Toddler drama

I’m no expert – just a mom. And I’m a toddler mom, so I guess I am an expert in some way or another. However, right now while I write this, my toddler is throwing a seriously epic tantrum. It’s putting a big halt to my afternoon plans, which included going for a jog, maybe some ice cream, reading a book while she played happily in the mud and so forth. My husband, as awesome as he is, can’t tolerate the toddler drama. His blood temperature rises (and sometimes his voice), so I usually shoo him outside or away when the tantrums unfold.


We were just about to walk into the store when it started. She didn’t want to sit in the cart – she wanted to walk all on her own. Because we were planning on doing a bit more shopping than toddler strolling allowed, we insisted she sit in the cart.


And things escalated from there.

Instead of trying to reason with her (really, I actually did so I’m kind of lying right now – there was total bribery involved but it didn’t work), I sent the husband inside to pick up the items we needed right now and took the screaming tot to the car.

Pummeling fists, kicking legs, and screaming ensued.

I shoved her into the car seat, locked her up tight, rolled down the windows, and hung-out around the car checking my Instagram feed while she SCREAMED AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS.

Sure, lots of people stared me down. I just smiled back.

Toddlers have drama, there’s just no way around it, and sometimes it’s best to just let things go.

I’m not going to hug and kiss her and offer her this or that to get her to stop. I’m not going to give in when she’s the one that needs to do the right thing.

I’m just as stubborn – if not more – than she is.

But there are a few things you can do when your tot has a breakdown:

Take a deep breath! This sometimes isn’t the easiest thing to do when your toddler is screaming her head off, but just do it. After you get some air into your lungs, calmly tell your child what is going to happen – and stick to it. I told my tot that if she didn’t sit in the cart we would go to the car. She didn’t sit in the shopping cart so we went to the car.

Don’t bribe. Yeah, so I can’t really say I didn’t try, but when your child is already in the middle of a tantrum, most times she is so worked up even offering that bribe isn’t going to register. Older toddlers are starting to figure out that this type of behavior often results in receiving what they want, which isn’t great for us adults.

Try a distraction. If your child isn’t in the middle of throwing herself to the floor (which means she’s at the beginning stages of a total tantrum), offer a distraction. Sing a song, point out something amazing (LOOOOOK a dog!), or tickle her. This often works for us, but today things had already hit the uber tantrum level.

 Act like nothing is happening. Take it from me, removing yourself from the situation, while still being close enough if your child starts being a danger to herself, is a great way to de-stress the situation. After the husband got in the car with our essentials, we acted as if we didn’t have a crazed toddler in the back seat and, as soon as we arrived home, I deposited in her room and picked up my laptop. I’ve been typing away for about 20-minutes now and she’s starting to calm down.

Talk about it later. Whenever we have a breakdown like this I always make sure to talk about it later. I offer her the words she might need to tell me about why she got so upset. I also make sure to share how I felt frustrated with the situation and discuss how we can make things better next time. It’s important to give big hugs and kisses once things have calmed down to let your child understand you still think she is super special even though things weren’t so fun for a little bit.

What works at with your tot when it’s toddler drama time? DO SHARE!

I’m off to chat with my little creature so we can hopefully still have that ice cream….



Impromptu learning – Spiders

Yesterday, while I was trying to get a bit of work done and the tot was watching Curious George, she came into my office and said there was a spider under the floor. I assumed her yammering was connected to something she was watching so I brushed her off and kept typing. But, a few minutes later, she came back to tell me the spider was really under the floor. Then my brain hiccupped back to last year (remember the black widow incident?!) and I went to make a thorough investigation. Sure enough, there was a spider, but just a small one, crawling along the floor. I am not a fan of spiders – at all. But she was looking at me with those big, excited eyes, so instead of squashing it up, I grabbed a glass lidded jar, swept in the spider, and figured it was time for some impromptu learning.


My toddler is three. No need for bug vs. spider discussions – just a bit of observational learning. We discussed what color the spider was, how many legs he had, how he could walk upside down, if he had a family – or a name…

learning about spiders

After about an hour (full of showing the entire house to the spider) I was beginning to become worried about lil’ spider’s well-being and declared it time to head outside. We could look for spider’s family and release him if we found any relatives.

It was decided that spider loved water so a shallow mud-pit was created. During this time, spider was positioned safely on a table so he could see.


When I asked my tot if she was ready to let spider go and have lunch time, she said NO.



I have to KEEP HIM.

He LOVES me.

