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Why Wasting Time Is Not a Waste At All: The importance of unstructured time for children and why. 

Self regulation is a critical skill for all children. Being able to soothe when provided soothing, being able to calm when provided reassurance and able to relax when nurtured are critical skills that translate into adulthood and the ability to modulate all life’s storms. Unfortunately, most of the activities that children occupy themselves with today do not promote self-regulation. Watching television, playing video games or engaging in enriched lessons are not things that promote self-regulation.

Play therapists have long known the importance of play in development and it is now demonstrated through research. Child researchers cited in Alix Spiegel’s article, “Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills” provided alternative play options that promote the development of self regulation. These are worthwhile activities to support and promote for the ultimate achievement of self-regulation within your child.

Here are their valuable and easily achieved suggestions:

Simon Says: Simon Says is a game that requires children to inhibit themselves. You have to think and not do something which helps to build self-regulation.

Complex Imaginative Play: This is play where your child plans scenarios and enacts those scenarios for a fair amount of time, a half-hour at a minimum though longer is better. Sustained play that last for hours is best. Realistic props are good for very young children, but otherwise encourage kids to use symbolic props that they create and make through their imaginations. For example, a stick can become a sword, a fishing pole, or a magic wand.

Activities That Require Planning: Games with directions, patterns for construction, recipes for cooking, for instance.

Joint Storybook Reading: “Reading storybooks with preschoolers promotes self-regulation, not just because it fosters language development, but because children’s stories are filled with characters who model effective self-regulatory strategies,” says researcher Laura Berk.

She cites the classic example of
Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could, in which a little blue engine pulling a train of toys and food over a mountain breaks down and must find a way to complete its journey. The engine chants, “I think I can. I think I can, I think I can,” and with persistence and effort, surmounts the challenge.

Encourage Children to Talk to Themselves

: “Like adults, children spontaneously speak to themselves to guide and manage their own behavior,” Berk says. “In fact, children often use self-guiding comments recently picked up from their interactions with adults, signaling that they are beginning to apply those strategies to themselves. “Permitting and encouraging children to be verbally active – to speak to themselves while engaged in challenging tasks – fosters concentration, effort, problem-solving and task success.” Alix Spiegel

Many families are stressed and pulled in their rush to give children every advantage. This may mean frantic transportation trips between events, lessons and structured activities. Achieving balance is not easy but what you can take reassurance from is that unstructured, non-planned play time is not a waste – quite the contrary it is a necessity.

Resources:

NPR - Your Health – www.npr.org








Temperament is key to understanding your child and developing effective parenting.

Exploring Temperament

 

Big Reactors/Little Reactors 

Just like you, your child, was born with a distinct personal style and approach to the world.  Understanding yourself and the unique way that your child relates to the world is what equips you to create an interaction style that best promotes optimal learning and development.  

Ask yourself; am I similar or different from my child with regard to how we react to people, sounds, tastes, changes, etc?  Then ask, how does the intensity of those reactions compare?  For many children, intensity isn’t an issue at all. Their reactions fall in the middle range and they generally take things as they come.  These are the children whose moods are fairly even, consistent, and predictable.  They smile when they’re happy and protest and complain, in a modulated way, when they’re not. 

The challenges arise with children who are at either end of the continuum or when a parent falls at an opposing end of preferences from their child’s.  Imagine, Boisterous Brigitte and Shrieky Sam.  These two tell the world how they feel in loud and clear ways.  They are what are called “Big Reactors.”  They express things in “big” ways.  When happy you get shrieks of delight and squealing laughter; and when angry you may witness shouting, hitting, biting and hurling of objects. Their reactions to the physical world can be just as intense as their emotional responses.  Clothing made from the “wrong” material can set them off; a tag on an undershirt can wreak havoc or a wrinkled sock may be the trigger.  An odor that is perceived as pleasant or unpleasant may set off this “big” response just as a temperature preference might.  If you’ve ever been in a hair salon where a child is “melting down” in anticipation of their hair cut, you have witnessed a “big reactor.” 

At the other end of the spectrum are the “little reactor” children. Imagine Docile Dan and Demure Denise.  During infancy these children are referred to as “blessings” because they are so readily consolable and sleep through the night.  They are often seen as being “less demanding” than other children.  In spite of the perception, these children are not easier or undemanding as they may require more work on the parents part to engage, attract and hold their child’s attention. 

