Learn more about young fathers and their role in a child's life here.
by Tom McGee, L.C.S.W.
Having grown up in a family in which my mother was responsible for all the child-rearing activities and my father was responsible for bringing home the paycheck, I knew I wanted to be more involved in my children’s care when they were born than my father had been with me and my siblings. However, having had no experience caring for infants, I had a lot to learn. I was fortunate enough to have married a woman who had lots of experience caring for her younger siblings. Because of this, she knew how to care for an infant. She also had lots of backup from her mother and aunts. My wife took on the role of teacher when it came to my learning how to care for our infant daughter. I had to take on the role of the beginner and student. These roles threw our relationship into a disrupted state at times because we had married with the idea of being equal partners. It was very humbling in the beginning to take on this subordinate role as I learned how to change a diaper, bathe and dress my daughter, and feed her and burp her.
As time progressed, I soon became an expert in all these baby care activities. I became accustomed to getting up at least once a night, changing my daughter’s diaper, and bringing her to my wife to nurse. Then I would burp her and take her back to her crib. Later on, when my wife was expressing her milk, I would take care of an entire episode of night feeding while my wife slept. I learned how to be awake for forty-five minutes, then go back to sleep.
I am very glad that I stayed with my determination to begin my relationship with my two daughters in this hands-on way. I realize that my interaction with them as infants began our relationships in an intimate way that could not have happened if I had left all of those baby care “chores” to my wife. In changing their diapers, I was given the opportunity to let my daughters feel my touch, know my voice, to interact and begin developing a relationship. This was our special relationship. No matter how closely I followed my wife’s instructions on how to perform these tasks, I did them differently. The cadence of my voice, the way I touched them, and the rhythm with which I moved was different than their mother’s. They had an experience of me rooted in their senses from the beginning of their lives.
In addition to giving them this experience of me, I began to learn, from the very beginning, who they were and who they were becoming. I fell in love with them, not from an abstract principle of fatherhood, but from experiencing their unique responses to my ministrations. I saw that when I came into a room where they were, they instantly recognized who I was. They responded, out of their growing love for me, with expressions of satisfaction or happiness and sometimes outstretched arms.
This two-way love affair that I developed with my daughters is sometimes called “bonding.” Bonding has been written about and talked about extensively among those concerned with child care and family development. It is a term that has been used so much that there is confusion about what it actually means and what it looks like. As my daughters grew beyond the stage of infancy, this bonding took on visible form in my playing with them on the floor or on the ground, feeding them meals, watching their favorite television shows and movies with them, going to the beach together, hiking, camping, discussing and occasionally assisting with homework, attending their volleyball and softball games, learning about their friends, and being there for school conferences and graduations. The less visible form of this bonding arose in the feelings we have felt for each other—fondness, frustration, caring, apprehension, anger, pride, and above all, love. All of these feelings and our accumulated experiences with each other comprise the bonds that we share today, now that they are thirty-one and thirty-three years old.
In my therapy practice, I have worked with many people who have complained that they never bonded with their fathers. This was a terrible lack in their lives. It left a hunger and a hole in their lives that could never be completely repaired. Some of them have gotten some of what they missed from me and from important men in their lives. I have heard heart-warming stories about the power of a grandfather, an uncle, a coach, or family friend providing some of this very important experience of bonding with an older male. But for many, the fact of missing their fathers never completely went away. Listening to their stories, I am painfully aware that, often, this hole first came into existence during infancy, when their father was, for whatever reason, not very involved in their care.
I have also worked with many fathers who lamented the lack of bonding with their children. They are often confused and hurt by the fact that their children have little or no interest in them. This state of affairs usually has many roots, not all of which begin in infancy. Sometimes it grows out of differences with the mother, conflicts about child-rearing practices, separation and divorce, absence due to work, and other sources. It is usually possible for fathers to become more involved with their children at any stage, as long as both fathers and children are willing and open to exploring new ways of understanding and developing their relationship. However, I would suggest that creating the bond in the very beginning is the best way to establish a foundation of relationship that can last throughout life.
For families with fathers, research has shown that, when fathers are intimately involved with the care and raising of their children, both the children and the fathers live better lives. What better way could there be to enhance and improve your life as a man and your children’s lives than by beginning with a hands-on approach to fatherhood?
Source: Used by permission, Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center, Carol Castanon, Executive Director http://birthresource.org/about/index.php
Fresh air is healthy
Studies have shown that contrary to the common belief that “exposure to cold air causes a cold,” fresh air is good and healthy. When children and adults spend a long time together in indoor spaces that are small, overheated and poorly ventilated, germs and illnesses pass easily from one person to another. In fresh, outdoor air, children do not have to re-breathe the germs of the group, and the chance for spreading infection is reduced.
