Digital Media Tips

By Sherry Maysonave, Author, EggMania: Where’s the Egg In Exactly, www.maniatales.com

kid-laptopDigital devices are kid magnets. Fascinated by smart phones, iPads, tablets, and gaming devices, today’s tech-savvy kids can easily get overloaded by digital media.  One of the pitfalls of too much technology is the loss of imagination time which is key to keeping the genius factor alive and well in kids. Recent MRI studies show that the use of imagination activates multiple areas of the brain with increased blood flow, which is associated with neuronal activity. Interestingly, it was found that narratives were a primary imagination trigger, and this included stories in eBook format as well as traditional books and even oral story-telling.

 

Parents can employ the advantages of imaginative journeys by using “interactive” eBooks to satisfy their kids’ digital cravings.  Narrated and enhanced eBooks typically incorporate the three primary learning modalities—visual, audio, and kinesthetic—simultaneously. Multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experiences are like brain vitamins, by significantly increasing imaginative components and learning potential.

 

How can parents optimize and ensure that their children’s screen time, even with eBooks, is a beneficial experience?

 

Tips for using interactive ebooks to engage your kids:

1. Multi-Sensory Components — Visual, Audio, and Kinesthetic

Visual: To fully engage children visually and to stimulate their imaginations, select illustrated ebooks that are visually-rich, those having artful and colorful graphics beyond typical kiddy art.

Audio: Sound enhanced ebooks that have two modes of reading are best: a) Narration with music and sound effects; b) Read Myself. To optimize audio integration, allow children to enjoy and explore the narrated version with enhanced sound. Then, to practice oral reading skills, set up auditions for “the best narrator.” Use recorders or smart phones to tape children’s versions. Allow kids to create fun sound effects and add music to their narrations. For younger children who are not yet reading advanced vocabulary, parents may record for them. Involve them though in the nuances of your oral expression. Include their voices on the recording by having them read, speak, or repeat after you, some of the words or short sentences.

Kinesthetic: Encourage tapping and touching of the screen to activate kinesthetic and interactive components. Ask them to zoom in and out on art images, tap for duplication or animation of images, and tap words for definitions. iPad users can take screen shots of illustrations, then print them in black and white for kids to color, paint, trace, or copy. Hands-on activities such as these extend the digital world into their real world and offer more opportunities for kinesthetic application.

2. Emotional Elements

A. Discuss stories and illustrations with children; ask questions, “What is their favorite illustration? And why?”… Their favorite words, fun facts, etc. Avoid asking, “What did you learn?” Host a live chat or set-up mock television interview to make this more fun for kids and show you value their opinion. Allow them to express without making any answers wrong. This is an opportunity to learn more about what your children are thinking.

B. Support the hero in your child. Develop their subjective thinking skills by helping them analyze the subtler life lessons typically inherent in children’s narratives. Kids do not always integrate what we think they will. Help them come to positive conclusions by asking them questions about the main character or characters, asking what they liked about them/him/her and didn’t like about them. Ask how they would respond to the dilemma or conflict if they were that character. Set up a stage effect for kids to act out these components or the entire story. Family participation encouraged.

3. Language Development

Give kids a choice of two illustrations from an ebook or have them select two favorites. Then have them write a new story, poem, or song lyrics based upon the illustrations and what the images inspire in their imagination. Older kids can be required to have a lexical humor slant to their story, poem, or song. They may also want to choose a genre such as comedy, drama, true crime, romance, memoir, etc.

4. Family Fun

Extend the subject matter into family time to further develop and enhance kids’ imaginations. Play games, such as charades, using vocabulary-rich phrases and words from ebook narratives. A family/friends version of “Who’s Smarter than a Fifth Grader” can be played using the Fun Facts that some ebooks provide.

Real Reading, Real Kids: The Who, What, and Why

By Susan Straub, Rachel Payne and KJ Dell’Anotonia

reading-on-the-porchReal reading, with real children, is rarely a picture-perfect process. Even a baby who loves to be read to isn’t going to curl up in your lap every time. Toddlers tear books. Twos throw them. Trying out an ebook or app? She’s all over every button or swipe of the screen, including those that shut the whole thing down or email your boss.

You may think books are for reading. Your baby sees that books are almost infinitely useful for playing peek-a-boo, experimenting with Newton’s Law of Gravity, and forming a bridge to allow the giraffe to walk into the plastic barn door.

It seems as if there’s an enormous gulf between what the two of you are trying to achieve: you’re trying to get to the end of Harold and the Purple Crayon, and your baby is trying to taste the book cover. You want to read; she wants to experience. Her experience, though, is really akin to your reading. She’s learning about the book: as an individual book, a part of a larger set of books, as a hard object, a soft object, a paper object, and, finally, something that causes you to make a given set of sounds.