Tips on How to Respond:

 

                                                   to a Big Reactor:

 

·        Take it down a notch – Alter their environment to focus on soothing stimuli – soft music and lighting for example.  By all means, play and have fun, but not over stimulate

·        Sensing Clothing – choose soft clothing

·        Offer physical comfort when distressed – Hold your child close, rub their back, rock them

·        Show your understanding by acknowledging their feelings – “I know it’s hard to be in a crowded place.”  “I know your feelings were sooooo hurt.”

·        Anticipate and Act – If you note that your child is getting revved up, gently remove them from the situation and redirect to a more tempered activity

·        Establish Predictable Routine – make sure that there is adequate sleep time which means accounting for time necessary to wind down first.

·        Don’t punish your child for who he is – He is not overreacting; he just needs your help to learn how to express what is naturally occurring in a controlled manner.

 

                                                   to a Little Reactor: 

 

·        Bring it up a notch – Alter their environment to focus on up-tempo sounds and dynamic beats.  Monitor that it doesn’t create over stimulation and find that “just right” balance.  Engage in rough and tumble play.  Be silly, be Creative and use a dramatic enthusiastic voice.

·        Create Interactive Games – Games that require interaction and turn-taking are much more engaging and stimulating than solitary activities

·        Get the Body Going – increase all things physical and schedule movement whenever possible.  Discuss these needs with your child’s educational team as well.

·        Mirror what is liked – If your child likes music, sing together; if your child likes to dance, learn to be their partner. 

Other aspects of temperament will be discussed in upcoming columns.  

 

Resources:

 

www.zerotothree.org – Information under “Key Topics” and then “Temperament and Behavior.”

 

The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood by Selma Fraiberg (Simon & Schuster, 1987).

 

Touchpoints – Birth to Three by T. Berry Brazelton, MD and Joshua D Sparrow, MD (Perseus Publishing, 2006).






Insomnia Can Worsen Chronic Pain - appeared in Live Science April 2015

People who have problems sleeping may also be more sensitive to pain, thus potentially worsening the effects of chronic pain conditions, new research from Norway shows.

In the study, researchers measured pain sensitivity in more than 10,000 adults who were participants in the Tromsø Study, an ongoing public health study in Norway that began in 1974.

The results of the study showed that people who had insomnia were more sensitive to pain than people who didn't have sleep problems. In particular, people who were experiencing chronic pain and who also had insomnia showed a greater increased sensitivity to pain. Pain sensitivity was also linked to the amount of time it took to get to sleep.



 


 

 






























































Exploring Temperament Further

 

Big Reactors/Little Reactors

 

 

Just like you, your child, was born with a distinct personal style and approach to the world.  Understanding yourself and the unique way that your child relates to the world is what equips you to create an interaction style that best promotes optimal learning and development. 

 

Ask yourself; am I similar or different from my child with regard to how we react to people, sounds, tastes, changes, etc?  Then ask, how does the intensity of those reactions compare?  For many children, intensity isn’t an issue at all. Their reactions fall in the middle range and they generally take things as they come.  These are the children whose moods are fairly even, consistent, and predictable.  They smile when they’re happy and protest and complain, in a modulated way, when they’re not.

 

The challenges arise with children who are at either end of the continuum or when a parent falls at an opposing end of preferences from their child’s.  Imagine, Boisterous Brigitte and Shrieky Sam.  These two tell the world how they feel in loud and clear ways.  They are what are called “Big Reactors.”  They express things in “big” ways.  When happy you get shrieks of delight and squealing laughter; and when angry you may witness shouting, hitting, biting and hurling of objects. Their reactions to the physical world can be just as intense as their emotional responses.  Clothing made from the “wrong” material can set them off; a tag on an undershirt can wreak havoc or a wrinkled sock may be the trigger.  An odor that is perceived as pleasant or unpleasant may set off this “big” response just as a temperature preference might.  If you’ve ever been in a hair salon where a child is “melting down” in anticipation of their hair cut, you have witnessed a “big reactor.”

 

At the other end of the spectrum are the “little reactor” children. Imagine Docile Dan and Demure Denise.  During infancy these children are referred to as “blessings” because they are so readily consolable and sleep through the night.  They are often seen as being “less demanding” than other children.  In spite of the perception, these children are not easier or undemanding as they may require more work on the parents part to engage, attract and hold their child’s attention.

