Categories
play

Pillars to enhance play

From the Good News Network, “Science-Backed Tips for Maximizing Play Time With Kids“. Thankfully, I do try to incorporate all of these when playing with Fleur.

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Pillar One: Active

Stay “active” as you play and interact with your child, for example, by incorporating literary and STEM elements into your speech and interactions.

Zosh said this could mean counting the apples out loud as you put them in your basket at the grocery store or asking your child what letter each block starts with as you build a tower. She also said asking lots of questions — such as “What would happen if we mixed these blue and yellow paints together?” or “What might happen if we stack the red square block on top of the yellow triangle block?” — can be helpful, as well.

Pillar Two: Engaged

“Try to limit distractions as much as possible, including background television and your own smartphone use,” Hassinger-Das said. “These types of distractions are sometimes unavoidable, but they do have the potential to take away from these high-quality times with your child. Focusing and staying engaged during play can help you make the most of these interactions.”

Pillar Three: Meaningful

Try building on topics the child is already interested in during play. If they like dinosaurs, you could suggest a make-believe scenario where you dig for dinosaur fossils at the playground. Or, you can integrate information about dinosaurs like counting how many bones they have and what they ate.

“If you are reading a book set in a different state, get out a globe or a map app and explore where the state is and how the weather there is different from where you live,” Zosh said. “Helping children build connections helps them weave together a rich world of understanding.”

Pillar Four: Socially interactive

The researchers advised letting your child lead in play time while you offer support along the way. For example, let your child decide what to build with blocks while asking questions like, “What would happen if you placed that block in a different direction?” or “How many more blocks do you think it would take to build a tower as tall as you?”

Pillar Five: Iterative

Children are naturally scientific thinkers — they like to experiment, see what happens, and try again and again until something works. The researchers advised giving your children opportunities to guess what will happen, conduct “experiments,” make up new words to favorite songs, and make mistakes. Every mistake leads to learning.

Pillar Six: Joyful

Finally, making playtime joyful can be done in many ways, including incorporating elements of surprise.

“Playing with shadows and asking which one is bigger or how you can make your shadow grow or shrink is one way to foster surprise and joy,” Hassinger-Das said. “Similarly, think about what helps your child connect with whatever brings them joy, from construction with a cardboard box to playing vet with their stuffed animals.”

Categories
Daycare

Shy

Something I have seen with kids Fleur’s age is shyness around strangers. This morning I sort of exploited that. Her new classmate experienced a lot of anxiety about the dropoff at daycare.

He was in tears, so I asked him what is my name. (We had a conversation about how we had the same one a couple weeks prior.) This went on for five minutes of encouraging him to answer, but the shyness kept him from doing so.

He stopped crying. He looked to mom for reassurance that I am okay. And was able to go on without any further fuss.

Categories
play

Fantasy-based pretend play

“Viking – Shield Maiden” by Danielle Pioli is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

From an article…

The study involved daily 15-minute play sessions across five weeks, in which a research assistant led 39 children aged three to five through a fantastical script, such as going to the moon. After the five week period, the pretend play kids showed greater gains in their ability to memorise lists of digits (a classic test of working memory, itself a core component of executive function) as compared with 32 age-matched children in a standard play condition, who spent their sessions singing songs and passing a ball around a circle.

The pretend play group also showed a bigger improvement on an executive function attention-shift task, which involved switching from sorting blocks by colour to shape. This result squeaked through thanks to the standard-play group’s scores actually creeping down over time as the pretend group scores crept up, but note that on its own terms, the pre-to-post change in pretend group performance wasn’t itself statistically significant. On a third executive function measure – “inhibition of responses” (children had to follow a tricky instruction to label a nighttime scene as day, and a daytime scene as night) – there was no effect of the pretend play.

