Jessica's Picks

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 4:52pm

One of my 1.5 year old son’s favorite activities is playing with his Melissa & Doug Nesting and Stacking blocks.  Anything that he can pile up, and then knock over is guaranteed to catch his interest!  Although the knocking down part is by far the highlight; he is getting better at helping to stack them up and even put them away.

These blocks, or any toy that can be stacked, are great developmental tools for toddlers.  Physically, stacking blocks helps to develop hand-eye coordination and fine-motor skills.  Cognitively, stacking objects enriches a child’s problem solving skills, creativity, as well as self-control.

Self-control is one of the most important skills for toddlers to learn in terms of safety.  They are adding crawling, walking, and climbing to their movement repertoire and their desire to explore the world is becoming evident.  Although, they are becoming increasingly more independent, they still need support and guidance from their caregivers. 

Try using building blocks as a way to teach your toddler the concept of stop and go.  While building the tower, say the word “stop” repeatedly.  Once the tower is complete, say “go!”  This is their time to go bulldozing through the tower, sending the blocks flying!  A simple activity such as this will help your child understand these words which can then be used in other situations such as crossing the street, where safety becomes an issue.  This activity not only teaches self-control but also improves listening skills, muscle control and spatial awareness all while entertaining your little one!

When choosing building blocks to use with your toddler, choose brightly colored, light weight blocks.  The Melissa and Doug Nesting and Stacking Blocks are great because they nest one inside another which is another task for the little one to work on and they take up little space when not being used. 

This post was submitted by Janel Park, one of our Certified IntellidanceTM Instructors. Click here to read more about Janel or see her class schedule. 

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Sun, 11/04/2012 - 8:15am

With November upon us, everyone is thinking about Remembrance Day and those who have given their lives so we may have our freedom. Often, I’ve found it difficult to explain Remembrance Day to the young students I’ve taught. For them, they haven’t seen the daily effects that wars have on families, homes, and countries. They are so far removed from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War that it’s difficult for them to make a connection. I have found that teaching our children about peace has been a very effective tool as they can apply it to their everyday lives. Peace in the classroom, on the playground, and in their homes.

A few years ago, I can across a beautiful book called, “What Does Peace Feel Like?” by Vladimir Radunsky. It explores peace through the five senses of young children from around the world who attend the Ambrit International School in Rome, Italy. Peace smells like “fresh air that makes you want to go outside and sleep in the sun” to Oliver, age 10. To Giulia, age 9, peace looks like “your mom that kisses you and hugs you.” Irene, age 8, believes peace sounds like “a growling bear of war who gets shot by a love arrow and the fighting stops.” More than 100 boy and girl ice cream lovers think peace tastes like “vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, strawberry ice cream, banana ice cream.” And, “the fur of a baby mouse” is how Fenna, age 9, describes how peace feels.

Every year, each one of my students would create their own version of the book with their own ideas and illustrations. Each student found a huge sense of accomplishment from this activity as it was simple enough for them to describe peace using their five senses, and the impact was powerful and lasting within each child. This was easily my favourite project to teach each year.

I encourage you to read this book with your children and explore peace through their five senses during this month of remembrance. Recreate the book with your young ones. If they are old enough to express themselves, but too little to write, scribe their ideas for them. Then, allow them to illustrate the book. When finished, suggest they share their book with their other family members as another way to give them a sense of accomplishment. Hopefully, the impact will be felt throughout your entire family as you learn about the meaning of peace through the eyes of your children.

Peace and love to everyone!


This post was submitted by Mel Gibb, one of our Certified IntellidanceTM Instructors. Click here to read more about Mel or see her class schedule. 

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Thu, 09/20/2012 - 5:23pm

Pinterest, Facebook, magazines, TV shows, blogs, all of these mediums can provide parents with so many options on how to make the Holidays “perfect” it can be overwhelming. Many of us are just doing our best to get our kids to their activities on time, hope they are eating some fruit or veggies at some point during the week, and hope the underwear we just grabbed came out of the clean hamper and not the dirty hamper. The extra “pressure” to make DIY table settings, cook a flawless meal, and find coordinating outfits for the family can make most of us want to throw in the towel.

With this is mind I recommend the book “The Perfect Thanksgiving”. This sweet story by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Joann Andinolfi compares two very different families’ Thanksgivings. One family is “perfect”. They have gourmet food, cousins who play quietly together, and perfect table manners. The other family is, well, more like my family.

"Our smoke alarm is wailing.

Our turkey, burnt as toast.

Dad spills the gravy down his shirt-

a less-than-perfect host".

I caught myself giggling along with my girls as we read the misadventures of the “not so perfect family”. My girls were laughing at the illustrations that perfectly capture the silliness that often comes along with big family events. My laughter? It had a lot more to with relating to the reality of what the holidays often feel like for parents like myself, who are somewhat domestically challenged.

