On hand development: “The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.” Jacob Bronowski
MEGASKILL FOUR: RESPONSIBILITY
Check yourself. When you hear yourself saying or thinking about your children, “Why are you always late?” “Where have you been?” “Why can’t you start acting more grown up?”, you are hearing the need to help your child become more responsible.
When you hear yourself saying about your children, “I can count on you,” “You are reliable & dependable,” “When you tell me something, I can believe you,” you are hearing yourself praise your responsible child.
The broad definition I have chosen for responsibility is “doing what’s right”.
Teaching children to be responsible involves finding ways to help children feel competent, to know what’s right & to do what’s right. If children need to wake up on time, you show them how to use an alarm clock & expect them to use it. If a child lies to you, you let your child know that lying is wrong & that it works to destroy the precious trust you share.
Helping Children Do For Themselves: Children need to learn to take care of themselves–even if parents have nothing to do all day but take care of them. When children hang up their clothes or wash their feet, it does not seem like schoolwork. But this practice in self-reliance carries over.
Body Beautiful–ages 4-9
For this activity, you need a marker, a pencil, & paper. Talk with your child about personal cleanliness & why it’s important. Talk about washing face & hands, combing hair, & brushing teeth. Include any other parts of the body that children tend to get dirty. Make a list of what needs to be done to be clean. Post a simple chart like the one below.
Sun. Mon. Tue. Wed. Thu. Fri. Sat.
To provide incentive, especially at first, you may want to think of a small reward. It might be a new brand of toothpaste that your child picks out or a new toothbrush or a special brand of soap.
Check the chart daily at first, then weekly. Pretty soon you won’t need a chart. The idea is to make good grooming your child’s habit.
Picking Clothes: With your youngster, put clothes together in places where they can be found. One way is to label the outside of dresser drawers. Talk about appropriate clothes to wear in different weather. Turn this into a game. Pick a thick sweater & ask, “Do you wear this on hot or cold days?” Do the same for shorts, mittens, & so forth.
Before children go to bed at night, ask them to think about clothes to wear the next day. Let them lay out these clothes in advance. Ask your child to check to see that the clothes are clean & ready. This can save time & stress in the morning.
Washing Clothes: Pick up any detergent box. Reading it together with your child will immediately broaden your child’s vocabulary with words like “formulated” & “cycle”.
Whether you are washing an item by hand or in the machine, with your child, move through the process step by step, preferably with one or just a few items, treating spots first, if necessary. Talk about separating colors, then talk about the temperature of the water, then the soap suds, then the machine instructions, then the rinsing, then the hanging up or the machine drying. Go through all the steps with your child watching & helping. It may take time to graduate to the washing machine.
Fixing Clothes: Sewing activities not only teach responsibility but also build children’s hand-eye coordination, an essential for learning to read & write. You need needle, thread, scissors, buttons, & children’s clothes that need repairing.
With your child, pick an item that needs a button sewn on. Together select the necessary tools. Look for a needle with a large eye. Show your child how to thread it. Take time to illustrate how to do all this safely. Then show step by step how to sew on the button.
Now watch as your child replaces a button on some old clothes. Don’t expect the job to be perfect, & resist doing it over. With some colourful fabric scraps, you can help children move to making gifts & other items around the home. Placemats, book covers, & banners are easy-to-do items.
A Special Place–ages 4-9
Here’s a responsibility builder for the early school years. It calls for setting up a special home-school box to help children keep track of their belongings.
You need a cardboard box big enough to hold supplies & some clothing. Add some magazine pictures, markers, glue, & scissors, & you’re ready to make a Special Place.
Children decorate these boxes with pictures, words, artwork, & their own names in big, bold letters.
Helping Children Do For The Family: Overall, responsibility means that we can “count on” our children & they can count on us. Here are some “count on each other” activities:
Promises! Promises!–ages 4-9
When asked to do a task, children often make promises. They will not fully realise what keeping these promises involves. Their intentions are sincere. They want to please. Here’s a way to get children talking about promises & consequences.