Whether she’s mouthing Harold’s cover or using him for a hat, she’s happy. Isn’t that what you really want—creativity, experimentation, imaginative play, talking and laughing and doing something together? Let go of the goal and savor the experience. You probably already know how it ends, anyway.

The Classics

Twenty-five Picture Books for Every Child’s Library

These are great books—books you’ll find in every library, every preschool, every bookstore. You’ve probably heard of many of them; some you may remember from your own childhood and some you may read to your grandchildren someday.

1.     Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey. This simply illustrated glimpse of the past resonates with any child who’s lost sight of Mom as Sal does during blueberry picking.

2.     Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Bill Martin Jr., Eric Carle (illus.). Many kids can “read” Martin’s predictable and comforting text before they even learn their letters.  Carle’s simple animal collages are iconic.

3.     Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business, Esphyr Slobodkina.  A wonderful, timeless tale of copying and cleverness.

4.     Carrot Seed.  Ruth Krauss, Crocket Johnson (illus.).  For more than half a century, this beanie-sporting boy has had faith that his carrot would grow, despite his family’s doubt.

5.     Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom,  Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, Lois Ehlert (illus.).  In arguably one of the most memorable and playful alphabet books ever, lower case letters and their parents, the capital letters, cavort up and down a coconut tree.

6.     Clifford the Big Red Dog, Norman Bridwell. Yes, it’s a television series; yes, it’s a franchise…but the original books are really good and perfect for babies and toddlers. Big, red dog. Need we say more?

7.     Corduroy, Don Freeman. A lovely story of a little girl’s kindness and empathy for a teddy bear who needs a home, with realistic illustrations.

8.     Curious George, H. A. Rey. The story of the little monkey, so like a toddler in his curiosity and impulsiveness but so much more capable, is one kids love. You’ll probably notice now that George’s removal from the jungle isn’t the most politically correct thing ever written, but your child won’t mind.

9.     Freight Train, Donald Crews.   This multicolored train has been crossing trestles, going by cities, and going through tunnels for over thirty years.  Now there is an app that was created with Crews’ input.

10.  George and Martha, James Marshall. The hippos have an admirable friendship, so real that it’s full of pranks, hurt feelings, and make-ups. Marshall produced tons more brief stories about them, but this is the first. Arguably the story “Split Pea Soup” is a legend all by itself. Fun for the whole family.

11.  Go, Dog. Go!, P. D. Eastman. Simple books meant for beginning readers can make great books for beginning talkers.

12.  Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (illus.). The old-fashioned setting, the simple rhymes, and the cozy illustrations make this a nighttime must read for many toddlers.

13.  Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney, Anita Jeram (illus.). Big Nutbrown Hare can one-up Baby Nutbrown Hare’s declarations of love every time, but this baby doesn’t give up.

14.  Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson. You may remember Harold, but you probably didn’t think of him as a book for babies. In fact, he works very well—simple illustrations and many moons.

15.  Harry the Dirty Dog, Gene Zion, Margaret Bloy Graham (illus.). Harry needs a bath—and after he’s run away from one, he gets so dirty his family doesn’t recognize him. His ultimate return and his family’s recognition make for a very satisfying resolution.

16.  Hop on Pop, Dr. Seuss. A wonderful introduction to rhyme.

17.  The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper. This tale still resonates, and always will. The original illustrations are fun, and if the words (definitely a little on the sweet and cloying side) begin to get to you, you can always edit a bit.

18.  The Little House, Virginia Lee Burton. Most of us remember the poignant illustrations in this story of a little house in the country that becomes surrounded by city before sympathetic owners move it to the country again.

19.  Pat the Bunny, Dorothy Kunhardt. The mother of all interactive baby books.

20.  The Napping House, Audrey and Don Wood.  In this fun, cumulative tale, a nap goes awry due to the antics of a “wakeful” flea.

21.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle. Kids love putting their fingers through the holes and pulling the pages to watch the hungry caterpillar eat his way through an uncomfortable assortment of food.

22.  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen, Helen Oxenbury (illus.).  A family, a journey, a bear, and lots of great sound effects from Rosen and lively watercolors from Oxenbury make this read aloud irresistible.

23.  Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak. Sent to his room for being a wild thing, Max travels to the forest and conquers even wilder things before realizing that home is best.

24.  Where’s Spot? Eric Hill. Plump, yellow Spot and his wonder at discovering the world around him have spoken to children for decades.  Also available as ¿Dónde está Spot? in Spanish, and in many other languages.

