Podcasts for Kids

Podcasts have grown exponentially in the last few years. Including the amount of shows made for children. Podcasts are a great way to engage children in conversation and learning. They can spark new interests and curiosities. Many are interactive and children can write in to ask questions or even submit their own stories. They are great for road trips, long flights, or even just driving around town on short errands. Some are great right before bedtime. Many podcasts are created to be enjoyed by the whole family!

Here are a few to check out with your children:

But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids Great for all ages. You can even record your child asking a question and send it into the show!

Ear Snacks A show about music, science, art, and culture that is made for kids and enjoyed by the entire family. 

The Past & the Curious Little known stories from history. Each episode has a silly song that goes with it!

Story Time Great for bedtime, these stories are short and comforting stories. 

Be Calm on Ashway Island This one is great for teaching mindfulness and breathing techniques.

What if World This takes listeners “what if” questions and turns them into wacky stories. 

Wow in the World NPR discusses the latest news in technology and science in a way that makes it enjoyable for kids!

Brains On  This series takes kid submitted science questions and answers them with experts.

Tumble Another science podcast that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Story Pirates All the episodes in this series have been written by real kids!

Little Stories for Tiny People Stories and poems written for toddlers and preschool children.

Six Minutes Each episode is six minutes long, hence the title It tells the story of a girl named Holiday who was pulled out the ocean and does not have a memory.

Young Ben Franklin This podcast tells the escapades of a boy named Ben, who will one day become Benjamin Franklin.

The Alien Adventure of Finn Caspien This podcast tells about the adventure of Finn Caspien in outer space as he and others try to discover a place for humans to live.

We love podcasts for ourselves and our students too. There are many other podcasts for children, these are some of our favorites. Listening to podcasts with your child is a great opportunity for spending quality time together. They will also allow for discussions and conversations after listening.

How to Help your Child with Multiplication

Students usually begin learning the concept of multiplication at the tail end of second grade. They begin looking at multiplication strategies with equal groups, arrays, repeated addition and on number lines. These concepts are reviewed again in third, fourth, and fifth grade, when students continue working with multiplication. The concept of multiplication plays a big part of the other math units of division, long division, and fractions.

Because in upper elementary math concepts rely heavily on multiplication, being fluent in multiplication is very important and helpful for students. If they do not have to figure out what 56 divided by eight is or 9 x 6 is, then they can focus their energy on completing the more difficult algorithms that they encounter. That is why teachers, including Jen, often recommend memorizing multiplication facts in 3rd grade.

The question that many parents ask us is how to help their child learn their multiplication facts. There are many ways to become fluent in multiplication tables. Below are some of our recommendations.

1) Flash Cards: You can make these at home or pick some up from the store. These are great because students can work independently with them or with someone quizing them. There are also some online like Fact Monster, where children can practice their multiplication facts.

2) Math Games: There are a lot a multiplication games online that are fun and help students learn their facts. Some of our favorites are iXL, Multiplication Games, and Splash Math

3) Worksheets: These are not the funnest way to practice, but if you print out worksheets from Math Drills, and practice taking a fact quiz with your child at home a couple of times a week, you can see what multiplication facts they need to work on.

4) Apps: There are a lot of apps available for tablets where students can practice their multiplication facts. Some of our favorites are Ardy’s Multiplication Fun, Factor Samurai, Math vs. Zombies, and Times Table Multiplication. However, there are many more apps that are available to help your child practice multiplication tables. 

5) Songs: Some kids are more musical, and learn better through songs. One of Jen’s favorite things to do is play School House Rock Multiplication Rock for her students. They sing the songs in the morning and at pack up to help them learn their multiplication.

At the end of the day, it is good to remember that memorizing multiplication facts, while helpful, is not the end all in math. Students can use all the strategies that they have learned to help them while they become more fluent in their facts. This time is a great time to spend with your children. Talk about how you use multiplication in your life and when you use it, talk it out with them. Tell them the strategies you use, and quiz them on facts as you shop in stores. By showing children how multiplication is all around them, it makes it real for them, and you will see them flourish. Practicing multiplication facts with your child is another way to spend quality time with them while helping them master a skill.

How to Help Reluctant Readers Read

Reading is one of the most important things that children can do. Through reading, students gain a better vocabulary, spelling and writing skills develop, and reading comprehension improves. It does not matter what grade or reading level your child is at, setting time aside for reading is the best thing you can do to support them in becoming lifelong readers. 