Talk about what happens when people don’t do the things they are responsible for. Examples: Plants that don’t get watered wilt. Animals (& children) that don’t get fed whine. Garbage that isn’t taken out smells.
Discuss the effects on others when tasks are not done. Is it fair? Is it responsible? Is that why carrying out promises is so important?
Taking Care of Things–any age
Children have been known to be careless about property–their own & others. Help children be responsible for caring for what they are supposed to care for.
A pet is a good example, it needs daily care. How much is your child willing & able to do? Write down what you have both decided on, & post this list in a prominent place.
Or you may be considering a home computer. These are fragile machines that need careful operators. Make sure that children know what is expected. Read the operating manual together. Go over the steps one by one. Children need to know not only how to run the machine but how to care for it.
Don’t Worry: You Won’t Be Late–any age
This activity helps teach children the importance of showing people that they can be depended on, rain or shine.
This activity helps kids learn to wake up on time on their own. You’ll need an alarm clock, paper bag & a piece of paper for each family member.
Write “wake up” on one piece of paper & “wake me up” on the others. Put the papers into the bag. Everybody picks one piece. The person who picks the slip marked “wake up” will do the job of waking up the others the next morning.
The “wake-up” person sets the alarm clock for five minutes before the wake-up time. You’ll find out the next day if the “wake-up” person was dependable. What happens if the “wake-up” person is late? Will someone be late to work or school?
Do your children wake themselves up regularly? If not, invest in an inexpensive alarm clock. Talk about how people worry when those they are expecting are late.
What do I do? Helping children think responsibly about choices & values: Children need to know what parents think, but moreover, they need to know how to figure out where they themselves stand. Children need to see a sample. All the lectures in the World will do no good if children see that it’s just “talk”. It’s hard also when parents seem too good to be true. Have we never been tempted to do anything wrong? It can help when we tell about a temptation & how we handled it.
Recently we took the children to ‘Claystation,’ a studio that is open for a presentation for clay art. Catherine showed the children around to get them interested what can be made out of clay. All the children really enjoyed that time and got some hands on experience.
“History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of or children.” Nelson Mandela
MEGASKILL THREE: EFFORT
The value of believing in effort over native ability is that you can help children do something about their level of effort. It’s harder to help them do something about their level of ability. Ability seems set in stone; effort can be influenced; it’s open to change.
In Texas, elementary school children having difficulties with subtraction were divided into four groups–A,B,C,D. Each group worked on its own with a packet of materials. An aide checked the work in groups A,B, & C every eight minutes. As the children came to a new section, the aide gave them the new instructions. To group A the aide said, “You’ve been working hard.” To group B she said, “You need to work hard.” Group C received no comment. Group D had no involvement with the aide other than to hear her read the instructions to everyone.
Group A, that was told, “You’ve been working hard,” actually did work harder than the others. They completed 63 percent more problems & got three times as many right on the test that followed this training. They also said that they felt more confident about the test & their ability to deal with the problems they would face.
We can talk children into making more effort. They do not have to be afraid. We can help them see that more effort can mean better results.
Learning About Effort: Here are some suggestions on how to give kids the opportunity to know effort when they see it & to practice effort on their own.
My Day–any age
Spend time talking with your children about the pleasures of your work & of effort. Try to be as specific as possible. Don’t stint on letting children in on the everyday efforts & goings-on at work & at home that illustrate effort & the sense of satisfaction that comes with it. Not all problems are solved quickly or easily. Let children in on your frustrations. But when you do talk about the day’s problems, try to discuss what you are doing & what your children think can be done to solve these problems. Ask children about their day too. Urge them to follow your lead in talking about the little successes.
The Extra Mile–any age
Help your children know what we really mean when we say “make an effort.” Take time to point out to children those people who are making that effort. Point to others who are making an effort & showing how much you respect this.
