leaving and my son kissed me goodbye, without really missing a step. On the other hand, my daughter stopped in her tracks and exclaimed, "Mama! You look like a Tiara Club princess!"

Tiara Club Princess Mama
Adorable, yes? I smiled, thanked her for the compliment, and turned to go. But before I could leave I heard her offering something more. I stopped and turned back to her to listen and she proceeded to analyze my costume. She said, "I see your shirt is black and your shoes are black. And your pants are black and white zig-zag stripes." She looked at my face, critically observing me. I listened, smiling. Then I left for my night out. 

The next day I followed up with her. "Are you interested in learning how I turned into a princess?" I asked. "Yes!" she replied. I explained that part of what made me look like a princess was the fabric. I invited her to touch the pants and the shirt. I told her that her auntie was really good at understanding this type of thing and that we both could teach her. The lesson in fabric was enough to satiate her interest for the time being and she ran off to play.

Anna's analysis of my transformation stuck with me. I've been constantly wondering how she would inform my work with Preschool Engineering. She definitely brings something new to the conversation. Her attention isn't like her brother's. She doesn't study mechanics. She doesn't analyze physics. But she does see patterns and shapes and textures with a critical eye. It is often set in the context of princess life but it doesn't make her Preschool STEAM learning any less valid. It is just a matter of me recognizing and valuing her point of view.

Mountain Mama
Tell me a story. I would love to hear about how your Preschool Engineering Princess makes sense of the world!!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Go Screen-free in Two Steps

I have written about the process I have been going through to reduce screen time for my children. Our problems with screens started when I introduced it to my 1 year old. It escalated. I changed some things. It escalated again. I eliminated them. I reintroduced screens. And now I am vigilant about regulating the time my children spend in front of TV programming or our iPad.

I have seen the "conversation" on Facebook and other social media about whether or not to control screen time for young children. How some children seem fine with a daily dose. How some children are terrified of the things the see. How some parents have come to rely on that peace and quiet that comes when your children are engrossed in a TV show or game. Some of it is judgmental and some of it isn't. I am not writing this post to prattle on about recommendations for development or anything like that. I am writing to encourage you to look at your life and take control of it.

Step 1: Determine if you have a problem and, if so, what it is.
We had daily disputes over screens. The first problem was the immediate craziness that happened directly after turning the TV off. The bickering. The inability to go play by themselves. It was driving us all crazy. Things escalated and the arguing was turned away from each other and they focused their energies on me! The 30 minutes of quiet was not enough to compensate for all the stress after turning it off. So I determined that we had a problem.

What I didn't realize is that our problem extended into nighttime. My five year old had never slept through the night. He required nighttime parenting his entire life, usually two times per night. We tried EVERYTHING but the vomit-inducing/self-infliction-to-bloodiness anxiety was more than we were willing to deal with in traditional, commonly recommended ways. After 10 days of screen-free life he was sleeping from 7:30PM-6AM without interruption. No other change was happening concurrently with our screen elimination so I say with full confidence that the screen was responsible for my son's sleep problems.

So, do you have a screen-related problem? If yes, what is it?

Step 2: Do something about it. 
Maybe you want to reduce your child's screen time. Maybe you want to change the time of day he or she is allowed to play or watch. Maybe you want to eliminate it entirely. No matter what you want to do, the change will require some plan. Decide if you want to discuss it with your child and have them help make the change. Maybe you want to be a dictator and say "we're doing this now." I have done all of these things! Each time required some change to our day, our routine, our flow. It wasn't easy but it was worth it.

You might want to leverage summer time and plan to be outside during the time of day when you would otherwise be screening. Get take-out and have a picnic dinner. Go to a playground. Send your child into your back yard and find one rock. Have them draw a picture or color something for you. Let them play in the sink while you're preparing dinner. There are whole websites dedicated to helping you come up with creative ways to occupy your child (I'm partial to The Artful Parent and Tinkerlab). You will know how much you will have to do to "entertain" your child and help them with a new routine. If you're like me then you will also have to prepare yourself as well. Build in a little extra time and patience for your kids and yourself when you embark on a big and possibly contentious game-changer.

So...what's your plan?


For more on TV time I love Janet Lansbury's stuff:
A Creative Alternative to Baby TV Time
How to Break Your Toddler's TV Habit