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5 Reasons Free-Time is a Good Thing

Free-time is a good thing. Parents spend a lot of time encouraging their children to participate in recreational activities during the school year. There is nothing wrong with having your child participate in different activities and helping them to figure out what they are passionate about; however, over-scheduling your child with too many activities can often lead to increased stress in children and their parents. It is important for parents to be cautious about how much they are scheduling their children and to encourage more free time.

Here are 5 reasons why it is important not to over-schedule your child:KidsFreeTimeFall

  1. Over-scheduling can create increased stress and anxiety for both parents and children. Over the last several years there has been an increase in anxiety related disorders due to the stressors involved with over-scheduling.
  2. It creates less time for children to complete their homework and can cause them to have less sleep at night due to staying up later to complete their homework.
  3. It decreases the amount of quality time a children can spend with their family.
  4. Over-scheduling can cause a child to have less time for free-time and with you. Quality time doing imaginative play with your child is important in order to encourage creativity and to help develop independence in children.
  5. It can also cause children to have difficulty maintaining with peers due to not having enough free time to spend with them and to build their relationships.


 Is over-scheduling or homework creating stress? Read here for 8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress.




5 Ways to Help Your Child “Kick-Off” a Conversation

Many people look forward to fall for the start of football season and back-to-school; however, it can also be an intimidating time for children who struggle with social interaction with peers.  For some kids, talking with friends comes naturally.  Other kids need some help.  If your child finds it difficult to strike up a conversation with friends, encourage her to take the following steps to “kick-off” a discussion with peers that will set the foundation for wonderful friendships in the school year to come.

5 ways to help your child “kick-off” a conversation:

Ask “Get-to-know-you” Questions:

  • What’s your name?
  • What grade are you in?
  • Do you like sports?
  • Do you have brothers/sisters/pets?

Discuss Seasonal Topics:

  • Ask about summer break/vacations/camps
  • Discuss favorite fall football teams

Talk About News Events:

  • Sports games
  • Presidential election
  • “Did you hear about…?”

Share Stories from the Summer:

Top 10 Tips to get your Shy Child to Speak

Many children thrive in new environments or situations. They separate quickly from their parents, make friends easily and are eager to participate in the classroom. Not all children are like this, however. Some children are resistant to entering a room full of children and prefer to play alone. They may also be more reserved in circle time or in the classroom. They may have a hard time making new friends and having a conversation. Below are some ways you can encourage your shy child to come out of his/her shell.

 10 Tips To Encourage Your Shy Child To Speak:

1. Encourage play groups with friends – Many children will have an easier time playing or talking when there are less people around. Ask your child’s teacher who your child tends to sit next to or who shares some of the same interests and invite them over for a play date. Start by having the play date at your house. Once your shy girlchild is comfortable playing with his new friend in your house, change the setting and go to the park. When he/she seems ready to go over to the friend’s house, let your child bring some of his/her favorite toys to make the transition easier.

2. Help your child make friends – Making new friends isn’t something that comes easy to everyone. Start by introducing your child to someone his/her own age. Try to find out what the other child likes to do and see if they share any common interests. When you make the introduction, it’s helpful to say, “Scott is your age too! And guess what? He loves dinosaurs!” This will help your child ease into the process of making friends. Once your child becomes more comfortable or at ease, you can then invite the other friend over for a play date.

3. Role play – Use some of your child’s favorite toys to role play what may happen in real life. Let’s say your child has a hard time entering his/her classroom in the morning and saying hi to his/her peers. Use dolls or stuffed animals and act out this situation. Ask your child, “What could bear say to his friends?” If your child has a hard time playing with the other kids during free time, you could act this out as well. The goal here is to get your child thinking about what he/she could say or do. The roles can be reversed as well. You play the shy child and have your child’s bear be the one to help you think it through. Additionally, when you’re out in public, model what you would like your child to be doing in social situations. When you come in contact other people, say hello and ask how they are doing. Smile too!!

4. Don’t force your child – It’s important not to label your child as shy. While it’s okay to be a shy child, if you start labeling him/her or the behavior, it negatively reinforces the problem.

5. Incorporate their interests – What is your child really interested in? Does he/she love polar bears? Have him/her bring some books, toys or pictures to the classroom. While we just talked about how important it is not to force your child to talk, provide him/her with an opportunity to share what he/she brought in with classmates.

6. Give your child some “go to” lines – Sometimes it’s just the initial communication exchange that can be most challenging. Once they’re over the “hump” engaging with another peer becomes easier. Go over some “go to” lines that your child can use when meeting a new friend or wanting to play with a friend in his/her class.

