What Kind Of Play Will Help My Baby Learn?
July 20, 2010 · Posted in Education, Fatherhood, Infant Development, Parenting, Play · Permalink · Comments Off on What Kind Of Play Will Help My Baby Learn?

educational-toys-leftYour baby is always learning. Whether you are singing to your baby, shaking a rattle for them, or running errands, your baby is taking in the world and learning. When it comes to play, the trusted adults and the physical world are your baby’s best playmate. No need for fancy toys – simple rattles, balls, books and blocks will do. Playing peek-a-boo, singing, crawling around and tickling will do more for your baby than any organized class for infants.

Of course, the kind of play that you engage in with your baby depends greatly on his attention span and tolerance for stimulation. Parents can quickly learn the signs that a baby is enjoying the play or needs  a break and is becoming overstimulated.  Clearly a smiling and laughing baby is having a great time – keep it up!  A baby who diverts his gaze away from a parent or turns away is needing a break. Usually a baby will give one of these more subtle signs before crying.  Of course, if he begins to cry, then he is unequivocally saying “enough!”

And moms-pay attention! Research has shown that active play with kids, the kind most typical of dads, affords kids great advantages in terms of their social competence, emotional development, as well as verbal reasoning and problem solving.  So let their dads play away and don’t try to get them to play like you. They have their own style and it is just as important as more toned down play.

Let your baby explore the world on their own. Using their own senses and being the masters of their fun is important as well. If they are content and “doing their own thing” you are not being neglectful. Let them keep growing that ability to entertain themselves.

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Bid Adieu
July 13, 2010 · Posted in Parenting, Play, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off on Bid Adieu

The best way to help your child move from one situation to another is to teach them how to say goodbye. From playing with toys to going in the tub, leaving the park to getting in the stroller, small children have a hard time moving from activity to activity. They really know how to “be in the moment”. They are so involved in what they are doing that moving to a new place and stopping their play is hard and upsetting.

Modeling “saying bye bye” — to the truck, to the park, to the bath tub, gives them a sense of control and closure. It may feel silly to say “OK, Janie say goodbye to sand box, bye bye sandbox” while you are waving to a mound of sand — but parents attest to its magic. Transitions become a little less fraught and kids are more willing to let go of an activity because they themselves have bid a fond farewell.

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Monkey Bars
February 9, 2010 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Play, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments (1)

TB-1402_monkeybar1A recent article on the effects of switching the order of recess and lunch by Tara Parker Pope makes great sense. Moving recess earlier and lunch afterwards affected both kids well being at school and also resulted in the waste of food. At a time when some schools decrease recess time to fit in more academics, it is another reminder of how important play time is for children. Pediatrics reports that a new study confirms the idea that having recess versus not isn’t in the best interest of a child’s academic performance. Parents must protect the needs of children by remembering that old fashioned running around and climbing the monkey bars is an important part of a school day.

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Do-It-Yourself Preschool!
January 21, 2010 · Posted in Education, Parenting, Play, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (1)

optout_button-p145196494186530513t5sj_400With all of the angst and money spent on preschool it was inspiring to hear Paulina Bemporad’s story of starting her own! She is our guest blogger today and we greatly appreciate her contribution. Paulina is the mother of a 3 1/2 year old daughter and an entrepreneur living in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Starting A Cooperative Preschool Morning Program by Paulina Bemporad

When my daughter was approaching her second birthday, I started inquiring about nursery schools in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.  I was horrified to discover that all of the preschools and private programs for toddlers require you to apply a year before the child actually starts the program. Since she was turning two in June of 2008, I was supposed to apply in September of 2007!  I had no idea this was even an issue. I felt like I failed as a mother because I didn’t realize how ultra competitive and over crowded preschools are in NYC.  Like everything else, space here is at a premium so why should a nursery school program for two-year-olds be any different?!  So, I desperately applied to about 10 preschool programs in the Spring of 2008 for my daughter to attend the following Fall. All I received back were rejection letters and notices that she was placed on waiting lists.

I was so frustrated and I didn’t think I had many other options – until I received an email from a parenting blog in my neighborhood looking for families that might be interested in starting a bilingual morning program for toddlers called “Escuelita.” As a native Spanish speaker from a Colombian family, I was thrilled by the opportunity. I was one of five parents who went to the open house.  I was excited to meet the incredible licensed Montessori teacher and an entrepreneurial couple who wanted to create the program for their daughter because they were facing the same situation I was.