Outdoor play is healthy even in winter
Children of all ages enjoy and benefit from playing outdoors in all except the most extreme weather. Daily outdoor play is healthy and burns energy. It gives children an opportunity for a change of en-vironment, a balance in play and routine, and large muscle activities (gross-motor development). Even children who are mildly ill but active should go out-side if the weather is not severe. Staff and children alike will feel refreshed when fresh air is part of the daily routine. Taking children outdoors daily, even in winter, can be a healthy part of their schedule, and is safe when clothing is appropriate. Active outdoor play at all times of the year is also an important part of obesity prevention and helps to establish life-long patterns of healthy physical exercise.
Avoid cold-related injuries
The way we feel about cold, wet or snowy weather and indoor temperatures may be affected by where we live and what we are used to. Practices that help to ensure safe outdoor play in cold weather include:
• Make sure that children are dressed appropriate-ly for the weather; use layers of clothing that can be put on and taken off easily. The air between the layers helps to keep the child warm.
• Establish a policy for shoes and outerwear for the children in your program.
• Assess outdoor play spaces for safety in cold weather. Outdoor play spaces and equipment that are safe for young children during warmer weather may be totally inappropriate when the ground is frozen and equipment is slippery from ice and/or snow. For example, sand and com-position rubber surfacing materials, often used under climbing equipment and swings, freeze in the winter months and become very hard, losing their shock-absorbing quality and their ability to lessen the impact if a child falls. These surfaces not only lose their effectiveness when frozen, they can be dangerous. Certain equipment may have to be off limits when the ground is frozen.
• Instead of using unsafe play equipment, plan activities that take advantage of cold weather
■ Use snow to build snow people.
■ Use colored water in spray bottles to paint snow.
■ Pile snow for climbing and sliding activities.
• Watch for signs of frost bite, especially in the face, ears, fingers or toes:
■ Look for skin that is whiter than the surround-ing area.
■ Ask the child about feelings of pain or sting-ing, followed by numbness.
• If you suspect a child has frostbite
■ rub frostbitten areas.
■ warm the area in your hands or an armpit.
■ for more severe frostbite, place the area in warm (not hot) water until color returns.
■ serve a warm snack like soup.
• Watch for signs of hypothermia (when your body loses heat faster than you can produce it and your body temperature gets very low):
■ Cold feet and hands
■ Puffy or swollen face
■ Pale skin
■ Shivering (in some cases the person with hypothermia does not shiver)
• Keep children moving in cold weather to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.
When you prepare for active play in outdoor winter weather, everyone can enjoy the health and mental health benefits of being outside and active in winter.
Monitor outdoor air quality index (AQI) and fol-low health advisories from local health authorities. Limit prolonged active play outdoors for children with asthma as advised.
Improving indoor air quality is also important
Germs causing disease multiply in warm, dark, damp environments, so it is important to keep the environment clean and dry. Adequate ventilation, humidity and temperature control help us resist illness and increase our ability to get well after sickness.
Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety
Performance Standards, Second Edition, 2002
CCHP Health and Safety Note: Indoor Air Quality, online at www.ucsfchildcarehealth.org/html/pandr/ hsnotesmain.htm
By A. Rahman Zamani, MD, MPH (revised 09/10)
Source: California Childcare Health Program
By Shiela Watson
During the recent fires in our area, children were kept indoors due to the horrific air quality. Now we are entering the rainy season and parents have asked me for ideas for activities that they can plan at home to keep their children entertained without resorting to video games, TV, and computers.
There are tons of activities you can do on a rainy day! The activities below are just a tiny sliver of activities that I came up with that you can do. But, this should give you an idea…
--Play board games
--Build an indoor fortress
--Bring out the crafts supplies
--Read books to each other
--Go to a Museum
--Clean and organize the house
--Write stories together
--Bake cookies or a cake
--Have a scavenger hunt
--Go to the Library
--Make a home movie
--Have an indoor picnic
--Create and act out a play
--Start a family scrapbook
--Rearrange your child’s room
However, a rainy day does not mean you and the children have to stay inside.
There are many opportunities to play outside even on wet, cooler days. Seize the day, learn more about nature, experience the outdoors when it rains, and get wet and dirty. It is a whole new world out there when it rains. The earth changes color, it smells different, looks different and feels different. Try to share that with your kids.
Here are some facts about nature in rain to share with your curious preschooler:
--Bees cannot fly in the rain, neither can most flying insects.
--Earthworms come to the surface once the dirt is saturated.
