for the future


    Pointers For Parents

from Christine Maestri


1. Why do children like sugar so much? A chemist explained to me that it's a survival mechanism. When we were hunter/gatherers, this mechanism directed us to pick berries instead of bark, items with a greater food value than others. It was essential to our survival. In this format, there were more 'healthy' items to choose from...berries, honey, nuts, and seeds. Now we can hunt and gather from marshmallows to chocolate kisses in endless rows in the grocery store. So children will naturally pick out the sweeter item..... the icing on the cake rather than the cake, for instance. The child is using a survival mechanism. The dilemma is that we have given him a very wide range of sweet items to choose from. So when we are bemoaning the fact that our children choose 'sweet' treats,' they actually are being sensible to their bodies' dictates. What we as responsible parents can do is provide sensible choices. I remember my mother-in-law reminiscing of her childhood Christmas in a country house with a hand pump and out house. The four sisters would long for Christmas day when they knew the sweetest treat would be waiting for them in their stocking - an orange! And I remember when my son was young, we only had the ingredients for treats, the baking and the making somehow made the amount of sweets we had much more manageable. I've noticed that in some check out lanes in stores, they are now being marked as a non-candy lane. So, smile when your child asks for something sweet, and smile at yourself when you can give him some healthy choices to choose from.

2. Children receive many presents, and it's nice for children to learn to give presents as well. Consider beginning the tradition of your child giving a book to her school on her birthday. The child can help choose the book, write a dedication on the inside cover, and share her birthday present with her classmates and teacher. Everyone will be delighted with a classroom present. The classroom library will benefit from her generosity as children read the book in the ensuing years. And your child will benefit from the beginning feeling of understanding the joy of giving.

3. Maybe the holidays whisked by, and you didn't get a chance to send Christmas cards. One may want to consider New Year's cards. They are still part of the holiday season, and making New Year's cards might be a fun way to share a vacation day with your children. You might consider a 'from our house to your house' theme. Have your children draw your house with its dominant colors and features. The simplest sketch of a ranch, two story home, or an apartment building will convey the message of your house. And even with stick drawings - your family can be outside the house, or looking out the window. And remember to include your pet! And a simple 'do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.....a New Year's wish for you!' might be the perfect message to write and think about for New Year's cards.

4. Happy New Year. Discuss this concept with your child. It's the year's birthday. Just as we are one year older on our birthday, our culture is one year older. We often do new things in our new year, like learn to ride our bike, or drive a car, or lose a tooth. It's fun to consider doing something new in the new year. Oftentimes New Year's resolutions are difficult, like loose ten pounds or not watch so much TV. I propose that one consider a positive resolution, like trying a new food each week or driving to school a different way each week. Take something that you always do and find a new way to do it. Everyone will enjoy the change and it will be interesting to see what one learns from this change.

Or one might consider a resolution of a new family tradition, like saying grace, being thankful every day in words. Grace can be short or long, can be something that is created each day, or a favorite grace that you and your family say together. After a parent models saying grace, it's nice to ask children to take turns leading grace as well. Some families like to hold hands, others bow their heads. Whatever way you say grace with your children, you are acknowledging your family's abundance. It's a simple but subtle way of helping your children see the glass half full (instead of half empty).

5. It's the end of the year, the time to ask friends to save calendars and Christmas cards. These are wonderful pictures to have as resources for your future craft and teaching projects with your children. That old saying - a picture is worth a thousand words - is certainly true. Christmas cards are a wonderful way to share the world of art with your child. I sometimes forget that an artist drew each of those holiday pictures. They can be a beginning discussion of landscape or portrait, impressionist or cubist, water color or pastel, and the list goes on in terms of art appreciation. Maybe the cards would offer a syllabus for tree identification: palm, spruce, cedar; or transportation; sleigh, skis, or animals. When you look at a Christmas card as a teaching card, it offers many possibilities.

Calendars are a similar teaching tool. Learning the names of the twelve different items portrayed on a calendar is the place to start. Then there is so much to learn from there. If it's animals, where do they live. If it's flowers, where do they grow, plant or bush, edible or non edible. Each calendar has a wealth of information when presented to a child. And the large pictures are particularly appealing to the young child. Calendars are easy to store, so keep them. You never know when you might want to refer to them. One of my children called me the other night and wanted to know if the parrot's name from the tropical bird calendar (we had learned all the names of the birds months ago) was 'red masked conure' or 'conjure'. I couldn't remember, I quickly checked, it was conure. This calendar had made an impression!

For more information on how to create an entire curriculum using calendars and pictures as bits of information for teaching your child, refer to the book "How to Multiply Your Baby's Intelligence" by Glen Doman.

6. For those of us fortunate to have fireplaces, toasting bread over the fire in a fireplace is an old fashioned treat. How did one make toast before we had devices called toasters? If one watches closely in the beginning of the beautiful "Snowman" video, the father is toasting bread at the fireplace. It might be a pleasant change from the ritual of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. It works well on a camp fire.

Link to February

Teaching Values: Uses accelerated learning methods and storytelling. Recommended lists of children's books and videos.


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