Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cause and Effect

Babies learn cause and effect quickly and naturally. The see that when they cry, someone picks them up. They know that when they smile, everyone smiles back. As they get older they learn what they can (and can't) pull up on, the process for sitting up, standing, and walking (and falling). Each of these has a very clear cause and effect. Children with siblings also learn about reactions to taking toys, hitting, etc. While these all happen without much intervention, other situations need to be set up for children.

Sand and Water table

Filling, pouring, and dumping are favorite activities for toddlers and all teach cause and effect. Doing these same activities with siblings and friends teach other types of lessons. We were able to get our kids a water/sand table. It came with cups, boats, shovels, and other fun toys. The first lesson they learned was what happens when you dump sand or water (or both) on yourself. This was quickly followed by learning what happens when you do it to your sibling.

Can we make a mess?

Another type of cause and effect we started teaching once the kids turned one when you make a mess, you clean it up. When they dumped out their toys, they got to pick them up again. This required a great deal of one-on-two direct instruction. "Put the truck in the bucket. Put the book on the shelf. Put the ball in the basket." It was extremely slow, but they did learn. Looking back on this a year later, I am happy to say it has mostly worked. They don't always clean up without being told (sometimes they do), but when we tell them to clean up they know what it means. They can clean up all of their toys and books with minimal instruction. By 2 years old they have also learned to clean up as they go for many things.

Splashing each other

The other side of teaching cause and effect is when they learn to control you. Every child does this - they act or react a specific way to get attention. You will see many children fall down, look to see who is watching, and then cry. If you don't react when they fall, they will likely just go on without acting hurt, unless they are truly hurt. Sometimes our kids will fall and get up and keep playing while we are trying to catch them and clean their scraped knees. We try not to play into pity parties. Our kids do know that when Mommy is frustrated, giving her a hug will make it somewhat better. They know how to make us laugh. They have learned that things they cause have an effect on others. While this seems like a simple concept, this is huge when it comes to social development.

Where's the key?

Understanding cause and effect will help children develop socially and develop scientific minds. Play doesn't have to be complicated, but it should be memorable!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Vestibular System

You know the importance of giving a baby tummy time to help build neck and arm muscles. As children grow they need many opportunities to practice using their vestibular system. If you haven't heard of the vestibular system here's a great definition.

Driving big rigs

The balloon goes up and down

While simple things such as visual tracking, walking, climbing, and swinging help to develop this system, you can always do more. Playing in sand, water, and digging in dirt are all favorites when the weather is nice. When it's too cold or too hot to go outside we build obstacle courses inside. Rocking horses, ride on toys, and even just spinning in circles are great options as well. We flip the kids upside down, spin them around, and teach them how to do barrel rolls and somersaults. 

These swings are different than the ones in our neighborhood park.
Once a year we have an opportunity to go to our local amusement park with my husband's company. Our kids love the rides and it isn't just for fun. This also helps them to develop their vestibular system. What are some of the favorite activities at your house for developing the vestibular system?


Monday, September 12, 2011

Consignment Sales!

These things spin!

Kids are expensive. We were lucky enough to be given tons of hand me downs before the kids were born, but those only lasted so long. Buying a full wardrobe for two kids every 3 months seems ridiculous, but that's how quickly they grow. Also, since we have one boy and one girl, they don't share most of their clothing. When you add in toys and equipment, we needed a better solution for our budget.

I told you I'm big enough to drive.

There are many consignment stores near us, but they offer very little for things you are finished with and the prices aren't that much cheaper than buying new at discount stores. Instead, we participate in large consignment sales. We do 2 a year, selling and buying at each. Getting everything prepared for the sale is a huge pain. Everything must be clean and ironed, sorted by gender and size, input into the computer, tags printed, tags attached and then you get to take it to the sale to be looked over and approved. Each of these steps has strict rules. This takes at least a week around here. My kids now refer to the week we are getting ready for the sale as "Mommy made a mess." The upside is we set our own prices, we choose if we want things included in the half price sale, and anything that isn't sold is either donated or you can pick it up. Also if you sell items, you get to go to buy items before the sale opens to the public.

She's upset because someone took her football away.

We buy most of the kids clothes there for around $1 an item. In the past we have purchased a double jogging stroller for $40, wooden puzzles for $1, and single strollers for $4. It still adds up, just at a much slower rate. I love getting such a great deal on everything and quickly forget about the hassle of the week before. A couple of weeks later I get the check for what I sold. Usually I end up spending about $30 more buying things than I end up making. $30 for clothes, toys, and equipment for 2 kids every 6 months isn't bad. It's that thought that keeps me going to consignment sales.

Scooby Doo!

What tips do you have for saving money on kid stuff?

Big Tex!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rules and Expectations

We set very consistent rules for our kids. The key to setting rules is to think about the long term, rather than just what is happening right now. For example, if every time kids fight over a toy you settle it for them, they will never learn how to solve that problem themselves. We talk through problems, model the behavior we want and set very clear expectations.

When I was teaching, a parent asked me for advice getting their toddler to clean up toys. At the end of each day, the child would throw a fit refusing to clean. The parents tried time out and then each night when it was time to clean up, he would just go sit in time out rather than cleaning up. The parents were frustrated. I suggested we turn it around and look at it from the child's point of view. This was the last thing before bed. By not cleaning, he got to stay up later. When the parents would place him in time out, they would then clean up the toys for him. Clearly, he had this situation figured out. I suggested two changes: 1. Clean up time would now be before a favorite activity - dinner for this particular child 2. If he chose time out, when he got up he would be told to clean up. If he chose time out, the cycle would repeat. The parents were not to clean up or let him off the hook. After a week of consistency he stopped fighting cleaning up his toys. Same problem with the same punishment, yet by just looking at it from the child's perspective we can easily see the flaws in the first plan.

Sweet girl on a slide

Another rule we set early was related to the slide. "Up the steps and down the slide" No extra words, direct and to the point, something to do rather than a negative (don't climb the slide). If you have one child this isn't something you are likely to think about. One child climbing a slide isn't a big deal, however add another child and it's a different story. One child climbing while another is sliding is an injury waiting to happen. Now imagine that child is at the park or school. One or two children climbing while one to four children are sliding and we have multiple injuries. At the beginning of the school year, teachers spend about half of the playground time reminding children of the rules for the slide. Imagine if kids already knew this rule. Teachers would have one less thing to deal with (trust me they have plenty) and kids wouldn't get hurt from this. A few weeks ago I walked past our neighborhood park where a set of parents were teaching their toddlers how to climb the slides. A few minutes later some older kids arrived and within two minutes there was a crash on the slide and the toddlers were crying. The parents were paying attention. They were watching their kids, but couldn't stop the older, faster kids from sliding correctly and kicking their toddlers in the face. Think long term when setting rules.

Learning the rules of the slide

To end on a happy note, here's a video of my kids and husband walking in a train. :)