25.  Whistle for Willie, Ezra Jack Keats. A whistle will call Willie the dog, but Peter can’t whistle until practice finally pays off.  Refreshingly warm collage illustrations.

Excerpted from: cid:image004.gif@01CE4C07.68260FD0Reading with Babies, Toddlers and Twos: A Guide to Laughing, Learning & Growing Together Through Books (Sourcebooks; ISBN: 978-1-4022-7816-7; Parenting; April 2013; $14.99 U.S.; paperback)

Bonding with Baby: Baby Sign Language Builds Early Connections

By Andrea Ploehn

sign-languageIn today’s society, children spend so much time watching TV, playing video and computer games, and are plugged into their phones and other electronic devices. Parents who want to connect with their kids need to start early to build strong bonds that will last, no matter what technological distractions tomorrow brings!

Fortunately, there’s a great way that parents can engage their children at the earliest ages, and strengthen the parent-child bond. It’s a method I have used with my own children and have seen amazing results in their communication and social skills: baby sign language.

In working with my children as babies, and with many other infants, I have found that their ability to learn and understand often goes far beyond their ability to communicate with words. This is supported by research. Joseph Garcia (sign 2 me), explains that babies are able to learn long before the development of verbal language skills. “As infants learn signs, they can begin the foundation for mutual understanding,” Garcia states. “This manual communication can contribute greatly to the bonding process.”

Signing with babies also helps build their socialization skills. Babies who learn sign language are able to communicate their needs long before they can verbalize them. This reduces their frustration, builds their confidence, and helps create stronger bonds with their parents.

I remember one time when my daughter Annie was little and we were waiting for daddy to come home. We heard someone at the door, but it wasn’t dad. She started crying and signing “dad, dad, dad.” My daughter couldn’t verbally say dad yet, so if she hadn’t used the sign for dad, I wouldn’t have understood why she was crying. Instead of being clueless, I was able to reassure her that her dad was on the way.

Using sign language with babies not only boosts the parent/child connection, it’s also a great way for babies to interact with their older siblings and other family members. The bond that my kids have with each other because of sign language is amazing. I’ve been able to replace the jealously that older siblings often feel when a new baby comes, with confidence and pride in helping teach their new sibling how to do baby sign language.

Among our children, Annie helped teach her brother Brandon to sign when he was a baby. Then Ben came along and Annie and Brandon both worked together to teach him to sign. Now the three of them are teaching my youngest, Emily, all the signs she needs to know. Along the way all my kids have experienced years of benefits because of the positive interaction made possible by learning sign language as babies.

Communication and connection are the keys. In today’s disruptive, technology-driven society, these are critical factors for healthy child development. I’m so glad that doing something as simple as signing with my children has so many amazing benefits.

About the Author: Andrea Ploehn (SAY Plone as in “hone”) is an expert on nonverbal communication and teaching babies sign language. A native and resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, she holds a communications degree with an emphasis in interpersonal communication from Idaho State University. She and her husband, a physical therapist, have four children, ages 16 months through 9-years-old. For more information, visit her public website at http://www.Signing4Baby.com. Contact Andrea at AndreaPloehn@hotmail.com.

Establishing A Routine

Establishing a Routine for Your BabyEstablishing A Routine For Your Baby

Some people cringe at the thought of establishing a routine for a newborn, thinking that it is not a reasonable thing for an infant to follow. This may be true for schedules, where you fit your baby to a clock, but not a routine. Babies, live adults, thrive on a routine and it helps parents in many, many ways. The important thing to remember with your routine is that is has to remain FLEXIBLE.  Setting up a rigid schedule that your baby must follow to the minute is not acceptable or fair to your baby (and will make your life more miserable).

The easiest routine we have found to follow is Tracy Hogg’s EASY routine. EASY is an acronym for a predictable sequence of events the pretty much mirrors adult lives. Eat, have some Activity, go to Sleep, then have time for You. This is a routine (not a schedule) that keeps the day structured and predictable, helps parents learn their babies ways of communicating, and prevents the forming of some bad habits (like feeding your baby to sleep). We suggest starting on this routine from the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. The routine is only a daytime routine. During the night, there should be no activity period (not even a diaper change unless you know the diaper has poop in it or the diaper is leaking). At night, if your baby wakes from hunger, feed him them put him right back to sleep.

Newborn to four month old babies should be on a three hour routine (eating every three hours) and at four months babies are ready to move to a four hour routine (this is assuming a baby was not premature, is of average healthy weight and has no health problems). Establishing a routine is easier the younger the baby, so start right away and your baby will naturally and easily move from the three to four hour routine-probably even on her own.

