Putting an End to Summer Brain Drain
May 24, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off

PrintBy Rose Howell, Academic Liaison at Thinking Caps

As the school year comes to a close, your child’s attention will turn to playdates, summer camp and the screens of his or her iPad, iPhone and TV. The mental stimulation provided at school inevitably takes a dive, leaving many parents wondering how to react. A study from Bell State University shows that Americans now spend more time on electronic devices than doing anything else, and kids are no exception. Further, we now know that excessive electronic usage causes memory loss and waning communication skills (eye contact, interaction), as well as weaker observational skills, language articulation and vocabulary. Too much screen time indoors also underlies health issues such as inadequate exercise, headaches, eye fatigue and tendonitis. Here are some realistic ways for you to combat “summer brain drain,” expand your child’s education and keep his or her body and mind active.

Harness your child’s natural curiosity:

  • Your child is still absorbing his or her surroundings like a sponge. If you move with the momentum of their natural curiosities, you’ll have more success keeping them engaged.
  • Find a special notebook for your child, and suggest that he or she writes down any questions, hopes or musings about a topic of interest. Then, carve out a day or two each week to go exploring within that theme. Take him or her to the library for books on the topic, a museum, or explore the haunts of that famous individual in the city. If your child often has questions about the world that you can’t answer, encourage him or her to write them down for future investigation.
  • Encourage them to learn more about a topic so they can tell everyone at dinner time what they learned. If your child is competitive, challenge him or her to learn 10 new things that day. Need an incentive? Have something scheduled at the end of the summer which he or she can attend if they promise to stay active.

Stay strong when it comes to screen time:

  • Of course, this is always easier said than done. However, you are the parent, and your children will thank you later if you’re able to nurture their relationship to reality over mind-numbing hours in front of a screen.
  • Treat gadgets like you treat dessert—they are not a given. Set limits for screen time by being honest with your child about the effects that this time is having on him or her. If your child refuses to give up the gadget, that time will come out of his or her allotted time for the next day.
  • Encourage your child to engage in imaginative play, exploration in nature and activities outdoors. There are hundreds of places around the city, as well as summer camps that encourage this kind of stimulation. Teach your child to plant flowers, go on a scavenger hunt or play capture-the-flag. Do not be fazed if your child claims he or she is bored—a healthy dose of boredom triggers new ideas. Electronics can rob children of the natural process of brainstorming, discovery and initiation.

Fight the academic slide:

  • Reading is one of the best ways to keep your child’s brain sharp. Go with your kids to a library or bookstore, and let them pick the books they want. If they don’t like to read, read out loud and leave off at a moment of suspense. Before you know it, they’ll begin picking up the book themselves. Also, try graphic novels—they still require the child to read, but provide accompanying visual stimulation. Books on tape are another good trick; any travel time can be an opportunity for learning.
  • Use a workbook series, like Summer Bridge Activities, created by Michele Van Leeuwen, mother of three. Such workbooks often contain exercises for reading, writing, arithmetic and language arts, which can be done in transition moments like breakfast, snack or winding down before bed.
  • Consider tutoring sessions. If your kid is behind or struggles in a certain area, summer is a great opportunity to seek support. At Thinking Caps, we match students with compatible tutors who provide individualized guidance and learning for school subjects, study skills/executive functioning, and test prep. Even one hour per week of support can make a huge difference come fall.

These strategies can provide your children with a fulfilling and substantive summer that will leave them refreshed and prepared for school. There’s no need to let summer brain drain take its toll—it’s time to fight back!

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Why are our Children Their Worst with Us?
March 24, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

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How many times has your mother-in law said, “She wasn’t like this with me!” Or your nanny comments that your son goes down for a nap like an angel with her. Or you go for a parent teacher conference and the description of the child, “first to clean up, so empathetic to other children, what a helper!” is not the child you know. Parents come in for consultation time and time again embarrassed to report that they are in a deep struggle with their child–but that it doesn’t seem to be going on with caregivers, teachers or with other adults.

This is because our children are at their worst with us! They are supposed to be. Parents are exactly the ones you want your child to be struggling with the most. You mean the most, you are the safest person in their lives, and you are the person that can most teach them lessons about life and relationships.