Homework & Effort: Asian children go to school 240 days a year, while American children go only 180 days a year. Asians believe that hard work makes a difference, & they let their children know it. The Japanese count on persistence & patience to win the day. They just plain outwork everyone else. They have long-term perspective, & they’re persistent. They work long hours; they live in accommodations Americans would not accept. Our young people need to learn about endurance & to be taught the importance of effort.
Parental Infrastructure: At least three kinds of parental discipline patterns have been identified.
Permissive: Adult makes few demands on child & sees child as own self-regulator. Authoritarian: Adult has set standard of conduct in mind & sets out to shape child to fit it, using force & punishment to curb child. Authoritative: Adult sets standards & asserts control but sees child’s need for reason & understanding.
The trick, & it’s a tough one, is for parents & for teachers to be authoritative without being authoritarian. It’s not easy.
A Study Place–ages 4-9
Children need their own place at home to do schoolwork. Fancy equipment is not needed. Use old furniture. Cut it down to size as needed. You need a table or desk, a chair, a light.
Walk through your house with your child to find that special study corner. It need not be big, but it needs to be personal. Paint cardboard boxes or orange crates for bookcases. Latex paint is easy to clean. Encourage your child to decorate the study corner; a plant & a bright desk blotter do wonders.
A study place can be a desk, or it can be a modest lapboard for a child to use atop a bed.
A Homework System–ages 10-12
There is a better way than nagging children every day about schoolwork. This activity enables children to keep track–on their own–of what has to be done. You need paper & a marker.
Use a sturdy, large piece of paper to make a homework chart that can be posted on the wall. Here’s what one looks like:
Days English Math S.Studies Science
Make checks to represent school assignments. To show completed work, the check gets circled. Attach to the chart a marker or pen so that it is always handy.
Talk About Homework: Talk about assignments with your child after they’re completed. This is more of a conversation than a checkup. Was the assignment difficult? Easy? Would your child like to know more? Consider follow-up trips to a museum or library.
Our Home: A Learning Place–any age
Help your home (even if it’s a small apartment) convey the message that people learn here.
You want children to be reading as often as possible. Let there be books & magazines everywhere, including the bathroom. Let your children see you reading, & talk with them about what you’ve read.
You want children to be writing as often as possible. Put notepads & pencils in a number of places around the house, including next to the telephone, for messages. In the kitchen use them for grocery lists, & keep them next to the bed for putting down that brilliant middle-of-the-night thought.
Use a bulletin board or magnets on the refrigerator to display children’s schoolwork & artwork. Or use an indoor clothesline with clothespins. Youngsters enjoy changing these displays themselves.
Time For Studying: Some children are faster to finish classroom work than others. When you talk with your children about schoolwork, ask if they think they are putting in enough time to do it really well.
Effort is Pleasure: Talk about the pleasure a writer gets, an artist, etc. Children need to know that effort is the path we take to achieve mastery.
“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.”
Every birthday is important. It marks a year of growth, progress and accomplishment. Sunbird is always ready to host a little appreciation feast for the one who has completed another year. We are proud of all of you, our Sunbirds!
MEGASKILL TWO: MOTIVATION
When they have it, it shows: You see your children wanting to do things, eager to learn. They do schoolwork & household jobs without a lot of nagging. They make plans for the next day, for the next week.
Parents can help with activities that generate a child’s excitement in learning. But children have to catch this fire & start fueling up on their own. In this chapter are activities that help children gain a sense of discipline it takes to stay motivated, to work against discouragement, & to face competition & challenge. It helps to learn:
–How to break down jobs into manageable “bites.”
–How to set & keep to time limits.
There was a picture in the paper the other day of a ninety-one-year-old woman who had just climbed Mount Fuji. Now that’s what I call motivation. She was quoted as saying, “You always feel good when you’ve made a goal. You need goals.”
