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Thursday, September 9, 2021

7 Reasons Why Play Develops Executive Function From an Early Age

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Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute of Play, was quoted in 2008 as saying, "Nothing lights up a child's brain like play!" He's correct! We know that play is required for our children's physical and social development, but it's also crucial for children to develop strong executive functioning skills.

What are executive functions? It's a wide array of self-regulating and organizing behaviors vital for successful adulthood. Although developing these functions depends somewhat on the prefrontal cortex maturing, even very young children show signs of curbing their instincts and attempting to regulate their behavior from a very young age. Play, both free and structured, help children practice and master skills like following instructions, planning their time, trying after a failure, and organizing their resources.

1. Open-Ended Play

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What is open-ended play? It is play that encourages children to make their own choices and test their boundaries while also freely expressing their creativity. Adults shouldn't intervene except in matters of physical or emotional safety. Children will use this play to explore dealing with difficult situations and emotions. They use their own worldview and imaginations to create a world to their own liking. Making their own decisions and deciding how to structure their play without adult guidance is key in developing behavior regulation, the ability to work with others, and planning projects (even if the project is building a fort out of empty boxes!).

2. Play Develops Confidence

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Play is a key part of children developing confidence. Adults sometimes forget this, but children like to feel successful. Just like we do! And play allows children to master concepts and situations. The confidence they pick up after successful play periods will help guide them to attempt more complex challenges now and in the future.

3. Learning to Put Tasks in Sequential Order

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Knowing how to break down a bigger task into a set of smaller tasks is an important step in being able to independently tackle challenging school assignments or personal projects. Suggest playtime activities that encourage children to undertake multiple steps that must be completed in a certain order. So when playing restaurant guide children through the process-being seated, handing out menus, taking the order, delivering the food, and presenting the check. Baking with kids is another fun project that helps them learn how to perform a task in the correct order (preheating the oven, bringing certain ingredients to room temperature, et cetera).

4. Calming Space

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Every child needs a calming space to retreat to when their emotions threaten to overwhelm. Retreating to this space and choosing a quiet activity (even if it's simply staring into space!) is an important part of learning how to self-regulate emotions and perform appropriate (and needed!) self-care.

5. Time

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Don't always insist your children stick to a schedule. Play evolves to express into more complex structures and expressions when children are allowed time to dig in and work out their ideas. This sort of in-depth play supports children's organizational and overall cognitive development more than quick play breaks. Work-in-progress signs can protect artistic endeavors and box cities when your family must break for another activity or bed.

6. Stop, Look, Listen

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When playing with your children it's important to model good executive functioning. When playing a game take a moment before you pick up the game piece. Talk out loud so your children hear your thought process and strategizing ("Let me think, if I move this way then this could happen, or if I go this way..."). It will allow your children to model their thinking patterns on yours! Playing games like Red Light-Green Light, chess, or dominoes all teaches children cause and effect and the importance of paying attention.

7. Storytelling

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Learning how to tell a story is vital for a child's social and intellectual development. Telling a story requires utilizing executive functioning skills like accessing working memory, tying elements of the story together, and relating similar things together. Waiting on their turn to tell a story helps children master impulse control. Encourage dinner time storytelling with the whole family but also one on one time where a child can tell a story they made up or relate something that happened to them that day.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Why Playtime with Father Figures is So Important for Children

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Adequate playtime is so important for the development of children that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights considers it a basic right for all kids. Playtime helps kids develop problem-solving skills, learn how to take initiative, improve their executive functioning abilities, and refine their motor skills. It also gives fathers and other male figures in a child's life a wonderful opportunity to interact with their kids in positive and very meaningful ways that will improve their child's quality of life along with deepening their bond with the child.

Playing Builds a Stronger Relationship

Playing with a kid requires giving them your time and attention. Nothing is more important when building a lasting bond than spending time actively engaged with a kid. Playing together allows children to see their fathers and other male figures in new ways, and it helps to build a bond that will last as the child ages.

Rough-and-Tumble Play Is Good for Kids

Scientific studies suggest that rough-and-tumble play is key in helping children develop good self-regulation skills. Since rougher play is exciting, it also gives kids the chance to practice how to self-soothe and calm down when playtime is over. The natural bumps and give-and-take of this sort of play also let children practice their responses if, say, their dad accidentally steps on their foot.

