Friday, February 14, 2020

Preschooler's Pockets

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A friend sent me this story last week. A photographer has documented what's in her preschooler's pocket at the end of every day, those "tiny magical objects" that are so important to him right now.

The photos reminded me of that saying: "The days are long but the years are short." It's exhausting being the parent of a young child, and it's easy to overlook what can and should be magical moments because they can be so fleeting and we are always so busy.

Looking at the photos, I was also reminded of all the delightfully odd pieces of "trash" I used to find in my son's pockets, or failed to find. Hearing the (surprisingly large) rocks tumble around in the dryer was not amusing then but it is now. 

I think the photographer's message is to savor the small moments now, because they will form the foundation of our memories later.

Check out Melissa Kaseman's photos here.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Picky Eaters 101

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For snack on Monday, in honor of Tu B'Shevat, we'll serve the children the Seven Species, or seven special foods native to Israel that are mentioned in the Bible: wheat (pretzels), barley (as long as the store has what I need!), olives, pomegranates, figs, dates, and grapes (raisins). Eaten primarily on Shavuot, they're also sometimes eaten on Tu B'Shevat and Sukkot.

Are all the children going to enjoy all these foods? No. Is that ok? Absolutely. If some children try these foods but don't like them, at least they'll have had the experience of trying something new. If they don't want to try the foods at all, they'll have lunch 90 minutes later and all will be well. And if some children try these new foods and do like them, all the better.

I know from personal experience how worried, frustrated, and angry we can get when our children don't eat what we think they need to eat to be healthy and strong. At some point the anger turns to resignation. And then to anxiety. And then to the worst parent feeling of all: guilt.

There are no easy answers when it comes to how to feed a picky eater. When you're sure your child is starving to death because they've only eaten granola bars for a week, hearing a well-meaning friend say, "Don't worry. She'll eat when she's hungry," doesn't really help.

Having said that, here are some good, common-sense strategies from the Mayo Clinic about teaching your child good and healthy food habits. One promise I can make: it will get better. It always does.

Friday, January 31, 2020

How to Help Keep Our World Clean and Healthy

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This month we'll celebrate Tu B'Shevat, the "birthday" of the trees. In ancient times, Tu B'Shevat helped farmers know when to bring their first fruit offerings to the Temple; in modern times, it's become something of an environmental holiday. 

There are lots of ways to celebrate Tu B'Shevat today: having a special seder and eating fruits native to Israel, planting trees (this year, you can help us plant some on our playground!), and talking with children about our obligation to protect our earth.

Children aren't too young to learn that they have responsibilities to help keep our natural world clean and healthy. There's one very easy, age-appropriate, and tangible way to begin teaching them these lessons: Trash Free Fridays. Rather than send in lunch foods packaged in plastic, send sandwiches, fruits, and drinks in reusable containers. The children take great pride in showing off their lunches that contain NO trash at all. Thanks to Morah Susan in Kitah Turkiz for this splendid idea.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Asking Good Questions

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I'm guessing I'm not the only one who's stayed in my car after parking it to hear the end of an NPR story. Today, I sat in the cold because I had to hear more of this absolutely delightful StoryCorps episode called "You're My Favorite Person to Talk about Space To." It's worth listening to for so many reasons.

The uncle says something to the boy about how important knowledge is, but also how important sharing that knowledge is, which reminded me of a pedagogical tool called Bloom's Taxonomy. So often, especially in school, we worry about what our children know. But asking knowledge-based questions (meaning there's only one right answer) is considered the most basic and least complex kind of question to ask. Once knowledge is established, it's important to ask increasingly complex questions that foster deeper thinking and application of that knowledge.

Bloom's Taxonomy (updated) progresses from the least rigorous cognitive skill to the most rigorous: remember -- understand -- apply -- analyze -- evaluate -- create

How would Bloom's be applied to the boy in the NPR story?