All I could think was that dear old spider was going to be lifeless any second and how I needed to use my super-mom abilities to save poor spider (whom I actually didn’t really like). I offered lunch and the incentive of some sort of sweet treat, which sent the tot trotting up the stairs. While her back was turned (and hopefully before she’d remember to grab spider) I popped the top of the jar and hoped spider would make a quick escape.

Once upstairs, she realized she had forgotten spider, looked out the window and observed the open container.

Oh NO! SPIDER! Ohhhhhh!

We talked about how spider had decided it was time to find his family but that he’d probably be back to visit.

After lunch, and a quick clean-up and change, we sat down to draw spider – and his family.

Drawing spiders

We taped the finished drawing to the fridge and both enjoyed a much-needed nap/quiet time.



What to do when your toddler colors on everything and anything

Remember last week when I shared that post about right-brained dominant (a.k.a super creative) kids? While writing it, my toddler was enjoying her not-really nap-time. She doesn’t really sleep anymore, she just has quiet time in her room. I’ve got it stocked with her favorite books, stuffed animals, a chalk board with chalk, and most recently, crayons and a few coloring books. She’s really into creating tons and tons of creations to mail to Gamma and Opa, so I figured I could trust her to keep those crayons on the paper.

Because, you remember when she colored on the wall, right?

(which resulted in the homemade chalk board…)

The thing is, your toddler is hard-wired to make marks. Her right-brain is in overload, desperately searching for ways to share thoughts, feelings, and ideas. This stage of creation is referred to as the scribble stage, due to the child’s desire to scribble, scribble, scribble. Nothing looks like much, but your toddler can actively tell you about the animals, monsters, people, and other crazy stuff in artworks. Before you discard those pages and pages of scribbles, understand it is the expression of your child’s brain developing in amazing ways. From starting to understand hand-eye coordination to simple mathematical concepts, your toddler’s scribbles are the stepping stone to speech, reading, and writing development.

Meaning, it’s a good idea to encourage your child’s disorganized scribbling as much as possible.

But what to do when your child colors on everything and anything possible?

Remember the afore-mentioned day – that day I was writing and the tot was “napping?” When I went down to see if she had actually fallen asleep, because things had gotten pretty quiet, I made quite the discovery. She had colored everywhere. From her dresser to her closet doors to her side table to her light switch, just about everything in her room had a colorful mark.

Before I took a moment to think I scolded her. Instantly I realized it was the absolute wrong decision. She had spent just over an hour artfully decorating her room in a way she was excited about and excited to share with me. She had spent time expressing herself though scribbles and colors (really, each area was a different color combination), and she was looking forward to dazzling me with its beauty. And, I had left those crayons in her room. After we both calmed down, the two of us spent some quality time together cleaning up those scribbles and discussing where those crayons belong – on paper!

Do you have a super scribbler? Here are a few simple ways to encourage those marks to stay where you want them:

Don’t leave any mark making implements within reach of your child (unless you are right there!): Yes, this is a bit of a no-brainer, but, as your toddler ages, you begin to feel they have an understanding of keeping crayons on the paper. Remember your toddler is still a toddler (until the age of four) and still has those inner-toddler instincts to see what might happen. Leaving crayons out for your child is an open invitation to color away on whatever is available. Make time to color alongside your toddler showing your amazing skills to keep those crayon scribbles on your own paper. Toddlers love copying behavior.

Designate a coloring area: Make a spot in your home just for your toddler to create. Whether it’s the kitchen table, a small end table no one uses or an easel in the corner, make sure your toddler knows this is “the spot” to go for making marks. Keep the area stocked with paper, stickers, and chalk (which washes off everything) but keep the markers and crayons out of reach. When your child finds herself over at her creative spot, offer crayons, markers, or paints – but keep an eye on things. As your child matures, she’ll understand the area is for being creative, and markers shouldn’t travel around the house.

Don’t be afraid: Sure, you might not be into fingerprinting, but your child is. Art is one of the main ways a child defines who they are. Getting creative with your child shows that you find her scribbles important, encouraging her self-esteem. You’re going to get messy. Your child is going to get messy. Stuff in your house might get messy. But, if you have a plan of attack, and stay calm, things will turn out wonderfully. Use plastic placements under paper to cut back on mess. Or, place a sheet pan under artwork while painting. Keep a wet washcloth (or a container of baby wipes) next to your creative area to tackle messes the minute they happen.

