With school out soon, and summer just around the corner, I wanted to talk a bit about about fitness in young children, and how to encourage it. But rather, I think the discussion will trend more toward why it’s really important to develop. We are bombarded with all sorts of things about health in young children. Don’t let your children eat this, and don’t let them eat that. It feels like all the don’ts and not the why’s. As you may know, childhood obesity is very high in the United States. To me, that is a good reason to try and keep kids fit and healthy.
The next time you go to the grocery store, remember to really take a look at what you are buying. Read the labels. You would be absolutely amazed at what you find. On many of the things we buy for children, high fructose corn syrup and other types of sugars are the first ingredients listed. If you can’t eliminate these things, then pick items that have healthier ingredients listed first. The first ingredients are usually the ones that make up the highest percentage of the food, and so on down the list. Try to look at foods that will give children a variety throughout the day. As a general rule, in larger grocery stores, shop mostly on the outside isles, because the isles on the inside of the store have prepared foods, like boxed cereals, cookies, crackers, chips, corn chips, bread, fruit juice, canned fruit and puddings, all high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, salt, and other artificial additives. Most larger stores have nutritionists or health nurses who will help you with your shopping, give you suggestions, and show you where the healthier items are located in the store.
Another important thing parents should monitor is exercise. Kids should be outside playing. On an earlier blog I talked about parents checking in their smart phones and other devices, so they could spend quality time with their children. Children need to check in their devices as well, so they can spend quality time developing their bodies and their health. They need to run and play outdoors when possible. You might work outside the home, and when you come home you are tired. They are tired, too. But maybe you and they can take a walk around the block, run around the backyard a couple of times, play catch, shoot hoops, or anything that will get the kids moving. Perhaps you could challenge your children to every night run around the back yard one more lap than the night before. Or shoot five more hoops than they shot the night before. Or catch the football five more times than yesterday. Or jump rope five more times than the night before. Post a chart for them to keep track of their progress. Help them set goals. It could be very motivating.
For older kids, encourage them to participate in organized sports through school. For your part, help them get to and from practice, make sure they have the proper safety equipment, if not provided through the school. If you have trouble with funds for extra equipment, discretely talk to the coach, the school counselor, or the principal. Remind your children to pack snacks and water, and support them with your attendance at games or meets. Who knows where this could lead—a college scholarship in track, basketball, or football; a place on the Jr. Olympic team; a career in basketball; or a career in football. Most importantly, it will help them control their weight, blood pressure, and overall health.
Who's Listening Now?
In my profession as a teacher of the deaf or hard of hearing, we teach how to develop listening skills in children who are just beginning to listen with a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Unfortunately, too often teachers present parents with structured activities to do with their children that hold no meaning for the very young child and are frustrating for parents. For example, sometimes the 1-year-old child is supposed to indicate that he has heard the sound presented, such as “ee,” by dropping a block or other object in a container. Many babies do not understand this activity since they have not heard well or at all up to this point. Providing practice throughout the day with these sounds is much more meaningful to the child and parent. Parents or teachers who present these sounds with meaning, intentionality, and purpose are much more appropriate and successful. Once the baby or child has had a lot of meaningful practice listening to sounds in his/her environment, then the baby is ready for more structured practice as mentioned above.
Mr. (Fred) Rogers once said, “Listening is where love begins.” How does a person show love by listening? A parent or teacher consistently listens to a child, follows the child’s lead, and routinely works suggested listening sounds into the child’s play and other activities. For example, when the parent is providing practice with the listening sound "ee", the parent brings out a box of cars for the child. While the child is playing with the cars, the parent stops a car in front of the child’s foot or another car, and says, “Beep, beep!” Another day, the parent gives the child a couple of sponges (cut full-sized ones in half), a bucket of soapy water, and goes outside with the child to wash the child’s dirty picnic table. The parent models for him, “Squeeze. You are squeezing the sponge. Look! The water is coming out. Now you can wash the table.” There you have loving, fun and meaningful practice listening to the “ee” sound.
The road to intentionality is paved with listening. One must be “in the moment” with a child and focused on what he is doing in order to be intentional when communicating. The parent or teacher must listen to what the child is trying to say, and pay close attention to what he/she does, sees, or hears. Then the parent/teacher has to pair the child’s actions with a model of the language the child needs to hear.
Talking with purpose is another way to show love and caring. Talking with purpose is sometimes called “being present” or “in the moment.” It takes purposeful concentration on the child and what he/she is doing, seeing, hearing, or saying in order to respond with appropriate language models. This listening does not end in infancy. Listening and language skills become more advanced and specific as the child grows older.
Some of the most important listening is during infancy or as soon as the child is implanted or amplified. Why is this? It has been mentioned in earlier blog posts that the most important listening and language experience is from birth to three. This is the time that the plasticity of the nervous system is most receptive to new information.
Listening is not only extremely helpful for learning, it also shows respect. When a child or an adult has something to say, if at all possible, we should pay attention and listen. If it is not possible, and Mom is on the phone, for example, it is perfectly reasonable to tell your child that he will have to wait, “Mommy is talking on the phone. You need to wait." Moms, Dads, and Grandparents have the right to listen as well, whether in conversation or on the phone. If the conversation or phone call can wait, try to cut it short and call back after the children are occupied in play or are in bed.
"Listening is where love begins*,” has a lot of meaning for families with a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, learning to listen with a cochlear implant or hearing aid. "Listening is where love begins" is not a bad way to live all of our lives!
*Mr. Fred Rogers
In this blog post, I am going to share with you some of the wisdom I gleaned from Dr. Dana Suskind's book, Thirty Million Words, Building a Child's Brain, Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns, published by Dutton Publishing in 2015. This is a must-read for all of us concerned with the future of our children and grandchildren.
