Monday, August 27, 2012

Baby's Communication

I had a lovely visit with my 10 month old grandson this past weekend. Watching him initiate communication with his parents and other adults and children gave me the focus for today's column.
The first time I saw him initiate communication was during a long ride in the car after  picking up the family from the airport. He was playful, engaged, and happy for the first thirty minutes. After that he started to look more serious, maybe a little concerned as he sat in his car seat. He turned to his mother and opened and closed his fists a few times. “Oh, you would like some milk.” She acknowledged his communication and empathized with his desire to eat. “We will eat soon, we are almost there.” At ten months he was able to understand her awareness for his needs and to wait a little longer before eating.
The second time I realized he was communicating was during some floortime play with me. Whatever we were doing was good fun but suddenly he stopped playing and turned toward his daddy, reaching his arms out. “Oh, you would like to walk around.” His daddy helped him up and he happily cruised around the room with his dad.
Both examples required that the parents tune into the non-verbal communication that their child was giving. Long before the first words are spoken, a baby’s movement, gestures, pointing, facial cues, and even baby sign language can help parents understand what their little one is asking of them. When babies know their communication is understood, they do not have to resort to other ways of having their needs met.

Rhythmic Chant

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake,
Baker’s man!
Bake me a cake
As fast as you can!

Pat it, and prick it,
And mark it with a B.
Put it in the oven
For Baby and me!

This nursery rhyme is one of the familiar baby rhymes that can easily be extended and appropriate for preschoolers.  It has a strong beat and rhythm so try some simple clapping variations. Use the first letter of each child’s name (even if it doesn’t rhyme!) to include each child personally in the chant.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Whole Village

     I hope I do not bore you today with some philosophizing about raising children. I have no concrete suggestions in today’s column, just some musings about how the future of today’s children is in our hands. These musings come from a poem I just read and was very moved by called Through This School by Joseph Robert Mills.
     First and most importantly, the future of today’s children is in the hands of the parents, beginning with genetics and reaching into how parents impart their values to their children by their own behavior.
     When things go wrong, most of the blame goes to these parents. However, one must step back and take into account how they were raised and who their parents are. One also must take into account the society in which the children are being raised. When parents have all they can do to put food on the table and not lose their homes, the outcome for the children is not good.
     So we look to the society the children live in, the local communities, local schools, churches and organizations, but also the policies of the states and nation we live in and beyond that, the world with the challenges faced by global warming and fighting between nations.
The poem I mentioned at the beginning of the column considers the speech given to parents by school principals, “Through this school comes our future, senators, mayors, doctors, and lawyers….He doesn’t mention through the school also comes future plumbers, nurses, and custodians, and there’s not a word about the future thieves, deadbeats, and arsonists, or that some of the ones who go through do so with difficulty, blocking the way like kidney stones until they’re painfully passed.”
I believe it does take a whole village (with every villager taking responsibility) to raise a child.

Brown Bear
Brown Bear
What do you see?
I see Robert looking at me.

Robert, Robert
What do you see?

Adapted from the book by Eric Carle.  This game takes a group in which most children are social enough to either point or say a child’s name.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Object Permance

  In the developmental period beginning around four or five months children are learning something very important. They are learning that when something leaves their sight, it will not necessarily be gone forever.  The concept is called object permanence. This can be a difficult lesson to learn, especially since some things that leave are gone forever and some things come back. The child struggles to figure this out, often through tears of anguish when the object which has disappeared from sight is the parent. It can take our little one a year or more to really get it. Then, when a new situation occurs, such as the beginning of going to preschool or day care, we might see our little one dissolve into tears. The unspoken question is, “Will mommy really come back this time?”

Parents and caregivers begin to see baby playing the “drop it off the highchair” game. Babies expect the adult to retrieve the fallen object and once they have the object—yes!--they drop it again! It takes lots of practice when you are learning object permanence.

There are a few great games to play with babies who are working on this concept. One of the games is peek-a-boo. We all love engaging the baby in this game, covering our face with our hands (while looking through the cracks in our fingers so that we can enjoy baby’s reaction) and then quickly opening our hands while saying the magic words, “Peek-a-boo!” You double the fun when both parents join in. One person hides their face and the other asks in a puzzled voice, “Where’s daddy?” As baby begins to enjoy the game, she will scoot over to daddy, touching his hands and maybe trying to pull his fingers away from his eyes.  “Peek-a-boo! You found him! You are so smart!” Everyone erupts in giggles and gentle tickles.

