Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New Research: Parents Feel Guilty About Using Phones at PlayGrounds - But Should We?

When my Mom was a kid, her Mom dropped her off for the entire weekend at the farm where they kept their horses.  She was only ten years old.  A few interesting facts about this:
1.  The farm was thirty minutes from home
2.  There was no phone at the farm in case of emergencies
3.  There was no adult supervision whatsoever
4.  At least ten other girls were also dropped off for the weekend, so it was basically like a big, dangerous slumber party.

Times have changed, and Moms would get arrested for this nowadays, but something powerful came out of those weekends at the farm...no one knows how to problem-solve like my Mom does.  We call her "The Random Innovator".  She is a perfect example of the fact that when we give kids time to explore and learn through play, they become amazing problem-solvers.  In fact lately, there has been lots of buzz including a recent NY Times article about how kids learn much more through playing than they do through rigorous academics.  

Now, fast-forward to our society, where parents are trapped in a prison of their own guilt.  A new study from The University of Washington found that the majority of parents feel they shouldn't even look at their phones while their kids are playing at the park.  According to the survey, 44% of parents say they know they shouldn't use their phones, but they can't help themselves and then they feel guilty about it later.  Another 28% say they know they shouldn't use their phones and they follow through and keep their phones away.  The article implies that these are the "good parents", since they managed to have their eyes locked on their children at all times.  But has anyone stopped to wonder what are we teaching kids when we feel we must watch them at all times?  We are teaching them that they are the center of the universe and no one else matters.  We are teaching them it's not okay for Moms and Dads to have lives outside their children.  We are teaching them that we don't trust them to play safely without our supervision.  
Of course it's great that we don't leave our children alone at random farms anymore and it's admirable to try not to be glued to your phone when you're supposed to be spending quality time with your kids, but have we gone too far?   The study also reports that many of the parents who used their phones at the park were using it to email photos to Grandma.  And yet they felt guilty about it.  Why is that such a crime?

I say maybe we find a happy medium.  Let's just calmly explain that we are taking a minute to use our phone to email photos to Grandma.  The kids will understand.  Let's not rush over and get our hands ready to catch them when they start climbing the monkey bars.  Let's show them we trust them to learn things by themselves.  Let's take time to read books we like and not feel guilty about it.  Who knows, maybe they will find a way to amuse themselves.  Let's feel free to pay bills for thirty minutes and face the fact that we can't spend every second of every day making Pinterest-worthy crafts with the kids.    

Instead of feeling guilty, let's just smile lovingly when they tell us to watch them for the twentieth time doing the Monkey Bars.  Then we can go back to reading our book at the park so that our kids can also learn to become "Random Innovators" without us hovering over them every second of every day.

Please also check out my book! It is a wonderful resource for Moms, and was co-written with both a teacher and a Mom perspective. Here is a few review that you can find on Amazon:

"This book seriously saved my sanity. I've read a bunch of parenting books but this is literally the only one that actually gave me real and specific advice and ideas for things to do with my daughter. I'm a stay-at-home mom to a 2-year old and I was at my wits end trying to come up with ideas of fun, easy, creative things to do with her that will keep her busy and occupied and help her learn. I wasn't very good at following through on ideas that I heard about from friends or read in other books or online because they seemed too complicated (aka: messy!) but this book broke it down and made it so simple. I highly recommend it!"

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Finger Strength Activities for Preparing for Kindergarten

My little Buddy will be entering Kindergarten next year and with an April birthday, he will be one of the youngest.  I've never been a huge fan of drilling them with flashcards, as I believe they learn much more valuable skills through playing, but with Kindergarten around the corner I have decided I need to make sure he at least knows his letters and can hold a pencil correctly.

When I finally sat down to assess what he knew, I was a bit dismayed to realized that he didn't quite know all his letters and his pencil grip was a little lacking as well.  I decided to start working on his finger strength.  Kids can't hold the pencil correctly unless their fingers are strong enough.

First, we used push pins to improve strength.  Make sure you supervise this activity, as these pins are sharp, but I find at ages 4 and 5 they are perfectly capable of handling this.

First, start out with a pin cushion and be sure to place the pins on the left and the cushion on the right to simulate reading and writing from left to right.  Then instruct your child to make a pattern with the pins.

Just look at that great pinching grasp!  That's exactly what I've been wanting him to do with his pencil!

He had a great time with the pins and once we finished that I got out the tweezers and our colored poms.  Again, I organized this activity to go from left to right and he had to pinch the tweezers and move all the poms from the left tin to the right one.

Again that correct pinching motion was at work!

A few days later, we did a coin drop into a coffee cup.  An empty salt container works great for this too.

I hadn't planned to have him work on writing at that point, but he really wanted to (probably since we were getting ready to go to bed and this was delaying it), so I worked on letters with him for a few minutes and I could already see him grip improving.  Still not perfect, but much better!

