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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Early Childhood Educational Resources

For stay-at-home parents, early childhood educators, and day care providers, here are links to three early childhood educational resources.

The first one is through The U.S. Department of Education. It lists grant opportunities, initiatives, educational programs, resources for parents and educators, and provides the tools necessary for raising educationally sound children.

With links to college (federal student aid) and other resources, the site is in desperate need of some updating as many of the links don't work. But some of the more valuable links do work and they are worth checking out, especially if you want a heads-up on what to expect if you plan on sending your child to college.

This next link, while educational, is also fun for your young children. Enchanted Learning includes a printable picture dictionary, templates for tracing and coloring (including the alphabet), online books, games, crafts, and activities. They charge a $20 yearly fee, but I don't understand the fee, because I could access everything for free.

The subscription allows you to access everything without the interruption of banner ads. But banner ads don't bother me. Enchanted Learning also offer site licenses to educational facilities, including child care facilities, but again, I don't understand why they ask for the subscription fee when you can access everything for free. Maybe that will change in the future.

The Idea Box appears to be seasonally motivated with lists of holidays, crafts, and games geared toward whatever month you visit. As this is November, for instance, The Idea Box includes a Stuff the Turkey game and a Turkey Pokey song. It also includes kid friendly recipes along with crafts and other fun activities. The only things missing, as far as I'm concerned, are pictures of finished products. I like to see a project before beginning it. But, all in all, it's a fun site worth exploring.

And don't forget tsl books (which I discuss in a previous post), a great educational tool, because it provides worksheets for your child.

As I discover more learning tools that help the single (and not so single) parent, I will post them here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How to get children to stop sucking their thumbs

When my daughter, Lindsey, was a baby, she sucked her thumb almost from birth, possibly even before birth. She wanted nothing to do with pacifiers and would spit them out in favor of her thumb.

When she got older, though, she became embarrassed about her thumb sucking, so, except during nap time, she stopped sucking her thumb during the day.

She continued to suck her thumb at night, though – until she decided she was old enough to completely stop.

As a caring mother, I acknowledged the difficult choice she was making, admitting that habits were hard to break, so I offered to help her with the process by holding her thumbs as she fell asleep.

Kidding. I purchased ointments, but the taste never really bothered her much and my creative little thumb sucker was quick to teach herself how to suck her other thumb.

Ointments were our only option in the 80's – well, that and wearing gloves she knew how to remove. Short of removing the thumbs, parents were at a loss about how to prevent thumb sucking until the child decided on her own to quit her habit. Parents could encourage their children to quit their habits, but could not force them to quit.

Today, encouragement comes in the form of numerous treatment plans – plastic thumb-only gloves and other devices that are supposed to prevent children from getting their thumbs in or too close to their mouths.

But again, what's to stop them from removing those items if they really want to suck their thumbs? All it takes is a little finesse in pulling off plastic and ripping Velcro. And take it from me, those little "child proof" containers are easily manipulated by children who are adept at figuring out how things work.

None of those "remedies" would have worked with Lindsey anyway. She had to decide on her own to quit sucking her thumb.

And that's exactly how it happened. One day, when she was around 4 years old, she came up with a plan. I watched her run to the toy box and empty its contents – one item at a time as she scanned each item and put it down.

"What are you doing?" I asked her.

She was looking for something that looked like a thumb, she told me. I had to smile – she was showing that creative spirit I had grown to love.

She found a long cylindrical block to bring to bed with her. Though she tried, she couldn't find a comfortable way to suck it, so she tossed the block aside and continued sucking her thumb.

Then one day, when she was in grammar school, a girl she really liked asked her to spend the night. "What am I going to do?" She cried. She lamented about not going at all, but decided she really wanted to spend the night at the little girl's house.

So Lindsey decided, hard as it was, to confess to her friend that she sucked her thumb. It was a wise choice. She was so relieved to hear her friend say, "That's OK. I wet the bed."

And a great friendship was formed, built on trust.

Thumb sucking, while it is an embarrassing habit, hurts no one but the thumb sucker, because it shifts their teeth. I think it gives people character, but in all honesty if Lindsey's front teeth had jutted out at an unreasonable angle, I would have gotten her braces.

When I was discussing Lindsey's turmoil over her thumb sucking habit with a woman who was in her 30s, the woman confessed to me that she still sucked her thumb! Wow! I wasn't expecting that. Some habits are just too difficult for some people to break and she found a loving husband who accepted her for herself, habits and all.

Fortunately Lindsey stopped sucking her thumb long before she entered her teens and can now call herself a "former" thumb sucker. But it had to be HER choice, and I think that's how children learn how to stop sucking their thumbs. Parents can help to empower their children, but ultimately the decision and follow through of breaking a difficult habit is up to the child. Learning how to break their own habits teaches them how to strengthen their resolve and make healthy choices.

Until they become teenagers, but that's another blog.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ralph Nalph and Uncle Fert

One of my biggest joys in life is watching children develop into the people they were meant to be. From a very early age, their personalities emerge and their tastes become more refined.

Evidence surfaces in the most unusual places. The one I'm about to relate surfaces in prayer.

Every night before we went to sleep, my three youngest children and I said our evening prayers. In those prayers we asked God to bless Mommy and Daddy, all the grandparents (which we mentioned by name), siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors.

At the end of the prayer, I always asked each one of the kids if they wanted to say a special prayer for anybody else. "Yes," Lindsey said," I want to say a special prayer for Ralph Nalph." She was 3 years old at the time.

Having never heard of Ralph Nalph, I stifled a laugh and we all said a special prayer for Ralph. My grandmother had recently been dating (or was married to) a Ralph at the time. I thought Lindsey made up a last name for him and decided to say a prayer for the old man.

Uncle Fert was another deal altogether. I'd never heard of Uncle Fert and didn't want to ruin the mood by asking her.

Oddly, we prayed for these two people for many nights in a row before they became a memory. Just recently I came across a Happy Days post about Ralph Malph who was played by Donny Most. Lindsey was 3 years old when that show ended. I always though Ralph Malph was Ralph Mouth, so I never put two and two together. Funny thing about him is that Lindsey has always had a thing for red-headed guys. Many of her guy friends have red hair.

And as far as Uncle Fert goes, I just did a google search on him. Three Uncle Ferts show up. So if any of you are reading this blog, know that in 1984, a little girl was praying for you.

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