Thursday, May 23, 2013

Four Easy Ways to Increase Attention in Your Classroom

Does this sound familiar? The lesson starts and most of the children in your classroom are sitting attentively. There are a few wiggling in their seats and at least one just staring out the window. Now you have a choice. Continue to talk knowing that the distracted children are not learning or stop and redirect each child as needed. Teachers are faced with this every day and there is no way to totally avoid it. However, there are a few ways to create an environment that will keep kids like this attending longer. 

1.      One of the first and most important things you can do is to create a classroom environment that is less distracting. Many times teachers have the impulse to fill the walls with information and d├ęcor so that parents see the classroom as an enriched environment. For many young children this puts them on sensory overload  - especially for children with sensitive sensory systems. 

·         When setting your classroom make sure you have clearly defined areas. A seating rug with squares for each child to sit in is essential for younger elementary school children.
·          Also, have the desks in identifiable rows to make the room easy to navigate. Finally, it is important that the walls are not decorated to fill every inch of wall space. If you need to have a lot of incidental learning displays try to have the front of the room where the children are directing their attention to you free of excess clutter. 

2.      I know many teachers change seating assignments once they get to know the kids in their classroom. Sometimes children who get the most distracted are seated in the back of the class because teachers think of their twitching and excessive hand-raising as distracting to others. It is a natural impulse to put them in the back of the room to decrease tension in the classroom. Unfortunately this is the worst place for them to be. From the back of the room they have a clear view of all the activity in the classroom making it even harder for them to concentrate. If you have a child like this in your classroom try putting them front and center. It will be a lot harder for them to stare out the window when they know you are right in front of them. They will also be less likely to get distracted by other kids or any activities going on outside. These small changes to your classroom procedures can really help you avoid difficulties for some of your students. 

3.      If a child has a more severe attention or sensory issues it is often helpful to provide some sensory stimulation for them before and during the lecture. First, if you know you have a long lesson play that will require a lot of attention try to do it after they have had activity. If there is no PE planned, or if you prefer to give these lessons first thing in the morning, take your students out for a walk around the track a few times before you have them take a seat. My daughter’s second grade teacher did this every morning before they entered the classroom and it really increased her attention. If this is not possible then have the kids stand up and get the wiggles out by stretching and moving their bodies.

4.      We all know that for some kids this will not be enough to get them focused but these strategies will help minimize the issue. 

·         For additional support I have found a few sensory aids to be really helpful. For example, have a few Disco o Sit seat cushions handy so that kids can use them as needed. These cushions mimic the feeling of being on a therapy ball but they do not take up much room in the classroom. They provide a dynamic seating experience so that kids can wiggle just slightly to get the movement they need to stay focused.
·          Seat cushions work for many kids but for others it is just not enough movement. If you find you have a child who needs more sensory stimulation having one ball chair available or a ball with feet (so it does not roll away) can be very helpful.
·         Another useful tip is using a therapy band. If you tie a band around the front two legs of a child’s chair they can bounce their feet on it to get the movement they need without distracting their peers.

It is never too early or too late to make these changes in your classroom. Each child who comes in your class has their own unique set of learning challenges – some are just more apparent than others. These tips will help all the students in your care regardless of their ability to attend and stay focused. 

By helping the students with the most needs you will be creating a caring environment that fosters a calm classroom where all children can learn to the best of their abilities.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Learn How to Raise a Virtuous, Honest Child - Without Punishment

Studies have consistently shown that children who are honest and virtuous grow up to live better, more productive lives and those who are not. Because of this, many parents go to great lengths to ensure that their children understand the importance of honesty. 

However, many parents think that harsh punishments are the only way to impart these lessons. Here are a few of the ways to teach your children to be honest and virtuous without resorting to punishments.

Be Patient

Five-year-old children often seem like small adults, and many people overestimate their brain capacity as a result. Studies have shown that our brains continue to grow until we are 25 years old, and young children sometimes struggle with understanding why lying is wrong. Be patient with your children; persistent education will help them learn the importance of honesty over time.