Playtime With Dad Is Good for Brain Development

A study done in the United Kingdom focused on children who played with their fathers when the children were between the ages of three months and 24 months. The children's cognitive function was charted on the Mental Development Index. Babies whose fathers had been highly engaged with them at three months scored higher than other babies in their cohort when they were evaluated using the MDI at 24 months.

Playing Helps Dads Understand Their Kids

Children reveal themselves during their play. The way they think, the way they react, how they respond to challenges, and even how they view the world are all exposed during imaginative play. Engaging in this sort of play helps fathers better understand their kids. This is especially true with kids who don't typically express their thoughts and feelings freely.

Kids Will Develop a Larger Vocabulary

One study done in the United States followed preschool children born into low-income households. Children with fathers who spent more time playing with them had larger, more expressive vocabularies at age 5. What isn't known is why. Is it because dads who play with their kids spend more time talking with them overall? Is it because these parents generally devote more time to supporting their kids' growth? No one is sure yet. What we do know is that a child's vocabulary impacts their success in school and beyond.

Your Child Will Be More Confident

Spending time with your kid helps them develop more confidence. One study from Penn State discovered that the more time kids spend with their dads, the higher their self-esteem is. Also, more time spent with their dads in a group setting corresponded with more growth in social skills. This applies to children of every age, including teenagers!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Why We Shouldn't Focus So Much on Structure and Education During Summer Break

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Let's face it: We all live busy lives, and that includes our children. Between school, home, extracurriculars, sports, and playdates, my kids' calendars are often just as overbooked as my own. But then, there's summer! Back when I was a kid, summer meant playing in the backyard, spending time at my grandparents' house with my cousins, reading any book I wanted, swimming, and an annual week-long vacation with my parents. But now, just like during the school year, there's pressure to use the summer break to optimize our children's potential. Specialized day camps, enrichment activities, and extra classes are now as common as chasing fireflies and lying on the grass with a novel.

Modern kids can sometimes feel like a different species, but the truth is that they still need the things we craved as kids. They need unstructured free time to engage in imaginative, child-centered play, and they need downtime to decompress. Take a moment to consider how a lazy summer might reap more long-term benefits for your child than a summer stuffed with enrichment activities.

Free Time Develops Independence

One thing unstructured summer days provide kids is the chance to develop independence. In most households, both parents work, and no one can devote themselves to entertaining their kids all day. That's a good thing! From learning how to fix a simple lunch to completing daily chores or just figuring out how to occupy themselves, kids can learn valuable skills and develop their independence when there's nothing on their schedule. Also, simply choosing what and how they play is an important milestone for kids that often gets overlooked with overscheduled families.

Friends and Social Skills Matter, Too

Summer is a great time to cultivate friendships and develop social skills. The freedom of unscheduled days makes sleepovers and long days playing with friends possible. Spending time with similar-aged peers with adequate but minimal supervision teaches children how to develop strong relationships with their friends. It also gives them a safe space to learn how to negotiate about how they will spend their time together and even navigate through disagreements and hurt feelings.

Summer Relieves Stress

Research has shown that the healthy development of children is harmed by excessive or prolonged stress. This sort of toxic stress damages a child's ability to learn and regulate their behavior and can have a lifelong impact on a child's physical and mental health. An unrelenting schedule and the expectation to excel at high-level academics without a break create stress, and for many children, it's far too much stress for their little minds and coping strategies to deal with effectively. In fact, some research has been done about the stress that intensive summer programs can cause children. But a summer spent outdoors is great for reducing kids' stress levels.

What About Learning Loss?