A special ingredient found in motivation is the ability to work against discouragement & to keep on going. Attitude counts for so much. How do people become motivated? We can’t catch “fire” for our kids, but they can catch some of our fire. The fire does not have to be a bonfire. A low, low simmer will do. One way is to share our own excitement. Remember, children are born motivated, not bored.
Just Outside–any age
While your children are young, start to share & discover the joy & mystery of the World: a walk as it’s turning dark, a stroll through light rain. Talk together about what you’re sensing & feeling. Stay up together to see the moon rise & get up early one day to watch the sun rise. Use a magnifying glass to look closely at those small objects that fascinate small children. Listen to the wind & the birds. Smell the rain & the burning wood in the fireplace. Observation & use of the senses are crucial to a scientist & to a poet.
Shopping Center Stroll–ages 4-7
Most of the time we shop at breakneck speed with kids being dragged along. Try a walk with no other purpose than to show your children some of what goes on backstage at the local stores. Go into the florist’s & watch the making of corsages. And go “backstairs” in the supermarket, if permitted. That’s where the supplies are kept & where the meat is cut…where the action that makes the market look good takes place.
Sitting & Watching–ages 4-7
There’s a lot to be seen & learned while watching the workers at a construction site, at an airport or rail station, or at your own corner.
Getting Around–ages 8-12
Learning to get around without a car can be a valuable lesson. Gather bus route maps & schedules to a place around town. Let children use the schedules to figure out what transportation is available, how much time it will take, & how much it will cost.
Beyond Nagging: I’d like to think that nagging works because it is such a handy thing to do. But like millions of parents, I have found that nagging can do just the opposite of what it is intended to do. It can motivate kids not to do things. Cutting down on nagging, in contrast, can be a motivating factor, one that works for both parent & child.
The No-Nag Writing System–any age
For practice, announce that for five minutes no one will talk. Instead you will send notes. Try this out at the breakfast table. Choose at least one nagging problem that is important to you & your child. Promise each other that instead of nagging, for one whole week you will send each other reminder notes.
Set up a message center for these reminders. A bulletin board in the kitchen or family room is a good place. Or post reminders around the house. Leave the notes in the bathroom, on the stairs, or on other places where they will be seen. A note left on the pillow always seems to work!
The First Step–any age
The old Chinese saying is true: “The longest journey starts with a single step.” The first step in doing something can be the hardest.
Ask children to tell you about any first times they remember. It might be the first day at school, the first grade they received on a paper, the first time they tried to ride a bike or swim the pool.
First steps are hard. We tend to say, “Aw, come on, that’s easy,” but it’s not. Our goal in helping to motivate children is to help them gain the optimism & the courage to take more first steps. That is the lesson we have to teach, & one way to teach it is by sharing our experiences.
Time Me–ages 4-6
This activity will help your child better understand the difference between “a few seconds” & “a few minutes.” You need a clock or watch with a second hand.
Ask your child to watch the second hand for five seconds. Together count off the seconds. Put this into action. Time it again & see how many times your child can clap in five seconds. Now have your child watch the clock for one minute. Then time it again & see how far you can both count in one minute. Together read a book for five minutes. Time yourselves. How many pages did you read? Hold your breath for five seconds. Let your child time you. Then trade places. Time yourselves as you both say the alphabet aloud. Together time a traffic light as you stand at a street corner.
Tell Me–ages 4-9
Teachers in the early grades tell us that children have trouble listening. Think of a real job at home that your child can do. It might be setting the table, taking out the garbage, bringing in the newspaper, hanging up clothes. Think of three or four instructions for this job. Ask your child to listen carefully as you say them. Example: “Take out four forks, four knives, & four spoons. Put them on the table in four place settings. Put the fork on the left, the knife & spoon on the right.”
Let your child give you instructions to follow. They can be as easy or as complicated as you & your child want. In this way, you individualise this activity to suit your child.
