You CAN be TOO Careful

Safety first and “You can’t be too careful.” are two common phrases in our language, especially, pertaining to kids.

I believe keeping a keen eye on safety is very important but also know that parents can be careful to the point of causing more danger to their kids.

The first area where ultra-cautious parents endanger their kids is by being “chokeaphobics”.

Baby’s first solid foods can drive, some parents, crazy. There are lists of foods that I would never feed children under four.

  • whole hot dogs
  • whole grapes

    Young couple with baby.

    Young couple with baby. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • peanuts (most nuts) but walnut meats are softer than most.
  • sticky, chewy candy like gummy bears
  • hard candies
  • popcorn (sometimes okay)

You see, at about a year old, kids have their first exposure to chewing food for swallowing. Gagging can be an alarming sound but it is a noise from a reflex which alerts the child to chew. The sound also lets us know that his/her airway is not obstructed. Up to the time of the first solids, babies are gulpers. Parents who “cream” everything and avoid approved baby “munchies” just because gagging frightens them, are encouraging their baby to continue gulping. Chewing must be learned and the earlier, the better. An over-protected eater will have more gagging and choking episodes in later years when other kids are chewing things, like popcorn, without incident.

Then there are the “germaphobic” parents.

Germs are not all bad and even those which offer colds and stomach bugs, have value. Unless your child has a compromised immune system, let them mingle.

Babies are clean slates. Their immune systems are too. As much as we dislike a sick baby, the illness makes baby stronger. Children who rarely get to play and exchange germs with each other, will not only be in for a “plague” of illness when they go to school, they may really get sicker when they are older before they are exposed.

To me, the worst over protection is what I’ll call, the “bumpaphobic” parents.

You’ve seen them. The ones who interrupt “rough and tumble” play at every opportunity.

Kids are pretty sturdy creatures. Their bodies are developing many groups of muscles, and sadly, there is not manufactured child-safe equipment suitable for every need. Kids who aren’t challenged by uneven ground (they will fall)or jumping off of steps (they will fall) or climbing up things that cannot hold their weight (they will fall) are deprived of lessons in balance, depth perception and the physics of living with gravity. Too the extreme, “bumpaphobic” parents create clumsy, accident prone kids who won’t keep up with their peers.

These are my biggest over-protective peeves. I’ve witnessed every one in my day care experience of 38 years and thought I’d warn parents OR give a printable text to offer someone who is witnessing over-protection.

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Artists come from Copycats

There is much to be learned from children.

Thankfully, I have grandchildren who will “keep it fresh” when I retire from providing day care. I’ve watched kids for the better part of my life. One thing I have  attempted, is to reevaluate my preconceived notions of how they learn on a frequent basis. Remembering moments of inspiration, from my own childhood, have proven of extra value.

When I draw flowers, there’s my flashback moment to a time I had seen a fellow middle school student draw a lovely daisy. It was not face-front with even petals (the childhood normal) but “danced” on a crooked stem and drooped to one side. That moment changed my view of flower drawings forever. In fact, it was a moment of artistic maturing that improved how I would approach all future drawings.

The old saying, “Don’t be a copycat.” is total bunk in my modern approach. I’ve found this especially true from watching the children’s visual arts evolve. I spent many years with a policy that I should not draw around the kids. I believed that my skills might discourage them or take away the purity of being original. Luckily, I just couldn’t help joining in at “art time” because, gosh, it’s fun. It became clear to me that many of my kids became happier artists from following my lead.

My most recent example happened last week. I was tired of my blank dry erase board so I created a Springtime scene as I bopped around my kitchen cooking supper. The kids noticed it the next day and studied it often. My 7-year-old granddaughter asked if she might add to the board. I said sure and handed her the markers. When she asked me to see what she had done, I had expected my drawing to have been replaced with a messier version according to her skills. Below is  the amended piece.

Katherine added two flowers and one lady bug. I rest my case.

art

Girls will be girls…

cleanup 229faces

I’ve watched small children for almost 40 years (as a Family Day Care Provider) and there are some “stereotypes” that, I must admit, are true.

Little girls and little boys are definitely “wired” differently.

