Monday, May 31, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks, Part 5!

We are into single digits in the countdown to summer, and since April 26th, here at Whole Hearted Parenting, we’ve been talking about ways to create a summer that rocks. Our final suggestion in the series is to notice every opportunity for learning. Summer is a rich time for discovery and learning, as Amy Webb pointed out in her guest blog last week. Amy discussed “brain drain,” and she had many terrific suggestions for keeping the learning alive over the summer. Here are a few more.

One of my favorite memories from childhood was being “the navigator” on our family road trips. I loved having a job, and looking at maps and checking mile markers was fun! When children have a job, they feel capable, valuable and powerful – as I did giving my dad directions on where to turn and answering his questions about landmarks, cross streets and distances. It was team work. As a bonus, I learned how to find my way around new locations, so when I traveled later, I felt very confident. Summer trips, even if they are simply across town, are rich in opportunities to learn.

Look at atlases and maps with your children. Teach them how to determine the number of miles from one location to another. Teach them the meaning of the symbols, such as highways, capitol cities, National Parks, trails, airports, mountains and rest areas. If you are on an urban adventure, take public transportation. Using your bus, metro or subway map, teach your children how to navigate. Which stop is the closest to your final destination? Do you need to transfer? What do the different numbers, letters or colors of the routes mean? Children will learn that maps and atlases are much more informative and fun than simply using Google for directions.

If you will be traveling, learn about your destination and the areas you will be traveling through before you depart. Each family member can pick a location, research it and make a presentation to the family. An afternoon of family presentations can be entertaining! Each of you can be tour guides preparing everyone to look for special things – including wildlife – along the way. You will not miss the largest frying pan in the world, alligators lying by the side of canals or all of those “See Rock City” signs because you will be on the lookout!

Keep the learning alive this summer!

Summer Suggestion #5: Notice every opportunity for learning

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks, Part 4!

A little over two weeks remain in the school year here in south Florida. Students are preparing for exams and completing projects (or not!) and thinking about the last days of school. At Whole Hearted Parenting, we are thinking about more ways for you to create a summer that rocks! In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how your focus – the things you concentrate on or wish to accomplish – may be different during the summer. Today’s post is all about focusing on your child’s strengths.

In a few weeks when your child’s final report card comes home, consider what grades are going to get the greatest amount of attention. Will it be the A’s and B’s or that single C or D? It is typically the lowest grade that receives the most attention. Often the places where a child is struggling or is the most challenged are the places on which we focus. As Dr. Becky Bailey, author and creator of Conscious Discipline©, says, “We get what we focus on” and you’ve probably heard a variation on this concept, which is “what we focus on expands.” Shifting your focus from your child’s challenges to his strengths has many advantages.

One of the advantages of focusing on your child’s strengths is that it is encouraging. Isn’t is easy to slide into being critical and discouraging when talking with a child about that “D” on the report card, the dishes that were not put in the dishwasher or the uniforms that were not put in the dirty clothes hamper? By focusing on what your child does well and what he DOES do, you become more encouraging and he becomes more encouraged. As he becomes more encouraged, you will notice more things that he does well and more that he DOES do. What we focus on expands.

A second advantage is that as your child feels more capable about his successes, he will be more willing to take healthy risks that stretch his abilities. Self-esteem is feeling loveable and capable. As he feels more capable, his self-esteem will rise. He will feel more confident experiencing something new – something he may not be great at…yet!

Use the summer to focus on your child’s strengths. For instance, my daughter loves caring for younger children, and she is approaching the age when she can baby sit. This summer she will take a course to become a certified babysitter. Her love for children is her strength. Math is not. The success she will experience in learning the skills to be a babysitter will assist her in moving through the challenges of math. Encouragement is fuel for handling the difficult spots.

Summer Suggestion #4: Focus on your child’s strength’s.

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Encouraging Life Long Learning, Even During the Summertime

Please welcome Amy Webb, who is not only a wife, mother and Ph D in Human Development and Family Sciences, but also the author of a highly informative blog, The Thoughtful Parent. Amy has the gift of translating scientific research into understandable and usable information for parents.

by Amy Webb

With the school year winding down and summer just around the corner, many kids may think it’s time to turn off their brain. Parents, you know that there is a certain amount of “brain drain” that tends to happen during the summer when kids are not in school everyday. To help prevent this, summer is a great time to focus on learning skills and knowledge “outside the box” of the usual worksheets and homework. We all know that lifelong learning is important for everyone, even adults. Much research has shown the importance of continuing to challenge your brain and learn new skills as a way to build new neural connections and keep your brain healthy and vibrant.