Don’t yell (but don’t praise either): At some point your child is probably going to color on something. Hopefully, it will be with a mark-making implement that is washable. Before reacting, take a deep breath. If you are expecting it to happen during the toddler years it won’t be such a big surprise when you come across a colored white wall, right? Start by acknowledging what you see and then calmly explaining that crayons only belong on paper. Walk your child over to your creative area and get out a paper for your child to scribble on. Once she’s had a moment to make a few marks, remove the crayons. Walk back to your newly colored wall and discuss how the walls aren’t for coloring, but for hanging pictures and that you can frame one of her artworks to look at….

Frame your child’s scribbles and hang them on the wall: Even though you might not think her scribbles are anything exciting, she sure does. If your child spends a good amount of time on a creation, pick up a simple frame (less than $10 at the craft store!), pop in her artwork, and display in your home. Make sure to point it out to your toddler or hang it at just above arms reach so she can stand in front of her framed artwork and appreciate it. Not only are you showing you are proud of her and her abilities, you are encouraging her to continue exploring her creativity.

So get out the crayons and start scribbling – on paper!




Oh my gosh your kid is so creative! (Right-brain dominant kids)

My tot is only three and she’s in love with coloring, coloring, painting, coloring, cooking, imaginary play, and more painting. I often hear the, “Oh my gosh, she’s just like you” comment, along with the, “You’re so lucky she is so creative!” Well, am I? The thing is, I’m hyper-creative. While writing this I’m also thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner, that the downstairs hallway needs painting, how I’d like to do a finger paint canvas project with the tot, and how cool it would be to make a soap dish from a cabbage leaf pressed in clay.

I’m a bit ADHD right-brain creative.

Along with having all these awesome ideas running through my head, I’ve got life to contend with. Often my ideas are a flash and then gone.

I also can’t add without using my fingers.


Creative kids often struggle with logical real world stuff. The right-brain is hardwired to indulge creative thought, pushing that mathematical, sensible, and reasonable left-brain to the background. Encouraging creativity is important for all – but sometimes it is important to make sure those that are creative are getting a bit of that logical left to balance things out.

The Right-Brain Dominant Child

A child’s brain is an amazing thing with areas in charge of logical thought, which may not be used as often as parents (and teachers) would like, and also creativity. The brain is divided into two hemispheres – the right and the left. The left side of the brain is dominant over the right side of the body and the right over the left. This means left-handed individuals are thought to be right-brain dominant, but it is not always the case. Before labeling a child as a right-brain learner, remember that the entire brain works together to create a complete human being, but many do have tendencies toward a specific half.

Right-Brain Characteristics

When a child seems to excel in the creative arts, is excited about doing hands-on activities, and exploring and experimenting, the right side of the brain is probably dominant over the left. Several developmental characteristics are often associated with right-brain learners such as higher levels of creativity and language skills. Along with these positive attributes, right-brain dominant kids are often thought unorganized and easily distracted.

A right-brain dominant child may also be classified as a visual- spatial learner, which means the brain taps into learning through visual clues, the child prefers information given all at once, and learns through doing not observing. Those long mathematical problems or activities that follow multi-step directions may cause a right-brained child to tune out. In a perfect world, children would be taught in ways most appropriate for their learning style, but with a majority of the population leaning toward being left-brain dominant, a more structured, linear, and goal-oriented way of education prevails. This causes many a teacher to feel a child isn’t able to perform as well as other children without realizing that it may have more to do with how the information is presented.

Learning with a Right-Brained Child

Now that you have determined you have a right-brained child, what is the next step? There are simple ways to encourage your child to tap into both sides of the brain, which not only allows the dominant side to shine, but balances the whole being.

–       Use your child’s creativity to help utilize left-brain strengths.  Most right-brain dominant children enjoy learning through doing. Turn the next challenging math assignment into a creative experience by encouraging brain to think in different ways. Spend time talking through the assignment with your child, or even act out ideas, and encourage taking notes to help remember details later. Not only does this help keep things on track, but encourages the linear left-brain to work alongside the creative right.

–       When your child is ready to get working, encourage solo work time. Often right-brained children enjoy working with others, which may lead to wonderful and exciting learning opportunities within the classroom, but can take a child off-task when completing homework. Tap into the left-brain by giving your child quiet space to focus on the task at hand. When a task is completed, celebrate with an engrossing and engaging game or activity that rewards all that hard work.

–       Use your child’s visual brain to its best by encouraging learning through using color. When studying for an upcoming spelling test offer your child a pre-test and then focus on the words that were challenging. The HSLDA (Home Schooling Legal Defense Association) suggest writing out the misspelled words on cards with the letters that are incorrect in a different color. For instance, if your child writes Saturday as “Saterday” write the correct letters in black and the incorrect “e” as a “u” but in red. Help your child make the flash cards together to encourage the left and right brain to work together.