This post is motivated by my anxiousness about the, soon to happen, summer school vacation. My 7-year-old granddaughter, her 6-year-old (girl) cousin and a 3 1/2-year-old girl, will be in my care every weekday throughout the summer.  I am still recovering from the week-long Spring break with this trio.

Throughout my day care years, I was blessed by groups with more boys than girls. Don’t get me wrong, little girls make the better companions when alone. They are much more verbal and enjoy engaging with adults, a bit more. But, put them in a group, and there is competition without limits.

My scientific curiosity, about human behavior, always stems from Nature and, our similarities to animals. Females compete for the reason of propagating the human species. It is simply hard-wired into their nature, in my opinion. This further explains the many girls who find keeping “male friends” much more satisfying and less complicated through their early years. For me, the valuing of female friendships didn’t appear until after I was married with children. The “drama” created by groups of females always detracted from the uncomplicated “rough and tumble” play that I enjoyed most.

Many may feel this post is terribly sexist…to those who think this, I say, “Men and women are different. Instead of ignoring this, I suggest we embrace and value those differences.”

I am speaking from years of experience. Personally, it’s been a life-long study with irrefutable results.

The competitiveness of girls seems to be, grounded in, their superb awareness of non-verbal clues and their delightful social abilities. One example that I remember clearly:

A 4-year-old girl was sitting in a pout over not getting her way. I asked a 4-year-old boy to offer her some apple slices for snack. The girl turned her head away from the offer, since she wasn’t yet over her disappointment. The boy reacted with a shrug and happily kept the extra portion for himself. Then I asked a 3-year-old girl to make the same offer to the “pouter”. (There was “bad blood” between these two girls from other competitive moments but I hoped it might be the first step in getting them to be friendlier with each other.) The 3-year-old, happily offered the girl some apples. Miss Pout rolled her eyes and folded her arms refusing the apples. Without hesitation, the younger girl threw the apple slices in her lap and stormed away.

The boy was not at all insulted…even at 3, the girl who was offering the apples, knew she had been snubbed and, furthermore, took it quite personally.

I find the experiment quite interesting and don’t think a world made, from all of either reaction, would be fun. The boy’s reaction was far easier for me though! The girls battled daily after that and to my distraction.

Of course, these reactions can happen from either sex. Some boys are wound tighter and some girls are not as easily insulted. I am just offering a well-studied norm for your consideration. Actually, being aware of this tendency has allowed me to avoid putting girls “at odds” with each other and has reminded me to offer boys more “How do you think they feel?” moments too.

So my plans for summer are many well thought out activities. There will be well-defined consequences for extreme bickering and rewards for showing good-sportsmanship and sharing. Keeping decisions fewer and options greater may be my only salvation!

Readers are Created not Born

There’s a wonderful public school initiative that asks children to read for 30 minutes a day. I think it’s a good start but the “art” of reading is not in the “time spent” but about comprehension.

I say this with some hands-on experience in my day care situation. One of my charges is a fourth grader who asks me to keep track of his after school reading period. The sad part is his reading is done with one eye on the clock. I ask him about what he’s read. Occasionally, he has an answer but most often, he doesn’t have a clue.

A few days ago, I asked him to read his book out loud to me. He’d chosen a book about the American Revolution which, by the sparkle in his eyes, was a topic of interest. As he read, there was stumbling on unknown words. Many of these words were critical to his understanding. I pronounced the words and gave him the definitions. Light bulbs of understanding and interest were coming to light like I had not ever seen with him before.

In addition to listening, I was reacting with excitement to the content. “Wow! The colonists were really out numbered!” …” Of course the king would be angry. He wanted their money and obedience to continue, don’t you think?”

Well, the 30 minutes turned into almost an hour without one glance at the clock. He clutched the book like a newly discovered treasure when he packed to go home too. My friend went from reading to reader without even realizing it. I told him to look for a book about Valley Forge if he wanted to know more about the trials of war. (I cannot wait to see if he does.)

So, there is a difference between minutes spent reading and the sharing that makes a kid into a reader.

Curious fun fact~ The very first entire book that I read, in one sitting, was in sixth grade and was Washington at Valley Forge.