Another great game is hiding a favorite toy under a blanket. “Where’s Teddy?” In the early stages you may need to let part of Teddy stick out from under the blanket and help baby to locate Teddy. Soon baby will love to find all his favorite toys under blankets. Don’t make it too hard. The object of this game is to give baby lots of practice being successful. Help him find the toy if you’ve hidden it too well and give him full credit for your joint success.

The last great game is a combination of the two: Bug in the Rug. It has been one of my favorites for many years, not only with little ones but with preschoolers also. With the older toddler or preschooler it can be extended to give memory practice by hiding two and then three objects under the blanket. You can take turns being the bug to give the toddler who is in the ‘me-me-me’ stage practice in becoming more social.

I hope you have fun with Bug in a Rug this week. You might cut out the picture of the bug or make your own. Glue it to a small card, cover the card with clear tape or contact paper for durability, add a magnet and put it on the refrigerator within your child’s reach, and VOILA! You have your very own ‘Bug in a Rug’ refrigerator rhyme.

Bug in a rug
Bug in a rug
Who’s that hiding?
Bug in a rug

This little game is a version of peek-a-boo. Peek-a-boo is an early social game for infants and very, very useful for young children.  To play the game, cover yourself or child with a blanket.  Chant the little poem.  Ask ‘who’s hiding?’  Do not cover if  the child may be anxious.  When the child’s language skills allow him or her to remember and name the hidden person, add a favorite toy or another person so the child can practice remembering more than one person.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Little Boy and the Butterfly

Here is a lovely parable that I shared many years ago in Bringing Up Baby. As I watched the children creating their own works of art this past Saturday I thought about this story and wanted to share it again with you. 
The Little Boy and the Butterfly
Once upon a time there was a little boy who loved to go walking with his grandfather. His grandfather knew a great many things and would tell the little boy about all the wonders of nature. One day the grandfather and the little boy saw a caterpillar weaving a chrysalis around itself. The grandfather told the little boy about how the caterpillar would turn into a beautiful butterfly when it emerged from its cocoon. The little boy checked on the chrysalis every day and one day he could hear scratching sounds from within. He was very excited and ran to tell his grandfather. His grandfather smiled and told the little boy that it would take time for the butterfly to emerge and that he should be patient.
The next morning the little boy could hardly wait to run outside and see if the butterfly had emerged. He saw a tiny hole and something moving inside. He again ran to tell his grandfather. “You will still need to be patient and wait for the butterfly to come out on his own”, his grandfather said. The butterfly did not emerge that evening nor the next morning and the little boy began to worry that the butterfly was working too hard and would not be able to push his way out of the cocoon himself.
He decided that he could help the butterfly by cutting the hole just a little larger. He went to get his mother’s scissors and very, very carefully enlarged the opening for the butterfly. Then he watched and waited. The creature inside gave a tremendous push and emerged from the enlarged opening. As the little boy watched, the butterfly tried to open its wings, but it could not and it was soon dead.
The little boy sadly carried the branch with the open cocoon and the dead butterfly back to his grandfather. He told his grandfather how he was worried that the butterfly would not be able to get out of the cocoon. He told his grandfather how he had carefully enlarged the hole to make it easier for the butterfly. The grandfather smiled sadly at the little boy and said, “I’m sorry I did not explain why the butterfly has to work so hard. It must work very hard to become strong. If it is strong it will be able to open its wings and fly. By making it easier for the butterfly to get out of the cocoon, you took away the hard work the butterfly needed to do to become strong.
We hope to see many of you this coming Saturday at Toad House for more Toadally Artsy Kids’ Events! 

Roly-Poly Caterpillar
Into a corner crept
Spun around himself a blanket
Then for a long time slept
Roly-Poly Caterpillar
Waking up by and by
Found himself with beautiful wings
Changed into a butterfly.

Pantomime creeping fingers to child’s underarm. Spinning motion, pantomime sleeping, waking.  Make the sign for butterfly with palms crossed, facing toward self and fingers spread as if butterfly wings.