Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Happy Chinese Valentine New Year

One wonderful thing about having a daughter from China is that you get to add another holiday to your year...Chinese New year! I really do try and celebrate this holiday, either by having a party, or by just doing some things around the house, decorating, talking about it, and teaching the girls more about Chinese New Year.

We had fresh flowers and fresh fruit around the house which is something that both holidays encorportate into the festivities!

I gave the girls each a chinese paper lantern, and they decorated them with stickers and foam cutouts.

Later we made valentine cupcakes and ate them with Jasmine tea. Delicious!

Then it was Lilybelle's (yes, she has officially changed her name, and she let's everyone know about it! I have no idea how she came up with this, but she is determined to keep this as her name and corrects us and anyone else if we try and call her by her real name) turn to eat cupcakes, her favorite part! As you can see she is happy as can be with her little cupcake. It was a great day. I hope you had a happy chinese valentine new year too!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I asked God

I asked God for strength that I may achieve,
I was made weak to humbly obey.
I asked God for health that I may do great things,
I was given infirmity that I may do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy,
I was given poverty that I may be wise.
I asked for power tht I may have the praise of men,
I was given weakness that I may feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I may enjoy life,
I was given life, that I may enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for--but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all, most richly blessed.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Free for you!!!

This is the last installment in my series on healthy brain development for children in this hyper media focused world we live in!

Below I will list many, many ideas and strategies for you to use with your child, feel free to use them...frequently!

-Consider coming up with a TV budget, and sticking to it to reduce screen time in your child's life. It could be one hour of screen time per day in the evening after all homework and chores are complete, or it could be something like Monday-1 hr. of screen time, Tuesday-no screen time, Wednesday-1 hr. of screen time, etc.

-Keep their lives balanced. Do not make screen time the number one leisure activity of choice in your household. Teach and encourage many other interests and activities to promote healthy brain development throughout their childhood.

-Consider having no video or computer games available.

-If you choose to allow video and computer games, make strict rules about them.

-When allowing a child to watch TV, it is important to ask questions about that program before, during, and after. Ex: Why do you want to watch that show so much? What do you hope to learn from it? What will it teach you? What's fun about that show? What will happen next? Who is your favorite character? Why? Give your child time to think. If they say they don't know, model an appropriate answer that will give them something to think about.

-Stay away from violent programming, video games, and computer games. Ask yourself what is the message you are sending by making violence children's amusement?

-Keep your child's bedroom TV free.

-Choose educational programs (TV, videos and computer games).

-If your child is watching a movie, encourage them to move in between the movie, during commercials, etc. This will cut down on the increased hyperactivity that they will experience after viewing. When the movie is over, encourage them to do something creative, act out a scene in the movie, create a character from the movie out of play doh.

-Talk about real and pretend. Ask lots of questions, like "Is ....real?" Discuss the concept of actors.

-Allow for boredom. This is a good thing! Present two activities for them to do, give your child time to make a decision, this teaches them to look within, and begin to draw out their interests.

-Make books fun! My 3 yr. old was not interested in books at all. She is also a very busy little girl. She has trouble sitting still, and has no interest in TV viewing either. I started having her sit in a chair with a book for quiet time at the beginning of this school year. She wasn't happy at first, but I began to reward her quiet body, and-quiet voice with my time! I would then sit down and read the book to her, and since she was so unhappy sitting there alone with the book, she was very excited when I would sit down with her! She now will go get books on her own, and has worked up to 30 min. of quiet time that she puts herself in! She is loving books now!

-Remember that video games and watching movies won't help children learn to pay attention. Little ones learn to pay attention when they are shown how to sit down and work on puzzles, color a picture, or engaging in imaginative play.

-Video games and computer games are addictive. The younger you start allowing your children to play these games, and more they will want this as part of their lives. Hold out until the child is 10-12 if possible, and parents will make their lives a lot easier and the child will become a much more self directed, creative person.

-Instead of plopping your baby in front of the TV to watch those DVD's with mozart music playing along, it is much healthier to place your baby in a high chair, give him a cracker, play classical music in the background, and talk to him. I cringe each and every time I get a one year old placed on my caseload and I start asking the parents what interests their baby has, and all they can come up with is "oh, he loves to watch___, and he also watches____over and over, he loves it!" This tells me that this baby is not getting enough brain stimulation.

-Give your child art supplies, play doh, water color paints, finger paints, markers, stamps, stickers, etc. Ask them to paint you a scene, then frame it on the wall.

-Let your children make up their own recipes and help them print them on a recipe card then assist them in the kitchen putting together their concoction.

-Let them listen to a story on CD.

-Let them dust, vaccuum, wash windows, little children love to help!

-Have an indoor picnic

-Have an indoor tea party

-Keep the TV off when a show or movie is over.

-Create the family meal table. Eat around a table instead of around the TV. Ask questions of each child like "What was the high point of your day?" "What was the low point?" "What did you learn today?" "Did you see any special friends today?"

-Use the library. We typically access our local library about once a month. My 8 yr. old literally squeals with delight when I mention that we are going!

-Send the kiddos outside! My girls are into digging for rolly polly bugs at this point, but you could also send them on a hunt for smooth rocks, rocks with heart shapes, 4 leaf clovers, berries, leaves of all kinds, etc.

-Dance! We got rid of our living room coffee table over a year ago. I wanted to make room for dancing since we have music on all the time. It has been the best decision! Not only do we dance and exercise, but we also have room to play with the baby, make forts, and play games!

-Play dress up. We have an old suitcase just full of dress up clothes, and they love it!

-Give them a tape measure, ask them to go around and measure things.