Most children start learning how to read around the age of 6 or 7. Up until that point students are learning letters, phonics, and reading skills. In grades kindergarten through second grade, students are learning how to read. By the time they reach third grade, most children are reading independently and able to find books that interest them. 

There are many children who upon learning how to read, fall in love with it and will read everything and anything. However, every year in our classes, we encounter children who are reluctant readers. These children would rather do anything than read. They might be struggling with fluency or comprehension and therefore they believe that they cannot do it themselves. They might be distracted by other factors such as electronics, friends, or other activities. Or they simply might not have found their niche; what they love to read yet. 

Whatever the reason, there are a few things you can do as a parent to help reluctant readers become engaged readers. 

1) Start a Parent Child Book Club at home

Choose an engaging chapter book and read it aloud with your child. Take turns reading paragraphs or pages. By doing this, your child practices their own fluency and they are able to hear your pronunciation and enunciation of words. You can also ask questions as you read to help them with reading comprehension. These can be simple like, “What just happened in the story? What did the character mean?” Or more complex inferencing questions such as “What do you think will happen next? How did the character feel?” Spending time reading with your child will not only help your child become excited about reading, but it is a great way to spend quality time together.

2) Listen to Audio Books

Audio Books are a wonderful way to hook children into reading. Children love listening to stories, and by listening to books in the car or at home they can find an author, genre, or series they like. They can then find more books they are interested in reading that are similar to what they enjoyed listening to. Audible has many resources for kids. Their parent company Amazon, is also easy to navigate to find audio books. All You Can Books has many free audio books that work on different platforms. Scholastic Parent has many other audio book resources for audio books. 

3) Kindles

We have seen many children become discouraged by books simply by the size of the spine. They see a large book, and they immediately think that they cannot read that book because it is too big. They will not even consider reading it based on the size of it. That is what makes a Kindle an amazing tool. This basic Kindle is perfect for kids who are afraid of reading larger books, because they cannot see how big, or long, a book is. The Kindle also has other features that help readers such as text to voice, dictionary for unknown words, the ability to change the font size, parental controls, and a way to track how long children are reading. We love our own kindles, and think it is a great tool for children. 

4) Go to Libraries 

Libraries are amazing and free places to go with your child and explore. They can check out books to try out and if they don’t like them, you can return them and check more out. Libraries often have times for story times or activities designed to engage children, and we say take advantage of them. Talk to the librarians, who have a wealth of knowledge on books for children. They might have suggested books for age or grade groups that could help you out.

5) Find a Genre, Series, or Author

We believe that if a child is a reluctant reader, they simply haven’t found what they enjoy to read yet. Helping them find a genre, series of books, or author they love is paramount. Once they find what they enjoy to read, they will not want to put their books down.

6) Model Reading

If you have read our past posts, you know the importance of modeling. Children will learn more from what you do than what you preach. So, set time aside to read. Show them that reading is a fun and leisurely activity. When they read, take out your own book and read next to them. By showing them that reading is a big part of your life, they are more likely to read themselves.

How to Help your Child Manage Fears and Anxiety

There seems to be a rise in anxiety in children and young adults. According to the Center for Disease Control about 4.4 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety. This number is up from 5.5% in 2003 to 6.4% in 2011-2012. There are many contributing factors to the rise in childhood anxiety. Social media and the “Like Culture,” higher expectations put on them at school, practice with active shooter drills are some of the reasons cited by The Washington Post.

Anxiety can present itself in a variety of ways in children. According to the Anxiety Disorder Association of America children can lose their appetite, be irritable, have low self esteem, be sad or cry, have a loss of energy, have difficulty sleeping or concentrating, or not want to participate with friends or activities.

Anxiety in children is not uncommon and according to a Yale University study, research suggests that family accommodation plays a role in childhood anxiety because it does not allow children to face their fears. It means that when a child feels afraid or anxious about something and a parent consistently makes changes to accommodate the child without trying to address the fear, it could be feeding their anxiety. 

The Yale University study focused on treating the parents and giving them the tools and language to help an anxious child. The researchers in this study believe that when parents consistently provide accommodations to an anxious child, the message they are sending is that the child can’t do it on their own. They never learn the tools or get the confidence to cope, which can create bigger problems later on in life.