 

Tips on How to Respond:

 

                                                   to a Big Reactor:

 

·        Take it down a notch – Alter their environment to focus on soothing stimuli – soft music and lighting for example.  By all means, play and have fun, but not over stimulate

·        Sensing Clothing – choose soft clothing

·        Offer physical comfort when distressed – Hold your child close, rub their back, rock them

·        Show your understanding by acknowledging their feelings – “I know it’s hard to be in a crowded place.”  “I know your feelings were sooooo hurt.”

·        Anticipate and Act – If you note that your child is getting revved up, gently remove them from the situation and redirect to a more tempered activity

·        Establish Predictable Routine – make sure that there is adequate sleep time which means accounting for time necessary to wind down first.

·        Don’t punish your child for who he is – He is not overreacting; he just needs your help to learn how to express what is naturally occurring in a controlled manner.

 

                                                   to a Little Reactor:

 

 

·        Bring it up a notch – Alter their environment to focus on up-tempo sounds and dynamic beats.  Monitor that it doesn’t create over stimulation and find that “just right” balance.  Engage in rough and tumble play.  Be silly, be Creative and use a dramatic enthusiastic voice.

·        Create Interactive Games – Games that require interaction and turn-taking are much more engaging and stimulating than solitary activities

·        Get the Body Going – increase all things physical and schedule movement whenever possible.  Discuss these needs with your child’s educational team as well.

·        Mirror what is liked – If your child likes music, sing together; if your child likes to dance, learn to be their partner.

 

 

Other aspects of temperament will be discussed in upcoming columns.

 

 

Resources:

 

www.zerotothree.org – Information under “Key Topics” and then “Temperament and Behavior.”

 

The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood by Selma Fraiberg (Simon & Schuster, 1987).

 

Touchpoints – Birth to Three by T. Berry Brazelton, MD and Joshua D Sparrow, MD (Perseus Publishing, 2006).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Temperament Further

 

Big Reactors/Little Reactors

 

 

Just like you, your child, was born with a distinct personal style and approach to the world.  Understanding yourself and the unique way that your child relates to the world is what equips you to create an interaction style that best promotes optimal learning and development. 

 

Ask yourself; am I similar or different from my child with regard to how we react to people, sounds, tastes, changes, etc?  Then ask, how does the intensity of those reactions compare?  For many children, intensity isn’t an issue at all. Their reactions fall in the middle range and they generally take things as they come.  These are the children whose moods are fairly even, consistent, and predictable.  They smile when they’re happy and protest and complain, in a modulated way, when they’re not.

 

The challenges arise with children who are at either end of the continuum or when a parent falls at an opposing end of preferences from their child’s.  Imagine, Boisterous Brigitte and Shrieky Sam.  These two tell the world how they feel in loud and clear ways.  They are what are called “Big Reactors.”  They express things in “big” ways.  When happy you get shrieks of delight and squealing laughter; and when angry you may witness shouting, hitting, biting and hurling of objects. Their reactions to the physical world can be just as intense as their emotional responses.  Clothing made from the “wrong” material can set them off; a tag on an undershirt can wreak havoc or a wrinkled sock may be the trigger.  An odor that is perceived as pleasant or unpleasant may set off this “big” response just as a temperature preference might.  If you’ve ever been in a hair salon where a child is “melting down” in anticipation of their hair cut, you have witnessed a “big reactor.”

 

At the other end of the spectrum are the “little reactor” children. Imagine Docile Dan and Demure Denise.  During infancy these children are referred to as “blessings” because they are so readily consolable and sleep through the night.  They are often seen as being “less demanding” than other children.  In spite of the perception, these children are not easier or undemanding as they may require more work on the parents part to engage, attract and hold their child’s attention.

 

Tips on How to Respond:

 

                                                   to a Big Reactor:

 

·        Take it down a notch – Alter their environment to focus on soothing stimuli – soft music and lighting for example.  By all means, play and have fun, but not over stimulate

·        Sensing Clothing – choose soft clothing

·        Offer physical comfort when distressed – Hold your child close, rub their back, rock them

·        Show your understanding by acknowledging their feelings – “I know it’s hard to be in a crowded place.”  “I know your feelings were sooooo hurt.”

·        Anticipate and Act – If you note that your child is getting revved up, gently remove them from the situation and redirect to a more tempered activity

·        Establish Predictable Routine – make sure that there is adequate sleep time which means accounting for time necessary to wind down first.

·        Don’t punish your child for who he is – He is not overreacting; he just needs your help to learn how to express what is naturally occurring in a controlled manner.

