Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Overcoming Holiday Anxiety in Children

            It's holiday time and you may be noticing that your children are becoming increasingly anxious.  The holidays can be just as confusing for children as they are for adults.

            As a parent, you must first evaluate where you are emotionally at this time of the year.  Many parents feel overwhelmed by the multiple commitments that they have made.  Certainly, all of this preoccupation with shopping, cooking and planning for the holidays, may leave less time for your children.  Ironically, this can create more frustration during a time that is supposed to be joyous.

            The good news is that there are a number of things that parents can do to prepare themselves and their children in advance.  For one, you can involve your child in the process of planning for the holidays.  Ask your child what they like and do not like about the family’s usual method of celebration.  Take the time to really listen and validate their feelings.  Allow your child to participate in some of the holiday planning.  In addition to taking in some of you’re their suggestions, you can also begin to teach your child how important it is to compromise. 

            Many children get easily over-stimulated during holiday time.  It is extremely important to create as much structure as possible, even in the midst of a chaotic schedule.  Children may benefit from knowing the schedule ahead of time.  Whether you are going shopping with your child, to a family gathering or on a day trip, try to keep as much consistency as possible.

            Shopping trips, for example, can be made easier, with a few simple preparations.  To begin with, shopping trips should be time-limited.  It is difficult for many children to shop for more than one hour without a break.  Perhaps, you can treat the child to ice cream, as a reward, in between shopping trips.  Make sure that you set the rules and expectations prior to the shopping trip.  Token rewards can come a long way.  Parents should plan what they need to buy, as much as possible, ahead of time.  In setting clear behavioral expectations for your child, prior to the shopping trip, it is also important to set consequences beforehand. 

            Although schedules may be busy, parents should not underestimate the importance of kids getting adequate sleep.  Sleep is essential for both physical health and for mental health.  If you do notice that your child appears more irritable, consider the possibility that he or she has not been getting enough sleep.   You can start by trying to keep very similar bedtime hours as you do during non-holiday times.  A child will benefit from some quiet time during the day and especially at night, right before bed.  Perhaps, having the child take a bath, read a book or listen to some quiet music can be soothing.  If you feel that your child is overwhelmed from all of the day’s activities, you can also try to soothe your child by having a conversation with him or her.  Acknowledge all of the things that he or she did during the day that were positive.  Allow children to express their feelings without being judgmental.
       In addition to creating as much structure as possible, it is also helpful to practice some of the communication and social skills that are at the forefront of holiday time.  Children, who struggle socially, may find the idea of having to greet and talk to multiple people, during holiday time, to be overwhelming.  Parents can practice these skills with their children by using puppets or role-playing.  Make this fun and think of it as a wonderful bonding opportunity. 
        Some of the specific social skills to practice would be how to greet others, how to make simple conversation and how to ask for space, when they need it. You may want to address other possible social scenarios.  For example, if your child does not like a certain food, but is asked to eat it, how can they give an appropriate response.  These skills will empower your child and ease some of the anxiety.             

      Remember that being around a lot of people, especially seeing new faces, is not easy for many children, as it is not easy for many adults.  Once you have practiced these skills, make sure to ask your child which of the strategies they used, at the end of the day.  Always provide the child with positive reinforcement for the small steps that he or she took. Continue to practice these skills, so that the child can begin to internalize them.
Natasha Edelhaus
is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Stoughton, MA.  In addition to seeing children, families and adults, Ms. Edelhaus also runs Social Skills Groups for children and Parenting Groups. She can be reached at (781) 708-4504

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cooking with Kids

Cooking with Kids

Our program Cooking with Kids brings parents and kids together and helps them to experience creating healthy food as a family. They will learn about the health connection of food and nutrition by making easy and good-for-you snacks. Through hands-on activities, demonstrations, cooking and education, children and families learn basic cooking skills and food preparation techniques during our many events!