Excuses Don’t Count–ages 7-12
Make a chore chart for the hours between five p.m. & bedtime. Ask children to choose a time to do each chore. Write those times on the chart. The chart might look like this:
Chore Time Done
Setting the Table 5:30
Doing homework 7:30
Talk about when they did the tasks. Did they do them all? If not, did they have real reasons or excuses?
Families need their own reward system. It’s important that the rules be clear, the system fair & consistently followed. Whether it’s a present, a grade, a raise, or a word of praise & a kiss, a reward is very sweet, indeed.
Rewards: This scene captures for me the power of rewards. It was a hot summer Saturday in a restaurant in a small town. A little girl had just opened the door. Her parents were busy behind the counter. And this child, age eight, was busy, too. Carrying her parents’ laundry, she came through the door with a smile on her face that said to all of us, “I’m not bored. I’m happy. I am doing something important.” That was her inner reward. Her parents’ praise was the external one.
Competition: There are some basic principles of competition that every child should learn, or at least listen to. To compete, you have to be able to lose. You have to be willing to fail but not feel like a failure. You have to get up off the floor & try again.
“Free the child’s potential…. And you will transform him into the world.”
During the two hot months, Sunbird children and their friends came together for many hours of fun, playing with sand and water, having exciting craft activities that nurtured their extra curricular skills in science, geography and magical light tricks. Relive the moments with them here.
Sunbird is back with a new series of MEGASKILLS. We hope you were able to make good use of PRIME PARENTING.
We wanted to give you a little break before we launch the new series, so here is the new topic which will be self explainable. It also includes older children’s support, as we know many readers have now children that are anywhere from 6 to 12 years old.
MEGA SKILLS–By Dorothy Rich
What can parents do?: For years parents were told, “Hands off, you don’t know what you are doing, leave teaching to the schools.” Over twenty years ago, I decided I had to find a way to help parents know what they could do & what they should do to help children learn. The answer: Figure out what your family can do. Come up with a system that works. Don’t make it too hard or too big. Make it simple, easy & everyone can do it. Make it practical. Make it enjoyable.
Remember, it doesn’t take a lot of time to do a lot of good. Get people doing things together. You don’t need to be perfect to be good, & that goes for your children too. Convey to your children that learning matters, & that they matter. Encourage kids & feel encouraged yourselves.
Start now. Don’t worry about what you did or did not do before. The education in this book is serious, but it’s not grim. It’s play & pleasure & the delight in learning & in time spent together.
MegaSkills are the very basic values, attitudes & behaviours that determine a child’s achievement. MegaSkills are our children’s inner engines of learning. Though reinforced in the classroom, they get their power from the home:
- Confidence: Feeling able to do it
- Motivation: Wanting to do it
- Effort: Being willing to work hard
- Responsibility: Doing what’s right
- Initiative: Moving into action
- Perseverance: Completing what you start
- Caring: Showing concern for others
- Teamwork: Working with others
- Common Sense: Using good judgment
- Problem Solving: Putting what you know & what you can do into action.
MEGASKILLS & OUR CHILDREN
A MegaSkill, like confidence, is a long-lasting, achievement-enhancing skill. It’s what makes possible the use of the other skills that we learn. A MegaSkill is a catalyst. It’s like yeast making bread rise.
These aren’t only MegaSkills, but they play a strong role in determining success in school & beyond. They don’t drop from the sky & land on a lucky few. They can be taught at home by parents, even today. They are the values that undergird our work ethic, our character, & our personal behaviour.
I Care About You: Many children today feel they are not getting the time they need. I’ve heard the excuses, & there aren’t any good ones. “I’m just too busy” & “My kid doesn’t want to do anything with me, anyway,” are not acceptable, not now when our children need parents as much as they do.
What does this time together do? It says to a child, “I care about you. I want to spend special time with you. I want to hear what is on your mind & what you are feeling. You are important. You are needed.”