What do these two very different families have in common? Love is the glue that holds them together! This message of being thankful for the love of our family no matter how perfect or imperfect really hit home to me. At the end of the day my girls may not have memories of Martha Stewart worthy holiday dinners but my hope is that they will always know they are fiercely loved!

Have any Thanksgiving storybook recommendations? Please share them with our readers by commenting below. 

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Fri, 05/25/2012 - 2:09pm

Playing board games with young can be challenging. Many children have difficulty waiting for their turn, may have trouble playing games independently if the rules are too complex, and naturally want to win. Losing can lead pouting, crying, or anger. This is amplified when playing with a sibling or peer who may not be a "gracious" winner. I have often found Bria and Malia in a full on catfight due to a "disagreement" over a board game. 

But board games have so many benefits for children! Alvin Rosenfeld explains in his article, The Benefits of Board Games,:

"Games don't need to be overtly academic to be educational. Just by virtue of playing them, board games can teach important social skills, such as communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interaction with others. Board games can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen your child's attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game."

Keeping these benefits in mind, finding a great board game that children and adults can enjoy together is worthwhile endeavor. Luckily for us, Bria received the cooperative board game Mermaid Island for her birthday. How is a cooperative game different from most of the other children's board games on the market? 

While playing Mermaid Island, all players are working together towards the common goal of helping all the mermaids swim to Mermaid Island before the Sea Witch. While every player gets their own turn each round, in order to win, players must make strategic decisions that benefit the overall game play. This keeps the focus on playing together rather than competing and having fun! This creates a non-stressful play environment free of fighting and tears. 

I have sat down and played Mermaid Island with Bria and Malia many times over the last few weeks. One of the great thing about this game is your game play will be different every time (which is a blessing for parents, like myself, who quickly tire of the monotony of games like Hungry Hippos).  Because we are not competing against each other, the girls and I have many conversations for each players turn about what the best move might be.

It has been wonderful to see Bria pointing out potential pros and cons to each move, not just for a single turn but predicting potential outcomes a few moves away. Even Malia has surprised me with her ability to weigh the consequences of each move, although at age 3 she is still much more conservative with her approach, whereas Bria is willing to take bigger risks in her game play. 

That's another thing I appreciate about this cooperative game. Because we all win or lose together, the emphasis on the outcome of the game is a lot less important than enjoying the game play, therefore, you feel more willing to take risks. The girls have become much more creative in their approach to problem solving as they play and it warms my heart to see them working together as a team. I have also noticed the language and tone of voice they use with each other is much more positive while playing this game than other games that have a definite winner and loser. As I continue to try and instill them with the value of kindness, this game fits well into my overall parenting goals

If you are looking for a board game for your children I'd definitely recommend picking up Mermaid Island! If your child is not into mermaids, take a look at the other cooperative games put out by Peaceable Kingdom.

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Wed, 04/04/2012 - 8:41pm

Last month I blogged about kindness, or the lack thereof in our general society. Working with young children daily has led me to believe that kids are naturally kind and open hearted. At least in the beginning. But much of our world is not kind and unfortunately, more often then not, the nice guy does finish last. 

I don't believe it has to be like this. 

I believe if we actively teach our children about kindness we can help nurture their natural inclination towards benevolence. But the idea of kindness and its importance to others and ourselves can be a very complicated concept to explain to young children. Which is why I am in love with the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud.

The book explains that we all carry with us an invisible bucket of happiness. When we are kind to others we "fill their bucket", increasing their happiness. The book also explains that the side effect of filling someone else's bucket is having your own bucket filled! The kinder you are to others the more your own bucket will "overfloweth". 

The book goes onto explain when we are mean, hurtful, or bully others we dip from their bucket. The insinuation is that many times we do this in an attempt to fill our own bucket. But here's the thing: when we dip from someone else's bucket we also dip from our own. No one is left happier. 

How much better would the world be if we spent our energy trying to fill others buckets? How much happier would we all be?

My girls LOVED this book! The first weekend we bought it they requested I read it to them over and over again. But it wasn't just a feel good story, I saw a difference right away! The girls would do something kind to one another and happily exclaim they were "filling buckets"! And when they sibling nasties would start to kick in I would hear one or the other assertively state "Hey! Stop dipping my bucket!" and the behavior in question would immediately stop! 

If you're a parent, I recommend checking out this book. I'm not going to claim it has solved all the fighting and sibling rivalry in our house (it's normal and natural for kids to fight, right? right??), but it definitely has helped my girls understand how their actions impact other and themselves. And that's a pretty powerful parenting tool if you ask me.

All from a simple little book about a bucket :)

Have YOU filled a bucket today??

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