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As we enter a second year of navigating the Covid-19 pandemic, all of us feel a desire to get back to normal. The virus has been devastating especially to our elders. However, we should not lose sight of the importance of protecting our children. Currently, emerging variants appear to be affecting younger people more virulently than the original virus. Teaching your children to consistently and properly wear a mask is important in helping to ensure their health. It has been proven that wearing a mask can greatly diminish the possibility of contracting the Covid-19 virus. Additionally, it is important to know that the incidence of strep throat and the flu have dramatically dropped since we began wearing masks. We know that it will be some time before we reach herd immunity and for a vaccine to be approved for young children. In the meantime, we need to do everything within our power to keep our children safe. The following video will provide you a behavioral strategy for teaching your young children to wear and tolerate a mask.
Spring classes start the week of 2/22/2021. Classes are free and offered virtually. Free internet help is also available. Register for classes today.
Visit: https://www.lenastartmc.org/lena-start-program to learn more about the program.
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The Achieve Center has been approved to accept vouchers from the Wisconsin Farm Center. To support our farming community the State has created a voucher program for farmers and their families to receive counseling sessions. For more information see the website below or call the phone number listed below.
These vouchers are available to farmers and their families and can be obtained by contacting the Wisconsin Farm Center at 800-942-2474 or email@example.com.
Posted by Jocelyn Mayer, MS, BCBA, LBA
Every year we say it, and every year we mean it – can you believe it’s almost Christmas once again?! Lately, I’ve had a lot of parents ask me for recommendations on some of the best toys for their growing children that will help them learn. Although there are so many cool tech toys these days with lights and (often annoying) sounds, I have found that the simpler toys without all the bells and whistles are some of the very best for learning opportunities.
Here at The Achieve Center, there is a large focus on parent involvement across all therapies offered. Parent involvement in therapy and implementing therapy strategies at home can be pivotal to the success of many children. Although I can offer plenty of toy recommendations, there’s something you should know: In order for a toy to become a learning tool, our children need to be shown how to play with them, and how to learn from them. Demonstrating how to play with toys functionally (the way they are designed to be played with) can model appropriate play skills for your child which they can then do themselves. Here are some easy ways to improve your play sessions:
Without further ado, here are some great toys and some ideas for what you can teach with them:
Toddler (ages 12 months-3 years)
Nesting Garages and Cars
These are great for matching colors and numbers, learning sizes (big vs. medium vs. small), and spatial skills by nesting through trial and error!
Toomies Egg Toy
I love these toys – and so do my clients! You can use these to teach your child common facial expressions associated with emotions, matching colors, matching shapes, and it makes a fun sound too!
Wooden Race Car Track
This is a fun one. This race car track is great for increasing hand-eye coordination, dexterity, visual tracking – which can aid in increasing attending, and this is another awesome toy for turn taking.
Stack & Sort Board
I think this one speaks for itself – there is so much for your child to learn with this one! Fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, matching colors, shapes, following instructions (“put this one on the red peg”). You can get pretty creative with this one.
A classic, but amazing gift. Again, so many things to teach, especially with this bundle pack. You can easily work on turn taking, matching, and fine motor, as well as colors, shapes, etc.
Play Kit Subscription
This is something that has come about in recent years that I really like. Lovevery (ages 0-36 months) offers age based play kits that come every few months as your little one grows. It’s filled with Montessori style toys that are designed to help your child explore, learn and grow through age specific toys. This would be a great gift for any little one in your life!
Children Ages 4+
More Complex Puzzles
This type of puzzle is what we clinicians often call a juxtaposed puzzle. This means that multiple pieces fit together to make one image within a frame. This type of puzzle requires a bit more trial and error, visual mapping and planning, and this one also has sounds!
Legos also offer a lot of learning opportunities. Of course fine motor is a big one with this activity, but you can also work on visual skills such as matching patterns or sequences, etc. The best part about Legos is that it gives your child the opportunity to be as creative as they want!