For the past 25 years or so, the media has consistently reported stories about the dangers of summer learning loss. Kids, especially elementary-aged children, can forget vital skills over the summer. But recent research has shown that these claims are overblown: The vast majority of students don't see any learning loss over the course of summer. If it still worries you, including family reading time and trips to the library in your summer plans can help combat the loss of reading skills, and including math in your kid's life can be as easy as doing some baking projects, counting money with them, and finding other real-life situations where math skills are used.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

How to Keep Your Family Safe During the Transition to Relaxed COVID-19 Guidelines

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Without question, this summer is very different from last summer. Last summer, we were all encouraged to stay inside, stay within our bubble, and limit our exposure to others as much as possible. It felt like I spent most of the summer trying to find ways to make our home and yard entertaining enough to keep us all occupied and avoid going stir-crazy! After all, like many families, we were forgoing summer vacations, beloved traditions, and time with extended family and friends to comply with the safety measures recommended by health officials. So it's exciting and wonderful that the world is coming back online this year. That doesn't mean that this summer is without its own challenges, though. How do we start resuming normal activities while COVID-19 continues to be a threat?

Get Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and people who have been fully vaccinated can resume normal activities and do not need to be tested or quarantine when traveling within the United States. Get vaccinated as soon as you can, and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Don't be afraid to ask family and friends who will be around your kids about their vaccination status. Not everyone can get vaccinated yet, but those who can should do so to keep themselves and others safe.

Wear a Mask Where Required

Restrictions are loosening, but masks are still required in some public spaces. Some stores and restaurants are asking patrons to continue wearing masks, and masks are required on public transportation like buses and planes. The unvaccinated, including young children, should continue to wear masks when out in public. Families with younger children might want to consider having all members wear masks if the kids balk: It's a lot easier for a small child to grasp the fact that your whole family wears masks.

Keep Up Handwashing and Sanitation Procedures

There was a point last year when people were sanitizing their groceries and leaving packages outside of their homes (that wasn't just me, right?). The more we learned about the virus and how it spread, the more we understood that those sorts of precautions weren't necessary. What is necessary is enforcing regular handwashing and keeping hand sanitizer with you for the times when handwashing isn't feasible. Not only is this a good precaution against COVID-19, but it's also a healthy habit that will help keep your family safe throughout their lives.

Focus on Outdoor Activities

Summer is a great time to be outside, and the fresh air and sunlight hamper the virus's ability to spread. Also, activities such as walking, hiking, camping, biking, and running are naturally socially distanced, making it easier to stay away from strangers while you have fun with your family.

Check Travel Advisories

Within the United States, there is no need for vaccinated people to get tested or quarantine before or after a trip. But that doesn't mean that different areas of the country don't have varying requirements for social distancing and mask-wearing. Most requirements vary on a state-by-state level, but different cities and municipalities can also have different guidelines. The same goes for other countries: The State Department has information on the requirements and restrictions other countries are placing on international visitors.

Be Kind to Yourself

Re-entry anxiety is real, and many people are feeling it. For more than a year, many of us have stayed away from public spaces and consistently worn masks. Now, we're supposed to just stop? The first time I ate in a restaurant after I was vaccinated, it was very strange. Here I was, with all of these other people, and we were all just breathing the same air and eating like it was 2019! If you're a bit nervous about going back to normal, it's OK to step back and take resuming normal life at a pace that feels right for you and your family. However, if your anxiety doesn't decrease, it's also OK to seek help. We've all experienced trauma from living through a pandemic, so don't be hard on yourself.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

9 Tips for Encouraging Life-Long Healthy Hydration Habits in Children

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Kids should be drinking lots of water every day to stay hydrated and healthy. Staying well-hydrated is especially important in the summer or anytime a kid is particularly active. However, one recent study found that on any given day, 20% of American children don't drink a single drop of water. Instead, kids are turning to juice, soda, and other sugary drinks that don't offer the benefits of water. These drinks also contribute to obesity and can cause other health issues. However, as all parents know, it can be challenging to foster a habit of drinking water in kids. But there are things we can do as parents to make kids reach for water!

1. Set a Good Example!

The best way to get your kids to drink water is to model this behavior yourself. Instead of reaching for another coffee or soda, make a point of drinking water on a consistent basis around your kids. Not only is it setting a good example, but you'll be improving your own health in the process.

2. Make Sure Kids Have Access to Water

Everyone says they want kids to drink lots of water, but lots of kids don't have consistent access to cold, fresh water when they are thirsty. At home, make sure it's easy for kids to serve themselves water. Reach out to babysitters, teachers, and other people who care for your kids to make sure the messaging about hydration and access to water is consistent.