A Routine That Works for Parents AND Baby

Tracy Hogg’s years of experience implementing the EASY routine with families, resulted in babies’ lives that were predictable and calm, which led them to be “good eaters, they learned to play independently for increasingly longer periods and they could get themelves to sleep without sucking on a bottle or breast or being rocked by their parents. As many of these babies grew into toddlers and preschoolers, they were also confident in themselves and trusted that their parents would be there if they needed them. The parents themselves learned early on to tune in to their child’s cues by carefully observing their body language and listening to their cries. Because they could “read” their child, they felt better equipped to deal with any bumps in the road.”

“With EASY, you don’t follow the baby, you take charge. You observe him carefully, tune in to his cues, but you take the lead, gently encouraging him to follow what you know will make him thrive: eating, appropriate levels of activity, and a good sleep afterward. You are your baby’s guide. You set the pace. EASY gives parents, especially first-timers, the confidence to know that they understand their baby, because they more quickly learn to distinguish their baby’s cries.”

Write It Down to Help Stick To The Routine

The most important thing you can do to keep on your routine, especially in the beginning or during periods of change, is to write everything down. Write down what time your baby eats, how long of on activity period you had, what time she went to sleep and when she woke up. This helps you remember what times things occurred (because your lack-of-sleep brain isn’t as good at remembering on its own) and helps you recognize patterns (good and bad). Writing it all down gives you the perspective of an entire day (or week).

Some of the things you might want to write down or log would be:

Eat-Time, How much (if bottle)/how long (if breast), Right or Left breast

Activity-What, How long

Sleep-How long

You-What you did for yourself (taking naps when your baby is napping is the best way to spend your “You” time in the beginning)

The Most Important Thing To Remember

It is so important to remember that this is a flexible, structured routine, NOT a schedule. Your baby will likely vary a little from day to day on when she is hungry or tired (usually only by 15-30 minutes) and that is ok. If your baby is hungry, feed her, even if it is before the “time” on your routine. When your baby starts showing signs of getting tired, put her to bed. Instead of focusing on the clock, focus on your baby. Look for signs of hunger, sleepiness and overstimulation. “The better you get at interpreting your baby’s cries and body language, the better you’ll be at guiding him and at clearing whatever obstacles get in the way.”

A Typical EASY Day for a 4 Week Old (as outlined in Tracy’s book)

E-7:00 am Feed

A-7:45 Diaper change, some playing and talking; watch cues for sleepiness

S-8:15 Swaddle and lay your baby in the crib. It may take him 15-20 minutes to fall asleep for his 1st morning nap.

Y-8:30 You nap when he naps

E-10:00 Feed

A-10:45 See 7:45 above

S-11:15 2nd morning nap

Y-11:30 Nap/relax

E-1:00 Feed

A-1:45 See 7:45 above

S-2:15 Afternoon nap

Y-11:30 Nap/relax

E-4:00 Feed

A-4:45 See 7:45 above

S-5:15 Catnap for 40-50 minutes to give him enough rest to handle his bath.

Y-5:30 Do something nice for yourself.

E-6:00 1st Cluster feed

A-7:00 Bath, into jammies, lullaby or other bedtime ritual

S-7:30 Another catnap

Y-7:30 You eat dinner

E-8:00 2nd cluster feed

A-None

S-Put him straight back to bed

Y-Enjoy your short evening

E-10-11 Dream feed and cross your fingers ’til morning!

“NOTE: Whether a baby is breast or bottle fed, I advise the above routine–allowing for variations in times–until 4 months old. The “A” time will be shorter for younger babies, and get progressively longer for older ones. I also recommend turning the two “cluster feeds” into one (at around 5:30 or ) by 8 weeks. Continue to dream feed until 7 months–unless he’s a great sleeper and makes it through on his own.”

From Our Experience

As activity time gets longer and more involved, it is necessary to have an adequate wind-down ritual to prepare your baby for sleep. It is not easy for her to go right from playing to sleeping. She has to have time to settle down and get in sleep mode. Be sure to do the same things every time before bed (swaddle, read books, sing a lullaby, sit in the chair, etc). If your baby is extra fussy when you try to put her to sleep, you might need to spend a few more minutes in your wind-down. And, enjoy this time! The time to cuddle and snuggle your baby is irreplaceable!

To read all about Tracy Hogg’s Sleep Methods and to hear many case studies, check out her incredible books: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems.

Recommended Reading

To read more about the EASY Routine, we recommend Tracy Hogg’s books, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems