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Help Your Child Thrive

5 Ways To Help Your Child Thrive

The brain is divided into two hemispheres with each side having its own unique functions.  The left side is logical, literal, linguistic, and linear (the four L’s).   The right side is holistic, non-verbal, and focuses on the emotions and experiences of relationships.  When it comes to development, very young children tend to be right brain dominant!  This is especially true during the first three years of life when they live completely in the moment and have not mastered the ability to use words and logic to express their feelings.

When can you determine a change to using both side of the brain?  Once your toddler begins askingHelp Your Child Thrive “why?” all the time! This is because the left brain strives to know linear cause-effect relationships and uses language to express logic.

The following are some strategies that parents can use to help their children survive and thrive through the challenges of childhood.  However, these strategies are not just for parents.  Anyone who plays a significant role in a child’s life, whether you’re a grandparent, relative, teacher, or babysitter/nanny, can use these strategies in nurturing whole-brain development.

Strategies to Help Your Children Thrive!

  1. Connect & Redirect: Surfing Emotional Waves: First, connecting with the right brain means acknowledging your child’s feelings.  Regardless of how illogical and frustrating your child’s feelings may seem to you at the moment, they are real and important to your child.  Using nonverbal signals, such as physical touch, empathetic facial expressions, a nurturing tone of voice, and nonjudgmental listening are great ways to connect and communicate with your child’s right brain.  Once your child’s brain is back in balance, you can move to step 2 to integrate the left and right brain.  Next, after responding to your child’s right brain, you can now redirect with the left brain through logical explanation, planning, and discussing misbehavior and consequences.
  1. Name It to Tame It: Telling Stories to Calm Big Emotions: Help your child retell the story of a frightening or painful experience.  Allow your child to retell the story as much as he can and help fill in any details, including lingering feelings since the experience.  You and your child can retell the story several times, with the aim to lessen his fears or pain.  Also, this technique will help your child bring the left and right brain together and make sense of their experience.
  1. Engage, Don’t Enrage: Instead of presenting ultimatums, direct your child to use more precise and specific words for how he/she is feeling.  Then, give your child the opportunity to practice problem solving and decision making.  Also, this will help your child consider appropriate behaviors and consequences, and assist them in thinking about the wants and feelings of others.
  1. Move It or Lose It: Moving the Body to Avoid Losing the Mind: Research has shown that movement directly affects brain chemistry.  Therefore, physical activity is a powerful way to help your child regain balance and change his emotional state.  This could be in the form of yoga, going to the park, blowing/popping bubbles (who doesn’t love that), or a bike ride.
  1. Increase the Family Fun Factor: Making a Point to Enjoy Each Other: Sometimes, with all the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to forget to have fun with your family.  As such, “playful parenting” gives your children positive experiences to prepare them for relationships and encourage them to connect with others.  Some great ways to have fun as a family include, playing improv games, telling jokes, being silly, playing board games, family bike rides, and making cookies.  Lastly, don’t forget to take interest in things they care about.

More strategies and information can be found in the book The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Bingo

BINGO! New Twists on a Classic Game

BINGO! What’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word? Senior night at the community center? What if I told you the images that come to my mind are all from my childhood? That’s right. Bingo is also for kids. There are lots of great options out there for playing Bingo as a family, and I’ve even got a few new ideas to put a new twist on this old favorite. But hey, while I’m at it, let’s re-invent some other classics too!

Fun Ways to Play Bingo:Bingo! Fun twists on a classic game

Travel Bingo: Going on a family road trip or long flight? Use a handy template to create your own travel Bingo game. Come up with a random list of things you’ll see along the way (stop signs, a certain letter, a license plate from another state, etc.) and use it to create your own Bingo cards. This is a great game that the whole family can play together (except the driver! Keep your eyes on the road!) and will enhance your kids’ observation skills.

            *Insider Tip – You can also use pictures to make Bingo exciting for younger kids too!

Educational Bingo: Struggling to learn letters, math, colors, shapes, etc? There are lots of great educational Bingo sets out there, but you can always make your own too. Create your own set of cards for a game that will make learning fun.

Puzzle Piece Bingo: This alternative I discovered quickly became a favorite when I worked in a daycare. This is a great option for younger kids who may not get the whole Bingo concept yet, or who need to work on fine motor skills. Take several board style puzzles (these are the ones that have a sturdy backboard that the puzzle pieces snap into). Ask each child to select one of the puzzles, then have them dump all the pieces into the Bingo Bin or Bingo Bag (You can make this as simple or as creative as you’d like. In daycare we just dumped all the pieces into an empty box). Have each child sit with their puzzle board in front of them. Hold up one piece at a time, and tell them to raise their hand or call out a silly word if they think the piece is from their puzzle. Go through pieces one at a time until the first child finishes their puzzle. BINGO! Hooray! Great Job!

The Tray Game: Okay, so maybe this one was never a classic, but you may have played something like it at a shower once. This game is great for teaching observation and memory skills. Take a tray or flat surface, and fill it with tiny random objects (race car, tooth pick, thread, button, coin, etc.). Put the tray where everyone can look at it and set a timer (anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes depending on ages and attention spans). Then remove the tray from the room and have everyone write or say as many objects as they remember. The one who remembers the most wins! (This is also great for teams!)

Photo Scavenger Hunt: Kids love scavenger hunts, but they usually result in big bags of junk that need to be sorted and put away or just get thrown out. That’s why photo scavenger hunts are so great! Kids love the adventure and discovery, and taking pictures themselves will be the icing on the cake! To play, create a list in advance for teams to search for. Give each team a camera (disposable are the cheapest and lowest risk, but kids can’t see how their pictures turned out. For instant gratification use a digital camera or old school Polaroid camera, but ask adults to take charge of the camera when not in use). You can set points for especially tricky things to find, and get everyone involved in the pictures too. (A picture of two team members hugging, everyone jumping off a curb, etc.) At the end of the hunt display the pictures where everyone can see them. Give awards for biggest smile, Goofiest silly face, most finger-free photos, etc.

*Insider Tip: For a fun day out and an opportunity to teach kids to pay-it-forward make your list all about helping the community. Make your list all about small things they can do to help others – like picking up some trash, helping someone unload groceries, etc. (For more great ideas, check out my blog on teaching kids to pay it forward.)

I hope you and your family enjoy these new game ideas. Please comment below to let me know what your family like best, and share your other great ideas. Have Fun!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Healthy Habits for 2013: Teaching Your Children the Importance of Health and Fitness

It is often that a new year means a new start and new goals for the upcoming months! My co-workers and I have recently had the family exerciseprivilege of attending a presentation related to how to improve upon the foods we are consuming and the exercises we are participating in so that we can increase our energy levels and overall health. I want to share this knowledge with you. As adults (parents, teachers, therapists), we have a huge influence on the lifestyles the children around us are going to live. We need to make sure that we are teaching our children well so they can learn to make their own healthy choices in the future. Here are a few simple facts to keep in mind for yourself as well as your family:

5 Tips For A Healthier Lifestyle:

  • When you are grocery shopping or cooking a recipe at home, the most important item to lconsider the serving size that the nutrition label provides. This will not only help you determine if there are enough servings for your entire family, but it will also help you determine how much of an item you should actually be consuming (e.g. ½ cup compared to 1 cup is a big difference)!
  • As a general rule, try to fill your grocery cart with items that are primarily from the perimeter of the grocery store, including fresh produce (e.g. fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, and poultry). This will help your family eat more fresh food instead of processed items.
  • As a reminder, vegetables offer an abundant amount of vitamins and minerals;however, when you overcook your vegetables, you will not get as much vitamins out of them. Try to eat the majority of your vegetables raw instead of overcook in order to gain the greatest benefits.
  • Keep in mind that our bodies are designed to consume food. We need food for energy as well as for survival. With this in mind, rather than instill the newest fad diet into your family’s lifestyle, try to focus on the importance of eating significant amounts of protein and other foods that will give your body the nourishment it needs to make it through the entire day. It is recommended to never skip meals or count calories too intensely.
  • Encourage your family to drink plenty of water throughout the day. This can easily be done by sending a water bottle with your child to school in his/her lunchbox or backpack. Water keeps us hydrated and helps our bodies run more smoothly.

As you see above, there are many simple tips that we can use in order to live a healthier lifestyle as well as encourage those around us to be healthier too, especially children. Try implementing some of the strategies above and see if you notice a difference in your overall energy level! In addition, stay tuned for my next blog regarding fun ways to get your children to be more active. As always, if you have any questions or concerns or wonder how this can be more individualized for your child and family, please reach out to one of our nutrition therapists for additional guidance.


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