We are lucky enough to have Liz Weiss, author and registered dietician, lead our event ‘Meal Makeovers for Busy Families’ on November 6. She will be sharing her secret pantry “switches” that every parent should know, and will turn any picky eater into a health nut.

Learn from chef Claudia Denelle at our event 'Thats Tasty: A Tale of Two Cakes' as she shows us simple substitutions for the yummy foods we love so you can still eat what you want and not feel guilty on December 12. She will trick your taste buds and have you try two versions of the same ice-box cake to see if you can tell the difference between the regular cake and the healthier cake.

Make your own pasta at ‘Kid’s Cooking Green Pasta Making 101’ on January 30 with the hands-on educational outreach program of the Lexington Farmer’s Market Kid’s Cooking Green. Learn the benefits of cooking with locally grown food.

Keep a look out for more Fall Programs to come! Click here for more info!

Our Cooking with Kids program is generously sponsored by Hannaford Supermarkets. Hannaford and The Children’s Museum hold the same core values when it comes to the health of the community, and teaching kids that eating healthy can be fun. Through their support we are able to share with you these fun and yummy programs.

"At Hannaford, we believe in building healthy communities and reaching out to children to help them to embrace healthy choices now so they will continue to make them in the future. We are happy to team up with The Children's Museum in Easton and to help them achieve their goals of bringing healthy eating to local families." -Molly Tarleton

Friday, October 12, 2012

An Apple a Day!

We recently started our Cooking With Kids series! We tested out different spreads and toppings such as yogurt and caramel to see what you liked best, and even made apple, cheese and chicken paninis.
We asked you how you eat your apples, and this is what you had to say!
  • Add apples to your coleslaw to give it a tastey crunch!
  • Make homemade applesauce, it's easy and delicious.
  • Slice apples and spread either almond butter or peanut butter on top.
  • Dice up an apple and add it to tuna salad, you can add cranberries too!
  • Dice up an apple and add it to your holiday stuffing.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Make caramel or candy apples.
  • Slice up an apple and drizzle honey on top for an easy snack.
  • Make a grilled cheese and apple sandwhich.
  • Make some apple pancakes for breakfast!
  • Add apples to any salad.
  • Make apple popcorn balls.
  • Brew some mulled apple cider.
  • Bake your apples and put icecream on top!
  • Bake some spiced apple bread.
  • Make a peanut butter and sliced apple sandwich.
  • Make an apple gravy for a pork dinner.

Some reasons why we should eat apples
  • They make for a quick, easy, and portable snack!
  • They are high in fiber and low in calories.
  • Apples are rich in antioxidants.
  • Apples are known to be "brain food".
  • They are easy to cook and bake with.
  • They help fight against certain cancers.
  • Apples are a good source of boron, which helps bone growth and density.
  • Let's just say an apple a day really can keep the doctor away!

Some great places to go apple picking!
  • Tougas Family Farm, in Northboro MA
  • Honey Pot Hill Orchard, in Stow MA
  • C.N Smith Farm, in East Bridgewater MA
  • Red Apple Farm, in Phillipston MA
  • Russell Orchards, in Ipswich MA
  • Cider Hill Farm, in Amesbury MA
  • Highland Farm Orchard, in Holliston MA
  • Marino Lookout Farm, in Natick MA
Don's miss the next event of our series, Canning with Rosa. Join us and learn how to can and preserve fresh ingredients on Tuesday, October 23. Click here to check out Cooking with Kids!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Social Skills

As the seasons change, our children grow and prosper. Summer is a wonderful time to help children develop the social skills necessary to grow into confident adults.
Social skills are those skills which help us interact with others in positive ways. It may be surprising to know that people not only communicate verbally, but 85% of what we communicate is actually non-verbal. Thus, our mind, body and language work together to create interactions with others.

