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One positive thing of the quarantine is that I am having time to revisit my old notes and the pile of books I once put aside to be read. Here is a compilation of some of the ideas and resources I found. I chose three basic ideas that could support parents staying at home with children
Exercise, Healthy Foods, and Joy!
Physical activity is important for developing fine and gross motor skills, balance and equilibrium, and control and coordination of movement. Exercise also improves the brain’s cognitive and executive brain functions.
The period from birth to six is when habits form that become the personality. Giving children the opportunity for lots of exercise at this age will create life-long healthy habits. Time spent watching television or videos, which can disrupt the brain’s ability to focus or concentrate, or using an iPad or computer encourages a sedentary, rather than active, lifestyle.
During Coronavirus quarantine, parents will be tempted to hand over an iPhone or iPad or the like. This is understandable, but remember that the younger the child, the worse this is for their language and cognitive development. As alternatives, to encourage movement and avoid screens, something as simple as soft or small balls and bucket to throw them in, a book of yoga poses, or age-appropriate music to dance can provide great opportunities for exercise at home.
Encourage healthy eating by inviting children to help in preparing food, and by making healthy snacks available for them to help themselves when hungry.
Involve children in aspects of the meal planning and food preparation. Children are much more likely to eat foods they help choose and prepare. Young children can be given two choices, “Shall we serve carrots or peas tonight for dinner? You get to choose.” Older children can be included in the actual meal planning.
Remember that children have to try a food several times to like it and may not enjoy certain textures or flavors. Don’t be discouraged, and keep giving them the chance to try them.
Avoid unnecessary power struggles
Avoid power struggles by refraining from constantly nagging your child. Keep your focus on your food choices, your manners, your participation in conversation, not on nagging your child to eat more vegetables. Have conversations, not interrogations!
Provide each eater at least one or two items they generally enjoy. If your child chooses not to eat one thing, don’t worry. Let them choose from the various healthy food choices you’ve placed upon their plate.
Instead of negotiating with your children what and how much to eat, wouldn’t be easier to just provide a variety of healthy food on the table and let them make their own choices?
Take a minute and think about yourself. Imagine you are in a restaurant in front of your meal. Imagine that you ordered some veggies. When your meal arrives, you see that it also came with some chips as “garnish”. What is the first thing you would be tempted to eat? How much self-discipline and self-control will you need to make the healthy choice? Are we expecting our children to do something adults -with a fully matured brain- might not be able to do?
Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibilities Parents’ role: Provide the meal structure - Determine foods to be served - Set meal and snack times - Remove distractions during meals - Make meals pleasant - Model good eating habits and manners Children’s role: To make their own choices - To choose what they will eat - To decide how much they eat - To decide if they eat at all
Studies have found that children who feel happy, safe, and loved have higher levels of brain function. Even as adults, our fully developed brains perform less well when we are feeling stressed or anxious.
Studies are also revealing the importance of play in developing brains. Children use play to reinforce and explore their understanding of the world, reinforcing the things we are teaching at home and at school.
Creating their own play, rather than relying on toys which essentially play for them allows children to explore creative expression. Intelligence is partially built on the ability to problem solve, often requiring us to “think outside the box”. When children partake in imaginative play, what may seem nonsensical or random to us is actually a way of exploring their known world and developing the ability to create their own solutions to real and imaginary dilemmas.
To successfully do so, children need a concrete experience with real objects and natural consequences (if I push this it falls; if I let go, this drops, etc.) to lay the foundation for the creation of their imaginations.
Use real objects and hand-on materials at home, as much as possible!
For this reason, Montessori classrooms use real objects, including materials to prepare real food, tools like screwdrivers and bolts, and hand-on materials that teach everything from geography to geometry. Even playing with toys like dolls and action figures give children the opportunity to explore and practice social relationships and enhance their understanding of the real world.
Involve children with chores and “Practical Life” activities
Trust your child and trust yourself
As a parent, you love your child in a way no one else can. And that unconditional love is exactly what your child needs more than anything else. Have fun with them, don’t worry or judge yourself too much, and enjoy the precious moments you share with them. Sharing love and joyful experiences with your young child may not seem like a preparation for college or a career, but you are building their self-confidence and improving their brain’s ability to function as its highest capacity. Academics can wait. The quarantine will pass, and so does the time you have to spend with your young children. Enjoy it!
http://www.playathomemomllc.com(a website focused on sharing ideas for having fun with your child at home)
http://themontessorichildathome.blogspot.com(a blog with ideas and discussion on many issues related to raising children, from infancy throughout life)
http://montessoribyhand.blogspot.com/2008/01/list-of-recommended-childrens-books.html (a great source for books)
www.drdansiegel.com(to know more about the brain and strategies to help children learn how to calm down)