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From July’s New York Family magazine

 

A Love for Learning

Expert Advice On Inspiring Curiosity In Kids

By Kristen Duca

Lifelong learning—it’s a phrase garnering popularity as parents, perhaps now more than ever, are working to instill an early appreciation for education in their children. After all, children with a thirst for knowledge often enjoy great academic and personal success. But with so many articles, books, experts and opinions on the subject, determining your plan of action can seem like a daunting undertaking. So we consulted three leading child development experts, and we’re happy to report some refreshing news: It turns out that all you really need is an engaged, in-the-moment attitude toward your children’s education, and it’s never too early, or too late, to get involved.

Start At Home

Cultivating a love of learning begins at home, so it’s no surprise that a parent’s role is crucial to children’s development. Parents can begin by using their own interest in learning as a model for their families. Dr. Betty Bardige, early childhood author and consultant, encourages parents to read—and show their enjoyment of reading—in front of their children. “If you are excited about learning and willing to share what you love with your children, they will be intrigued with what intrigues their parents,” says Bardige.

Of course, reading with your children is one of the simplest and most effective things a parent can do. Professor Susan J. Schwartz, clinical director of the Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement at the NYU Child Study Center, recommends that parents read to their children regularly, regardless of age. For babies, Schwartz suggests books with visual stimulation, like big patterns and colorful contrast. Toddlers and young children like to read the same books over and over, but be sure to introduce new books into your routine, perhaps with similar themes or by the same author or illustrator to generate quick interest in a new title. When kids become too old for bedtime stories, parents can take an interest in summer reading assignments by reading the books along with their children, engaging in conversation about the books along the way.

Schwartz also suggests that families institute “family reading time” everyday, in which everyone reads individually, but simultaneously. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes, this time establishes the importance of daily reading and encourages thoughtful conversations, which are another great tool for parents.

“Having conversations with your child, even before they are verbal, makes a huge difference,” says Dr. Joshua Sparrow, co-author with T. Berry Brazelton of “Touchpoints: Birth to Three.” Sparrow advises parents to always ask questions when talking with their child and to initiate conversations that invite curiosity.

Bardige agrees. Even in baby and toddler years, she says, parents should engage in constant conversation that is both playful and lively.

Everyday Learning

Whether you’re looking to teach your kids about math, science or history, the world around you provides infinite opportunities for hands-on lessons. “Parents can create wonderful learning experiences for children that are tactile and multi-sensory,” says Schwartz. Engage your children in interactive, project-based activities like collecting leaves, gardening, cooking, grocery shopping and conducting simple science experiments. These will help build a diverse vocabulary and teach responsibility and cause-and-effect lessons.

If your child doesn’t seem to be engrossed in a specific subject, try to spark an interest at home by using one of their hobbies, says Bardige. For example, if your child is crazy about baseball, bring home books about legendary players to encourage reading, or use a favorite team’s scores or statistics to teach math skills.

Let There Be Play

According to Schwartz, “play is a child’s work,” and parents can make play more formal or relaxed by altering their routine. For instance, some days parents may take their children to the sandbox and let them explore on their own. Another day, they might bring a measuring toy to teach the child about simple math concepts in a fun and informal setting. Counting steps from the bus to the entrance of a museum or keeping a piggy bank are casual ways children can learn about numbers, counting and money.

When judging when and how to participate in your children’s playtime, Bardige suggests that parents first let their kids explore independently. “Watch, wait, wonder and find a way to enter by taking cues from your child,” she says. “See if there is an opportunity to support learning by asking questions.” Sparrow agrees, encouraging parents to watch as their infant or toddler explores an object or new environment, but to be ready to move in when they become frustrated or uninterested.

Another way to enrich everyday play is to supply your children with materials that invite creativity, constructions and inventions. “Provide your children interesting play materials that are developmentally appropriate, like scraps of cloth, recycled paper or other materials for art projects,” advises Bardige.

“Look for gentle challenges that are just a small step away from where they are now,” says Sparrow. “The biggest motivation for a child is when the parent is engaged in play. Be present, engaged and tuned-in, and don’t multi-task when you’re with your child.”

Above all, Bardige advises, parents should enjoy the time they have with their kids. “Be sure to enjoy the ride,” she says. “Every child is different, curious and magical in his own way.”

http://www.newyorkfamily.com/newyork/article-434-a-love-for-learning.html

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UltimateMama wants you to book a day this summer at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.  Not only will parents love the Edible Garden experience but also kids!  As a family you can learn about growing food, harvesting food, and preparing food with cooking demonstrations and interactive adventures!  Check their website for information on celebrity chefs visiting the gardens.