Reward Honesty

One mistake parents make is to punish their children excessively after they have been honest. In some cases, this practice can be counterproductive. Children who learn that they are punished after coming clean about certain events may get the impression that it is better to lie. Even if your child must face repercussions after coming clean about something he or she is done, thank him or her for being honest.

Build a Relationship

Children who have strong relationships with their parents are often more worried about disappointing their parents and potential punishments. By taking steps to foster a strong relationship, you may be able to encourage your children to view honesty as a means of holding up their end of the relationship. A bit of respect can go a long way toward encouraging your children to be honest with you.

Start Young

Although children are too young to understand the concept of honesty in the abstract, they do understand how hurtful it can be to be lied to. Ask your children how they feel when someone lies to them, and explain to them that this disappointment is natural. It is easier to encourage your children to be honest if they know how dishonesty makes others feel. 

Children are often smarter than we give them credit for; sometimes simply explaining the disappointment that results from dishonesty may be enough to teach them how important telling the truth is.

Fortunately, raising an honest, virtuous child is not as difficult as many imagine. By reinforcing the importance of honesty and expressing disappointment if your child lies, you can teach them the importance of telling the truth.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

5 Unexpected Benefits of Allowing Children to Watch TV

Generally speaking, the notion of children watching television is heavily criticized and frowned upon in society. However, research indicates that under the proper parameters, watching television can be of benefit to a child in a variety of ways. Below will outline 5 unexpected benefits of allowing children to watch TV.

1. TV can help kids learn about a variety of different subjects.

Most children's programming provide several shows kids can watch while learning about the world such as Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street, and several others. The Discovery Channel and the History Channel allow a child to experience places and time periods in ways books cannot. Shows about nature can stimulate a child's mind to pursue further study or at least gain an appreciation on the matter. 

2. TV can provide families the perfect opportunity to spend quality time together. 

Amidst fast paced world and hectic schedules, family time can become a rare commodity not experienced by many families. Fortunately, watching television provides an environment where families can sit back and relax while watching a favorite show and then having the option discussing it together later. This kind of time where the kids are not fighting but are instead mentally engaged can be refreshing.

3. Watching TV can expose kids to other cultures. 

Several TV channels have programs solely dedicated to different cultures around the globe, and most children's programs will do segments celebrating this diversity. Watching television can allow one's child to see how kids live on the other side of the world. This can be a fun learning experience for any child!

4. Good role models can inspire and be a positive example to children.

Actors, musicians, and other famous people on television have great influence over what children wear, think, do. By allowing a child to observe good role models, you can enable you child to desire to impact others in a positive manner.

5. TV can be used as a tool to help parents teach kids how to utilize critical thinking skills. 

The media today can twist and distort news to fit a presuppositions and biases. This presents an ideal opportunity for parents to teach kids not to accept everything at face value. Many people exhibit poor critical thinking skills due to not developing these skills as a child. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

You and Your Kids: Four Ways to Make Learning Fun

It is not exactly uncommon for a child to view learning as boring and tedious. Learning via reading straight from a book or from a teacher is not considered by the majority of children to be thought-evoking or interesting. There are loads of ways that you can create a fun and exciting learning environment for children - one that makes kids forget that they're even sponging knowledge!
Make Sure You're Involved

One of the most important things you can do to make learning fun for your child is to make sure that you're there for all of the action. Kids look up to and idolize their parents, and they really like and appreciate it when they can share in fun and excitement with their parents. This is why it's vital that you're there for all of the delight.

Turn it into a Game

It can be easy to make learning fun by also turning the learning experience into a game. Children love competitiveness, so it's doubtful they'll turn an activity like this down. Additionally, there are many learning games and activities out there that are designed to get kids interested and absorbent for valuable information.

Visit Science Museums and Other Locations

Another great way to get kids excited about learning is to take them to science museums or other similar establishments that bring science and other subjects straight to the children. Many science museums have interactive stations set up where the kids can learn and have fun at the same time using different tools and applications. In some cases, science museums will feature specials such as 3D movies, planetarium showings, or special exhibits that also only add to the fun. Consider checking these types of things out too.