-Tell your kids to make up a new game like playing animal hospital, school, pet store, or restaurant. My girls are really into playing "Daycare" right now, and I am the mommy that drops off the 3 yr old and the baby, and my 8 yr old is Miss Julie. She has a sign on her door that says "Miss Julie's daycare" She has me drop them off and pretend I am heading off to work. She then takes care of them, and has snack time, play time, nap time, etc. They love it.

-Bubbles and flashlights are a must. Every child I know will entertain themselves for long periods of time with these items.

-Sensory tubs. Fill plastic tubs with soapy water and food coloring, or popcorn kernals, rice, beans, birdseed, corn meal. Let them get messy!!!

-Play I spy

-Come up with a nonsense word, then make up a meaning for it.

-Play hide & seek

-Pack a bag game-start with a letter "A" item, then down the alphabet, then have them show you what they packed.

-Singing, song time. Teach a new song every few weeks.

-Go on nature walks.

-Go to the human society and walk a puppy.

-Write letters to friends and family and send in the mail.

-Teach a child to knit.

-Teach a child to sew.

-Go to the park

-Give your child a magnifying glass.

-volunteer at a nursing home.

-Do chores for people who can't do them for themselves.

-Have your children help you prepare a meal to deliver to someone in need.

There are so many more, but this is just a partial list to help you get started, and begin enjoying new and creative activities with your child in place of the TV and computer. What a wonderful world of fun you will have together with your child and when you look back you and your child will be so happy with all the memories you have made!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Temple Grandin Movie

Have you heard of Temple Grandin? I just found out there is now a movie about her! It is airing tomorrow on HBO. Too bad I don't have HBO, but I might be able to view it online.
I have known of Temple Grandin for at least 12 years. I have met her twice. I have heard her speak at conferences. She is amazing. She is also autistic.
If you want to see something inspiring and very interesting, I encourage you to watch this movie, you will gain insight into what a person with autism goes through, and you will be completely amazed at how brilliant she is as well. Here is a link:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

There's a monster in my house...and I didn't know it!

" There's a monster in my house...and I didn't know it!" This was the statement made by a parent (refering to her TV) the night of the mini-conference a co-worker and I did on early brain development, in a media driven age, and the impact of violence on brain development. I will never forget as this mother sat there in complete shock, as she realized what the hours and hours of violent TV viewing was doing to her children. She described two young boys at home, and how the agression and violent behaviors were escalating.

To some of us, we may not relate to this at all. We may have heard or read early on about the detrimental effects TV viewing and too much screen time can have on the tender, developing brains of small children. We may have made the decision to limit screen time from the beginning, or even take the entire TV out of the house. But, as an early intervention therapist who spends a lot of time in the homes of the kids on my caseload between the ages of birth-3, I can tell you, this is not the norm. The norm is the TV being turned on the moment the child wakes up in the morning. The norm is televisions in bedrooms of little ones. The norm is that most parents and grandparents that live in these homes do not understand the harmful effects of screen time, and even more, the harmful effects of violent cartoons, violent children's programming, and violent adult programs that many of them allow their children to watch. Most of the kids I work with are referred to me for sensory processing issues, or other developmental issues. Many times, I end up having to stop, re-evaluate and re-refer the child to behavioral therapy. We are talking very young kids. My job is to educate the parents, but many times they just don't get it. They wonder why their child can't attend to a simple task for one minute, but they don't see the connection between hours and hours of fast paced TV viewing, and limited attention span.

So many people think it is wonderful that their young child can watch a movie over and over, and they think this means thier child has wonderful attending skills. Unfortunately, this is not the case. What you will see in young children much of the time, is, after viewing a movie, or violent cartoon, the child who was supressing all their energy while sitting and watching the movie, will then have to let it all out, and there will be increased hyper activity. This will result in more difficulty and inattention later as the child is required to sit still or listen.

I could name and describe numerous studies that I just finished looking at that talk about the impact that media violence has on young minds, and it's not good. In my opinion, one of the worst outcomes for children who view violence is that it desensitizes them to it, and they don't even understand the degree to which this is really a serious thing. They begin to crave more and more violence, and study after study shows that they begin to act more agressively.

Many decades of research has shown that media violence causes:

-Increased fear, some children have nightmares, and night terrors.
-Increased agression and hostility, and they may show more tendency to resolve conflict by physical force, and some will begin bullying behaviors.
-Increased appetite for violence-they may only want to watch those shows with violence in them, or only desire to play violent video games.
-Increased insensitivity-when a person is continuously exposed to violence they can become less empathetic and less caring toward those who are suffering or hurt in real life. They may be less capable to responding to those in need.

The bottom line is that violence in the media is glamorized in our society. My caseload happens to be all boys right now. It scares me when I see these children being exposed to this every day. Here is the message they are getting: Violent behavior is acceptable, even useful. Children are driven to imitate adults. When they are exposed to TV, video games, and movies that glamorize this behavior, they will imitate. I see this all the time.

We as parents make choices for our children. We need to be aware that if TV viewing, and video gaming is something that we are going to do in our homes, we are in control, no matter how much the child begs and pleads to watch or play something that we are not comfortable with. Some people don't even realize that there are some child oriented TV stations that are better than others. Look for the slower paced programs. Just because it's a cartoon, don't assume it's for kids. This is huge! There are almost just as many cartoons out there now that are so incredibly inappropriate for kids, as there are the more appropriate ones. Be wise, and allow your child's brain to grow and develop into it's full potential. My next post will be my last on this topic and will contain many ideas and strategies to implement and use within your home to encourage positive and healthy brain development for your precious child! Stay tuned!