I have been trying to master the use of a variety of electronic devices and programs over the last few months and as I've learned about them, I've found out about the amazing benefits they provide. I've also learned that it takes an enormous amount of time to learn and become an active participant. I began to wonder about how this is affecting our relationships with our families, friends, and children. I watch people as I travel and as I make my way around where I live, and it seems to me that people are talking face-to-face a lot less than they used to. It is also not unusual for me to see people texting while walking down the street, or even to see drivers texting while driving, at highway speeds of 70 mph and more! What I think we all should think about is this: When is the last time that you sat down to dinner, a cup of coffee, or just a conversation, that you did not check your phone for messages during that time? Once? Twice? Never?
I heard on the radio a few months ago about the owner of a small neighborhood restaurant, who was interviewed because of his view on this topic. Historically, his family-owned restaurant has been known as a great place for intimate conversation with companions, while at the same time savoring wonderful food! He said people don't even talk to one another anymore, let alone take the time to enjoy their food because they are so sidetracked by incoming messages. As a result, he began a voluntary system whereby guests check in their devices at the front desk, so they can have uninterrupted time to enjoy conversation with their spouse, date, children or friends and to enjoy their meals as they used to. I think it is a great idea, to at least once a day, check-in our phones and other devices. Then we can have a conversation and be total in the moment or "present" with the person we are with. Imagine how great it would feel for your children to have your undivided attention on what they have to say or do?
We know that warm and meaningful interactions between a parent and child are crucial to emotional development, language learning, and academic development. This was studied and proven to be true by the Hart and Risley research team out of Kansas back in the 1970s and 1980s. Hart and Risley found the variable that made the most significant difference in vocabulary and language development was the amount of time that the adults in the environment were talking to the children. This was corroborated by the research team at the Lena Foundation Institute in Colorado, and others. Hart and Risley would go so far as to say that when looking for a childcare or other program for young children or infants, once the safety and health requirements are met, it is important to look at the amount and type of talking that is going on between adults and children.
Bring this finding back to our current society, where face-to-face spoken language seems to be lost in the shuffle with everything else that is going on. I'm worried that it decreases the warm, interactive relationships between adults and children, and thereby leaves this generation of children with decreased levels of language and vocabulary, and the ability to communicate with something other than truncated words and emoji's. It seems there are a lot of things said and posted that most of them would normally never say about another person, but it's much easier to type something on a smart phone and hit "send," than to face a person when some of these things are said and actually see the hurt on their faces.
So what about this idea of checking in devices during mealtime and other times of the day? I challenge all of you to monitor the amount of time you are talking, texting, or browsing on Facebook, and other popular sites. Also, carefully monitor the amount of time children are doing the same thing. How much time is this taking away from interactions with children, friends and spouse or just getting outside for a jog, or going to the playground with the kids,, or just breathing fresh air? I think heightening our awareness of the amount of time we spend is probably enough to get us started down the right road to change--or at least to think about it and become more aware.
©2-22-2018 Karen K Rossi, EdD., LSLS Cert. AVEd.
"Hey, Mommy. Look over here! I need you! The grass is very itchy and I don't like it!"
I am on a plane as I write this blog. I was in the security line at 5:15 this morning and I desperately needed caffeine to wake up. By the time I was through security, there was no time to buy a soda before boarding, because there were at least ten people ahead of me in the line. I convinced myself that I could wait for the free beverage cart as soon as the plane was in the air. However, when the flight attendants came by with beverages, apparently I was invisible to them when they stopped by our row. I waved my hand in the air several times but they would not look my way. What really bothered me was that the passengers in the row across the isle saw me waving my hand. They could have told the attendant, as she gave them their beverages, that a passenger in the row across from them needed something. I was frustrated but rather than press the call button, I gave up. I know this is a trivial example, but I describe it because of the frustration I felt being ignored. I could only imagine how I would feel if I were a child. That's what prompted me to write this blog.
I am sure we have all watched small children in similar situations. First I hear "Mama," about fifteen times, increasing in volume with each one--with no reaction. What is a child to do? Well he can slip into oblivion as I did on the airplane, or he can do something else to get attention. Usually it is to throw a full blown fit, or haul off and hit his mother. And it is only when the fussing escalates to the point that it interrupts whatever the parent is doing, that the child gets attention. However, the attention he gets now is not what he wanted! Now he is in trouble!
All of the screaming, and eventually the screaming back in response, is unnecessary if we have the presence to respond. It could be as simple as, "I hear you, but you will have to wait a minute. Come and sit by me until I'm finished. There. Now, can I help you?"
As an adult, it feels terrible when you have something important you would like to say, and you are dismissed like an overlooked child tugging and tugging on his mother's pant leg. Let us be more watchful and willing to look for, and recognize attempts to communicate by both children and adults. Turn off all electronic devices and watch your children. How many times do you see them look to you to make sure you are watching? How many times do you see them searching around for help? How many times do you hear them calling your name? How many times do you see a situation that could soon mean trouble?
What do you do in these situations? What is the secret? What do you do when your children look to you to make sure you are watching? Say, "Mommy sees you. You are playing nicely with the farm animals." What do you do when you see them searching for help? Say, "Do you need help? Come over here. I will help you. You could say, 'Tie my shoes, please.'" What do you do when you hear them call your name? Say, "I hear you. I will be there in a minute." What do you do when you see trouble brewing? Say, "It looks like you guys are having a problem. Can you tell me what is going on?"
The secret is simple. Be mindful, and give your attention to the children and people around you. You may be missing many opportunities to respond to your children, family, and friends. Be a thoughtful and responsive communicator!
©Karen K Rossi, 2018. Learn To Talk Around The Clock®