--Birds do not like to fly when it is raining; they like to find shelter instead.
--Rain provides an excellent opportunity to explore science and the natural world with your children.
What kind of activities can you do with your children out in the rain? Here are a few ideas to inspire you:
--Take a wet, rainy walk - Make sure to take a few umbrellas, they are always fun!
--Jump in the puddles - Make a splash with your rubber boots!
--Let pots fill up with rain water and float things in it.
--Make some animals, dinosaurs and other toys out to get wet along with you. The animals can gather at the watering hole, discuss the importance of water for the survival of animals. Let the animals go swimming!
--Make roads in the mud with your diggers for your cars. Do some digging. Find a safe spot to dig some holes.
--Make a mud stew; add leaves, twigs and other bits of nature for flavor. Leaves and twigs float, yet rocks sink. What else can you find that floats and sinks?
--Measure it and pour it. Have a plastic container to catch the rainfall, and then measure how much you had. You can compare it to a weather website.
--You can pour the rain water, in different containers, add mud see what happens.
--Remember to come in before your children catch a chill. Being wet they will get cold faster. Once inside take a nice warm bubble bath, or change into clean, dry clothes and take away the chills. Don’t forget a nice cup of tea for you!
By Thomas R. Hoerr, Ph.D.
Over two decades after Howard Gardner identified multiple intelligences in his ground-breaking book Frames of Mind (1983), educators around the world have been using the theory of multiple intelligences in their classrooms. In some ways, parents and teachers have always intuitively known that children learn in different ways and that an activity that grabs one child may not be of interest to another. But many of our traditional ideas about teaching imply that there is a certain way to learn particular skills. As parents, we've all had times when we've become frustrated by our children's apparent inability to accomplish a task the way we were taught to do it. When we have a better understanding of their individual intelligences and learning styles, we can provide experiences that speak to how our children learn best.
The eight intelligences are:
To understand your child's learning style, observe her as she plays. Which toys does she tend to choose? Chances are, you'll notice that her favorites have something in common. Perhaps they all have bright colors and distinct patterns or interesting textures and shapes, or make sounds. Then look at how she plays: Does she tend to look at objects intently or to hold and feel them in her hands? Perhaps she is less interested in toys than in rolling, tumbling and moving around. As you cuddle up with your child and a favorite book, pay attention to what she is most interested in. Is it looking at the illustrations? Listening to the cadence of the words and rhymes as you read aloud? Touching the different objects pictured on the page? Or does she practically leap out of your lap and start to act out the actions in the story as you describe them?
Most children have a number of different intelligences and learning styles and can be engaged in a variety of ways. If you don't see a strong preference for particular toys or games, it means that your child has more than one primary intelligence or that she isn't old enough to have developed a strong predilection. In most cases, you can begin to see a preference for particular styles at around age 2. By then your child will most likely respond best to specific activities and types of experiences.
Respecting individual intelligences and learning styles means offering your child a variety of ways to learn. This doesn't mean that you should shy away from helping him master certain skills — almost anything can be taught in a way that works well for a specific intelligence. When you identify and respond to your child's intelligence and learning style, you help him approach the world on his own terms. Playing to his strengths can make mastering new skills less frustrating — and can help him develop a lifelong love of learning.
Many ways to learn
One of the benefits of the multiple intelligence theory is that it offers parents many options — if a child isn't responding to a particular activity, there are many other approaches to try. Once you have a sense of your child's learning style, take a look at your home environment and routine to see how well it works for the way she learns. If you find that your child gravitates toward music, make sure that she has instruments available. Try playing music throughout the day and using songs as a way to encourage her enjoyment of different activities (a special song for doing the dishes or going grocery shopping can go a long way!). If she seems to have a powerful physical, or bodily-kinesthetic, intelligence, remember that creating fun hopping or jumping games to play while you're waiting in lines or at the store can help to make these tough times easier.
While understanding your child's style helps you speak to his strengths, it is also important to give him opportunities to strengthen his weaknesses: Even if you're sure your child is a linguistic learner, there is plenty to be gained from engaging him in spatial or musical experiences. Here's a look at each kind of intelligence and the types of activities and experiences children tend to excel at with that learning style:
What it is: Sensitivity to the meaning and order of words. These children use an expanded vocabulary and usually like to tell jokes, riddles or puns. They also like to read, write, tell stories and play word games.
A good way to engage a language-oriented child in a home science experiment, for example, is to encourage him to describe and record exactly what he is doing and observing. To help him understand a concept such as counting, ask him to create a story in which a character has to count many items. Have paper, writing material, different types of storybooks, and a tape recorder handy.