–       Take your time – and encourage your child to do the same. Visual-spatial learners do not work well under pressure. Although, in most cases, school tests are timed, while at home, offer your child as much time as needed to get work done. If your child is challenged with an activity, encourage drawing a picture or creating charts to show visualization the activity. Offer assistance and encouragement without judgment or getting frustrated if things are taking a bit longer than desired.

–       When in the classroom, offer the right-brain dominant child lots of opportunities for visual learning, which means including charts in lectures and visuals when discussing an assignment, such as pictures of birds when learning about migration. All children enjoy looking at visuals when learning, so including additional images as often as possible only aides in everyone’s education.

Having a right-brained dominant child may seem like a roller coaster at times, with moments of total excitement and crashes with great disappointments. Working with your child is key, no matter the learning style, which encourages positive learning for years to come.

Oh, the toddler years (and Piaget)

There are days that being a parent is really hard. Hey, there are lots and lots and lots of days when parenting is challenging. As an educator (before having kids), I had a very different style of behavior management than I do as a parent. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn about and test out different educational concepts, styles, and philosophies. And I’ve realized that it goes out the window when I’m desperately trying to leave the house and the tot is frustrated because I won’t let her wear what she wants (no matter the weather).


But, I often do reflect on those educational concepts and philosophies to remind myself of those amazing people who explored and exposed others to the wonders and specialness of the developing mind, reminding us all that even in those tough moments, things will get better. And, Jean Piaget was one of those guys.

The early years of life are full of colors, sounds, experiences and experiments. Children learn through their senses along with interactions with others, which are sometimes good and sometimes not so great. Jean Piaget, a Swiss born biologist and psychologist, felt that every interaction establishes cognitive structure in children. Sure makes you think twice about using that cookie as a bribe for some good behavior, right? (which I totally did during potty training…)

So, here we go…

Piaget and the Child Developmental Model

Piaget came to his conclusions after spending time observing children while they were learning and playing. His research in the 1920’s was groundbreaking in the understanding of the workings of young minds. His ideas offered insight to adults as to the developmental stages of children creating opportunities to enhance learning in the classroom and adult interactions with children. His renowned child developmental model is based on the idea that the developing child builds structures or maps in response to understanding physical and cognitive experiences within her environment, which include:

Sensorimotor stage: (from birth to 2 years of age) During this stage the child is internally motivated to interact physically with her environment, building an understanding of reality and how it works. A child at this age is not aware of object permanence yet, which means she has not figured out when something is out of sight, it is still in existence.

Preoperational stage: (2 to 7 years of age) The child is yet to understand abstract reasoning and thinking and still needs concrete physical situations. This means using bribes to achieve desired behaviors may have negative consequences later in development, as the child does not understand the reasoning behind the process – just the result. And, like I stated above, I used bribery during potty training. Oops.

Concrete operational stage: (7 to 11 years of age) By this time the child has gained important knowledge through physical interactions with her environment and is starting to conceptualize and create logical structures from her experiences. The child is able to understand abstract reasoning and is ready for advanced learning concepts such as arithmetic.

Formal operational stage: (11 years of age and beyond) The child is now able to fully function as an adult as far as conceptual reasoning and understanding. She is ready for challenges and new experiences that will encourage her brain and understanding of the world around her.

Encouraging the Piaget Model

Through these stages, there are several ways adults can positively influence learning through Piaget’s concepts. Either within the classroom or in the home, the child greatly benefits from added support and encouragement. By taking a look at each stage of learning and actions that the child begins to master, the adult can find ways to offer positive reinforcement.

Sensorimotor – During this stage, the child is limited by her abilities. Basic characteristics include grasping, reaching, and reflexive behaviors. Adults can motivate a baby of this age to grasp by putting small toys outside of her reach or hanging a mobile over her crib. Reading with the child encourages language through listening to inflections and watching movements of the face. As a baby ages playing simple games such as “peek-a-boo” or hiding an object just outside a child’s reach encourages the understanding of object permanence and cognitive development.

Preocupational – Speech is one of the main advancements during this stage, with language taking up a large part of development. Along with figuring out the world through experimenting and asking lots and lots of questions, the child is also working out moral dilemmas and becoming less egocentric. This means that wonderful lack of object permanence will soon be gone, causing the child to become attached to a special blanket, toy, or parent – which can lead to extreme melt-downs. No joke.

This is a great time to play board games with simple rules or offer experiences for the child with basic steps. Taking turns and following directions is challenging at this age, but the more experience the child has leads to greater cognitive development.