When you evaluate your child socially, keep in mind that there are many inherent factors that play a vital role, namely your child’s personality. Personality is established through a combination of our temperament and our environment. What is temperament? Temperament is part of your child’s innate personality, which is apparent early in your child’s life. Your child’s temperament will help determine how they interact socially with other children. Are they extroverts or introverts? Do they thrive in social situations with many children or do they do better small groups?
Temperament is one of the things that we cannot change about our children. However, we can help our children manage their temperament and learn to adapt to different situations. The question becomes, how do we teach our children?
Children learn and process the world around them concretely. This means that their perceptions about the world are based upon their concrete experiences. Therefore, as parents, you should model proper behavior with consistency and predictability.

One of the essential factors is to set your child up for success as much as is possible. Therefore, when thinking about your social goals for your child, consider where he or she is currently at. For instance, when choosing a camp, think about whether your child would be over-stimulated by a camp that has too many activities. Perhaps they would prefer a camp where children spend a great deal of time in nature. Would your child benefit more from a structured camp that is academic in nature or a sports based camp? What is the ratio of counselors to students? How would the camp respond to your child’s temperament?

Prior to making any sort of commitments for your child, prepare and practice with them. You may want to visit the camp or any summer social situation prior to the start date. Make your goals very clear. In fact, most children are visual learners and will benefit from a chart or list of your objectives. You can choose to reward your child for any accomplishments that they may make.

When attending social gatherings with your children, there are things that you can do to prepare them as well. For instance, if you are about to go to a family dinner and your child’s goal is to use appropriate greetings, then first model the behavior to your child. Second, rehearse the behavior and “act” it out with your child using tools such as puppets or role-plays. Third, once your child has practiced and the child attends the event, reward them for any small accomplishments that they may have made.

If your child is sensitive or easily over-aroused, (again a type of temperament), then make sure that you work with this. Expose this type of child slowly to social situations. Prepare him or her for any uncertainties and recognize when he or she is becoming over-aroused. The only way to prevent over-arousal in social situations is through careful planning and being on step ahead. State your realistic standards for your child prior to the event. Again, you should prepare your child through visual strategies. Teach your child to warn everyone when or she has reached their limit. Teach self-calming techniques to prevent this from happening in the future.

A child who has a particularly intense or sensitive temperament may experience spill-over tantrums. A spill-over tantrum can be defined as an outpouring of emotion in a disorganized way. This type of child needs a parent’s direction to help them calm their body down and regain self-control. Often, after a social situation, these children need down time or need to process the day’s events with a parent. Make sure that you ask a sensitive child how their day was once they are ready to talk. Sometimes, as a parent, you can anticipate emotional reactions and offer advance empathy. After the tantrum, acknowledge to your child any bits of self-control that they did portray. Remind your child that emotional reactions are a choice.

Often children with sensitive or intense temperaments need soothing or calming activities after a social situation. Some calming activities may include water (bath time); Activities that involve using their imagination, which gives them a chance to process the day’s events (They may act our skits or stories.); Sensory activities (Play-dough, silly putty, marbles, sand, pom-poms, cooking). Often children are soothed by activities that allow them to touch, smell, taste, hear or see things; Reading (May be used to diffuse some children’s intensity); Humor; Time-out (not as a punishment, but rather as a safe place to calm down physically and mentally).

If you find that your child is still struggling socially despite all of your preparation and intervention, perhaps he or she would benefit from some professional help from a therapist or from a social skills group.

Natasha Edelhaus is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Stoughton, MA. She works with individuals, families and runs social skills groups. She can be reached at (781) 708-4504.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Selecting a Summer Camp

Have you been enjoying the warm weather? Thinking summer already? School’s going to be out soon enough and that means it is time to think about summer. Many parents look to summer camps to offer a range of activities and playmates for their children during the summer.

There are two basic types of camps – day and overnight. There are camps designed to meet almost every child’s individual interests and needs – parents have lots of choices when selecting summer programs for their kids. There are camp specialists you can hire to help you choose, websites that list camps and the tried and true – ask your friends where they send their children.
Think of your child’s needs and interests when selecting a camp. What do you hope for your child to take away from a camp setting? If your child is old enough, you might want to have a conversation with them about why they want to go to camp this summer; their ideas have probably changed from last summer’s reasons.   Do a little homework and you’ll find that there are themed camps to meet so many interests – camps that cater to age-groups, learning needs, sports and arts.