What it is: The ability to handle chains of reasoning and to recognize patterns and order. These learners enjoy working with numbers, want to know how things work, ask lots of questions, and collect items and keep track of their collections.
To interest a logical-mathematical learner in a picture book, have her sort and classify the different items or animals she sees in it. Asking her to compare the different sounds and tones various instruments can make is a good way to help her explore musical concepts. Good items to have on hand include puzzles, blocks and small manipulatives to count with.
What it is: The ability to use the body skillfully and to handle objects adroitly. Kinesthetic learners enjoy sports and love to be physically active. They tend to use body language, dance, act or engage in mime.
Kids with this intelligence tend to learn well through movement games and dramatizing scenes and situations. Playing a game of hopscotch will help your physical learner grasp math concepts more easily than counting items. A good science experiment for a bodily-kinesthetic child is to compare how far he can throw different types of objects. Try to have dress-up clothes and props for role-playing, bean bags, and other age-appropriate sports equipment around the house.
What it is: Sensitivity to pitch, melody, rhythm and tone. These children love to listen to and play music, sing, hum, move to the rhythm, and create and replicate tunes.
Singing songs and making audio tapes can be the best way to engage your child in activities. To teach your musical learner math concepts, have her count drum beats or make musical patterns with an instrument. Provide plenty of instruments to explore (including kitchen utensils to bang!), a tape recorder, and a variety of songs and sounds to listen to.
What it is: The ability to perceive the world accurately and to re-create or transform aspects of that world. These learners doodle, paint, draw and build with blocks. They also enjoy looking at maps, doing puzzles and mazes, and taking things apart and putting them back together.
Showing your child photos and pictures will help him grasp new information better than verbal explanations. To involve him in science experiments, ask him to draw his observations. Provide plenty of books with bright, bold graphics, as well as a variety of art materials for your child to explore.
What it is: Recognizing and classifying the numerous species, the flora and fauna, of an environment. These kids like to spend time outdoors observing plants, collecting rocks and catching insects, and are attuned to relationships in nature.
When possible, use photos and books about animals and the natural world to explain topics. Going outside to observe concepts in action — cause and effect, for example — is the best way to teach a naturalist. A terrarium, microscope and bird feeder are good items to offer your little naturalist.
What it is: Understanding people and relationships. These children have many friends and tend to mediate between them and be excellent team players.
Whenever possible, involve your child in group games and discussions. Turning a science experiment into an activity to do with friends can be the best way to engage an interpersonal learner. Your child will probably enjoy playing with puppets, dolls and small figures.
What it is: The ability to use one's emotional life as a means to understand oneself and others. Children with this type of intelligence control their own feelings and moods and often observe and listen. They do best when working alone.
Encourage your child to think about how new experiences make him feel and offer him plenty of chances to explore topics on his own. To involve an intrapersonal learner in a science project, ask him to describe his experiences and emotions. A camera, drawing pad and blank journal can help your child record and think about his observations.
Children prepare to read long before they enter school - early literacy is everything children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. Early literacy is a baby who chews on a book, a toddler who wants his favorite book read over and over, and a preschooler who "reads" the story to you from memory.
Early literacy skills begin to develop in the first 5 years of life. We used to think that children's success at reading depended on getting the "right" first grade teacher. Now we know that your child's likelihood for success in the first grade depends on how much she's learned about reading before entering school. Your child's early experiences with books and language lay the foundation for success in learning to read.
Early literacy is not the "teaching of reading."
You've heard many times that you are your child's first and best teacher. This is true. But it's not your job to formally "teach" reading. Your child will learn how to read in school. The most important thing you can do to foster early literacy is provide an atmosphere that's fun, verbal and stimulating, not school-like. The focus should not be on teaching, but on the fun you're having with your child - offer your child plenty of opportunities to talk and be listened to, to read and be read to, and to sing and be sung to.
No rote memorization, no flashcards, no workbooks and no drills are necessary. Children who are exposed to interactive literacy-rich environments, full of fun opportunities to learn language will develop early literacy skills.
You are the key to your child's success in learning to read. When you read, talk or play with your child, you're stimulating the growth of your child's brain and building the connections that will become the building blocks for reading. Brain development research shows that reading aloud to your child every day increases his brain's capacity for language and literacy skills and is the most important thing you can do to prepare him for learning to read.
Why is early literacy important?
Experts now know that:
The development of language and literacy skills begins at birth.
Children develop much of their capacity for learning in the first three years of life, when their brains grow to 90 percent of their eventual adult weight.
Our mission is to encourage all adults who have significant contact with children 0-5 to talk and read with them to help them succeed both in school and life.