Fear and anxiety are complex and vary from one child to another. According to Child Mind Institute, “anxiety is the most common emotional problem in children.” When helping an anxious child, you may need to try several things before you figure out what will work for your child and family. If you are unable to come up with solutions on your own, don’t be afraid to seek professional help to give you and your child healthy coping mechanisms.

Here are some things to consider when helping your child manage fears and anxiety:

Validate their feelings It is important to value that what your child is experiencing is very real. Try to validate their feelings without poking fun at the situation. At times, it may seem that making light of the situation will help your child, but it is important to validate their feelings. 

Help them learn how to cope When your child is faced with a fear, do you jump in to save them or do you help them come up with solutions on how to overcome the fear? At some point, you will not be there to rescue them and that could cause even more anxiety in your child. If something is repeatedly coming up, consider sitting down with your child to discuss possible solutions. Then the next time it comes up, have the child try one of the solutions. Keep trying until you find something that works. 

Sometimes you need to push and sometimes you need to pull back This isn’t always cut and dry. You may need to try things out to see what is going to work for your child. If you feel something is too much for your child, pull back. But if there isn’t any progress being made, you may need to push a little further. Every child, family, and situation is different. Be patient and consistent. 

Be vulnerable with your child Children love when adults share their own experiences. Give your child examples of when you were afraid of something and how you overcame it. 

Most importantly, if your child is anxious, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone. Seek help when you need it. Reach out to family, friends, teachers, and medical professionals. There is also an abundance of resources available to help children and families. The Child Mind Institute is a great place to start. 

Technology Mindfulness

Technology plays a crucial role in our society and in child development. It has become a tool to monitor child health problems, can help connect children to their families, and can be a great learning tool when used purposefully. On the other hand, when used irresponsibly technology has the ability to disrupt sleep, create unsafe distractions, create a space for cyber bullying, and it can interrupt adult-child interactions. 

According to the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and the Fred Rogers Center, when technology is used wisely it has the ability to support both learning and relationships. Digital devices have rapidly become the culture in all avenues of life, at home, in school, at work, and in all different types of communities. While we do see this as a positive, we also need to be mindful about technology use. Research on this topic is relatively new to the last two decades. Much more research is needed to fully understand the short and long-term effects of technology use and how it is shaping child development, which is why it is so important to be mindful of how children use it.

Here are some things to consider around technology use for CHILDREN and ADULTS:

How frequently it is being used

How often do you reach for your device for no reason? Consider how you are using technology in the presence of children. Consider how often your child is reaching for a device. Is it out of habit, necessity, or pure boredom? 

What is being consumed

Always consider what is being consumed on technology. When technology is interactive it can promote creativity and exploration. When used in passive ways, technology can become unhealthy.

How it affects real life relationships

We often write about teaching children how to build relationships, we fully believe it is one of the most important skills for child development. Consider if the technology being used is hindering or helping to build relationships. 

We understand that at times, giving a child technology is an easy way to entertain and appease them. We also understand that it really can be a wonderful tool when used in developmentally appropriate ways. However, if a child becomes reliant on watching videos while shopping with you at the store, is always playing with an app at a restaurant, or constantly on the tablet while in the car, they are losing valuable learning and bonding time. They are missing out on learning social cues, how to talk to each other, how to make eye contact, how to sit and wait, how to be bored and how to entertain themselves. Now think of those repercussions in the classroom, at a sports game, religious event, or performances. 

The honest truth is that teachers, coaches, tutors, and even parents cannot compete with the technology in children’s hands. Technology has been designed by engineers to keep its users engaged and coming back. Which is why we need to be mindful about how and when children use technology. 

The theme that we often write about is balance, and it is especially important to practice balance when using technology. Personally, we are avid users of technology and are definitely not perfect, we are always trying to find ways to balance our use of devices, social interactions, and productivity. As adults, we need to be doing what we can to model mindfulness when using technology in our own lives. Mindfulness doesn’t mean you will be perfect all the time, it just means you will be more thoughtful around how often and for what purpose you use technology around children. It is through this modeling of mindfulness that children will be able to learn and develop healthy habits of their own.