Washington at Valley Forge

Washington at Valley Forge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bunk and Positive Reinforcement: I need a vacation!

It’s two days before my summer vacation. I’ve been doing child day care since 1975 and my 56-year-old self is tattered and tired. The release of kids from school has added a new dynamic to my daily schedule. Big and little kids are battling for their place in the group. I’d like to say that I have everything under control and all’s well. It’s not.

My first instinct is to devise a chart for my current charges to accumulate “stars” upon. You know, those same charts that parents use for positive reinforcement. They would earn stars for “good” behavior. Accumulating a predetermined amount would allow the little cherubs to turn them in for prizes. BUNK! This whole philosophy seems wrong.

What is the overall complaint about our modern society? No one seems to fear nor anticipate consequences for their bad behavior. Kids are not exempt from this. All this happy, Barney the Dinosaur, atmosphere makes me ill. I couldn’t put my finger on why it bothered me until I considered a chart system that I believe may have better results.

The positive reinforcement Star Chart system is flawed when you consider that the whole premise is based upon the kids being considered already “naughty”. The kids have to work their way UP.  That seems as though our expectations are low for them from the “get go”. I’d rather assume they are good and “nip” the bad behavior when it happens.

My system, which I will implement right after vacation, will expect the kids to know their manners and will reduce their “stars” upon each and every infraction. They will START with 10 stars. Screeching and bickering (for example) will result in an automatic loss of a star. The consequence will therefore happen in that moment. Stars can be earned for kind and mannerly behavior of an exceptional nature too. At the end of the week, those who have a 7 star, or better, average will receive a prize. The kids, who have been schooled with the first star chart, adopt an, “I’ll just make it up later.” attitude or “It’s only Monday. Why worry?”

When you consider the way a mother wolf teaches her pups, my chart is more natural. The wolf mother reprimands her young immediately. This lesson lasts longer. We can learn so very much from animal parents.

My method will be using punishment that is immediate. Yes, punishment. Our society has attached such a bad “taste” to the word or if you’d rather, consequences. I think my method may have good results.

Ever ask yourself how folks without jobs afford tattoos, cell phones and jewelry? I suspect it is because the “check” is in the mail and therefore their “star chart” remains perpetually full.

On one more note, I wonder sometimes when I stopped being an authority figure and became a waitress. Seems the kids play happily until they find me idle then demands for snack time etc. start. I know I’ve created this environment. Heck, their parents love happy, indulged, little people at day’s end. My livelihood is based upon the happy parent. I’m too old to tread lightly and submissively any more. If the kids go home and complain about my rules…so be it.

Vacation time is beckoning, don’t you think? 🙂

What to do? Give yourself a “noogy”.

The worst thing that we can tell ourselves is “I can’t”. My granddaughter was using the phrase so often that I began giving her a signal, in the form of a “noogy”, every time that it left her lips. Not sure about the proper spelling but a noogy is that irritating rub of the knuckles on top of someone’s head. It has become a ritual and I have been the recipient of a few noogies myself.

I am  constantly searching for projects. Being creative is a lifestyle and, once you “buy in”, there’s an appetite to satisfy. This appetite is for something new and exciting.

Well, I suggest when there is a lull in your projects to revisit those that you may have filed under the heading,”I can’t”.

Years ago I spent a short time sketching caricatures of my day care kids. It was a fling that I had not recalled until I browsed through some old photos. My “passion”, at that time, was to dabble in the art of illustrating children’s books.

I am going to give myself a noogy and try it again.

Here is what I had done and dismissed.

Finding My Place

My daughter spotted this Monarch Butterfly last weekend. If you know anything about Monarchs, you know adults observed this time of year are on their last days. They have returned to lay their eggs on milkweed plants and then they die.

I raced over to get a photo and realized the butterfly was not going very far. It climbed onto my sneaker and rested before fluttering off at an anemic pace.

As I was reviewing my photos today, this one reached out and said something that I was not outwardly aware of.

“You’ve found your place.” The photo shouted.

My most comfortable footwear has seen its better days but wears its age like a testimonial to fun. The butterfly sits and we shared in a moment…then off.