3. Let Kids Pick Fun Water Bottles

I carry my water bottle around in the same way I carry around my phone. It's something that's with me all the time, so along with making sure it's a good size and keeps my water cold, I wanted a bottle that looked good and matched my aesthetic. Kids are no different! A water bottle that they choose that represents some part of their personality or just looks cool is a water bottle they will carry around with them and actually use.

4. Try Frozen Fruit

Drinking plain water all the time can get a bit boring. Liven it up by switching out regular ice cubes for frozen fruit! Not only does it look pretty floating in your glass, but frozen fruit also adds a subtle flavor to the water without being unhealthy.

5. Use Natural Flavoring

Usually, a cold drink of water is exactly what I want when I'm thirsty or hot. Sometimes, though, I know I need to drink even when my body isn't sending strong thirst cues. That's when I break out some natural flavoring tricks to encourage myself to drink more. Drop in some mint leaves, add some cucumber, try a watermelon cube, or just add some lemon or lime slices. Suddenly, the water has a very different flavor without added sugar, corn syrup, or chemical sweeteners. It's a healthy trick your kids can use now and in the future.

6. Don't Stock Up on Sugary Drinks

The medical community agrees that sugary drinks are bad for kids. Even juice can be tricky: A lot of those products in the juice aisle are loaded with sugar and food coloring along with just a little bit of actual juice. But any parent can tell you how hard it can be to completely ban soda, sports drinks, or juice from their kids' diets. The answer is to treat these drinks like what they really are: sugary treats, just like ice cream, brownies, and other things we love but shouldn't eat every day. These things shouldn't be in your pantry or fridge on a regular basis, but having one now and then won't kill you.

7. Build in Drink Times

Sometimes, I don't realize I'm thirsty until I'm practically dehydrated. Kids also often struggle with recognizing thirst cues. To help with this, make drinking water part of their regular schedules. Drink water at meals, when they eat a snack, when they get home from school, and before and after playing. This way, even if they don't think they are thirsty, they are still getting the water they need to stay properly hydrated.

8. Take a Peek in the Toilet

When our children are first born, we monitor if they're staying hydrated by noticing how many wet diapers we change in a day. As kids get older, it's important to teach them to pay attention to how many times they use the bathroom in a day. If they hardly ever need to go, they probably need to drink more water. You can also teach kids to quickly peek at the color of their urine. If it's light, everything's fine, but if it's darker in color, drink more water.

9. Make It a Game

I have several apps on my phone that let me track how many glasses of water I have a day. My paper planner is also a good place to track how much I drink. Teach your kids to use something similar! Make a chart in the kitchen and let them mark each time they drink a glass of water. If they hit their goal, let them put a sticker on the day. It teaches them good tracking habits, ensures that they get enough water, and adds a little bit of fun to the routine.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

9 Ways to Encourage Respect for Diversity Through Play

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Exposing young children to the idea of diversity and helping them to have respectful conversations about race, religion, and personal identity can be challenging; after all, even adults struggle with some of these concepts. Most parents already know the best way to engage their children is through play, and introducing the concept of respecting diversity is no different. Play is an amazing way to teach our kids many things, including how to be respectful and appreciative of our differences.

Start With the Toy Box

Most kids like to play with dolls and toys that look like them, but it's important to make sure that your collection of dolls reflects the reality of our world today. The dolls should have a variety of skin tones and reflect different cultural traditions. Additionally, go beyond dolls to incorporate toys from other cultures into your kids' toy rotation.

Diversify Your Bookshelf

Books should be windows into worlds, lives, and experiences very different from your own. Make sure the books on your kids' shelves aren't only mirrors that reflect lives much like you and your kids live. Seek out authors of different races and nationalities to expose them to different backgrounds. A lot of kids and adults tend to default to reading authors who look like them and stories about people like them. Creating a diverse bookshelf early on will help to ensure that your kids always have a rich and varied reading life.

Spin the Globe

One fun game children of all ages enjoy is the globe-spinning game. As you spin the globe, have your child place their finger on the globe to stop it. Whatever country they land on is the next one you'll explore. You could watch videos, try foods, or find books about this region at the library.

