Tag Archives: Children

Elementary School: what’s going on with my kiddo?


Now that school is back in session, I hear a lot of parents asking what’s up with my child? Is it a phase? Ugh! Kids are still reaching new milestones all the time, and I’ll get to what those are shortly.

But I think we, as parents especially, forget that there is still so much going on for our children socially, cognitively, and physically. In the early years, we see infants and toddlers grow so quickly and reach new milestones often. It’s easy to forget that our 6 years olds are meeting them too. And just like with toddlers, it’s scary to grow and learn. When a child is struggling with autonomy, for instance. The push-pull relationship between a child and caregiver/parent is something I’m sure you all remember: “carry me, I can do it. Help me, I did it”. So it’s only natural that our 1st grader will give us some of that action as well.

So here’s a little list of some of the things going on for your elementary schoolers. Remember that becoming more independent and skilled can lead to some angst, but your kids still need your patience and understanding, even if it seems like they hate you. Besides, I always say if they hate you, you’re doing it right!

Social: easy separation from adults, turn taking
Cognitive: re-telling a story, self-regulation
Physical: run, climb, skip

1st Grade
Social: seeing the point of view of others
Cognitive: seeing patterns in words, numbers, and the world around
Physical: greater muscle development, increased stamina

2nd Grade
Social: judging own strengths and weaknesses , offering opinion that contradicts peers
Cognitive: understanding concept of money, mental math
Physical: knowing your own body, increased ability for repetition

3rd Grade
Social: group work, independent work, peer pressure awareness
Cognitive: more abstract thinking, apply ideas across situations
Physical: overall fitness and health awareness, ability to assess gross and fine motor skills

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Being honest with kids..,why is it so important?

When it comes to kids, it’s tempting to sugarcoat answers to their questions. Children are curious beings, and we want to nurture that curiosity. But guess what? If we give them cute answers or un-truths, we are doing them a disservice. If we give them answers that are simple so they can understand, but are based on fact, they will seek further answers as they grow. Being honest will actually nurture the critical thinking skills that are so important.

Some questions I’ve been asked over the years include:

Where do babies come from?
Why is that man sleeping on the bench?
How come that lady is acting silly?
How come that kid needs a wheelchair?

And the inspiration for this post, my son of course. A car full of teenagers was pulled over in front of our house tonight. There were 2 sheriffs, 1 town officer, and 1 state K-9 unit. Now he’s. 9, so I had to go into more detail than I would with a three or four year old, but basically I went with the truth. They broke the law and there are consequences. This led to a conversation about laws, police, drugs, and safety. What an amazing opportunity for him to learn about these things. Someone asked me why I would tell him about drugs, but I would rather he hear about the topic from his parents. Besides, it’s only a matter of time before he tunes us out!


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Math: How to include more math in play


I recently attended a workshop that focuses on integrating math into literacy and play. It was sponsored by Vermont’s Early Learning Initiative, and training was based on the new common core state standards and Mother Goose Cares About Math and Science, a VT Center for the Book program. see more about mother goose here.

1) math doesn’t always mean numbers and 1,2,3’s.

It can be shapes, patterns, and sounds, or even the events in a story. When a child hugs a big tree, stretching their arms around it, they’re doing math. Ask them how many more friends can hug the tree. Using a non-standard unit of measurement is still math. We can also nurture pattern observation by providing small items for sorting such as pompoms or wooden beads. Noticing various attributes is math. Offer an egg carton for sorting, ask the child to tell you about the shapes, colors, or other properties they notice.

2) kids love to be mathematicians and scientists.

Children respond to being trusted, valued, and heard. What better way to support this value than to gather predictions from the children and conduct experiments, and then chart the results. “How many shoes do we need to line up to get to the door?” Grab a large piece of paper and make a T chart. “How many of us have brown eyes? Blue?…” Create a pie chart illustrating the eye colors of the whole group. Charting is also a great opportunity to use words like more, less, near, far.

3) books and pictures don’t have to be about shapes or counting to provide opportunities for math learning.

A book about jungle animals can be just as valuable as a book on 1,2,3’s. Look for patterns or rhythms in the words (Dr. Seuss books are great for this). Clap your hands to the beat of the rhymes. Help the children identify the recurring characters on each page. They’ll learn to recognize shapes if they have practice, even if they’re not geometric shapes.

4) incorporate materials and routines that offer opportunity for math.

The children in my care set the table everyday. They count how many friends are here and identify the dishes we need. They practice 1 to 1 correspondence when placing one plate at each seat. We also count heads on our way out the door and on the way in. Offering materials such as dominoes, dice, small items for sorting, and measuring tools are helpful as well. As children learn what three dots look like, counting will become easier. Seeing standard tools of measurement will also prepare the children for their eventual use.