To make this happen, they offered their own apartment to host the program which would take place 3 days a week from 9 am -12 p.m.  They are very involved in the community and have their own business right below their apartment. They had a great vision and entrepreurial spirit to create something from the ground up. Like me, they were also very interested in giving their daughter a bilingual education and were extremely frustrated by the lack of opportunities to attend Spanish language programs in Brooklyn. So, they found a teacher, offered their home and invited other parents to join their vision of a Bilingual Montessori preschool right here in our neighborhood.  Over a few planning meetings, the teacher outlined the curriculum, defined the costs and all of the participating parents agreed to the cooperative structure. The group hired a lawyer, had contracts drawn up and we gave our deposits with signed contracts.

We started with 4 children in September 2008, doubled the number of students by January 2009 and today we have ten families. Given the cooperative vision and spirit of the program, the parents play an active role in supporting the school. All parents are asked to provide healthy organic, snacks on a rotating basis.  We all paid for school supplies.  And all of the parents and children gather about every other month for a potluck brunch in each other’s homes. We’ve really become a close knit community and now regularly join together for play dates, share babysitting duties and enjoy hanging out during the weekends.

The greatest benefit has been watching our daughter blossom intellectually and socially. The beauty of the Montessori way of learning is that each child participates in carefully planned “work” activities that suit their specific stage of educational development. The children work independently, join together in pairs and perform group activities like singing and yoga. Lessons revolve around practical life  skills (water pouring work that emphasizes gross motor skills and measurement); sensory skills (from dramatic play with puppets to working with geometric shapes in puzzles); math (working with numbers, counting objects); language (focusing on pre-reading skills, word sounds, letters in alphabet); geography/science (identifying countries on maps, continents on the globe, changes in season, living and non-living objects); and art, physical movement and yoga.

Escuelita is now in its second year and we’ve expanded the program to 4 days a week. Our teacher is looking for permanent space and next year we are planning to expand to a full-time, 5 day-a-week structure. Our experience has been amazing and we feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of the founding and growth of a superb educational program for our daughter.

Based on our experience, here are my five tips for starting a cooperative preschool program:
1. Find a talented, experienced teacher
2. Invite like-minded parents who are willing to be actively involved
3. Find an appropriate space (be sure to consider NYC educational requirements and codes)
4. Develop a clear vision, educational philosophy and guidelines for teacher and parental roles
5. Be flexible to adapt and improve the program over time

Here are some great links to learn more about Montessori education:

The Montessori Foundation

The Wonder Years

Homemade Montessori

Montessori Story

A Montessori Classroom

Montessori Services

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How To Help Your Child With Separation Anxiety
December 29, 2009 · Posted in Infant Development, Parenting, Play, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off on How To Help Your Child With Separation Anxiety

Hide_and_seek_by_AnniikaHide and Seek and Peek-A-Boo. Plain and simple. These games of childhood have withstood the test of time and exist across cultures because they provide an important psychological function for babies and children. In play, they enact and reenact losing and finding a special person. This helps children keep the presence of their caregiver in mind, while not in sight. Through the build up of nervous excitement, laughter, and relief — all the elements of a goodbye and reunion are there in compressed form.

So if your baby is starting to cry when you walk out of the room, or your toddler weeps when you leave for work, or your preschooler is glued to your leg crying at drop-off for school, play these games more at home. In addition to the reminder that you always come back, the soothing that the babysitter or teacher provides on the other end is equally important for emotional development.  These largely nonverbal, play and body-based games help your child grow in their ability to tolerate separations from those they love.

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The Dinosaurs Have Come Back From Extinction
September 24, 2009 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Play, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (3)

overscheduled-thumbWe often feel like dinosaurs at Soho Parenting. Over the last twenty five years we have watched a couple of trends really take hold. One is that younger and younger children are scheduled for more and more classes.  We saw the birth of the Baby Einstein phenomenon become the norm.  We observed that the busy, busy lives of adults began trickling down to become the busy, busy lives of children. We began ringing the over-scheduling alarm bell.  We heard ourselves saying, “All they really need is the box the toy came in!” We have felt concerned that our culture’s ideas about what children need to learn, grow and thrive has been transformed into a performance based, pressure-filled embarrassment of riches.