Try Music From Around the World

Music that once would have been hard to find is now available online with a few clicks. Find some modern music created by musicians from other cultures, and check out traditional music from around the globe as well.

Visit Museums

Museums can expose children to art and cultures beyond their own. A little preparation can allow your children to really immerse themselves in the experience. Trying food from cultures represented in the museum and reading storybooks before you go can help them build a context for what they will see. After your museum visit, try to create art or crafts like what you just saw.

Support Free Play

Play is a vital way for children to work through the ideas and concepts of diversity. However, children's playtime is under constant pressure. It's important to deliberately choose to create ample time and space for children's imaginative play. Scheduling in unscheduled time allows kids to experience unrushed playtime to work out their feelings and thoughts and become more competent and resourceful people.


Helping kids learn how to have difficult conversations and navigate challenging situations successfully is an important (but difficult) part of parenthood. Reading books or watching videos in which kids hear racist or other derogatory language lets kids think about how it feels to be in those situations, but role-playing after such exposure lets kids try out responses and strategies for dealing with these situations.

Start Early

Exposing your kids to different cultures isn't something that requires waiting. From infancy, incorporating storybooks from a diverse range of authors and listening to music from different cultures is an excellent foundation for a child who will respect diversity. But if your child is older, the window isn't closed: The best time to begin is now.

Listen to Your Kids

Most children have already seen or experienced prejudice. Playing is a great way to get them to start talking about things they've already witnessed in their own lives. These conversations can serve as building blocks to help them reach higher levels of understanding.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, June 21, 2021

10 Children's Snacks That Are Shockingly Unhealthy

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Modern parents have a lot to worry about, but what to feed our kids is at the top of the list for many of us. We want them to eat fresh, nutritious food and have a lifelong healthy relationship with the things they eat. They want easy-to-eat snacks that taste good. Grocery store shelves are overflowing these days with updated versions of the snacks we grew up eating, like chips, cheese crackers, and Popsicles. However, although these new options may seem like they are more nutritious and wholesome, many are actually filled with added sugar, refined flours, chemical additives, and sodium.

1. Cereal Bars

We all have mornings when we need grab-and-go breakfasts. Cereal bars are easy for those rushed days, and the package says they contain fruit and whole grains: That should be healthy, right? The problem is that cereal bars are typically loaded with a tablespoon or more of sugar in each serving, and along with this dose of sugar comes trans fat and a host of artificial dyes and flavors. Instead, try keeping boiled eggs or protein bars on hand for easy, portable breakfasts that aren't hiding massive amounts of sugar.

2. Fruit Snacks

Fruit is a wholesome snack, but a piece of fruit is a far cry from a package of fruit snacks. Most fruit snacks are made from sugar-filled juice concentrates, actual sugar, and corn syrup. They also contain food coloring and artificial flavors. When it comes right down to it, fruit snacks are basically just candy with good marketing. A better alternative is to eat fiber-rich fruit or snack on fruit leathers or dehydrated fruit with few (if any) added ingredients.

3. Graham Crackers

Graham crackers entered our food culture as one of the first health food items, but even though they are still the snack of choice for many schools and parents, the bad news is that they basically offer the same nutritional value as a cookie. Their ingredient list includes sweeteners and highly refined flour. Does that mean you should panic each time another parent serves up graham crackers? Of course not! They are OK as an occasional treat, but try not to make them a daily staple.

4. Juice

I certainly grew up drinking juice, and I still love a cold glass of OJ on a hot morning. You might think that since it comes from fruit, it has to be a wholesome, healthy choice. But juicing fruit removes the fiber, which is a vital part of a healthy diet and also what helps our bodies to digest the natural sugar in fruit more slowly and evenly. Without the fiber, all of that sugar hits your bloodstream at once. Currently, the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to limit children under 6 to no more than eight ounces of juice a day, while elementary-aged children should have no more than 12 ounces a day. Children under the age of one shouldn't have juice at all. Drinking too many sugary beverages increases the likelihood that children will develop weight issues or diabetes.