Camps should be licensed (in MA camps are licensed through the local board of health department) and have a set counselor to camper ratio. Camps are not required to hire teachers, and often just insist that the e camp leader be a few years older than the oldest camper. Camps often have daily and weekly schedules of activities. Camps run for different lengths – usually by the week, session or month.

Our friends at Home/Health & Child Care Services shared some great
resources for finding the right camp for your child with us. These include their
own FREE referral service – call 1-877-898-1667 or online at
http://www.hhcc.org/.  There is also the American Camp Association at  
http://www.acacamps.org/ or if your child has special needs, check out the Federation
for Children with Special Needs Summer Fun 2012 guide:  

Of course we would be remiss if we didn't mention the Children's Museum'
very own Summer Mini Camps!  They are a great "first time" camp experience
for your littlest ones or a wonderful chance to dig deeper into a great theme
for your older child. Here is the link to all of this summer's awesome

With so many choices and ideas to consider it is probably time to start
planning for the summer  - before you hear the “…but I’m bored…” the day
after school lets out!
Jane Rotondi has a Master’s degree in Special Education, a 
Child Development Associate certification and holds additional teaching 
certificates in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education. She is
the Museum’s Outreach Manager and Director of Summer Camps. You
can contact her at jane@childrensmuseumineaston.org.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Make an Earth Day Splash

With Earth Day approaching and our area experiencing near drought conditions, now is the perfect time to teach your child some simple ways to “Save the Earth”, starting with a tangible resource your child uses every day, water.

For starters, help your child realize just how much we use water every day. Young children may only think of really obvious uses, such as drinking or bathing. As you go about your day, challenge your child to notice when you use water: doing laundry, washing dishes, and see what else she comes up with. When outside, notice all the plants and animals that need water as well as its other uses such as washing the car, filling the pool, or even for birds to take a bath.

Next, help your child realize how he or she can help conserve water. One very simple idea that I use in my home is instead of dumping the rest of our water bottles and drinking glasses from dinner down the drain, we use that water to fill the dog’s water bowl and water the plants. We try to remember to turn off the tap while brushing our teeth and turn down the water pressure when soaping up in the shower. Try this: Have your child plug the drain while taking a shower so he or she can observe how much water he uses. Do it again for his next shower, but have him challenge himself to use less.

Take advantage of the lovely spring weather and go for a walk along a nearby pond or stream. The NRT of Easton’s Sheep Pasture has a nice little pond where you can see turtles, frogs, ducks, dragonflies, and plants. You may have a stream in your neighborhood, or try a Massachusetts State Park. Talk about all the plants and animals that need the water. If you can get close to the water, you can make an underwater scope to see what lives under the water too.

Then notice any trash around the water. Talk about what could be harmed by this trash. Could birds or fish eat it, or get tangled up in it? If it is safe, we try to put on some rubber gloves and dispose of the trash in a proper container. The kids always feel good about helping the animals and plants who make this area their home. Remind your child that even litter that is not near the water can eventually make its way to the river by wind or rainstorms, so it is important not to litter anywhere. Even in their small way, kids can make a big difference.

For more Earth Day fun, don’t miss the Museum’s Earth Day/animal related creative movement with Mariah Bradbury on Thursday April 19 at 10 & 11 AM. Or stop by The Children’s Museum’s Wild Place any other Thursday afternoon, 1:30-2:15, through the end of May for "A Wild Time", where we will be exploring nature through science experiments and crafts.