 

                                                   to a Little Reactor:

 

 

·        Bring it up a notch – Alter their environment to focus on up-tempo sounds and dynamic beats.  Monitor that it doesn’t create over stimulation and find that “just right” balance.  Engage in rough and tumble play.  Be silly, be Creative and use a dramatic enthusiastic voice.

·        Create Interactive Games – Games that require interaction and turn-taking are much more engaging and stimulating than solitary activities

·        Get the Body Going – increase all things physical and schedule movement whenever possible.  Discuss these needs with your child’s educational team as well.

·        Mirror what is liked – If your child likes music, sing together; if your child likes to dance, learn to be their partner.

 

 

Other aspects of temperament will be discussed in upcoming columns.

 

 

Resources:

 

www.zerotothree.org – Information under “Key Topics” and then “Temperament and Behavior.”

 

The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood by Selma Fraiberg (Simon & Schuster, 1987).

 

Touchpoints – Birth to Three by T. Berry Brazelton, MD and Joshua D Sparrow, MD (Perseus Publishing, 2006).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Ask yourself; am I similar or different from my child with regard to how we react to people, sounds, tastes, changes, etc?  Then ask, how does the intensity of those reactions compare?  For many children, intensity isn’t an issue at all. Their reactions fall in the middle range and they generally take things as they come.  These are the children whose moods are fairly even, consistent, and predictable.  They smile when they’re happy and protest and complain, in a modulated way, when they’re not.

 

The challenges arise with children who are at either end of the continuum or when a parent falls at an opposing end of preferences from their child’s.  Imagine, Boisterous Brigitte and Shrieky Sam.  These two tell the world how they feel in loud and clear ways.  They are what are called “Big Reactors.”  They express things in “big” ways.  When happy you get shrieks of delight and squealing laughter; and when angry you may witness shouting, hitting, biting and hurling of objects. Their reactions to the physical world can be just as intense as their emotional responses.  Clothing made from the “wrong” material can set them off; a tag on an undershirt can wreak havoc or a wrinkled sock may be the trigger.  An odor that is perceived as pleasant or unpleasant may set off this “big” response just as a temperature preference might.  If you’ve ever been in a hair salon where a child is “melting down” in anticipation of their hair cut, you have witnessed a “big reactor.”

 

At the other end of the spectrum are the “little reactor” children. Imagine Docile Dan and Demure Denise.  During infancy these children are referred to as “blessings” because they are so readily consolable and sleep through the night.  They are often seen as being “less demanding” than other children.  In spite of the perception, these children are not easier or undemanding as they may require more work on the parents part to engage, attract and hold their child’s attention.

 

Tips on How to Respond:

 

                                                   to a Big Reactor:

 

·        Take it down a notch – Alter their environment to focus on soothing stimuli – soft music and lighting for example.  By all means, play and have fun, but not over stimulate

·        Sensing Clothing – choose soft clothing

·        Offer physical comfort when distressed – Hold your child close, rub their back, rock them

·        Show your understanding by acknowledging their feelings – “I know it’s hard to be in a crowded place.”  “I know your feelings were sooooo hurt.”

·        Anticipate and Act – If you note that your child is getting revved up, gently remove them from the situation and redirect to a more tempered activity

·        Establish Predictable Routine – make sure that there is adequate sleep time which means accounting for time necessary to wind down first.

·        Don’t punish your child for who he is – He is not overreacting; he just needs your help to learn how to express what is naturally occurring in a controlled manner.

 

                                                   to a Little Reactor:

 

 

·        Bring it up a notch – Alter their environment to focus on up-tempo sounds and dynamic beats.  Monitor that it doesn’t create over stimulation and find that “just right” balance.  Engage in rough and tumble play.  Be silly, be Creative and use a dramatic enthusiastic voice.

·        Create Interactive Games – Games that require interaction and turn-taking are much more engaging and stimulating than solitary activities

·        Get the Body Going – increase all things physical and schedule movement whenever possible.  Discuss these needs with your child’s educational team as well.

·        Mirror what is liked – If your child likes music, sing together; if your child likes to dance, learn to be their partner.

 

 

Other aspects of temperament will be discussed in upcoming columns.

 

 

Resources:

 

www.zerotothree.org – Information under “Key Topics” and then “Temperament and Behavior.”

 

The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood by Selma Fraiberg (Simon & Schuster, 1987).

 

Touchpoints – Birth to Three by T. Berry Brazelton, MD and Joshua D Sparrow, MD (Perseus Publishing, 2006).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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