Concrete operational – A child is ready for challenges at this stage. This means her cognitive development is motivated for advanced tasks that encourage multiple ways of thought, multi-tasking, and logical sequencing. Other models are essential to her cognitive development, with teachers, friends, and other adults encouraging her learning and evolution. Offering opportunities for advanced learning through educational or recreational activities is a way to hone skills and encourage individuality. If a child is excelling in the arts, encouraging classes in an area of interest is beneficial to her development and self-esteem.

Formal operational – Abstract thought has fully developed and the child is now ready to take on adult concepts and is able to demonstrate knowledge through proper use of symbols and abstract concepts. This does not mean the child is a fully functioning adult, but that her brain is honed to take on greater tasks and learning. This is a time for conversation and debate along with doing. The child’s thinking is less focused on concrete reality and is able to take on conceptual thoughts. Spending time talking through foreign concepts and problems encourages development and build cognitive growth.

Piaget’s model is one that offers insight and understanding of child development, which benefits teachers and parents alike. Encouraging kids during these stages provides much needed support and nurturing, and offers some wonderful opportunities for healthy bonding.

Fun and simple memory games for kids

My tot is all about wanting everything now and not remembering that a simple “thank you” goes a long way. Her brain is working a mile a minute and full of egocentric thought – and being polite isn’t important. Remembering to toss out a “please” or “thanks” is pretty rare, and I’m a bit tired of all that prompting.

Memory is a compilation of items that make up the ongoing experience of life. Although it’s a concept, and not a single tangible part of the brain, memory is an actual brain-wide process. Encouraging each individual memory helps the entire process work together, aiding kids in remembering the capitol of Peru and how to tie her shoes – or to simply say thank you.

There’s nothing wrong with having some fun while learning and honing memory skills. Sure, you can get out a few board games and get bored or mix things up with some inventive ways to use stuff around the house while spending some quality memory building time together.

What’s Missing? – Ages 4+

Take advantage of a child’s love of small items by creating a game utilizing a blanket and the power of her brain. Training the short-term memory to work longer than 20 to 30 seconds helps encourage a child’s brain to make strong memories, which can be accomplished through a fun memory activity.

-Have the child select five to seven small objects she would like to use for playing the game, such as miniature cars, plastic animals, or colored blocks.

-Take a moment to describe each item discussing its color, shape, and special characteristics. Explain to her that she will be playing a game with the items where one at a time, an object will go missing. Talking through an activity encourages the child’s left and right brain to work together, creating complete learning.

-Help position the objects in an arrangement on the floor or a table so they are close together. Once again, have her describe each object and its characteristics helping to form her memory of each item. Repeating aides in memory.

-Cover everything with a blanket and remove an item by hiding it in the palm of your hand and then placing it behind your back without allowing your child to see which item has been removed.

-Take away the blanket and ask your child what item is missing. If she has problems remembering, prompt her with descriptive words she used to describe the object, such as its color or shape.

-Continue removing items and playing until no items are left. Once all the objects have gone missing, ask if she can recall each item that was used to play the memory building game.

Rhyme it Up – ages 7+

Young adults are busy with schoolwork and hanging out with friends. Helping memory skills with a mnemonics memory activity gives an edge when it comes to getting homework done so there is more time to socialize – and will keep parents happy with the resulting good grades.

-Have your child select a collection of items or facts she would like to work on memorizing, such as social studies facts for an upcoming test.

-Using story telling as a memory booster is a fun and entertaining way to train the brain. To remember information, it needs to be committed to long-term memory with connections that make the facts easier to recall.

-Discuss with your child what mnemonics are and how they benefit memory skills. Mnemonics can be any type of rhyme, story, song, or chant to help remember items. For example, just about everyone knows, “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

-Help your child organize the information she would like to use for creating a fun story mnemonic. Once she’s ready, she can write out the story using key words from her facts, making sure to connect each sentence so her story is easy to remember. Remember, the sillier the better!

-Now she can share the funny mnemonic story with others, strengthening her memory skills and testing others on their retention abilities.

-After sharing her story, she can test listeners by seeing how much of the silly mnemonic they can repeat back without help. Your child can aide listeners by giving them prompts as needed.

-See who can remember the most of the silly mnemonic out of your child’s friends and family and offer a prize to the memory game winner.

Total Recall – 11+

Tweens and teens have lots of pressures including excelling in school along with after school sports and activities, other responsibilities such as jobs, and socializing with friends. Help everyone keep on track with a memory boosting game that also offers the opportunity to spend some quality time together too.

-Select several images from magazines to use for the memory activity, such as pictures of people sitting in a restaurant, images of different types of landscapes, or advertisements.