Most of these suggestions are geared toward preschool age children, but keep in mind that they are easily adapted to support many ages. And remember, just because they’re little, doesn’t mean that toddlers aren’t capable of learning math concepts. I have seen children as young as 18 months recognizing simple visual patterns, like seeing a dog on every page of a book.

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A pacifier serves a purpose, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a consensus among parents as to what that could be. Let me help you, infants are born with a natural need to suck. It’s how they learn to self-soothe, and it’s what allows them to nurse right away. A pacifier helps to meet this need.

A pacifier is a useful item in the beginning when infants are still learning to calm themselves. As they get a little older, 6 months or so, they begin to self-soothe in other ways. Guess what? The infant won’t need the pacifier as much. Take advantage of the opportunity to step back from pacifier reliance.

Slowly limit use to difficult transition times only, like bedtime. Also, stop bringing pacifiers out and about with you anymore. Tell your child it’s just for bedtime, and if they forget about it, that’s ok.

Depending on your child’s temperament, I would recommend removing all pacifiers from your child’s life by 18 months. At this point, they just don’t need it.

I know this sounds harsh, but the sooner the better in my experience. Speech, teeth, and self-regulation are all affected by the use (and overuse) of a pacifier at this point. Infants and toddlers also learn social cues by mimicking expressions of others. They can’t do that if they’re “plugged in”.

So prepare for a couple of grumpy nights, maybe more depending on your child, and toss out those pacifiers. You’ll be surprised how quickly your toddler gets over it, and you’ll be grateful not to be the parent of the 5 year old who is still using one!

*please keep in mind there are exceptions to every “rule”*

Developmental age and chronological age are not always in sync, and some children are under more stress than others. Use your judgement and help meet the needs (not necessarily wants) of your child in your own way.


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Toilet Learning, aka Potty Training


This is a hot topic for so many of you, and there’s so much advice out there…I don’t want to overwhelm anyone so I’ll keep it simple: Toilet learning is a natural process in which young children need to take the lead.

I’ve spent the majority of my career (15 years or so), working with two and three year olds. That’s a lot of diaper to pull-up to underwear transitions. I’ve learned that it is a child-driven process, that is only successful when children are truly ready.

Children who are “trained” (I really don’t like this word when talking about toilet use) early, 18 months or so, will regress and have frequent accidents. How do I know this? Seen it. Consistently. Toddlers will learn to hold their urine, and it will appear that they are potty trained. But after a few months, there will be frequent accidents. The walls of the bladder thicken, just like a bicep that’s been doing lots of curls . When it comes to your bladder, thicker is not better. Holding bowel movements is an issue too, leading to constipation and extra pressure on the bladder, among other problems.

So then there are the well-meaning parents who tell care providers that if they put little Johnny on the potty every 30 minutes, he won’t wet his underwear. First of all, does little Johnny want to spend his whole day in the bathroom? No, and logistically, a care provider just can’t do it. And then there’s the pressure he puts himself under, leading to anxiety and insecurity, and the disappointment he’ll feel when he wets his pants. Trust me, he will. No thank you.

The children I’ve seen have a positive and self-driven toilet learning experience have shown basic signs first. When they are ready, you’ll know. It won’t be a battle or power struggle. It’ll be a positive experience for everyone ultimately, leading to feelings of competence and success.

The child shows an interest, either by modeling your behavior or talking about it.

Your child tells you when diaper is soiled, or recognizes when he/she is going.

Dry diapers over a 2 hour period or after nap.

A child has skills that will support toilet learning such as walk, talk, and pull up pants(try anyway).

Encourage the use of a real toilet when interested…it’ll be so much easier when you are at the grocery store with a child who has to pee.

When you begin to see signs, ask if your child would like to use the toilet.

Expect interest to ebb and flow for a bit…it’s scary to learn a new skill. Also be aware that transitions in a child’s life (new baby, different routines, moving to new house) will affect this process greatly, often resulting in regression or holding. Just be patient.

Use the actual words for body parts (this will be important later on)

Avoid anger at accidents, use a matter of fact tone and let it go. Also avoid treats and rewards-no one gives me candy for using the toilet. Your child needs to internalize the feelings associated with accomplishment, which is less likely when a reward is used.

There may be the rare exceptions out there, but trust me, rare is the exception. Good luck! I hope this is helpful, especially since I said I’d keep it simple, and I really didn’t!


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“What about me?”

I promise, this is my last post about grief!

When children experience grief and loss, and they do, the feelings often come under the “what about me” umbrella. These include jealousy, anger, fear, guilt, blame, loneliness, and sadness. I have some experience with loss involving children, and I have also attended some trainings around the support of children and families through their loss and grief.

Tell the truth. It’s okay to be honest with kids (they see through us anyway), and in the long run, it will support the healing process. When children are given honest information, it empowers them and makes them feel safe. If all they know was that their mom was sick and is gone now, they will think every sniffle will take them away from their family. And remember to tell the truth about your own feelings.