Why bother struggling with your nanny over nap time? It’s not her that you are fighting sleep to see. Why whine and throw a tantrum with grandma? She is probably giving in to your every whim. Why show your tiredness, worry or frustration in school? Show your mom or dad so they can help without you feeling embarrassed in front of your friends.

The next time the comment tinged with judgement comes, “He was a such doll until you came in!” You can proudly say, “I know, he really knows how to behave out in the world, but with me he can show all his feelings!”

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Holidays: Sights, Smells and Tastes
December 17, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off

images-1The recession has been good for the holidays. This is the second year that the ethos of the holidays consists of getting less, spending less and really tuning into what the deeper messages about the seasons mean. Most parents who toned down the consumer frenzy last year were much more content with their holiday celebrations. Less stories about over stimulated kids ripping through mountains of presents and then demanding more. Less stress in preparing for the holidays.

What people remember most about their holidays as kids are the lights, whether Christmas or Chanukah, the scents of pine or baking or potatoes frying and the wonderful assortment of tastes. Who really remebers what year you got your bike, or a doll, or board games or gameboy? It is wrapping paper and ribbons and rituals we remember. So, when planning your holidays focus on the senses and not on the gifts. Pass on traditions or invent new ones. Those are the memories in the making.

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How to Keep Kids Fit & Focused
September 22, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off

BScreen Shot 2015-09-18 at 5.26.05 PMy Michelle Paget, LCSW RYT

Summer is already over? Wow, that was fast! The school year started, and children are doing their best to get back into the swing of things. After two months of enjoying vacation, camp and free time, children are expected to sit for almost seven hours straight during the school day.

I can honestly say that I know how they feel. As a school social worker, I felt the strain of returning from Summer break- going from being active and free to sedentary and cooped up at my desk all day.

One of my favorite ways to combat the back-to-school blues was with physical activity. I learned that keeping active helped me ease into the new year and even improved my ability to focus. Our children are no different and can also benefit with improved mood and sleep. Read more on WebMD about how exercise can benefit children.

We can help our children transition into their new schedules by teaching them how to incorporate movement and other forms of physical activity. Energetic Juniors provides some wonderful tips in an article below:

Keep Your Child Fit and Active After Summer Camp!

Here is the opportunity for your child to stay active the rest of the year.

How many times have you said,” I wish my child could or would continue being active as he was in camp.” But schoolwork takes over, and tutors, and computers, and online games and winter weather, and suddenly more time is spent being sedentary than being active. Physical activity should be year-round; active fit bodies mean active and more alert young minds and will pay off year after year with a lifelong commitment to active living. Fortunately, there are always- fun ways- to encourage your child to continue being active. For a child who doesn’t like team sports, there are endless possibilities for activities that they can participate in, such as:

Personal Training

Swimming

Running

Tennis

Martial Arts

Dance

Yoga

For the younger children, get them hooked now on physical activity that is stimulating, physical and FUN. The certified trainers of Energetic Juniors  will be sharing with you some active and creative fitness games. Use these games or just let your child’s imaginations and yours create new ones. Use these games as a springboard for endless possibilities. Just keep it safe, physical and FUN.

Get Up! Fitness Game of the Month

Have your child play this simple game.  It requires no equipment, little space and is most of all fun.

What it’s working:  Gross motor skills, balance, core strength

Goal of the game:  Your child will see how many different ways they can get up from the ground into a standing position.

Instructions:

  1.  Designate a small space in your home.  To infuse some excitement turn on some upbeat music.
  2.  Have your child start by lying on the ground.  Tell them they have one-minute to see how many different ways they can get up and into a standing position.  After they have stood up have them quickly lie back down again.  Repeat as many times as possible until the time runs out. Count for your child.
  3.  Once your child has begun to master the game, add challenges.  For example, stand up with your eyes closed, use no hands, stand on one foot, add a jump every time you stand up, or have them hold a ball. Have FUN!

For more fitness games or to learn more about Energetic Juniors, visit their website at: www.energeticjuniors.com.

 

Michelle Paget is a Child and Family Therapist and Yoga Instructor who works with elementary and middle school-age children and their families in the New York City area. For more information about Michelle, visit her website at: www.michellepagettherapy.com and follow her on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/michellepagettherapy.