Let Kids Be Bored

Today’s parents often feel the need to plan out, have activities, and make sure that their children are entertained all the time. This puts a lot of pressure on the parents to make sure that kids are never bored. Boredom has become synonymous with bad parenting, but in reality, children need the time and space to be bored. And you are not a bad parent if sometimes your child is bored.

A recent study found that boredom can spark individual productivity and creativity. When a person is bored, they allow their minds to wander and daydream. This enhances creative thinking and problem solving. 

Boredom also allows children to be self reliant. When left up to their own devices they have to decide what they want to do. According to Lyn Fry, a child psychologist told  Quartz, “Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy. If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”

Having to discover what you like to do when you are bored will also allow children to find what they’re really interested in. These interests could lead to passions or hobbies in their lives. However, if they are constantly going from one activity to another, they will never have the down time to figure out where their interests lie. Finding out what makes you happy is important for everyone, especially as children grow up. 

Let your child be bored and they might gruffle and groan for a bit. Stay the course, and  eventually they figure out how to entertain themselves. Whether it is playing with toys they forgot about, building forts out of pillows, writing stories, designing a board game, coloring and painting, or playing imaginative games, children will find ways to entertain themselves. Disconnect your child from all forms of technology, leave them alone, and you would be surprised at the creativity they can unleash.

We often model for children the need to multitask. We overschedule ourselves and our children. We constantly check our phones, email, social media, watching TV and are constantly staying connected. Start by modeling for your children an afternoon of zero technology and just sitting, reading a book, having a conversation with a partner,  or coloring. Show them that it is ok to not do anything sometimes. 

Do not feel bad for having a weekend where nothing is planned. Sometimes social media makes parents feel bad when they are not out at an immersive educational adventurous location. That is not real life, and no one will judge you if every once in a while you and your child do nothing. 

Boredom is good for a child’s development and for parents too. We all need down time. Finding the balance between our go-go-go lives and just being is absolutely necessary for all of us. 

We are here to say, “Let kids be bored!”

Make Time for Play

In today’s fast paced life, it seems that more and more children are being rushed through their childhood. Before they start school they are practicing flashcards, math facts, or sight words. Once they are in school they have homework, projects, and extracurricular activities. With so much on their plate, children have less and less time to play.

Fred Rogers, famously said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

Play is the business of children! It is what they should be doing more of. In children play is interconnected with creativity, problem solving, and social emotional learning. Essentially it is how they learn to be people. From infant through childhood, play plays a pivotal role in a child’s development.  

Play is often the heart of high quality early learning programs and can help prepare children for elementary school. There are different types of play that promote growth and development. When educators use the term play, people often think of free play, which is child initiated and child directed. Free play is a great way for children to practice social and self-regulatory skills and develop creativity. There is definitely a place for free play but it shouldn’t end there.

Research shows that guided play, which is adult initiated and child directed, is a powerful tool to incorporate play into curricula. One that does not compromise learning goals. Guided play gives kids autonomy, but also gives teachers some control over what they want the child to achieve. It makes learning engaging. 

While many forms of play are often used in early learning programs, which have been proven to be effective, these types of initiatives seem to be missing from the early years of elementary school. In many schools around the nation, kids enter kindergarten and are expected to complete worksheets, sit for long periods of time, and even take tests. They have less time for play, less time for art, and less time for music. There has been a drastic shift from the 1990s and Kindergarten now looks like what first grade was a few decades ago. According to NPR expectations are getting higher for school age children.

Jean Piaget wrote, “Play is the work of childhood.” Therefore we as their parents and teachers need to make sure they get to do more of what is most important for their development.

In the classroom play can take different forms throughout the different grades. In the younger grades, teachers can set up play learning bins for students to explore, have areas where students can pretend play, have puppets for students, and build in time for play. As students get older, play and learning takes a different form. Teachers can take students outside and play games to practice concepts, have lego stations, and use manipulatives.

Schools often take recess times away from students the older they get, but if you can take your students outside for extra play time, just for the fun of it. No matter what their age, children need playtime, and the curriculum will not be affected if you take a 15 minute break to play with your students, it will actually enhance learning.

Parents can do similar things at home. You do not have to have a fancy space in the home, all you need to do is give your child time to play. Give them a box, some markers, and tape, and they will design and create something. Give them space in the backyard, and watch them come up with a game. Invite a friend for a technology free playdate and watch them pretend play. Give children time and space to play, and we promise they will use it well.