-Everyone has a different type of learning, and using that to tap into memory is extremely beneficial. Your teenager can experiment with her learning style by playing a memory game using the magazine pictures and determining which way encourages the best memory retention.

-Using a timer, provide your teen with a magazine pictures and set the timer for 3 minutes. The goal is to see how many random things she can memorize about the picture and then recall later. Encourage your child to work silently, tapping into her concrete learning style.

-Once the time is up, she can pass over the picture to be quizzed. Ask her various questions such as how many people are in the picture, what color clothes individuals are wearing, animals in the image, and so on.

-Keep track of all her correct answers and the ones that she misses.

-Now she can do the process again but with a different picture. This time, she can describe the image out loud instigating her active learning. Does this help or hinder her memory retention?

-Compare and contrast her skills from previous picture and if she had better results while memorizing silently or while talking.

-Other ideas would be for her to act out the image, write out words for prompts, or create a rhyme for the picture to help remember information within the 3 minutes for each picture.

-See which way of learning provides the best results for the memory retention game and offer a reward for all her hard work – like heading out for some well-deserved ice cream.

Playing memory games are a fun way to train the brain and also boost retention skills. Keeping the memory strong ensures those special memories will be around for many years to come, along with all those important facts and dates.




Environmental learning theory: Stuff vs. your child


The nature versus nurture argument has going on forever, with some finding nature, our genetic make-up, to have greater influence on personality, learning and individual abilities than nurture, or the environment around us. Psychologists, philosophers, doctors and educators all have weighed in on which has dominance, but the debate still goes on. There is still to be a determination on whether nature or nurture reigns.

I know it’s supposed to matter, but really, what matters to me is how to help our environment conducive to happy toddler behavior – and me staying sane.

The environment encompasses all things around the individual that has influence or offers an impression. Young children are greatly inspired and motivated, as well as deterred, by the environment around them.  Not only does this include how furniture is arranged in the home or classroom, but peer pressure and interactions with others. And, the general environment has greater influence on development and learning of the young mind than some might think.

The Environmentalist Learning Theory

Environmentalist learning theory is the understanding that the child’s environment shapes learning and behavior. It is also thought that behavior and learning are reactions to the environment. This perspective encourages families, schools, and educators to understand the child develops and learns new skills in reaction to items she finds around her. Psychologists such as Albert Bandura found through observational learning, that the young child will observe and copy behaviors of others, leading to decision-making skills and development.

Another that finds the environment as an important factor in learning and development of the young mind includes Julian B. Rotter. His social learning concept focused on the idea that personality represents an interaction of the individual with his or her environment. Along with taking into consideration the individual’s reaction to the environment, the individual’s experience plays a role, too. The combination of the environment, the individual, and her reaction encourages behavior and learning.

Creating an Environment

When the child is in an environment not conducive to learning, she will not learn to her best abilities. When the environment is altered to encourage greater learning, her educational opportunities increase. Whether in the home or classroom, creating an environment conducive and supportive of learning aides in the young mind’s evolution to greater knowledge.

You might be surprised at how simple things can be adjusted to motivate learning in your environment. Take into consideration:

  • Lighting: Dimly lit areas make reading or studying challenging for young learners. Keeping areas that are designated for play or learning well lit encourages positive learning skills and habits. Light deprivation not only affects learning but can also lead to depression in children.
  • Music: Incorporating music in the educational environment or home encourages memorization skills as well as creates comfortable and enjoyable surroundings. Along with listening to music, including musical instruction or instruments in a learning environment offers the child the opportunity to explore the connection between math and music, along with self-expression and emotion.
  • Furniture Arrangement: The way a space is arranged and created for learning affects those within it. In the classroom, the furniture arrangement not only reflects the teacher’s style but also encourages the child to explore and react to her environment causing learning. Creating an arrangement, which offers eye contact with children is beneficial as well as creating quiet corners and work areas. Arranging informal learning areas is also an educational opportunity in either the classroom or home.
  • Temperature: When a child is too warm or cold, they may not feel motivated to learn. Keeping the learning environment at a base temperature offers the child the ability to learn what her internal temperature is, and how to compensate. Encourage a child that often seems cold to bring an extra sweater to leave in the classroom or have available at home. Allow warmer children to remove clothing as needed.