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A mom and pediatrician’s 10 secrets for healthy kids (and one happy mama!)
July 20, 2015 · Posted in Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

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By Tiffany Knipe

One of the first things I learned in medical school is that medicine is, indeed, an art—not a science.

So is parenting.

This is something I learned long after becoming a pediatrician—but shortly after becoming a parent. Having grown up in a home with a mother who is truly an artist (the paint-to-canvas kind)—and my own natural proclivity for all things science—the marriage of science and art was an easy one for me to embrace.

Both parenting and doctoring require life-long learning. I’ve been a doctor for 11 years and a parent for only five, and every day I learn something new about both.

Here are 10 of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far along the way:

1) Be present. Smart phones, iPads, laptops have permeated our worlds. They can enhance our lives—making it easier to reach friends and family across the globe, making it possible to work from the comfort of our own home and to call teenage children when they are out…. But these devices can also diminish our quality of life and undermine our intent to connect. We must disconnect in order to connect with our children. This can be quite challenging, but I aim to find time each day to turn my phone off, put it in another room or just vow not to check it for some period of time. Then I try to forget about it and be present with my children. Try this—I dare you.

2) Be patient. Your child will sleep. And eat. And walk. And stop sucking his thumb. And use the potty. Child growth and development is a process. And it is not a competition. Try not to compare your child’s development with your friend’s children—or even with your own other children. Each child is unique in his or her own way and will follow his/her own unique trajectory for physical and psychological growth. Relish it.

3) Sometimes patience is the best medicine. Whether it is an ear infection, a stomach bug, potty training or learning to walk – sometimes you just have to wait. We can find ways to make our child feel more comfortable, but there is not always a medicine to “fix” what is broken or speed up what seems slow. I know how hard it is to see my own children uncomfortable—whether it is a fever and runny nose from a winter cold or vomiting from a stomach virus. Occasionally, during these times, (when I am thinking more like a mother and less like a doctor), I, too, will seek reassurance. I call my pediatrician-friends and ask them to help me remember that all is progressing normally and to remind me there is, indeed, nothing more to “do” other than to provide comfort and love. (Don’t undervalue these remedies!) The human body is an incredible machine and children are resilient. Sometimes the prescription from your doctor is to just wait. So in a world where we expect immediacy from most everything—make room for patience.

4) Good habits start early. From good sleep and healthy eating, to manners and values: Lay the foundations as soon as possible and build on them. A patient of mine once asked me “at what age should you teach manners?” The answer is from day #1! Children model adult behavior. Treat your spouse with kindness and respect – and your children will naturally learn to treat their friends (and you) the same way. Don’t swear at home – unless you want your 3 year old swearing too. Say your own please’s and thank you’s—and your children will learn that vocabulary from you the same way they learn Mama, Dada, car, house, cookie and other words. Even non-verbal children can learn please and thank you—with hand gestures or sign language. Remember you are the most influential model for your children.

5) Enjoy the moments. Especially the small ones. Even the embarrassing ones. Those moments are beautiful and unique. Of course we oogle and applaud over a child’s first step, or first word. But often it’s the smaller moments that can really tug at our heartstrings—if we just take the time to soak it in. Some of those moments for me are listening to my boys sing in the car. Watching them stop to pick up a leaf on the street then delight in it’s beauty. Their amazement as a firefly flickers on and off in in their hands. The feeling of their arms squeezing me a hug goodnight. Watching them willingly share a favorite toy without being prodded to do so. Hearing their laughter. Reading them books. Listening to their questions. These small moments are what add the beauty and color to life. Don’t take these moments for granted.

6) Be flexible. Compromise. Some parenting rules DO need to be black and white (ex: don’t touch the stove, don’t open the door for strangers, put infants on their back to sleep) but many things don’t. Figure out what matters to your family. Define the lines. Then let the greys in. Whether that means an extra half hour of TV, staying up past bedtime or, as we have been known to allow—having a Nutella and marshmallow sandwich for breakfast. Choose your battles.

7) Be creative. And I don’t just mean being clever about using recycle-ables for art projects. I mean using spontaneous creativity to overcome parenting hurdles. Thinking outside the box in parenting is essential. There are times when planning is good—but also times when “winging-it “ can be better!