What is the biggest planet?
How is Jupiter different from Earth?
How are the four inner planets different from the four outer planets?
What makes a planet different from other objects in the solar system?
So is Pluto a planet or not?
Can you develop a set of criteria for identifying planets in other solar systems?

Rather than just asking your child if they remember facts, also ask them the kinds of questions that will get them to apply what they've learned in meaningful ways. It's what a 21st century education is all about.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Give Your Children Choices to Avert Inevitable Battles about What to Wear

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The title made me laugh, so of course I had to read the article: The Boys Who Wear Shorts All Winter. We all know this boy, right? (And, yes, it's always a boy, according to the article.)

The author makes some good points about this phenomenon. It could be that some children are sensitive to different fabrics and textures and shorts are simply more comfortable. Maybe this is just a way for some children to exert some independence. Or maybe they do just "run hot." 

Regardless of the reason, the author's point is that we don't need to overreact when our children don't want to wear what we think of as weather-inappropriate clothes. Unless it's -15 degrees, we really don't need to worry about children getting frostbite the minute they walk outside. (Please note the negative sign in that sentence.) As parents, we need to pick our battles and for many families, this one probably isn't a battle worth waging. Furthermore, if we decide to battle our children on this front, they're unlikely to back down, especially if they're tweens or teens. The last thing a child that age wants to do is prove their parent right. So, probably, they'll put on warmer clothes when they get cold, but only if it's their choice to do so.

A good way to promote independence in preschoolers and teach them what's appropriate to wear and what's not is to provide them with two acceptable choices. For example, "You may wear the blue knit cap or the baseball hat. Which do you choose?" Or, "You may wear long pants or tights and a skirt. Which do you choose?" Always make sure both choices are acceptable to you!

And if it's just one of those days and you cannot, just cannot, get your child to cooperate and change into something appropriate and your only choice is to send them to school in their PJs or not come to school at all, please, send them in their PJs. We don't mind at all. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Why "I don't know. What do you think?" is Often the Best Answer to Your Child's Question

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"Why do Jews always answer a question with a question?"
          - curious reader

"How should they answer?"
          - Dear Abby

"No, really, why do Jews always answer a question with a question?"
          - same curious reader

"Well, how else are we supposed to learn?"
         - Morah Jen (taking over for Dear Abby)

"But there's got to be a reason, right? Like a real reason?"
          - increasingly frustrated reader

"Sure. What do you think the reason is?"
          - Morah Jen


"Ok, I'm sensing your frustration. 

Jews answers questions with questions because for us it's not about the answers. We're not really looking for the answer. How can we ever know the answer is the right answer? Or the only answer? So it's not about the answer. 

It's about the questions. It's about the journey. It's our struggle with the questions that connects us to our history, our ancestors, and to God. We find holiness in asking questions and debating what the answer is.

Also, it's just good pedagogy. Read this article to learn more."

Friday, December 13, 2019

It's All About Relationships

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Yesterday I attended a workshop entitled The Research Has Changed but the Children Haven't: Developing a Better Understanding of the Toddler Years. The presenter is passionate about developmentally appropriate practice and ensuring that our youngest children receive the nurturing care they deserve. She talked about a values-based education that's based on important things like helping children become more adventurous, caring, confident, cheerful, respectful, determined, persistent, open-minded, and creative. She talked about children needing to be independent as well as interdependent and dependent. She stressed that our guiding principle should always be "it's all about relationships."

Click here to learn more about Zero to Three, an organization working to educate parents and politicians about what the research really says about what young children really need.

I also attended Strategies for Maximizing Family Engagement. We learned the difference between outreach (it's more about the organization and what it needs, i.e. recruitment) and engagement (it's about what the people need, i.e. relationships). Her next slide declared, "It's all about relationships," clearly a theme for the day!

The presenter works for PJ Library, a phenomenal program that provides free books to families raising Jewish children. If you haven't already signed up to receive these books, you should!

Preschooler's Pockets

A friend sent me this story last week. A photographer has documented what's in her preschooler's pocket at the end of every day,...