Children need time to relax & to think & to be on their own, & so do parents. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do a lot of good.
Our Children’s World: A Scary Place: The World is increasingly a frightening place. When I went to school, no one offered me drugs. AIDS was unheard of. The music I listened to had sweet lyrics & melodies compared to today’s torrid words & music. There seemed to be a communally shared sense of right & wrong & a greater sense of safety.
Looking around you now, it seems that children are being told & shown more than they want to know or need to know. It’s as if anything goes, & it is making real growing up harder. Parental guidance is more than suggested. It’s essential.
Today many children are full of stress. Time spent with children is the best possible vaccine that families can use.
Hope: A Vital Ingredient: There’s a well-known story of two children put in a room that contains a big pile of manure. One child looks at the pile & falls into despair. The other starts searching the room, saying, “With all this manure, there must be a pony somewhere.”
We can help children feel more hopeful & optimistic. Children need to be able to expect & to predict. They need a sense of schedule & of routine. Children need to be able to believe in themselves & in the people around them. Children need to feel that they matter.
THE MEGASKILLS PROGRAM & HOW IT WORKS
I said to myself, “There has got to be a better way,” when for the tenth time that day my darling child said: “I forgot,” or “I can’t find them anywhere,” or “I want to watch more TV,” or “I need some money.”
We all want our children to remember, to be responsible, to be concerned. As a teacher I thought, “If I can figure out how to teach the parts of speech, I ought to be able to come up with some ways to help teach these important basics.”
Using what I knew from the classroom, I decided that my method would focus on what is to be taught & then break it into teachable bits–like the directions of a recipe.
That was the beginning of the home learning recipe. It is the heart of the program.
It Starts At Home: This program uses everyday things, like doing laundry or paying bills, & going places, like supermarkets or gas stations, for teaching. It is easy. It is fun. It takes little time. Everyone can do it. It costs no money. The idea is to enable children to apply what they learn.
Common Sense is Still in Fashion: In recent years education became the job for the school. Today there is research showing that families are important educators of their children, teaching even when they don’t know they are teaching. No matter how good they are, teachers cannot do the job alone. This book provides a way to think about & use everyday moments for teaching & learning. Children need physical activity & opportunity to ask questions, to explore, & to experiment without competitive pressures.
What’s in a Home Learning Recipe?–A home learning recipe has to:
- Tie to schoolwork but not be schoolwork: Children need ways to succeed at home that are different from school but at the same time help them succeed in school. Parents need ways to help their children learn other than by nagging, “Did you do your homework?”
- Be serious & be fun at the same time.
- Have a teachable focus: You don’t send a very young child upstairs to “clean a room.” You send a young child to do one thing: To make a bed or to vacuum the rug or to open the shades. It’s even helpful to resist sending an older youngster to “clean up that whole mess at once.” Good teaching is a step-by-step operation.
- Be easy to do, take little time, & cost little or no money: Parents can teach & learn with their children joyously, without worry, without hassle. I needed activities that could be done alongside my household routines, using whatever I had at home. Today’s busy parents need these easy-to-do “recipes” more than ever. Use these ideas to take off on your own, using your & your child’s creativity to come up with additional “recipes”.
A good home learning recipe gives everyone a chance to succeed. There is no one right way to do it. A recipe is a road map, not a set of rigid rules. The activity itself is designed to provide a feeling of accomplishment. It gives parents a chance to step back & children a chance to step forward. The idea is to help both parent & child feel good & get to know each other better in the bargain.
Different “Recipes” for Different Ages: What works for preschoolers won’t work for fifth graders. Parents have to be ready to change gears. Around ages four through six, many of the “recipes” have to do with getting ready for school & using primary school subjects like counting, sorting & early reading at home.
Around ages seven through nine, many of the “recipes” focus on helping children get organised, build study skills, & develop solid work habits.