Like my husband inventing “The Splinter King” (naturally a friend of the Tooth Fairy) to come and leave coins under our son’s pillow after the successful removal of a splinter. Using “noodle paint” (ie: pesto or tomato sauce) to color pasta for my picky-eating-very-artistic-child. Floating cheerios in the toilet bowl as target practice to make potty-training fun. The list goes on and on. Embrace your own family quirks, allow your unique family culture to emerge, but remember to never stop creating!

8) Ask for help. If you don’t have family nearby to help you, ask friends, neighbors, colleagues, babysitters or your doctor. Raising a child is not easy, no one does this alone and we all need some help and support.

9) Make mistakes. It’s the only way to learn anything—even parenting. Just don’t repeat them and don’t drown in the guilt of whatever error or oversight you may have made. Learn something from your mistake, then move on and do it better the next time. (Remember, children are resilient—physically and psychologically.)

10) Have fun. (And drink coffee.) Being a mother is the hardest fun I’ve ever had. Enough said.

 

Dr. Tiffany Knipe is the founder of Washington Market Pediatrics, a new neighborhood practice that offers parenting groups led by former Soho Parenting therapist Colleen Campo, LMHC. 

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The Benefits of Hiring a Male Nanny
May 21, 2015 · Posted in Caregivers, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off

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John Brandon is known internationally for founding his first company, NYC Mannies. He has been interviewed on CNN International, Good Morning America, ITV (UK), as well as other major media outlets around the world. Having worked for years as a manny, John brings a unique perspective and passion to the childcare industry. He is a published writer on the subject of caregiving and mentorship. Having grown up without a father, John understands the need for kids to have positive role models in their lives. Visit www.MyManny.com for more information.

 

As the owner of MyManny, an agency for hiring male caregivers, I am often asked why people should hire mannies. I can only answer from personal experience. When I was 14 my father died. I needed older male role models to play sports with me, encourage me, help me with schoolwork, and mentor me as I faced the challenges of growing up.

In 2013, I started working as a manny in New York. I had years of experience working with children as a camp counselor, high school teacher, and babysitter. I wanted to be a “super-nanny” –to teach, educate, mentor, and tutor. My goal was to make a difference in the lives of the kids I was working with. This led me to found MyManny, to provide this kind of service to many New York City families.

Mannies aren’t just great for kids without dads. Most of the parents I work with are married couples that work full-time and need extra childcare support. Mannies are educated and well rounded. They a workforce of young, college-educated men who also tend to be active and athletic. They can tutor in various subjects without charging tutoring rates as well as teach athletics without having to hire a private coach.

Growing up in New York can be challenging. There is so much external stimulation that kids in New York have to navigate. My goal, for myself, and the mannies who work at MyManny, is to form deep one-on-one relationships, help children focus, give them physical outlets and help guide them as they grow. As men, we offer a different and important sense of protection and help to keep children safe.

Being a manny is more than just a job. It’s a chance to make a positive impact on a growing child, and to be a support for the entire family.

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Two Years, 2 Bites-Three Years, 3 Bites
May 18, 2015 · Posted in Feeding, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

Toddler and preschool eating can be a source of stress for parents. Babyhood, when parents can often scoop endless spoonfuls into eagerly awaiting mouths, is over. Variety narrows, amounts lessen. This change can be startling and unsettling. Feeding becomes a less gratifying experience for the parent. This nutrition and weight conscious generation can often spend lots of time fretting and battling with their children at mealtimes. Two years, 2 bites-three years, 3 bites is a short but powerful mantra to calm even the most worried parent. Kids need to eat less in the second and third years of life for the healthy growth of their bodies. Nothing is wrong with a toddler who eats less than when he was an infant. So no need to force, chase, or zoom food into their mouths. Two bites is just fine.

The range of food also usually narrows after infancy for a period of time during childhood. Evolutionarily speaking, a little toddling person, who is now away from the watchful eye of their parent, is safer when they eat things they recognize. No poison plants for me! I’ll just stick with what I know. So when your baby goes from the consummate gourmet to a rotation of ten foods, this is normal development – not a reason to worry. Over time, most kids get curious and adventurous again. Three bites of the same old, same old is just fine. Since variety and amount lessen after age one, the best thing you can do is provide healthy food at the times you want them to have meals and leave the amounts to them. Soothe the worried part of yourself by repeating “Two years, 2 bites, Three years, 3 bites!” That’s all they really need.