The article, Babies Are Smarter Than You Think, by research psychologist, Alison Gopnik provides a big piece of research-based evidence that validates our concern and supports our philosophy. Gopnik sites important developmental research showing that children learn most from what occurs in the natural world of people and objects.  She writes:

“The learning that babies and young children do on their own, when they carefully watch an unexpected outcome and draw new conclusions from it, ceaselessly manipulate a new toy or imagine different ways that the world might be, is very different from schoolwork. Babies and young children can learn about the world around them through all sorts of real-world objects and safe replicas, from dolls to cardboard boxes to mixing bowls, and even toy cellphones and computers…But what children observe most closely, explore most obsessively and imagine most vividly are the people around them. There are no perfect toys; there is no magic formula. Parents and other caregivers teach young children by paying attention and interacting with them naturally and, most of all, by just allowing them to play.

Sadly, some parents … conclude that they need programs and products that will make their babies even smarter. Many think that babies, like adults, should learn in a focused, planned way. So parents put their young children in academic-enrichment classes or use flashcards to get them to recognize the alphabet.”

I am struck by how hard it is for parents to resist taking kids to these classes, purchasing “educational” toys–buying into this idea that children will be deprived if they don’t do or have everything.  Here are two of the biggest culprits: Boredom and peer pressure. We know these two forces in adolescence are a dangerous duo –here they are again in adult form.

Take boredom. A great day for a young child  is pretty uneventful for a grown-up. We are not used to living slowly and quietly. Prior to having children, most adults had long, challenging but interesting workdays. They played by eating out, meeting with friends, going to the gym–time seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. Now enter baby –life takes a 180 degree turn. Boredom has always been part of motherhood, but when you are accustomed living such a fast paced life, hanging around the house and neighborhood with young children can feel mind numbingly boring and downright depressing.

Sitting on the floor for a while to watch a child fill and dump a bucket of blocks is repetitive. Taking young children on a trip to the pet store to look at the fish tanks or gerbils seems pretty “low tech” but these blocks of time are precisely what help them learn about the world in a relaxed and organic way. We as parents need to be able to tolerate the slow and small steps necessary while raising children.

And now about peer pressure. Parents tell us about the pressure they feel to compete and keep up with what seems like the most enriched and exciting schedule for their kids. They battle feeling embarrassed and sub par when they decide to go a different route and slow things down. One mom reports:

“It sounds pretty dull to describe the day with… ‘Well, we crawled around a lot and then played with blocks and ate lunch with a little friend at the park and then took a nap.  We also took a trip to the grocery store, came home, had dinner and a bath and went to bed.’ It feels better somehow to say ‘We had gym class in the morning and went to spanish playgroup in the afternoon.’ Of course sometimes I feet bored–but isn’t that supposed to be part of the package?”

So take the advice you know you will give your own kids- “No one ever died from boredom.” AND “If your friend told you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge would you?” Boredom leads to creativity and going against the pack means you chart your own course. Don’t be afraid to take it a little more slowly and let your children discover the world at their own pace. All the excitement and the pressure in the world will be waiting for them.

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A Funny Spoiling Post
August 18, 2009 · Posted in Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Play, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (1)

We thought this was very, very funny!

Fussy’s Five Ways to Spoil Your Children

1) Spend more money than you make to give your children everything their hearts desire. Tell yourself that you do this because you want to give them a happy childhood. If all their friends have it, it would be wrong not to give them the same things. Even though the more you buy for them, the more they complain of boredom.



2) Schedule every free moment with ‘enrichment’. If they get bored, make sure to fill their time with every possible activity possible. You may also want to get a second job to cover the cost. Hey, it’s for the kids, right?



3) Give constant praise and compliments. Constantly work to reinforce your children’s self-esteem. Lavish praise and compliments of all kinds. Tell your children how special, smart and wonderful they are with out any effort put forth.



4) Always take your children’s side, no matter what. When any problem arises in your child’s life be sure to always take the position that your child is a victim of other’s misdeeds.

Childhood squabbles? Tell your child how awful the other child is and call the offenders parents and let them have it!

Teacher is mean? March up to the principle and file a complaint.

Be sure to disregard any evidence that refutes your position!

Let ’em have it, Mamma!


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5) Take away all chances your children have for personal growth. Take away the opportunity your children have to overcome obstacles and for learning to tolerate frustration and delay gratification. Look at childhood as a time of pure bliss and without responsibilities. Give your child the childhood you wished you received.

The best way to remove all opportunities for growth is be a proud Helicopter Parent and hover above your children ready to take away all stress!



Enjoy the fallout from these tips!

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