Fantasy-based pretend play is beneficial to children’s mental abilities. Research Digest, the British Psychological Society

I am enjoying this playful period where Fleur tells me stories. Getting more into this kind of play excites me. It is what I remember doing a lot of as a child. And even as a teenager, I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, even being a Dungeon Master most of the time for one group of friends.

Categories
Caregiving Parenting

Why is my toddler crying?

Here are a collection of anecdotes about the breakdown of communication where I misunderstood the desired outcome which resulted in upset feelings:

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  • Fleur handed me a banana saying, “do this.” When I started to peel it, she wailed.
  • She asked me for strawberry oatmeal. Like the dozens of times before I poured pecans into it. She howled about them.
  • She asked to watch Frozen. So, I clicked on Frozen. The screaming was because she wanted Christmas Frozen. (aka Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.)
  • The past three times she has had a particular food, it has resulted in her needing to be held because her tummy hurts. But, it is sweet, so she wants it. When I say no, she throws herself on the floor with intense crying and tears and hurt.
  • The prize for potty training is candy which often gets dropped on the ground, making it inedible but that doesn’t mesh with the prize loss. Inconsolable. Until I replace or wash it, nothing else can be done.

Categories
play

Careful

Fleur is the adventurous type. She enjoys climbing, jumping, and scary situations.

For the most part, I have always encouraged her to push her boundaries within what I consider acceptable. Climb higher. Climb the arch ladder while holding her hips the first time but let her do it on her own subsequent ones. Jump off the 5 foot wall the 5 foot distance to catch her a couple feet off the ground. Throw her up into the air.

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Momma cannot watch some of these antics. Mostly because her baby is in danger.

If I thought Fleur was really in danger, then I would encourage her to do something else. There is a risk. Throwing her up into the air means I could miss the catch. I am cognizant of the risk, but I accept it on our behalf.

The smile she has when successful is infectious. I hope evolutionary biology isn’t tricking me into letting her into unnecessary danger. It is a reward for me to see her happiness about having done the dangerous thing.

On the other hand, this confidence building feels very necessary. At the park, she was hesitant about the arch ladder. Protecting her the first time let her see it was possible. It expanded her worldview. She did it a dozen more climbs on her own. Because… she knew she could. I want her to feel like she can do anything.

This elephant parenting isn’t for the faint of heart.

Another thing is my language has changed over the past month or so. Instead of saying “be careful” so much, I am trying to get better about specifics. When she is walking on a curb, I will ask, “Do you feel stable?” Or when she is running, “Are you going the speed where you tend to trip?” or “Are there [roots or mud] for you to fall on?” The idea is to get her to consider the situation.

Categories
Parenting Reading

Reading to dolls

I stumbled across the cutest of scenes. I went looking for Fleur because it was too quiet.

She was in her room with the Olivia book between her and Cora the doll. While not yet able to read, she does have it mostly memorized and was telling it to Cora.

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She also will offer to read to us. Usually they are her favorites, so she basically memorized the story.

What amuses me most about her play reading is the made up parts. There is a slight pause where she realizes she doesn’t know and composes something to go with the picture. I can see why she picked it.

It reminds me of how the brain fills in the gaps for memory retrieval. If the actual memory has pieces missing, it finds relevant information and inserts it into the recall. The problem is that is what gets remembered in future retrieval instances. This is what distorts recall such that eyewitness testimony can be manipulated by police or lawyers.

Categories
Daycare Mathematics Parenting

Two many much

Today was a productive potty day at daycare. The snack bag had more than usual amount. Fleur looked super proud.

They get a piece of candy each time they go. We tried stickers and found it okay but not great. We switched to candy and found it super effective. Daycare went the same route a couple weeks after. The dual environments using the same method has us over a month in without an accident.

Today she showed me the bag. She wasn’t in a rush to eat it like usual.

I asked how many she got. She told me: “Two many much.” I thought she meant too many, but two many makes more sense.

She can count. But, in this moment of triumph, “two many much,” was perfect.