Here are a few ideas for fun and educational activities to do with your kids this summer:

- Nature can be one of the best classrooms. Camping, hiking, and bird watching are all educational and fun for kids of many ages. There are beautiful state and national parks all across the country and admission is usually very reasonable. Geocaching is another great activity for older kids. It combines technology with treasure hunting.

- Most local libraries have wonderful summer reading programs for kids. Many programs include guest speakers, crafts, or competitions for reading the most books.

- Let’s be realistic; most kids will watch some TV during the summer. If you let your kids watch TV try to find an educational activity that coincides with it. For example, watch Finding Nemo and then go visit an aquarium or watch Night at the Museum and then go visit your local history museum.

- Visit a farm or farmer’s market and discuss where vegetables and meats are raised. Since most kids live in urban areas, many are not exposed to farms or gardens on a regular basis. It’s a great learning experience to understand that food does not originally come from the grocery store.

- If kids say they’re bored, challenge them to invent a new game or use an old game in a new way. Encourage them to create new rules for an old board game or card game.

- Encourage kids to learn a new skill during summer. I fondly remember learning to cook in grandma’s kitchen during the summer. Help them learn a musical instrument, learn to garden, or learn to build something. Many home improvement stores or nurseries offer kids’ programs that teach these skills.

- Help your kids learn about entrepreneurship. Of course, the classic lemonade stand is always a summer favorite but there are other ways as well. Older kids can help you or a neighbor organize and run a garage sale. Many times charity organizations need help with garage sales or auctions.

Take advantage of all the time available to kids during the summer and create a summer that rocks!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks, Part 3!

Four weeks and counting! Last week we talked about the advantages of planning organized activities in advance. Today our topic is the need for downtime during the summer. The two – planning and down time – are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is great to plan down time.

It is inspiring to have activities over the summer. It is exhausting to be over-scheduled. Do you remember reading over the summer for as long as you wanted and then talking with your friends on the phone about the book? Did you get together with friends with an open day before you, decide what you were going to do and then play baseball, go swimming, write a play and perform it, or bake cookies and sell them? Having that flow of free time is wonderful. It is a terrific time for creativity.

In his book The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, Dr. Edward M. Hallowell identifies five things needed in childhood to become a happy adult. One of those five things is play. He means the kind of play with flow – the kind of play where it is about the journey not the destination. This is the kind of play that happens during down time.

As you plan your summer, provide gaps for down time. Large gaps! If your children claim boredom, leave them with the responsibility for how they handle their time. When you hear, “Mom, I’m bored” reply, “What are you going to do so you are not bored?” Here is where the creativity begins.

Summer Suggestion #3: Consciously create balance over your summer so that your children experience the advantages of down time.

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks, Part 2!

We are now five weeks out in the count down to summer, and this is a great time to plan organized activities in advance. Planning in advance helps things to run more smoothly and with less stress. Smooth and stress-free sounds good!

Planning in advance can also give everyone in your family something to look forward to. Knowing that she is going to experience a summer sleep-away camp, a hiking trip, a theatre or arts program, or trip to see family allows your child to feel the excitement long before the actual event! Planning in advance also gives you time to get special items you may need, i.e., name tags for the inside of your camper’s clothes, and to fully enjoy the preparation rather than being caught up in last minute details.

If your child will be flying for the first time this summer, planning in advance gives you time to let him know what to expect. Describe what he will experience in the airport and on board the plane. Let her know about seatbelts, what the inside of the plane looks like, what take off and landings feel like, how to handle the bathroom, and what she can take onboard with her. You will even have time for a pre-trip visit to the airport!

The same is true for children who will be going to camp, whether a day camp or sleep-away, for the first time. Their experience will be much more comfortable if they know what to expect in advance, and being prepared will take away nothing from the adventure.

Many organized activities or programs may also fill up quickly. Summer camp programs are cranking into high gear. Reserve your space now to eliminate disappointments.

Summer Suggestion #2: Have a family meeting to brainstorm and plan what you will be doing this summer. Build the excitement and adventure!

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!