Around ages 10 through 12, “recipes” work toward helping children understand themselves, their friends, & their family. Activities aim at developing greater self-reliance, building career awareness, & establishing healthy habits & self-esteem that can help prevent destructive habits, such as drug abuse.
These are not hard & fast age & grade distinctions. Use all & any of the activities that appeal to you & your child.
For children who do not yet read, I recommend that parents read all directions aloud, that children dictate their ideas for parents to write, & that symbols be used alongside words as needed. In labelling a dresser drawer, draw a sock next to the word “socks.”
We use a series of eight “recipes” over a period of eight weeks, one a week. This is designed to get parents & youngsters tuned in to the idea of using “recipes”. Read through the entire collection of “recipes” first, starring or checking the ones that appeal to you. Then ask your child to help you select the ones you both like. Work at your own schedule–but guard against overkill. Once a week is really fine. You can build a whole year of activities as you go along.
Staying with the Program: Use them on a regular basis. If you’ve used one part of an activity, go back to it to find the extra idea you haven’t tried. Think of ways you can build on what you have done. Improvise, be creative.
MEGASKILL ONE: CONFIDENCE
We know what we’re hearing when children say: “I just can’t do that.” “The other kids are better than I am.” “I’m scared.” “I won’t try it.” We’re hearing a child’s cry for more confidence. “I remember the potholder I made in third grade, made out of loops that were yellow, red, gold & orange. It was a present I made to give to my mother, & oh, was she proud. And did it make me feel good!”
Those are the words of a man in his late fifties. He has a doctorate & many scientific achievements on his resum. But when asked about his sense of confidence, he talks about the potholder.
I still remember the day I carried Rocky, the rooster, home in a crate bigger than I was. It was the last day of first grade. About fifteen of us lined up to draw slips for our chickens. I was a winner. I struggled with that big box over the six blocks to my home. My brother came by a couple of times to try to help me with it, but I refused. This was my chicken, my achievement, & I would bring him home alone.
I have never forgotten Rocky & the day I carried him home alone. It is a memory of struggle & success that gives me confidence & motivation to this very day. When I have to do something hard & when I get scared, I think back to Rocky & that crate, & even though it has nothing to do with the current situation, I breathe deeper & think to myself, “I can do it.”
Confidence Practice: Confidence ebbs & flows like a river. It does not run at high tide all the time. Coming up with confidence-building experiences for children can be a challenge. These experiences need to be small enough for children to deal with, large enough to encourage growth, & easy enough for parents to work with. You can start at home with household objects, such as a telephone.
Here are a few activities, all using the phone:
Telephone Time–ages 4-6
For this early reading activity, you need a telephone, seven small squares of paper, crayon or pencil. Tell or show your child your home telephone number. Say each separate number aloud as you point to it.
On separate pieces of paper, write down each number. Now show your child how to put the pieces in the same order (left to right) as your phone number. Let your child read this telephone number aloud from the assembled pieces of paper. Provide help as needed.
As a game, mix up the pieces of paper & let your child put your telephone number together. At first let your child match the papers to the number listed on the phone. Then try this without looking at the phone. Now ask your child to write down the phone number, left to right, on a larger piece of paper. You might want to post this for all to see & admire.
When you are both out together, let your child dial home. Do this when someone is at home to give your child the satisfaction of making contact.
Calling For Help–ages 7-9
This activity helps your child learn to use the telephone to report emergencies. Ask your child to find in the telephone book the numbers for Fire/Rescue & Police, usually listed at the front of the telephone book.
If you don’t already have one, make a list of important telephone numbers to call in an emergency, similar to the one that follows. With your child, fill this in & put it near the phone.
Friend or Neighbour______
Take turns explaining what to say on the phone when you report emergencies. Examples: Someone at home is hurt; you smell smoke or see fire. When you use the phone in this practice, be sure to keep the contact button pushed down.
From Things to People: In the journey of growing up, children must learn to manage objects & work with people. Confidence comes from both. In the activities that follow, children find out more about their families & themselves, & they get a chance to learn to like each other more. I believe that if children knew more about their parents, especially about their early lives, it would help.
