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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Teaching Children to go the GREEN WAY

In our bid to save our planet, every bit of effort counts, and children are the best way to invest in a greener, more viable future.

Here are some tips to get your kids to appreciate the Earth and thus understand the part they can play to Save the Earth.

Home is not only where the LOVE is but also the place where BEST practices can be inculcated. As kids spend the majority of their time at home, you, the parent are the first and foremost person who can and should teach about the EARTH, how our environment and resources are being depleted every day and how simple acts on "OUR" part can make a difference.

Short and Sweet - Everyone can save water and energy by taking shorter showers. Did you know that every two minutes shaved off just one shower can add up to to an impressive ten gallons of water every day.

Cool case - Teach your child to make snappy decisions when it comes to choice of snack or food when opening the fridge. The refrigerator is the biggest energy consuming kitchen appliance and opening the fridge door accounts for between $30 and $60 of a typical family's electrical bill each year.

Clear choice - When it comes to packing away leftovers, choose glass or porcelain storage containers over plastic ones. Share facts about the extended period needed to degrade plastic and teach kids that fewer chemicals are likely to leach from the container to food and cause health risks this way.

Running resources - Remind your child to keep taps turned off while brushing his teeth. This way we can conserve up to five gallons of water a day.
Brushing teeth

Bagging it - when shopping for grocery, encourage your kids to bring along their own bag instead of using plastic bags. If it is only one small item, consider not using a plastic bag at all. In Singapore, about 2.5 billion plastic shopping bags are used each year. That's equal to 2500 bags per family annually. If each family uses one less plastic bag a week, that means 50 million less plastic bags in a year!
Recycled Grocery Bag

Entertainment - Keeping children entertained is big business. As a huge amount of resources, marketing and research is dedicated to the entertainment industry, the by product is a tremendous amount of waste produced. Families and kids who go green when having fun can help save the volume of waste produced through this Entertainment industry.

Making book - smart choices. Take kids on trips to the library or second hand bookstores. Encourage them to share their own books with friends or take them to a charity drive to donate away their old books. Over 3 billion new books are sold yearly, which requires no less than 400 000 trees to be chopped down.

Picking the right kind of treats. Encourage children to buy loose or unwrapped candy from sweet bins where possible. A large proportion of sweet wrappers contain additives that make them stain - resistant but they are also harder to break down.

Choosing downloads. I am not talking about Pirated Media. Teach or help your kids to download music from online music stores instead of buying music CDs. This not only saves costs but also reduces the number of CDs that end up in landfills every month.

Renting, NOT buying. Feeling like watching a video over the weekend. Then do make a trip down to the rental stores instead of purchasing DVDs and VCDs off the rack. In the US alone, 100 000 DVDs and VCDs are discarded each month!
DVD Rental

Partying the Green way. Thinking of celebrating your child's next birthday. Instead of shopping for premium, cardstock quality invitations, classmates could be sent RSVP slips in their emails.
During the party, let the guests eat off glassware instead of disposable paper or plastic plates and use recycled paper napkins.
Gifts can be requested sans gift wraps and ribbons as these items also take a toll on the environment.

Recycled crafts. Creative and fun ways to recycle your cards
How to recycle wrapping papers into crafts and other great ideas

School. Apart from home, your child will spend many of his hours in school. There are plenty of opportunities to help keep the Earth Green in the School too.

Paper, Paper Everywhere. Almost half of all school waste comes from paper in its various forms. Writing paper, drawing pads, notebooks, schoolbooks, test sheets, hand outs and many more. While a good chunk of this does get recycled, more often than not, these papers just get discarded.

School canteens are culprits too. School canteens and cafeterias not only produce a sizable amount of waste daily in the form of food packages, wrappers, drink boxes and bottles, they also churn out large amounts of waste in the form of food scrapes that go uneaten and discarded without a second thought.

Teach kids to pack a waste-free lunch. Do away with plastic bags, disposable plastic utensils and containers, paper napkins and food options that require plastic wrapping that won't break down easily. Instead, show children how they can prepare healthy recess and lunch options in reusable containers. Children can exercise the option of what they would like to have for breaks and can also have control over the amount they would like to take along with them. This not only eliminates waste but also makes healthier meals.

Why the school bus rocks. Get kids signed up for the school bus service instead of taking trips to school in cars. This will also give junior a chance to natter with his mates on the way to school.
School bus

Get stationery savvy. Most markers contain harsh chemicals that can leak into groundwater from landfills, so choose markers that are non-toxic and refillable. Pick pencils made from recycled materials and those that are packed in recyclable material.

Paper Chase. Choose writing material for kids (and yourself) made from recycled contents and opt for paper that doesn't contain chlorine. Post-consumer recycled paper requires 44 per cent less energy to produce, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent and produce 48 per cent less waste.