Categories
Reading

Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years

Cognitive scientists have known for decades that simply mastering comprehension skills doesn’t ensure that a young student will be able to apply them to whatever texts they’re confronted with on standardized tests and in their studies later in life.

One of those cognitive scientists spoke on the Tuesday panel: Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who writes about the science behind reading comprehension. Willingham explained that whether or not readers understand a text depends far more on how much background knowledge and vocabulary they have relating to the topic than on how much they’ve practiced comprehension skills. That’s because writers leave out a lot of information that they assume readers will know. If they put all the information in, their writing would be tedious.

But if readers can’t supply the missing information, they have a hard time making sense of the text. If students arrive at high school without knowing who won the Civil War, they’ll have a hard time understanding a textbook passage about Reconstruction.

Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years by Natalie Wexler. The Atlantic.

We were low-income growing up. But, we were rich in other things.

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  • The air conditioner wasn’t run in the middle of the day when I was young. We couldn’t afford it. The library was close by, so we spent most summer days there. Supposedly I was reading when I was three.
  • Later, when we were better off financially, my mother got us encyclopedias so my brother had easy access to information from a young age without having to leave the house.

So, we had easy access to background knowledge and vocabulary.

To help students practice their “skills,” teachers give them texts at their supposed individual reading levels, rather than the level of the grade they’re in.

According to Shanahan, no evidence backs up that practice. In fact, Shanahan said, recent research indicates that students actually learn more from reading texts that are considered too difficult for them—in other words, those with more than a handful of words and concepts a student doesn’t understand. What struggling students need is guidance from a teacher on how to make sense of texts designed for kids at their respective grade levels—the kinds of texts those kids may otherwise see only on standardized tests, when they have to grapple with them on their own.

We were always pushed to read well above our reading level. Growth requires tackling harder challenges. Of course, standardized tests claimed I was reading at a college level by middle school, so I image that was always a challenge.

For Fleur, we have a good library of board books. I have been enjoying the professorial approach of explaining how things work. (The wife long ago detached her retina rolling her eyes at my doing such to her and Galahad.) Now, I have an appreciative audience. Developing her background knowledge and vocabulary is my life’s calling. Hopefully, I can excite her learning about various things.

Categories
Experiences

We can do it!

My wife mused about ordering some food for Thanksgiving. Galahad said not to. He has been helping with the cooking.

Having never cooked Thanksgiving, he had no idea this meant more than a meat and two sides. A typical meal might be chicken plus a green vegetable and a starchy one. These are typically an hour or so to prepare.

He objected to the broccoli casserole. So mac and cheese was added to compensate. (But that meant two different ones as some of us have special dietary needs.)

He called this a nine course meal. There were six things. We shared working on the various things, so while my wife took the brunt, we all helped. He felt this was all too much.

No worries. Sounds like he will remember for next year to let us order.

We also invited friends over for pie and hanging out on the patio. Fleur gets quiet around people she doesn’t know. Amazing not to hear her constant conversation for so long. Once she hit her playground, she was good.

Categories
Experiences

Concrete

I operate in a world of abstractness.

  • The hundreds of machines I manage are virtual machines using logical storage volumes and allowed access to CPU & memory on hardware. I can do my job from anywhere because there is not anything physical for me to touch other than my laptop.
  • The fiction I read allows me to craft my own vision of events.
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When Fleur gets to see the things from stories in real life, there is a brightness to her expression of wonder.

My favorite is when she sees a school bus. She breaks out into her favorite song: The wheels on the bus go round-and-round, round-and-round, round-and-round. She does all the verses we know even though the bus is long gone from sight.

Another good one is the horses. They have most been silent and stamping when they want pets. When Molly neighed at her, Fleur was astounded because it was the first time she’d experienced the sound in person.

This process of attaching something concrete to an abstract concept makes me happy for her.

I’m thinking I need to take notes of these things from the books in her collection and brainstorm ways for her to experience them in person.