Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today I...

Today I….

took the time to paint my daughter’s toenails, at her request, minutes before the bus arrived.

rocked my son to sleep because he wanted me to.

taught a little girl three to new signs to expand her ever-growing vocabulary.

helped a one special little boy turn his not so good day into a better one.

was amazed by the persistence and positive attitude of a little girl with apraxia of speech.

These are the little things that happen in all of our lives, each and every day, if only we take the time to notice and appreciate them.  We are all so busy but slowing down has more rewards than keeping up the pace.  Take time to count your blessings today!

"A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what 
kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank...but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child." 
-- Forest Witcraft
Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Finding our 'WE TIME'

I’m a beach girl. Always have and always will be. By ‘beach girl’ I don’t mean surfing or swimming in the waves for hours (I actually fear when I can’t see the bottom of the ocean!)  I also don’t mean ‘beach girl’ in the way of all the extras that come with some beaches. Don’t sign me up for go-carts, mini golf, and arcades. I know, my poor children. I love the beach for the simpleness of the beach. I love morning walks collecting shells. I love jumping waves. I love family football with the end zone etched in sand. I love to sit in the afternoons as the sun sets immersed in a good book. Some of the memories from childhood that make my heart swell are ones held at the shoreline. It was the one time a year that my family truly got to rest and be together.

As a parent, now juggling the demands of work and family life, I understand why my parents were always so diligent with a beach trip. Sometimes we all need “me time.” For our family a beach trip is “we time” and while it probably can’t be justified as a ‘need,’ it’s pretty close.

Traditions are important for children. They help   improve their sense of self, their sense of “this is who I am and where I come from.” We are counting down the days for an annual trip to the shore to reunite with a few dear college friends who have turned into family friends. What stated as girls that found a sisterhood in our college years has grown into husbands who are also good friends and 9 kids all together that look forward to reuniting with their ‘beach gang’ each year. It’s happened every summer since they were infants and they don’t remember anything different. I love this tradition.

We spend a lot of time just ‘being’ on this trip. We barely move cars. We shower in the outdoor shower half the time and go straight from bathing suits to PJ’s., prepared to crack crabs and talk into the early morning hours. It’s rejuvenating and refreshing for us, and for the kids it’s simple fun.

We try to plan a few activities to keep them busy.  We’ve made treasure box collages the year remnants of a hurricane were around.  We had beach Olympics with the wheel barrel race and other fun games last year. We’ve painted shells at the beach and laughed at my godson as he happily painted his belly orange instead.  A personal favorite was the hiding our “gold” (spray painted rocks) and letting them search and dig for treasures (side note: this one buys parents lots of ‘grown up time’ to talk!).

The activities are great fun and part of the tradition the kids look forward to, but my favorite part of watching my children on this trip is that they still have sheer joy in discovering the natural treasures of the beach. “Look Mom! This shell has purple swirls!”  They could do this for hours. So could I. Observing their exciting discoveries makes me feel like a kid again and reminds me of the content feeling of those memories from the beach.

I am thankful for the gift of having a simple time to recharge myself as a mother, a friend, a wife, and a person. I am thankful to reconnect with friends I love dearly. And I am thankful to have the opportunity to see our wonderful world through the eyes of some pretty cool little people who remind me through their actions that traditions are important for us all, that if you take time to slow down and look around, there are some amazing things waiting to be noticed, and that ‘we time’ matters to us all. What are your summer traditions? How are you recharging yourself before fall is upon us and quickly rolls into the business of the holidays? Build traditions, look at the world through the eyes of your children today, and carve out a little bit of ‘we time.’
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An interesting article on PLAY as we prepare to send our little ones to preschool.