5. Muffins

Many kids (and adults) would love to start their morning off with a doughnut, but few of us would call that a healthy breakfast. Muffins, though, are far more likely to end up on the breakfast table. I've got bad news for you, though: If you're buying muffins at the store, you might as well be buying doughnuts. Commercially prepared muffins are basically cake. Healthier muffins can be made at home using whole-wheat flour or a flour alternative and mixing in zucchini or bananas. You could also seek out a bakery that specializes in healthy baked goods and get your muffins there.

6. Prepackaged Lunches

So many parents have been tempted by the bento box craze. After all, small bites of basically healthy food very much fits with how kids eat. And often, those boxes are easier for smaller children than a large sandwich. You'd think that the prepackaged versions of these meals should be a great choice, too, but you'd be wrong. They are filled with sodium: In fact, many of them have more than the entire recommended amount of sodium that children should get daily.

7. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

Most of us have internalized the message that reduced-fat foods are always better than full-fat versions. However, when it comes to peanut butter, that's not the case. Natural, full-fat peanut butter is made simply from peanuts and is chock full of healthy fats and protein. But when that fat is removed, it has to be replaced by something, and often, those "somethings" include unhealthy fats, sugar, and corn syrup. You're much better off choosing natural peanut butter or an alternative like almond butter or sun butter.

8. Sports Drinks

On a hot day when your kid is playing hard for an hour or more, sports drinks can help stave off dehydration and keep vital minerals in balance. But any other time, they're not a great choice. A bottle of a typical sports drink has 200 calories and a lot of sugar and sodium. Instead, for shorter exercise sessions or on cooler days, opt to give the kids cold water. If they want a little flavor, float orange or cucumber slices in their water bottles. This will help them establish the habit of reaching for water when they are thirsty. That's the kind of habit that will help them maintain a healthy weight into adulthood.

9. Veggie Puffs and Straws

They're made out of veggies and offers kids a snappy crunch, so you might think that veggie puffs make a great snack. But not so fast: It turns out that these lunch-box favorites are filled with refined grains like rice, soy flour, and corn flour, and those refined carbs are typically the first three ingredients, meaning they make up more of the puffs than the various vegetables used to flavor them. Need a healthier option that still provides crunch? Consider options like baked kale chips or freeze-dried snap peas.

10. Yogurt

Yogurt seems like such a healthy, nutrient-dense snack to offer our kids, and lots of yogurts are actually packed with vitamins. But the yogurt specifically marketed as being kid-friendly usually hides an unhealthy secret: up to two teaspoons of sugar in a 2.25-ounce container of yogurt! Food dyes and artificial flavors also are on the ingredient lists of popular yogurt varieties aimed at the lunch-box set. A far healthier alternative is to mix some fruit or even a small serving of jam into regular yogurt.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

7 Ways to Help Your Children Stay Focused And Succeed During Distance Learning by Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

7 Ways to Help Your Children Stay Focused and Succeed During Distance Learning

One constant challenge for families during the pandemic year has been learning how to best implement distance learning. For many parents who had never considered homeschooling, learning how to be a consistent part of their child's school day (which now is taking place at the kitchen table!) was a new experience. Children also had to very quickly learn how to cope with a very different form of school. Luckily, we have learned some strategies for helping children to stay focused during distance learning.

Know the Expectations

The first thing parents should do is determine what expectations their children's schools and teachers have for distance learning. How much time are the students required to spend online? Screen time limits should apply to all children, and for younger children especially, other types of learning are vital.

Consider Your Child's Learning Style

Not everyone learns the same way. Similarly, not all children are comfortable with all distance learning assignments. Which learning methods suit your child best? Do they do better when they are working with their teacher live on their device? Or does your child perform better when the teacher gives the assignment and then the child works away from the computer, perhaps with Mom or Dad watching? It's important to remember that there is no one best way for every student. There's just the way your kid learns best!


Kids need to move their bodies during the day. Getting the wiggles out (and I'm talking about kids from preschool to high school!) helps them stay focused when they are sitting down working. Make sure they have time to get out of their seat, run around, dance about the room, or just go play for a few minutes. Some kids even do better on schoolwork when they're standing. Try raising the computer or tablet to make an impromptu standing desk to see if that helps your kids focus for longer.