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How to Help Your Child Understand Mixed Feelings
April 9, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

Our children’s emotional inner lives are complicated. Even by the beginning of the second year you can see ambivalence emerging. “Pick me up, put me down”, all at the same time. As they grow and develop, blends of feelings, and even opposite feelings can — and do exist at the same time. This can be confusing. Imagine your preschooler wanting to go to a friend’s party and also being scared. Or your school-age child wanting to give up on learning something hard and feeling angry about not getting it easily. How about your teenager wanting to have sex with her boyfriend and worrying about how it will impact the relationship. These conflicts are the stuff of life.

As a parent you can help them by pointing out, “A part of you wants to go, and a part of you is scared.” “A part of you feels like giving up and a part of you is frustrated because this is so hard to learn.” Instead of seeing only one overriding sentiment and overreacting to it, it helps parents to recognize that our child is not, “a scaredy cat”, or a “quitter”, those are just parts of them.

As you teach your child about mixed feelings, they start to find center and are more able to find what they most want to do. “I can hear you have mixed feelings about having sex and I have faith that as you make room for all those feeelings, you will make the best decision for yourself.”  Giving a voice to these different aspects of your children calms them down as they feel known and understood.

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Book Writing with Kids
March 26, 2015 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off

Parents say “Use your words!” to help children turn their raw emotion into understandable language. Here is another way to transform feelings, help children process events and support your child’s love of language, art and books. Make books yourselves, together. Nothing high tech – sheets of computer paper, a stapler and markers are all you need. Turn your life events- moving, saying goodbye, a new baby, fighting with friends, learning to control anger, into a narrative.

Here’s an example. You are moving and a bit worried about how your child will handle it. You want to be able to prepare and discuss, but kids need indirect ways of talking about big things. So, tell your four year old you two are going to write a book about moving. Show her how to make a book by stapling papers together and off you go!

“What should the cover be like? We need a name for our book and a picture. What should be call it?”

“James is moving.”

“Awesome title! I’ll write that and then you draw a picture now for the cover of our book…Is that our building?”

“That’s our house and I want to stay here!?”

“I know, let’s start the book with that. I will write the words and you can draw and write your words. So, page one. James lives at 332 West 24th Street. He has lived there since the day he came home from the hospital. He doesn’t want to move and leave his house! He says, “I want to stay here.”

It is the rare kid who won’t be hooked by the plot line here! You continue your book about moving with your story and blend in the language your child uses in the prose. You translate a life event into a story, and thereby give a way to process feelings for your children.

Let’s cut to the last page.

“So James and his mommy, daddy and Maggie the dog move will move to their new house at 112 West 89 th Street. They will always remember and miss their first house. The End.”

Your child now can look at this book of his own creation, his own words, his designs. He is in charge of his own story, which we all know, helps.

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Toilet Teaching
September 30, 2014 · Posted in Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments Off

pottytrainingtipsI just did a toilet training workshop for 30 parents of 2-3 year olds. We had a lot of laughs since no matter how old you are potty humor is still pretty funny. But when we got down to business, it was clear that the idea of “pushing kids” as being psychologically damaging is still alive and well in the 21st century.

I just did a toilet training workshop for 30 parents of 2-3 year olds. We had a lot of laughs, since no matter how old you are potty humor is still pretty funny. But when we got down to business, it was clear that the idea of “pushing kids” as being psychologically damaging is still alive and well in the 21st century.
Parents are nervous to take the lead, be the teacher, and guide their children to understand how their body works and how to use the potty. In the effort not to “push,” parents don’t take action but rather the talk, talk, talk, cajole, and talk talk, talk, talk some more. “Sally is in underpants, do you want to wear underpants too? “ “Do you want use the potty?” “Big boys use the potty!” They hope against hope that these toddlers will just come to their senses and agree. Anyone who has toilet trained a kid knows – you can’t just talk them into it. You need to put in the time. Naked time, reading stories on the potty time, hang around the house time. Explaining time, cleaning up accidents time. laughing about butts and poop and penises time. Your approach to potty training should be one of guidance and comfort, but expectations as well. As one mom kept saying, “Oh, so you just keep teaching!?” Correct, teaching it is!

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