Let the Child Learn with Technology

Lastly, allow the child to learn with modern technology. Not only does this mean you could let the child learn about their favorite subjects using things like iPads or gaming consoles, but you can also purchase interactive items such as compound microscopes or Bunsen burners. Specifically with compound microscopes, children can get an up close and personal look at science right under their noses. You simply cannot beat this type of learning experience, and not to mention, children love hands-on experiments!

Monday, May 06, 2013

5 Ways To Help Your Toddler Get Ready For Swim Lessons

Competent swimming skills are also important life skills. While a baby or toddler may not yet be developmentally ready to participate in official independent swimming lessons, there are certainly ways that caregivers can prepare them for future water experiences and swimming lessons. Follow the five steps below to confidently prepare your child for a healthy swimming lesson experience.

Trust and Positive Parent Child Water Experiences

It is important to give your toddler early and positive experiences in the water. Whether you actually enroll in a parent child class, or whether you simply take baby into the water on your own, be sure that he or she is safely exposed to water and doesn't feel afraid of it. Allow your baby or toddler to experience the feeling of water on his or her face and body. If your child seems frightened, panicky, or angry, try very short initial time periods in the water and very gradually work up to longer time segments. Negative water experiences can lead to poor swimming attitudes that persist long into life, so it is best to focus on positivity rather than rapid progress.

Listening Skills

Children in group swimming lessons need to be able to listen to directions and to follow them. Make sure that your toddler has had opportunities to appropriately display a long enough attention span and focused listening skills to be safe and effective during water based instruction. When he or she is ready for class, there are many quality swimming lessons to choose from. There is a program to meet every family and child's schedule, budget, and swimming needs and goals.


Kicking is a basic swimming skill. Give your toddler plenty of opportunities to practice kicking on land before attempting kicking in the water. Build foot strength and accuracy by practicing pointing and flexing the feet and kicking balls on land.

Breathing And Bubbles

Breathing under water can be strange to get used to. Practice having your toddler hold his or her breath, and also practice breathing outward in supervised water situations, such as the bathtub. Start with partial face submersion before attempting full head submersion and breathing techniques.

Utilize The Local Library

Search your library for swimming DVDs or children's books about swimming. Children often learn well and make connections to storybook or movie characters. This is also a great way to point out pictures or scenes that emphasize the importance of water safety.

Friday, May 03, 2013

5 Safety Tips You Need to Teach Your Kids about Summer Fun

Kids all over America are looking forward to the summertime. There's no school, no homework and they get to stay up later. There's also the promise of long days spent swimming and playing outside. Unfortunately, summer is also the time when the most trouble occurs. According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, a large amount of ER visits occur during summer months when kids aren't in school. Most of these injuries could have been preventable. Here are five safety tips that you need to teach your kids about safety during summer fun. 

Pool Safety

Every year, thousands of children are injured and in pool-related accidents. In most cases, these incidents are caused by drownings or near-drownings that occurred with unsupervised pool use. It's extremely important to speak with your children about the hazards of swimming without a responsible adult present. Furthermore, it's a good idea to emphasize the use of pool safety rules and equipment. Don't run, use ladders properly, don't dive in shallow areas, make use of floatation devices and get out of the pool when tired. 

Stranger Danger

Most kids are taught at an early age that they should be wary around strangers. However, just telling them to stay away from strangers can be vague and confusing, so be specific. Tell them to say no to offered rides or other suspicious invitations. They should also be taught never to open the door for anyone when a family member isn't home.

Avoiding Illness

Summertime means time for cookouts and picnics. Unfortunately, it can also open up the risk of illness caused by bacterial contamination. Germs like salmonella and E. coli flourish in warm temperatures. Remind your kids that good hand-washing practices are important for protecting both themselves and the people around them. Also caution them against eating foods that have touched the ground or another unclean surface. 

Beating the Heat

When kids are having fun, they can lose track of time or may not want to go inside. Unfortunately, this also increased their risk of suffering a dangerous heat-related condition like heat stroke. Let them know that they need to go indoors when they start feeling too hot. They should also know that it's important to stay hydrated. 

Sunburn Prevention

Sunburns can be as dangerous as they are painful. Make sure your child knows to apply sunscreen before going outside and to reapply it as often as needed. In addition, spending more time playing in shady areas can help to minimize the risk.