I would not trade those sneakers  (which I bought second hand from a thrift store) or the place where I was wearing them for pearls and lace.

Fancy I am not.

It’s okay for others but not for me.

I can be quite the chatterbox if a subject interests me. Spending my days with kids is fun but not full of deep thoughts or dialogs.

Most of all, I enjoy watching .

Kids and Nature are my favorite subjects and it wasn’t until I learned how to watch them, that I could thoroughly enjoy them.

Yes, I am fortunate to have found a place to enjoy…My place in this world.

After the initial posting of my photo and observation, I was thinking of a topic that the butterfly brought to mind.

That moment, and that butterfly, are traveling around the world via my blog.

Might they make a difference or effect someone?

I have not read this book but am familiar with Chaos Theory from many discussions I’ve had on the subject with a friend of mine. I’m putting this book on my wish list.

Ever wonder about the people you meet and experiences you have? Are coincidences real? Is everything related in some subliminal way?

I’ll be exploring these questions and so can you.

What’s the BIG DEAL?

The Big Deal (TV channel)

The Big Deal (TV channel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kids are, by nature, defiant. Check.

Kids will, one day, find out you are not able to supervise them every minute. Check.

Kids, especially preschoolers, function primarily on reverse psychology. Check.

These are universal truths that I am proclaiming, (and believe), in order to continue this train of thought.

It is a wonderful event when a parent embraces their role. I say,”Lucky kids.”

So what’s the BIG deal? Parents who make a BIG deal over little things.

  • Mom at bank counter raising her eyebrows and voice over the offering of a sugary treat to her child.
  • Dad becoming visibly shocked when baby daughter disrobes in front of boys.
  • A parent’s agony over the third word added to their child’s vocabulary. ( The word is “NO!” soon to be replaced by “why?”.)

Making a BIG deal over small, innocent events make them BIG deals. Big deals play badly with defiant, devious persons who specialize in rebellion. The knowledge that these things bother their parents gives little kids magnificent power. The BIG DEAL making improves the odds that kids will remember and use them again.

Case #567

I have a day care parent who wisely supervises her 5-year-old child’s TV viewing. The parent does not want her daughter concerned with the dating and teenage antics on Teen Nick programs. Again, great parenting philosophy that I agree with!

This parent has scoffed and sputtered about the subject in front of the 5-year-old on a regular basis. That 5-year-old is the only kid who changes my TV channel specifically to Teen Nick. Even the older kids, in my charge, ignore that the programming even exists. I rest my case…

In summary, being a diligent parent of young children, does not require the “making a Big Deal” attitude. In fact, you may be undermining your own goals.

BTW- Parents will have plenty of BIG DEAL opportunities when their kids become teenagers.

Back to School Schedules

Ah…the anxiety is building and there’s electricity in the air. Back to School is one week away.

The kids don’t always put a voice to their feelings. I notice the subtle changes especially when they are driving me “nuts”! Bickering and restlessness have doubled here. The same thing happens as Christmas approaches too.

Certainly I enjoy the BIG kids around. They are extra hands and eyes at day care. Yet I am ready for some schedules and so are the kids. Schedules have a calming effect on us all.

Some people are schedule MAD, though. I like some spontaneity in my day or working with kids would make me crazy. Which makes me think of a funny tee-shirt that I saw,: “If you expect the unexpected then doesn’t the unexpected become expected?”

Everyone is different therefore every kid is different. I find some kids utterly lost and unhappy without a schedule. Others roll with every activity and carry on. How I try to be scheduled! Seems my attention span has been diminished to that of a two-year old sometimes. I love the days like the one where we discovered a honeybee swarm in the backyard. We were literally buzzing all day and lunch came around 1:30 instead of noon.

Once the city was doing some road work and putting in new drainage across the street. Backhoes, jack hammers and a huge cement mixer kept our attention all day! By the way, that cement mixer was expertly driven by a woman. WOW! That was something that I am glad that we witnessed.

There are learning experiences everywhere. So schedules are good and necessary, but never underestimate the power of being spontaneous. Heck, we survived a late lunch!