Environmentalist theory offers the ability to change the environment for the learner potentially benefiting the young child. There are other factors, including negative elements that should be taken into consideration, such as:

  • Media: Turning the television off, as well as video games and computers, during learning times encourages the child to use her own skills for problem solving and learning. Using the television as a babysitter or learning tool is not always effective and does not offer human interaction beneficial to learning.
  • Model Positive Behavior: As the saying goes, “monkey see, monkey do.” When the child sees an adult behaving a certain way, she wants to emulate and copy. Avoiding drinking, smoking, or using harsh language around children in any type of environment creates positive modeling and promotes good behaviors.
  • Eliminate Unnecessary Noise: Loud noises are not beneficial to the young learning mind. Help encourage learning by turning off or removing items that create loud noises. This way the child feels nurtured and encouraged to learn without disruption.

Take the time to consider the environment when considering the learning and development of the young child. Simple environmental changes offer wonderful results.

Now, go rearrange all your furniture – or don’t 🙂


Halloween and a toddler

Yeah, most kids love dressing up and enjoying the festivities of Halloween. But, our tot? Nope. She’s not into wearing costumes, won’t let us do anything to her hair or face, and doesn’t like hats or crowns or anything.

We thought she might be ready for it this year…

Between potty training and no more naps, our tot is a wreck.

We are too.

So instead of attempting to shove her into a costume she would just tear off, we got out the pumpkin, enjoyed scribbling, and then carved.

We also ate a ton of Halloween candy.

Happy trick-or-treating!

Emotional intelligence (what the heck is it?)

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Your child is super frustrated about something, but isn’t able to communicate clearly what has gone wrong. You feel your emotions getting the best of you as you also become aggravated trying to help. Instead of getting to the root of the issue, tempers rise. With a younger child, an extreme temper tantrum may erupt or an older child may resort to yelling or even crying. Sometimes our emotions get the best of us, but they are essential to our development and ability to deal with social situations.

Emotional intelligence, also knows as EQ, has been discovered to be an important aspect of how we respond to social situation, such as our child throwing a temper-tantrum. A child develops his emotional intelligence through experimenting with imaginary play and having positive behavior modeled to him. When children feel supported and comfortable emotionally, they are better able to effectively learn and are more apt to be physically fit, score higher academically, and get along better with friends and family. As parents, we can assist in a child’s emotional intelligence advancement through simple steps that will encourage his ability to learn, behave, and problem solve effectively.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The study of the emotional human being can be traced all the way back to Darwin and his evolutionary research, but was not highly publicized to the main-stream until the publication of Emotional Intelligences by Daniel Goleman. His book brought a greater understanding of how emotional intelligence plays a role in children’s behavior and learning and how high IQ doesn’t always lead to success. Goleman also finds that social skills and understanding of how to succeed in challenging situations is also important in the development of children and their evolution into a smart and well-rounded adult.

How to Teach Emotional Intelligence

According to Goleman, life skills can aid in building one’s emotional intelligence and help children in learning how to best respond in social situations.  The next time a frustrating situation arises, following a couple of simple steps may lead to stronger parent-child interactions and a greater awareness of problem-solving skills.

Try discussing with the child:

1. What are you feeling? When a child has the basic emotional skills to understand his feelings and put a name to them, he is on his way to mastering self-awareness. Focusing on the emotion a child is feeling helps him understand and label it.

2. Why are you feeling that way? Knowing where an emotion came from or the reason why a child is feeling a certain way is key to solving the problem. When a child can verbally express the reason for his feelings, he’s able to manage his emotions. This is a bonding opportunity between an adult and child fostering nurturing and emotional growth.

3. How can I help? The ability to understand when someone is hurt, sad, or happy and respond appropriately with empathy encourages emotional growth. Taking the time to listen carefully to a child’s concerns or thoughts allows for understanding and comfort.

4. Let’s talk it out. When a child can properly express to others his emotions without frustration or judgment, he builds his life-skills. Encourage a child to use words he best feels express the situation also encourages his language skills.

5. Here is my suggestion. When a child is able to listen to others and really hear what is being said to him, he is able to improve his emotional intelligence. As an adult, set firm and realistic boundaries when problems arise, along with appropriate discipline if needed.

Improving Emotional Intelligence

As parents you can improve your child’s (and your own) emotional intelligence as well as foster positive academic learning. It is easier than you think and can also be incorporated into the classroom. Along with following the above suggestions for working through challenging situations, try to:

Identify feelings – It is never too early to help a child better recognize why he is feeling the way he does. Find ways to aide a child in giving his emotional state a name by asking clarifying questions such as, “I can see you are frustrated because you can’t get the scissors to cut. Would you like me to help you figure it out?” Encouraging a child to find a way to problem-solve along with labeling his emotion opens his mind to new thinking – better expanding his emotional intelligence.