Michelle VanVoorhis is a mom, a licensed elementary school teacher, educator at the Children's Museum where she teaches Summer Mini Camps and many drop-in programs through the year, including "A Wild Time". She contributes to the Museum's blog on a regular basis.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Art Project Ideas

So you and the kids are ready to get creative, but what to do?
I have found checking websites (search preschool arts and crafts and many sites pop up) to be inspiring, but can slow down the immediate – “I want to make something now” mood. By simply providing a work space with a variety of materials, and playing some back ground music such as; classic, reggae, jazz or upbeat rock n’ roll, you’ll be good to go!

Start with cups of water, watercolors, brushes and a stack of paper – simply allow the kids to paint as they see fit. Offer comments on use of color, use of space or a particular brush stroke, but stay away from the guessing games of what something actually is – if you guess wrong your artist’s feelings may be bruised.

Are you ready to try more? Bring out the tempera paint! If you have opted for the powdered variety let the children help mix the paint powder with the water. Offer lots of brushes and a paper towel for brushing off the excess water and paint. Then just allow them to get creative. On another day if you’re feeling more adventurous try lighter or darker tones.

Good weather? Bring the paper and paint outside or try painting rocks or your driveway (it should all wash off next rainstorm). Looking for that fancy finish? Try sprinkling a finish piece with glitter or for a different effect – mix some glitter right into the paint.

Not in the mood for paint? Pull out the scissors and let the kids cut up paper strips, wrapping paper and colored paper. Using Glue sticks add glue to the ends to create 3-D arches on the paper. Layer tissue paper and glue to create a colored masterpiece – for a neat effect – try gluing tissue paper to wax paper and hang in a window once it is dry. Glue smaller pieces of paper onto a large one and talk about size, color and height.

For a nifty centerpiece decorate a toilet paper tube all over with paper. For a cool finishing effect – gently dab on some white glue and add a pinch of glitter to the wet glue.

Kids quite often are just as happy creating and doing the project in the “here and now”. They enjoy the process of using the materials, perhaps more so than an actual finished project. So get those materials ready and give your young artists space and time to create!

Jane Rotondi has a Master’s degree in Special Education, a Child Development Associate certification and holds additional teaching certificates in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education. She is the Museum’s Outreach Manager and Director of Summer Camps. You can contact her at jane@childrensmuseumineaston.org.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to build self esteem in children

As individuals, we often strive to master the balance between nourishment and exercise, and as parents, we are forever trying to teach our children what it means to live a truly balanced life. However, with unlimited societal pressures to be thin, children are no longer listening to their bodies’ need for satiation, but rather are trying to be too thin. It is becoming more and more evident that negative body image affects children and young adults’ self-esteem, and creates a multitude of problems.

Self esteem is how we feel about ourselves. Human beings have a deep awareness of self. It is such a critical issue in our development that promoting children’s self-esteem has become a priority in many schools. High self-esteem is often supported by unconditional love, validation, affirmation and empowerment. Certainly, if these needs are left unmet, children will experience low self-esteem. However, there are many other reasons, why children develop low self-esteem, despite their parents’ best intentions.

Some parents believe that if they are tough with their children, this will actually improve their self-esteem. Thus, some parents will criticize childrens’ self-image profusely. Children develop an innate inability to measure up, especially when they are compared to others and this can make them feel bad about themselves. As a result, there are American five year olds who believe it is bad to be fat, and pre-teens who are dieting, at a time when their bodies are still developing. Adolescents, preoccupied with their changing bodies, experience their natural body changes as unwanted weight gain. Teens are constantly bombarded with television images of the perfect body.

As parents, in a world infiltrated with media viewing, it is not easy to ignore the messages. However, as a parent, your first goal is to help your children build self-esteem based on qualities other than physical appearance. You can set goals with your child and help your children take ownership of their accomplishments and talents. As a parent, you should talk to your children about self-esteem, body image and what it means to be beautiful. Be a healthy role model for your children.