For more ideas on working on finger strength and preparing for Kindergarten, please check out my book The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Year One as a Stay Home Mom Was Much Harder Than I Thought It Would Be

Some of you may know that about a year ago, I became a full time stay-at-home Mom.  I quit my six figure salary job selling multi-million dollar pieces of medical equipment to hospital executives.  It has been quite a transition, and I'm sorry I didn't write about it on my blog.  The truth is that it was harder than I thought it was going to be and I couldn't bring myself to document what I perceived as my failure.  I was failing at being a stay at home Mom.  

The first month I went through a honeymoon period.  We went to the pool all the time, and I would sit in the sun and think, "Ahh, I love this!  I love not have to answer emails from customers and rush home for conference calls.  I love watching them enjoy their day and I love not having massive guilt every time I leave them with the nanny."

But then we made a cross-country move, away from all friends and family and things started to change.  I began to crave time away from the kids during the day.  I began to resent doing two loads of laundry every day.  I began to feel the steam come out of my ears as they fought over the stupid stuffed dog from Christmas that no one has played with in eight months.  I missed my big business deals and the sense of accomplishment that went with them.  I even missed getting dressed up for work.

By mid-year I was full-on depressed.  The weather was crummy, the kids were driving me crazy, my husband was working all the time, and I began to fantasize about going back to work.  But then something amazing happened.  

I had to drive 8 hours by myself with the kids to visit family, and I happened to turn on the Dr. Laura show.  She was having a special on stay at home Moms.  Her views on it are pretty severe (she thinks leaving your kids with nannies or daycare is child neglect), but I started to cry when I really let her message set in.  Being home with my kids is the most important thing I will ever do in my life.  While it's hard, it's SO important to their happiness.  I can nurture their self-esteem, I can give them a happy, warm house where they (and their Dad) feel loved.  I alone can do this.  In fact, it's my job to do this and doing laundry isn't a waste of time.  Picking up dog poop in the yard isn't a waste of time.  Teaching my kids to do chores and clean up their rooms isn't a waste of time.  It's all part of their journey, and mine, to create amazing kids and an amazing life. 

After this, things began to shift again.  I embraced cooking so our house could be filled with yummy smells.  I embraced getting down on the floor with the kids, even when it was the last thing I wanted to do.  Especially when it was the last thing I wanted to do.  I made a New Year's Resolution to play more games with my kids.  I learned that when they kids are fighting with each other and I want to scream or run out the door, that taking deep breaths and saying, "Thank you God for my healthy children.  Thanks for letting them fight and kick each other instead of being in the hospital with leukemia like my cousin was at age 5."  That might sound extreme to you, but it really helped me.  Once I remembered how lucky I was to have two healthy kids, they didn't seem to irritate me so much.

I learned that sometimes when you want more alone time, what you really need is less alone time, because you really need to give in to being a Mom.  You need to give in to tickling and chasing and singing songs and laughing when they laugh.  It helps fill that void because I know I'm doing my job.  Every time I laugh at their jokes, I'm contributing to their happiness and self-esteem.  Every time I patiently wait while they do something for the first time and allow them to fail, I'm teaching them to survive in a world without me.  Every time I cook a yummy meal for my husband, I'm doing my job.  Every time I listen to him talk about his day, I'm creating a warm, loving house for him.

Most of all though, I learned that I was meant to have this time with my kids.  I still crave my old job sometimes and I may go back someday, but I know that God led me down this path for a reason.  My kids needed me and I needed them.  Every day isn't perfect, but I remember to give thanks whenever I am least thankful, and I do my best to remember that and try not to scream every time my daughter shoves my son's face into the carpet and he starts crying.  Because that's what moms do.  We defy all odds by not putting our children up for adoption when they pester each other to death day in and day out.
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Monday, May 11, 2015

Sight Word Fun With an Easter Egg Hunt

My daughter's Kindergarten teacher asked that we begin a daily review of the sight words they have learned this year.  This seems a bit daunting, seeing as how I can barely get her to read 15 minutes per day.  So, I have been brain-storming on ways to make it fun for her.  I decided to make an egg hunt out of it!  I got out the list the teacher game us and wrote the sight words on about 15 small note cards, then put them inside left-over Easter eggs.  I hid them while the kids shut their eyes and then they scurried around looking for the eggs, just like it was Easter morning!

After every egg she opened, she shouted out the sight word and was so pleased with herself.

As a bonus, they had so much fun that afterwards they took turns hiding the empty eggs for each other and this kept them busy for almost an hour.   As I have noticed so many times in the past, once I put in 20-30 minutes of quality time with them, they will happily find things to do for at least double that time, leaving me free to cook, clean, or read a favorite book (yeah right, like that ever happens!)

For more ideas on engaging your children and keeping them busy, please consider buying my book, The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn.  It is full of ideas on entertaining your toddler while also teaching them about math, science, letters, and nurturing their natural curiosity!

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