Stay positive – Before resorting to “no” find ways to encourage a child engage him in a positive way.  Set strong limits along with being understanding and patient in challenging situations. Communicate with positive language and in a clear, direct way, which will encourage a child to also do so in the future. Not only are you encouraging your child’s emotional intelligence, you are boosting your own, too!

Have some quality one-on-one time – Fostering a child’s positive attributes encourages his self-confidence as well as his emotional intelligence. Instead of always focusing on academic skills, take the time to find out what your child is interested in and also excels at, and encourage that skill. When a child feels positive about his special talents, he is more excited about learning as well as exploring and experimenting.

Listen – When your child is frustrated, angry, or just really excited, take the time to listen and listen closely. We all like to feel others hear what we are saying, and it is the same with kids – it is just that they seem to have lots to say! In a heated situation, take the time to attentively listen to what your child has to say along with encouraging his communication skills by asking questions and offering support. Once your child has finished communicating, it is time for him to listen as you offer your response. By modeling positive listening skills, your child will pick up on your clues and, in time, respond appropriately.

Problem solving with emotional intelligence strategies does not mean behavioral issues will disappear, but when time is taken to implement positive emotion coaching, children are better able to deal with emotions helping them to feel more confident and develop in wonderful ways.

Learning styles: How does your child’s brain (and your own) love to learn?

© Dean Lipoff 2011

Part of what makes an individual unique is how he learns and discovers new things. We use our senses to understand the world around us and usually have one sense that is a bit stronger in that assessment than another. Different learning styles are all about the way learning is approached and optimized individually.

If you are a parent to a young child, you may have heard the term ” learning style” tossed about.

But, what does that mean?

It’s actually not as crazy as you might think.

A learning style can be defined as an individual’s unique approach to learning based on strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Once a person connects with a certain style of learning, it provides the opportunity to tap into the brain and the expansion of learning.

Auditory Learning Style

Auditory learners connect with listening and hearing when learning. Lectures provide a wealth of information and auditory learners enjoy listening and paying attention. According to, auditory learners benefit from traditional teaching techniques in the classroom. Teachers and parents can aid in learning by adding extra auditory interest by using voice fluctuations during lectures or reading directions, and using verbal clues often.

Visual Learning Style

Visual learners find seeing information demonstrated, observing charts and visual aids, or watching a movie or video to be beneficial to learning. Learning often takes place in large visual chunks for visual learners. And within the classroom or home, including charts, diagrams, and other visual aids to help the visual learner see the big-picture and understand new concepts is very beneficial.

Kinetic Learning Style

Kinetic learners are doers and learning takes place through movement and action. Touching, feeling, exploring and experimenting trough the sense of touch is essential for the kinetic learner. Kinetic learners are active, which is sometimes misunderstood within the classroom or at home. Offer hands-on activities within the educational and learning environment to provide the kinetic learner the opportunity to retain information while doing.

How to Determine Your Learning Style

There are several simple questionnaire tests you can take to help determine what learning style is dominant in you or your child. Some can figure it out by paying attention to how they learn or by observing a child in the classroom or home environment. But, for others, it can be a bit more challenging.

Consider how you enjoy learning. Visualize yourself in an educational situation. Which do you prefer – lectures, visuals, or activities? If you prefer listening to a lecture on a topic you are interested in, you are probably an auditory learner. Those that enjoy watching a demonstrative video can be considered visual learners. And if you’d rather be doing a hands-on activity, like a dissection, you probably connect best with kinetic learning style.

The same goes for your child – how does he like learning about new things? Does he talk and talk and talk (auditory) about his new favorite subject or does he prefer drawing pictures or making real-life models (visual)? While exploring new concepts, would he prefer to act out scenarios and conduct experiments (kinetic)?

Understanding Your Learning Style

Now that you have an idea what style of learning best fits you or your child, you can begin using it to your advantage. While learning, or offering a helping hand while doing homework, use this knowledge to advance how you, or your child, gather and retain information. A visual learner can observe, look at pictures about a new subject matter, and create charts and graphs. Auditory learners can search out lectures and discussions about topics they find interesting. And kinetic learners can engage in activities and hands-on projects or conducting experiments.

Within the classroom, when an educator understands the different learning styles of students, learning can be created to accommodate students with some simple adjustments, which is called the meshing hypothesis. When individual learning style preferences are accommodated through instructional teaching, academic achievement and individual attitudes towards learning improve.

Auditory, visual, and kinetic learning styles are essential concepts to aid in the educational process. Understanding that the concept of learning styles is a theory that assists with the learning process is key and that tapping into that knowledge is beneficial to the individual as well as the educator.