Parks in China, Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, and India

In the last two months our family has spent time in six different countries, visiting parks in every location.  I have a growing theory that the casual observer can learn something about the culture from paying attention to the types of equipment in a playground and watching the ways that equipment is used by the children and the adults they are with.

My sampling of playgrounds from the countries in the title of this post (plus, the post I wrote a few weeks ago about parks in Japan) is very small, and I’m sure does not provide a clear overview of playgrounds across that country.  Still, I enjoy reflecting on our experiences in these parks and wondering what conclusions I can draw given my very limited experience. (more…)

Interview with Heather Shumaker, Author of "It's OK NOT to Share" (plus GIVEAWAY!)

IT'SOK_cover Final MayOne year ago (almost to the day), a friend and I were at a workshop together. She had just stopped at a bookstore and discovered It’s OK NOT to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids by Heather Shumaker. How could I not instantly purchase my own copy with a title like that?? As soon as I could get my hands on it, I flew through the pages. Full of immensely practical strategies and thought-provoking chapters, this book has become one of my more highly recommended reads for parents and educators alike. I have used it as a read-along with a group of home providers, and I bring it along to almost every class I teach.

I could not be more pleased to see that these “renegade rules” are making it into popular parenting books. Some of the most intriguing and insightful rules Heather explores are,

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How to Raise Decent Children without Spankings or Time-Outs

Problem solving fine motor games, like matching bolts and nuts, develops patience and tenacity when things get tough.

Long before I became a mother, before I entered the world of early childhood education, I had long conversations with friends about raising children, specifically, how to raise decent ones.  Conversations like these were usually sparked by some horrendous spectacle at a restaurant, or shopping mall, or while walking down the sidewalk, and always came around to the conclusion that no matter what I did, my eventual children would never do or be anything less than I wanted them to be. Period.  Anything else was a failure of parenting.

Oh, naive and ignorant younger me.  Somewhere along the journey from that former self to where I am now, I came into a marvelous collection of books, resources, and amazing mentors in the field of early childhood education who shared a secret with me.  To be successful as a parent, raising children who will grow up to be compassionate, capable, integrated souls, I needed entirely different methods: no physical punishments, no coercion cloaked as emotional management.  I needed to teach my children how to get their needs met.  As they grew clearer about how to meet their needs in pro-social ways, we would all be better off.

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Who’s Driving Your Car?

Process-oriented art a la Cadence

Metaphorically speaking.

I was at a park, sitting a few feet away from my very capable 1-year-old who was climbing up and down the stairs and skillfully maneuvering the slide.  The mother of a young toddler followed her daughter through the structure close to Desmond.   She spotted him, and looked concerned, thinking (I assume), “Where is this boy’s parent?  Should I intervene?”  She was alarmed – unaware of Desmond, his context, his mad climbing skills.  From my place, however, she was hovering – crowding her daughter’s exploration, and giving her daughter a false sense of competency.  Our eyes met almost immediately, and she asked, “Is he yours?”

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Learning from Children: 3 Lessons for a Full Life

To risk repeating a tired cliche, children know far more than they’re given credit for.  Frankly, many of their natural impulses move them along developmental trajectories swimmingly until we jump in and pull them off track.  Take eating, for example.  Did you know that typically developing children are born with the mechanisms to get food? (crying for mama paired with a powerful sucking reflex)  The natural sense for when they are full? (turning away from the bottle or breast)  And taste buds that differentiate safe and unsafe foods? (sweet = safe)  And then there’s motor movement.  Children – without interventions from us – will learn to stretch, roll, grasp, stand, run, skip, swing from the monkey bars, stand on one foot, and dance a powerful, impromptu, and uninhibited jig.  (Believe me — one such jig was danced in an oh-so-powerful and uninhibited manner this very morning!)  What about their insatiable drive for knowledge?  Manifesting in early infancy as an imitative protruding tongue, in toddler-hood as the oft declared NO!, and in the preschool intensity with the sand and water table – children passionately construct knowledge of the world around them like little sponges soaking up everything that brain wiring and hands-on experience affords.

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