Limit Distractions

Just like with in-person schooldays, not every moment of your child's virtual school day is going to hold their interest. But now, of course, they have all of the distractions of home. And in my home, they also have the distraction of their sibling's school day and their parents' Zoom meetings! If possible, try to construct quiet zones so everyone can have a peaceful place to work. Everyone needs a pair of headphones. A clutter-free work zone with a comfortable chair can also make a huge difference!

Make a Schedule, but Keep it Flexible

Consistency and routine are important for kids (and let's be honest, for adults as well). Schedule subjects or activities your kid struggles with for times when you can actively supervise and engage with them. It's also important to schedule those activities for when your kid's focus is high and their energy level is up. For some kids, that's first thing in the morning. Other kids get off to a slow start and are better after lunch. Also, share this information with your children's teachers. If your kid is deeply involved in an assignment or activity, don't insist that they move to the next thing on the schedule.

Use Checklists

Checklists are fantastic, and you can use them in several ways. Make a checklist for every day for your child to work through. And don't be afraid to put non-academic things on the checklist. Chores like "fill the cat's water bowl" or "make your bed" absolutely should be on your kids' daily checklists. Also, many kids do better with checklists that break down each task. For example, if the teacher wants your kid to watch a video, read a supporting document, and then write a response, make a checklist that lists each step separately. This is also a great time to work with your kids on developing their own checklists, a skill they will use into adulthood and their working lives.

Be Kind to Your Kids and Yourself

No teacher wants their students to hate learning. It's OK to prioritize your children's happiness as well as their academic progress. If they are struggling with a concept or assignment, suggest a break! If distance learning is moving at a quick pace, talk to the teacher about slowing down the pace for your child. If the frustration level really gets high, you might decide that the day is over and give it another try tomorrow. On a similar note, make sure you are giving your kids consistent positive feedback for finishing assignments, completing their checklists, or acing a test. And give yourself that same positive feedback for shepherding your kids through distance learning successfully!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, December 14, 2020

How to Keep the Spirit of Play Alive During Distance Learning

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How to Keep the Spirit of Play Alive During Distance Learning

"Learning" and "fun" aren't always viewed as synonymous. In the eyes of many educators and parents, class time is for learning, and playtime is for fun. I would argue, however, that combining learning with play maximizes the positive effects of both. It's been scientifically proven that when a child is having fun, they are far more likely to retain the information that they took in at that time. Just think back to your own childhood. What captured your attention more as a child: a dry, hour-long lecture about fractions, or a Jeopardy!-style math game where your team had to solve problems first to win?

It's even more critical to be able to combine learning and play nowadays, as so many kids are attending school in the same place they play: at home. My girls have struggled to focus on schoolwork amid the distractions of home, as have their peers. Just ask any parent or teacher and they will tell you that keeping a child's attention on a computer screen for a full school day is no simple task. But just because they're doing remote learning doesn't mean that they have to stay in their chair all day listening to their teachers talk. Try these ideas to add more play to the school day.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

10 Ways That Play Builds Future Pioneers

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10 Ways That Play Builds Future Pioneers

If you want your kids to grow into responsible and successful adults, you should encourage them to play more. That sounds a little counterintuitive, but it's through play that kids learn the necessary skills to succeed on their path through life and become the world's future pioneers. This has become perfectly apparent to me after watching my two daughters play together over the years and seeing firsthand just how valuable unstructured playtime can be to their development.

My girls have recently fallen in love with playing hide and seek, and I mean LOVE. It's become an almost-daily activity in our household, and they're getting pretty good at it. The other day, my oldest got the idea to remove some clothes from the hamper, get in, and then pile the discarded clothes back on top of her. The illusion was so well done that we spent almost a half-hour searching for her. (In truth, I actually began to worry a bit before we found her.) For context, this is the same girl who just a few months earlier had attempted to conceal herself behind a curtain that only covered her from the knees up. By playing hide and seek, she practiced problem-solving and learned how to outwit her opponent, honing valuable skills she'll need throughout life.

Here are just a few ways that play can help turn your child into a pioneer.