Memorialize. That means helping the child remember the one they’ve lost. A photo, a cherished souvenir, or even a clothing item will help the child to feel close to their loved one. This kind of thing is what adults seek when faced with loss, it only makes sense that children would too. The difference is that kids need help, they need to know that it’s ok to remember that person/pet/home and feel sad.

Routine, routine, routine. Kids need routine even on a good day. But when they feel unsafe after a loss, they need it even more. Maintaining routines after loss reminds children that there are still things they can count on. It’s ok to say, “I know things are different now, but we still go to bed at 8:00.” Just giving children that security can help them dramatically, and their routines can help us adults. We don’t always take the best care of ourselves in these situations. But if you’re making breakfast for your child, you may eat a few bites too.

Move through the grief. Emotions are fluid and always moving and changing. Let yourself move through those feelings and support children as they move through them. It’s ok to laugh at a funny story of a lost loved one. It’s also ok to be mad that they are gone. Children look to the adults in their lives for cues, and if we’re stuck, they can get stuck too.

Seek support. Whether you and your family need an actual grief counselor or grief support group, or less formal support is up to each individual. Some children look for a physical outlet for their grief. Other children turn to artwork as a form of expression. Talking to others who share feelings of loss can be the most powerful experience for kids. They discover that they are not alone, and they have an opportunity to see that it’s ok to move beyond feelings of sadness.

Bottom line: loss is hard for all of us, but children need an extra special touch. And be prepared for some amazing insights from children. After the sudden death of my husband’s sister, our son noticed a branch hitting the window of our car in traffic. This was just two days after her death, and at age 4 he says, “that must be Aunt Kate at the window saying hi .”


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Hats, Mittens, and Boots! Oh my!

It’s that time of year again, and over the past few years, I’ve learned a few things about outerwear for toddlers and young children. Living in the northeast, it’s just part of taking care of children here.

1. Label it. Kids lose things, and we all tend to purchase similar items.

2. Avoid Velcro. It’s wonderful for so many things, but not for boots and mittens. Once it gets caked with snow, you’re done, the boots won’t close and neither will the mittens.

3. Boots with liners are helpful. Boots will get wet, filled with snow, and just plain stinky. Having removable liners will make it so much easier to dry out the boots and make them last longer. Just in case it’s too late, stuff newspaper into the wet boots and change it often. It works!

4. Look for more flexible mittens, and mittens with an elastic cuff. If a mitten is too thick or stiff, the kids will take it off more quickly. Kids want to stay warm, but they also want to pick things up and use their hands. They will choose to be cold.

5. Hats are just super fun! Get your kids wearing their hats in October and thru April so when it’s really cold, they’ll be ready.

I hope these hints are helpful! Let me know if you have any thoughts on outerwear for kids!


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Fake it!

So I’ve decided that a great way to beat the blues when you are with young children is to just fake it till you make it.

Before I figured this out, I did a couple of things: owned those feelings, shared those feelings, and took some deep breaths. You see, I was given sad news just before my work day started. I had to continue with my day, and luckily, we were able to splash in some mud puddles. The kids noticed that I was sad, and so I just said, “yes I feel sad” and guess what? They gave me hugs. After that, they went back to their mud puddle. Deep breathing and watching the splashes were just what I needed to clear my head.

The rest of the day, I tried to just be in the moment and enjoy. At times that it was more difficult, I chose to fake it. It worked, I faked being myself until I just felt like myself.

But seriously, mud puddles are like magic!


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Sick Days

Today I took a sick day, and it was just what I needed. There have been coughs and sniffles all around me, and though I’ve developed a slight case of the sniffles, I’ve been in denial. I’ve been feeling run down and tired, unfocused and scattered. So when I woke up this morning running late again, I decided to give in. I called the program parents and told them (get ready for this) the truth. They were wonderful and supportive.

I took not one, but two naps, enjoyed some warm tea, and stayed in my pjs till after my son got off the bus, yes, the bus. I used to feel guilt at the thought of a sick day, so many things I should be doing! I’ve discovered the secret to taking care of those things and all of the people in my life: taking care of me. Women and mommies in general tend to invest so much time and energy into others, and while admirable, we also ignore our own needs. Taking time for yourself will help you to be a better parent, teacher, neighbor, daughter, sister…you get the idea. Anyway, I had a guilt free and restful day. How do you take care of yourself?



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There are days when it feels like all I do is change poopy diapers. But did you know that you can discern a lot about a child by their elimination habits. Temperament tends to coincide with bowel movements. For example, a slow-to-warm-up or fearful young child may be irregular or infrequent with elimination. These children also tend to hold their waste in stressful situations or transitions. Children with an easy-going or flexible temperament will be more regular and predictable in their bowel movements.

Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, but it sure seems to be the case for many of the children I’ve worked with over the years. (And some adults too!)


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