If, your child is overweight, there are several things that you can do to help him or her without focusing solely on the weight, but rather in talking about leading a healthy lifestyle. For one, you can limit the amount of television that your child watches. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours per day. Teens and pre-teens involved in outside of school activities such as clubs, band, music lessons, part-time jobs, volunteer work, church activities, and household chores are less likely to become overweight than those who do not.

Families need to make their health a priority by exerting control over what their children eat. This can start by setting a good example. Families should make a healthy breakfast a priority, and help promote positive self-esteem in children. Having family dinners together, where nice conversation is part of the meal, actually encourages children to interact and not only focus on finishing their food. Overall, limiting the number of meals that teens eat outside of the home can help teens manage their weight and their health.

Children experience stress just as adults do. If the adults in their lives can help children manage their stress, this will also promote their self-esteem and increase their body image. First of all, begin by not criticizing others for their weight, even as a joke. Also, make sure that your child knows that you love them regardless of their weight and size. Build self-confidence and self-esteem through a range of activities, both physical and non-physical. Encourage healthy eating and physical activity for the entire family. Take the time to go on walks together.

If, despite, all intentions your child is still struggling with issues of self-esteem, attributed to body image or other issues, then perhaps it is time to seek help either through individual therapy or perhaps a group therapy program, where a child can feel support from fellow peers.
Natasha Edelhaus is a Marriage and Family Therapist, Museum friend and supporter and PARENT with an office in Stoughton, MA. She can be reached at (781) 708-4504 or via e-mail at Edelhaus@comcast.net.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Art Closet Staples

All dressed up and no snow to go to?….well before that happens (or before the spring rains come) again take a look in your art and crafts bin and stock it up for the next time you hear “ What can I do?”

I keep a set of metal shelves and bins in a reachable area in our closet, that way kids get easy access to the materials to be creative and the supplies stayed housed and out of sight when not in use.

I keep laminated “workspaces” for my kids to use, but old laminated place mats, an old plastic table cloth or plastic placemats from a dollar store will all work well, too. My kids tend to prefer the floor to spread out on when creating rather that the kitchen table so with tile and hardwood allover the house I insist on “mats” ( no fun scrubbing dried paint out of grout or getting glue off of hardwood). Art supplies and creations stay on the mat(s) and clean up is easy.

I like to keep staples on the shelves and then fill in with “extra” as needed. I start with plain white paper and a pack of multi-colored construction paper, scissors, scotch tape, glue sticks and white glue. Oversized paper, crazy cut (fancy edged scissors), glitter glue sticks and colored glue are all “extra” add–ins over time.

I also keep crayons, markers, colored pencils, watercolors, an assortment of brushes, and primary colored powdered tempera paint too. I find the powdered paint is best because I can mix what I want for the project and it works so well with other projects (like making chalk, snow paint and driveway paint). I have added in paint cups with lids, but clean, empty yogurt or plastic containers, small paper plates or small bathroom paper cups work fine too. My next favorite would be white tempera paint because pastels and lighter shades are fun to use.

Add-ins could include anything you want… neon paint, foamies (pre-cut shapes in so many themes – some are sticky backed others are not and need glue), glitter, colored tissue paper, yarn, felt or small fabric pieces, pipe cleaners, beads and lacing for stringing, colored rice or pasta or any collage material you can think of – ends of wrapping paper, pictures cut from old greeting cards, stickers and rubberstamps and washable inkpads…. the list can go on and on.

Keep in mind up coming seasons and holidays and your child’s interests when thinking of stocking your art center.

I also keep play dough, play dough toys and cookie cutters in our art area. I have added in no- dry clay and model magic in this area – that way my kids have learned to use mats for when they use doughs and I can wipe down the mats for a quick cleanup when they are done. For quick projects, I have found the Wonder Under color markers and paper work well – I tend to keep a kit in the car for unexpected “waits”.

Jane Rotondi has a Master’s degree in Special Education, a Child Development Associate certification and holds additional teaching certificates in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education. She is the Museum’s Outreach Manager and Director of Summer Camps. You can contact her at jane@childrensmuseumineaston.org.