  • Hi, how are you?
  • What’s your name?
  • Do you want to play?
  • Can I play too?
  • I like your ____.

7. Read books – There are many books that talk about being shy or have a shy character in them. Some book ideas include, “Are You Shy?” “Little Miss Shy” and “Shy Spaghetti and Excited Eggs.”

8. Social stories – Social stories are a great way to talk about difficult situations. Social stories provide a child with information about situations that he/she may find difficult or uncomfortable. You can find stories online or even write one of your own. By making one yourself, you can use pictures of actual people and places to make it more lifelike.

9. Improve your child’s self-esteem – You always want your child to feel good about him/her. Have your child tell you 10 things they like about himself/herself. Provide positive feedback when it’s appropriate (i.e. “You did such a great job saying hi to your friend.”) Teachers can also be helpful in promoting your child’s self-esteem.

10. Seek outside help – if it seems like your child is more than just shy, it may be helpful to seek advice from a professional. Some red flags include being socially withdrawn, avoiding eye contact, having a tantrum or crying before going to a social situation.  Remember to stay positive, be patient and always model good social skill behaviors!

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Helping Your Child Deal with Losing A Game

One of the most common challenges I see when working with kids, is difficulty with losing.  Many rounds of Candlyland have ended in tears and scattered game pieces.  For kids, losing can feel unexpected and extremely frustrating.  However, it’s important to learn to handle losing (and winning) in order to successfully navigate friendships.  So how can we help children learn to lose (and win) well from early on?  If you’ve ever found yourself wiping tears after a game, or rigging Candyland to avoid your child’s loss, then read on.  Here are 10 strategies to help your child better navigate winning and losing.

10 Ways To Help Your Child Handle With Losing:

  1. Prepare ahead-of time.  It can feel frustrating and unexpected for kids to lose a game.  Prepare your child ahead of time by introducing concepts of winning and losing, as well as how to respond.  For example: sore loser in a game“Sometimes we win, and sometimes our friends win.  It’s okay when our friends win!  Games are just for fun!”
  2. Redefine winningTalk to your child about what matters most.  Even though it’s fun to win, what matters most is sportsmanship, playing by the rules and being a good friend.  By prioritizing sportsmanship over winning, you can help your child feel accomplished for playing the game well, even if they didn’t win.
  3. Praise what is going well.  If we want our kids to value sportsmanship, then give them positive praise and affirmation for good behaviors.  Talk about what is going well during or after a game.  Use clear and descriptive feedback (e.g. “Wow! You said ‘congratulations!’ That was such a friendly thing to say to your friend.”) .
  4. Learn to win gracefullyRehearse appropriate phrases to use when your child wins.  For example, “Good game! That was so fun to play together!”.  Give your child clear feedback about how their words might make others feel.  For example: “Uh oh, I think your friend felt sad when you said ‘I won and you lost!’ What’s something friendly you could say instead?”
  5. Learn to lose gracefully.  Rehearse appropriate phrases to use when your child loses.  For example, “Congratulations!” or “Great game!”.  Give your child clear feedback about how their responses might make their friends feel.  For example, “Uh oh, when you ran away, your friends felt sad. It’s not fun to play when you run away from the game.”
  6. Talk about itIf you notice your child is beginning to escalate, reintroduce some of the concepts you discussed earlier (e.g. “Sometimes we win, and sometimes our friends win. It’s okay when our friends win. Games are just for fun!”).  Use a calm and positive tone to show your child that everything is okay.   If needed, take some time out to regroup and calm down.
  7. Practice, practice, practice. The best way to learn is by doing, so practice playing games with your child.  You might start by playing a game one-on-one, and rehearsing appropriate phrases to say to others (e.g. “Good try!” or “Great job!”).  Start with a simple game that’s not overly complicated, so your child can focus more on sportsmanship and less on game strategy.  Next, you might practice games during a play-date with a few friends.
  8. Set a good example. Children learn by watching and imitating, so set the tone by modeling good sportsmanship.  This isn’t just limited to playing board-games, but also includes how you respond to other moments throughout your day (e.g. handling traffic, when your favorite team looses, etc.).
  9. Encourage self-reflecting.  Encourage your child to think about their behavior after a game.  What went well?  What can we work on next time?  Incorporate lots positive feedback for things that were successful (“Wow, I like the way you let your friend go first!”), as well as constructive ideas for what to do better next time.
  10. Finally, try again. Learning takes time and practice.  If your child has a bad day, or a game ends in a meltdown, don’t be afraid to try again the next time you play together.  Your child may try to avoid a particular game that they’ve previously lost.  Use a positive tone, and encouragement them to try again.