I’m Okay, & So is My Family: Children love knowing more about themselves. Parents like this activity because it not only helps children think seriously about themselves but provides lots of laughs, too. It helps families remember the funny times that sometimes seem funny only in retrospect–the time the big fish got away, along with the fishing rod, or the time friends were invited for a birthday party on the wrong day.
The Importance of Me–ages 4-9
The task is to make a “me” poster. You need markers, poster cardboard or large paper, scissors, paste, old magazines for pictures, & snapshots, if possible.
Together look through magazines. Find pictures of what your child likes–pets, foods, clothes. Cut them out & with paste arrange them on a large sheet of paper. Magazine pictures are fine. If you have extra snapshots, use them.
An activity like this one says to your child, “You are special, & your family knows it.”
Now & Then–ages 10-12
This activity helps to get generations talking together, especially about those early years. Everyone was a child once. Here’s a way to share some of those memories.
In this activity, the child & a parent or grandparent make a Time Line. It’s a way to recapture memories of people at certain times in their lives.
You need a roll of shelf paper or large brown wrapping paper, pencils & crayons, & a ruler.
Decide together with your child when to begin the Time Line. This may be at birth or when school started or some other special time. Decide how much space will be allowed for each year. One inch per year or one foot per year? Draw a line for each one of you.
Talk about the memories. Compare similar experiences. Talk about differences. For example, at no time in my life have I experienced such a momentous decision as my parents did when they decided to immigrate to a new, unknown country.
Another way to harvest memories without using a Time Line is to have children interview grandparents & relatives who lived through different periods of American (or family) history.
Young people may want to start their own family archives by putting all these family memories in a book to share with their own children.
What Do I Do Right?–ages 10-12
Many of us spend a lot of time telling each other what we do wrong. Here’s an activity to help us focus on what we’re doing right. You need paper & pencil.
Together think of & write down at least two things you like about yourselves. Example: “I have a good sense of humour. I like to share with others.” Talk about what others say they like about you.
Figure out together jobs & activities at home that both you & your child will feel proud of accomplishing. Examples: Fixing something around the house, cooking a special dish for the family, teaching the family a new game.
Try to set a time every day, if only for a few minutes, to talk about the events of the day. If you’re available to listen to your children when they are young, chances are they’ll continue to communicate with you as they grow older.
It Takes Courage: “It takes courage to make courage.” We want children to be careful but not fearful. Work towards a gradual building of the abilities it takes to be courageous & careful at the same time.
I have a problem with heights. When my young children went to the top of the big slide in the playground, my immediate reaction was to shout, “Stop! Come down! You’ll hurt yourself!” They were perfectly happy up there high in the sky. I was the one who was petrified. It took some time for me to pull my own courage together, to let them be courageous & free from the seeds of my fear.
Confidence & Expectations: In California a few years ago, a study showed that “ordinary” students could exceed themselves when expectations for them were high.
Researchers went into a school & tested the students for academic potential. Ignoring the score, they told teachers that one group was made up of “late bloomers” whose academic “promise” would be realised that year. At the end of the year the “promise” was realised. This group was comparable with their classmates as far as could be established, but their teachers had expected them to succeed & they had.
Children learn–by trying. When they try, they build confidence. When children see themselves as doers, they develop the ability to do more.
Dear parents and friends
We wanted to take you on a little tour of our recent events. We had a great summer camp with lots of participants, held many birthday parties and enjoyed great outdoor antics.
We hope you like the fun pictures.
Wishing you a Happy Independence Day ahead. Jay Hind
When I was young I observed that nine out of ten things i did were failures, so I did ten times more work. George Bernard Shaw
What you leave in your children, is more important than what you leave to them. Denis Waitley
A father is neither an anchor to hold us back, nor a sail to take us places, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way. Author unknown