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UltimateMama has a great tip for all of you late to the game in the Father’s Day gift buying department – FRAME YOUR CHILD’s ARTWORK!  It is fun, easy, and inexpensive!  And, daddy will love it. 

To do:

1. Find your child’s best masterpiece – a family picture she drew with colored pencils, handprints from paint, a scenic landscape done with watercolors, a collage with recycled materials, etc.

2. Pick out a frame (you may have to trim your child’s artwork a bit).

3. Date the artwork on the back and put the name of the child (so he never forgets).

4.  Frame it!

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Did you know that the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum was one of the seven oldest buildings in Manhattan?  UltimateMama and her family found that out last weekend when we visited the museum. 

Where else can you and your family learn about the history of ice cream (through June 20th) and play with period toys in the beautiful 18th Century gardens?!

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UltimateMama is a strong advocate of involving your kids in meal creation. 

For toddlers or young children, you can help them pour and stir as your sous-chef.  Or, just give them a wooden spoon and a bowl and let them pretend to be an executive chef.  Buy or make a little apron for them to really get into the spirit!

Older children could help with measuring.  A valuable math lesson could be taught while cooking.  Also, if you involve them with the cooking process it is an immediate science lesson as well!   

Let your kids participate in the kitchen  – supervised of course!

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http://npaper-wehaa.com/nyf/#2010/06/?article=892954

It’s Always Fun In PHILADELPHIA

A New York Foursome Takes On History, Culture And Even A Shark In The City Of Brotherly Love

 The challenge: two adults (my husband Ken and I) two young kids (our daughters, Milla, 3 and Arden, 1) and 48 hours to see it all. Here’s how we spent our weekend escape in Philadelphia.

What We Did:

The Philadelphia Trolley Works Tour

The trolley tour enabled our family to see the city’s main attractions in just 90 minutes. The tour is narrated by knowledgeable and cheerful tour guides, and you can hop off at any of the 20 stops to customize the day to your family’s interests. We enjoyed visiting attractions like the Betsy Ross House, the Rodin Museum and the iconic “Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (phillytour.com)

Please Touch Museum

A perfect place for kids to learn and play! Our girls perused the aisles of the mini ShopRite supermarket, played with water currents in “River Adventures” and learned about transportation in “Roadside Attractions.” The museum also houses the century-old refurbished Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel. (pleasetouchmuseum.org)

Adventure Aquarium

This incredible 200,000 square-foot aquarium boasts so many exciting exhibits, shows and adventures. Our family loved the 40-foot shark tunnel, which features over 30 sharks and 850 other sea creatures. The “Touch-A- Shark” exhibit is great for those who are brave, like Milla. (adventureaquarium.com)

Where We Stayed:

The newly renovated Doubletree Hotel Philadelphia is located in the center of the city’s cultural district. Families will love the hotel’s proximity to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Academy of Music, the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Liberty Bell and other family-friendly attractions. The rooms are chic but comfortable and offer beautiful views of the city. The hotel also has an indoor pool and whirlpool, high-speed internet access, and a warm and gracious staff that greeted us with smiles and high fives (to Arden’s delight!). (philadelphia. doubletree.com)

For more info: visitphilly.com. Kristen J. Duca blogs at ultimatemama.com.

http://npaper-wehaa.com/nyf/#2010/06/?article=892954

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UltimateMama wants you to know that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that McDonald’s recalled its “Shrek Forever After 3D” Collectable Drinking Glasses” because the designs on the glasses contain cadmium which can pose adverse health effects.

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After a nice morning or afternoon at the Bronx Zoo, UltimateMama and her family dart over to Arthur Avenue for a nice meal and some homestyle Italian food shopping!

Do not leave Arthur Avenue without stocking up on prepared eggplant parmigiana, cheese, cured meats (prosciutto), focaccia, and more from Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.  Even Bobby Flay frequents Mike’s Deli and met with him for a Food Network Throwdown!

For Arthur Avenue bread try Madonia Brothers Bakery — a must!

If you want to hit an Arthur Avenue restaurant with your family try Zero Otto Nove or Roberto!

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UltimateMama knows it is not always easy to think of a fun, original gift for Father’s Day.  So, for Father’s Day 2010 please check out these ultimate Father’s Day gifts:

– have your child write an original poem or story about their father

– electronics

– tools or toolbox

– ties, socks, boxer shorts

– books

– watch

– framed picture of daddy with the kids

– engraved luggage tag

– slippers

– sandals

– pajamas

– cuff links

– golf tees, tennis balls, weights, swim goggles

– photo book from Shutterfly

– fishing gear

– Father’s Day breakfast made by the children (with mommy helping)

– tickets to a sporting event or a play

– magazine or newspaper subscription

– wallet

– pictures of the kids for his wallet

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