There are so many great board games for all ages! There’s the classics like Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, and Hi-Ho Cherry-O for the little ones (bundle pack here), Guess Who, then there’s games like Sequence, Life, Scrabble, and many more that offer “junior” versions. Board games teach children so many concepts. This is where you can teach them (and model) how to win and lose appropriately, work together with teammates, work on counting, fine motor, forward planning and much more.
Marble Run (For a little older children)
I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love a marble run. These challenge your child in terms of forward planning, trial and error, hand-eye coordination and dexterity, visual tracking, and more! This one also has glow-in-the-dark marbles which makes it even better.
Arts and Crafts Supplies (all ages)
Dot markers, stamp kits, mess free coloring markers and sheets, paint, Play-Doh, Floam, scissors, coloring books, and all the other arts and crafts supplies you can think of provide many opportunities for all types of skills!
My last tip is that when it comes to play, remember that that is what it should be – play. Although we might be discretely working on skills without your child knowing it, we still want to make sure that we are keeping play fun. Be silly, creative, and encouraging with your child, work on skills, but continue to keep your focus on building your relationship with them through play. Enjoy your time with them, and enjoy the holidays! I hope this list gives you a few ideas for better play, and for some Christmas gifts.
If you’re interested in more tips, tricks and resources for better play, please feel free to email me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Achieve Center has been nominated for Non-Profit Small Business of the Year Award. Please watch our video celebrating the news.
Dear Common Sense community,
While we never thought we'd see a school year like this, we know that together, we can meet this moment. The pandemic has laid bare the learning loss, equity gaps, and other barriers to learning that millions of students are facing. But it has also highlighted the invaluable role that teachers and parents play in their kids' lives.
Our priority is to help families and teachers work together to keep kids engaged and learning. That's why we've updated all the free activities on Wide Open School and added a family and teacher center with all-new resources to make learning from home more effective.
Everything on Wide Open School is:
We hope to make planning for tomorrow a little easier—and to continue to be there for you and your schools through challenging times. If you or someone you know could use this kind of support, please send them to wideopenschool.org.
Stay well, everyone.
Visit Wide Open School
CEO and founder
If you recall from our previous discussions, infants and mothers are uniquely predisposed to interact. A mother’s pattern of talking to her baby and the child’s response patterns reflect a unique developmental predisposition that is designed to initiate the process of acquiring the amazing gift of speech and language. We will now continue our exploration of how children learn to communicate, and in doing so let’s now turn our attention to the “conversational” side of communication.
I think you would agree that turn-taking is an integral part of having a conversation. As adults, when we engage in conversational interactions, we have learned to employ the social rules for conversational exchanges. These rules simply imply that one partner listens as the other speaks. When one is done speaking, it is then the turn of the other partner to interact. Thus a conversation is largely comprised of language-based turn-taking consisting, of back and forth exchanges on a single topic. Can you agree, in that light, that language-based turn-taking and topic maintenance are prerequisites for a meaningful conversation to take place? But, and this is important, children are not initially equipped to take turns, nor remain on a single topic. Turn-taking and topic maintenance is learned. Each is not a natural skill. With that in mind let’s consider how mothers can assist their infants in acquiring these basic skills.
As noted previously, babies are initially wired to gaze at faces, with their interest shifting to objects at 4-7 months of age. Thus when a baby initiates face to face joint focus, or later when he reaches and grasps for an object, it is helpful for the adult to do all that is possible to maintain joint interest as well as establish some form of turn-taking. This can be as simple as gently taking an object from the child and then handing it back repeatedly. During the early months, mothers can watch for their child’s responses to the adult’s vocal initiations and then determine how the child is indicating their desire to keep the turns going. One of the most important things for mothers to gauge is the number and variety of ways their child sends signals, indicating that they are seeking turn-taking, as well as how the child indicates that they want the turn-taking to continue. In this light, it barely matters what is said to the child. Remember, they are responding to the inflectional patterns and cadence of your speech. As noted previously, 4-7 word utterances, spoken with a wide inflectional pattern and an even cadence is best suited to catch and maintain your child’s interest. The easiest way to summarize these thoughts is in this manner; follow your child’s lead and do all that is possible to keep the turns going. These are the skills that translate into conversational ability as the child develops his vocabulary and begins to use words. In the 7-10 month range, typically developing children will display 2-4 turns on a single topic, before seeking something else or losing interest. When the child indicates a desire to transition to another “topic” follow their lead and repeat the process.