  Want to get your kids into college? Let them play

By Erika Christakis and Nicholas Christakis, Special to CNN
December 29, 2010 7:57 a.m. EST
  • Erika and Nicholas Christakis says they see students at Harvard who have trouble getting along
  • They say kids better equipped to learn, interact, if taught using play-based curricula
  • "Drill and kill" skill-based learning, requires more social isolation, they say
  • Writers: Play-based learning builds empathy, better self-control, and problem solving skill
Editor's note: Erika Christakis, MEd, MPH, is an early childhood teacher and former preschool director. Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, is a professor of medicine and sociology at Harvard University. Together, they serve as Masters of Pforzheimer House, one of the undergraduate residential houses at Harvard College.
(CNN) -- Every day where we work, we see our young students struggling with the transition from home to school. They're all wonderful kids, but some can't share easily or listen in a group.
Some have impulse control problems and have trouble keeping their hands to themselves; others don't always see that actions have consequences; a few suffer terribly from separation anxiety.
We're not talking about preschool children. These are Harvard undergraduate students whom we teach and advise. They all know how to work, but some of them haven't learned how to play.
Parents, educators, psychologists, neuroscientists, and politicians generally fall into one of two camps when it comes to preparing very young children for school: play-based or skills-based.
These two kinds of curricula are often pitted against one another as a zero-sum game: If you want to protect your daughter's childhood, so the argument goes, choose a play-based program; but if you want her to get into Harvard, you'd better make sure you're brushing up on the ABC flashcards every night before bed.
We think it is quite the reverse. Or, in any case, if you want your child to succeed in college, the play-based curriculum is the way to go.
In fact, we wonder why play is not encouraged in educational periods later in the developmental life of young people -- giving kids more practice as they get closer to the ages of our students.
Why do this? One of the best predictors of school success is the ability to control impulses. Children who can control their impulse to be the center of the universe, and -- relatedly -- who can assume the perspective of another person, are better equipped to learn.
Psychologists calls this the "theory of mind": the ability to recognize that our own ideas, beliefs, and desires are distinct from those of the people around us. When a four-year-old destroys someone's carefully constructed block castle or a 20-year-old belligerently monopolizes the class discussion on a routine basis, we might conclude that they are unaware of the feelings of the people around them.
The beauty of a play-based curriculum is that very young children can routinely observe and learn from others' emotions and experiences. Skills-based curricula, on the other hand, are sometimes derisively known as "drill and kill" programs because most teachers understand that young children can't learn meaningfully in the social isolation required for such an approach.
How do these approaches look different in a classroom? Preschoolers in both kinds of programs might learn about hibernating squirrels, for example, but in the skills-based program, the child could be asked to fill out a worksheet, counting (or guessing) the number of nuts in a basket and coloring the squirrel's fur.
In a play-based curriculum, by contrast, a child might hear stories about squirrels and be asked why a squirrel accumulates nuts or has fur. The child might then collaborate with peers in the construction of a squirrel habitat, learning not only about number sense, measurement, and other principles needed for engineering, but also about how to listen to, and express, ideas.
The child filling out the worksheet is engaged in a more one-dimensional task, but the child in the play-based program interacts meaningfully with peers, materials, and ideas.
Programs centered around constructive, teacher-moderated play are very effective. For instance, one randomized, controlled trial had 4- and 5-year-olds engage in make-believe play with adults and found substantial and durable gains in the ability of children to show self-control and to delay gratification. Countless other studies support the association between dramatic play and self-regulation.
Through play, children learn to take turns, delay gratification, negotiate conflicts, solve problems, share goals, acquire flexibility, and live with disappointment. By allowing children to imagine walking in another person's shoes, imaginative play also seeds the development of empathy, a key ingredient for intellectual and social-emotional success.
The real "readiness" skills that make for an academically successful kindergartener or college student have as much to do with emotional intelligence as they do with academic preparation. Kindergartners need to know not just sight words and lower case letters, but how to search for meaning. The same is true of 18-year-olds.
As admissions officers at selective colleges like to say, an entire freshman class could be filled with students with perfect grades and test scores. But academic achievement in college requires readiness skills that transcend mere book learning. It requires the ability to engage actively with people and ideas. In short, it requires a deep connection with the world.
For a five year-old, this connection begins and ends with the creating, questioning, imitating, dreaming, and sharing that characterize play. When we deny young children play, we are denying them the right to understand the world. By the time they get to college, we will have denied them the opportunity to fix the world too.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Erika and Nicholas Christakis.

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Welcome to our blog! As longtime friends, we recently decided to combine our professional experience (as a speech-language pathologist and physical therapist) and "Mommy Experience" to create a company dedicated to something we are both extremely passionate about - letting kids be kids! Milestones and Miracles, LLC was formed in 2010. Our mission is to empower parents in understanding the natural progression of their child's development (and not rush it along and skip stages). We develop and provide developmental products to support this learning process, bonding families through engaging, fun, and meaningful experiences! We are thrilled to share that our first product, 1 2 3 Just Play With Me is available for sale. Visit www.milestonesandmiracles.com to learn more and order a unique product for yourself & your child or as a gift! We will continue use this blog to share about topics that interest and excite us. Stay tuned!


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