The suggestions provided above are important precursors to the development of a child becoming a conversational partner. Remember that topic maintenance and turn-taking lie at the core of social language. Before the acquisition of these two skills, learning words is secondary. For the most part, word usage will emerge as your child possesses the conversational skills described above.
Regardless of the age of your child, let me encourage you to frequently engage in “conversational exchanges”. Go slow, learn to “read” your child, take turns, stay on topic, and most importantly, enjoy every minute of it!
TEACHING CHILDREN TO BE SAFE
As we all live through this pandemic of Covid-19, we need to be wise about our continuing need to protect ourselves and our children from exposure. We can do this by simply following the CDC Protection Guidelines when away from home:
Here are some suggestions for teaching children to wear a mask:
If you recall, last week we described several behaviors that are present in newborn infants and their mothers from the earliest of their shared experiences. For example, newborn infants and their mothers are driven to initiate and sustain face to face contact. A mothers’ request to “see the baby” is concurrent with the infants’ primary interest in gazing at faces above than anything else. It is only later that the infant’s principle interest transitions from gazing at faces to gazing at objects. With those considerations in mind, let’s take a look at several additional developmental activities that mothers and infants engage in, from the earliest of their interactions.
Prior to 4-7 months of age, the infant is the primary initiator of face to face contact. If you doubt that, simply try to get an infant to gaze at you if he does not want to. However, although the baby is the primary initiator of face to face contact, the adult can prolong it by responding to and encouraging the lengthening of mutual gaze. After 4-7 months of age, the child and the adult can both initiate and sustain interactions. This is an important development because it is at the 4-7 month mark when the infant’s primary interest shifts from faces to objects. This shift is generally observed as soon as the child develops independent reach and grasp. So, once the child is interested more in “things” than “faces” adults are encouraged to facilitate mutual interest in objects that are familiar to the child and which will likely become part of his future play activities and routines.
In addition, if we carefully study the content and manner of how mothers speak to their children, we will find several interesting characteristics. The first to note is that a mother’s vocalizations with her baby consist primarily of 3-5 words, spoken in a very even cadence and characterized by a wide inflectional pattern.
Thus, statements such as, “pretty baby” or “ma-ma loves you” or “you’re a good girl” or “time for bed” are quite common. As a side note, no one instructed mothers to use 3-5 word utterances spoken with an even cadence and wide inflectional pattern. This is something mothers are naturally “wired” to do, and it is something your child is naturally “wired to respond to.
As a way of demonstrating the reality of this, let me encourage you to pay particular attention to your child’s eyes, hands, and breathing patterns as you speak to them in this manner. It would not be at all unusual for your child to synchronize her eye, hand, or finger movements in cadence with your speech. She may even demonstrate awareness of your rate of speech via breathing patterns. The consistency of her responses will amaze you and make you particularly aware of how social infants are from their earliest of weeks. And although his response patterns may be limited by a lack of understanding of what is said, the rate and pattern of your speech catches the child’s interest and is accompanied by wonderful responses on her part.
These thoughts represent just a few of the things adult caregivers can be alert to during the early months of a child’s life. As we continue, additional patterns of interaction will be discussed.
I never tire of watching mothers and infants learn to interact during the early months. I trust that you will come to be as amazed as I am at the incredible process our children engage in as new members of our world.
The Achieve Center blog is written by the professionals who are focused on children's mental health.