Concept to Teach your Kids

Non- renewable resources

Resources of a more limited supply that include oil, natural gas and coal. Because these resources aren't sustainable, we could run out of them and be forced to seek alternative replacements or solutions. Recycle items made of non-renewable resources or opt for purchases made of renewable materials.

Global warming

Sometimes called climate change, this is when the Earth's average temperature begins to rise. This can lead to more intense storms and weather patterns and can increase the likelihood of diseases spreading faster and farther around the Earth.


Consists of any discarded electronic appliance. These contain parts made of hazardous materials that require proper disposal to prevent them from leaking into groundwater. Sell, donate or recycle appliances instead of junking them.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Exploring the world through pretend play

Playing Pretend
Children explore the world around them and learn through pretend play. With so many passive activities like watching TV and playing video games, we sometimes need to encourage our children to pretend play. Here are a few suggestions on how to get those creative juices flowing for both you and your child.

Dress Up Box
Put a dress up box together with some of your old dresses, jackets, blouses, old Halloween costumes, etc. Don't forget to throw in some fun accessories as well, such as purses, hats, wigs, scarves, gloves. etc. If you can't find much around the house, look around at some yard sales and the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. You'll be able to find some great dress up clothes for your kids for next to nothing.

You may also get requests for some unusual accessories like space helmets, crowns, etc. Be creative and look around the house. A colander makes a cool helmet and you can form a sparkling crown out of aluminum foil.

Playing Doctor

All you'll need is any of the stuffed animals your kids already have plus some bandages. You can substitute an empty pen to serve as a thermometer or syringe. A pair of headphones can quickly be turned into a stethoscope by taping a plastic bottle cap to the jack.

Grocery Store
Grocery Store

You can quickly put a grocery store together on a low shelf or side table. All you'll need is a basket and several empty cereal and rice boxes. Add a few canned goods and some dry beans, and you're all set. You can also draw up your own money on pieces of paper and cut some coins out of cardboard. Ask your child to help you color them. Take turns with your child being the shopper or the storekeeper.

When your child gets bored of playing store, turn the grocery store into a library. Make up a library card for every family member and add a small piece of paper into each of your child's books. If your child cannot read or write yet, draw a symbol for each family member, or use a different color. When someone checks out a book from the family library, ask the child to record who took it and when it is due back in. You can also ask your child to sort the books either by topic or alphabetically.


Have your kids turn an empty cardboard box into a fire truck. They can color it and draw tires on with markers or cut out shapes from construction paper. Paint an empty clean can (like a coffee can) blue to use as an emergency light. You can have them make a police car, ambulance or garbage truck. You'll soon have your children pretend play to be a fire fighter, police officer, etc.

Let's Cook

Cooking is FUN

All you'll need are a few pots and pans, some wooden spoons, and if you'd like, some dry rice or beans. Your kids can also draw shapes of favorite foods on construction paper and color them with crayons or markers. After that, let the pretending begin. Encourage your child to pretend cook in the kitchen with you while you are fixing dinner. It will keep him or her occupied, while you can still keep an eye on him or her.

One of the most versatile pretend play toys are puppets. You can easily make them yourself. Take a look at these finger puppets (http://www.kinderinfo.com/crafts/fingerpuppets.htm) and handkerchief puppets (http://www.kinderinfo.com/crafts/handkerchief-puppet.htm). There is also a huge array of puppets from people to animals commercially available. Puppets will allow your child to recreate situations of everyday life and to explore different points of view. Watching them when they play with their puppets will give also give you a glimpse at how they see the world. Do you really say, "Please don't do that" that often?

Give your child the means and a little bit of encouragement to pretend play and they'll run with it. Our children are so observatory of their surroundings and also have tons of imagination. You'll enjoy watching them and interacting with them as they explore their world through pretend play.
Thursday, April 10, 2008

Children and creativity

To be creative is to take novel approaches towards things and to think out of the box.

Children are all naturally creative because they are not understand constraints, rules or conventions.

Their ability to plan, rationalise and think logically is only developed later. Before that, they tend to latch on the approach that strikes them first, be it an unconventional approach.

We know that creativity is important. It is a fact that people who are creative are more flexible in their thinking. They can see more than one solution to a problem and are not afraid to use a less conventional approach if it works.

Knowing that there can be more than one solution to every problem, and more than one prospective to every issue, is what we need children to learn.

Moreover, children who are encouraged to be creative will have a better self-esteem. Encouraging creativity means to accept ideas from children and not to dismiss the ideas as incorrect or not workable.

When we encourage children to do things their own way, they will learn to believe in themselves and their abilities. They know what they want and that their thoughts are not insignificant.

At the end of the day, better self esteem means greater confidence and less fear of failure. This translates into more positive attitude towards life and hence better chances at success.

How to Foster Creativity in Children

Children are not self-conscious, they are naturally curious and always eager to try new things. Characteristics like these mean that childhood is a great time for fostering creativity.

Parents and teachers have to encourage and nurture the inherent creativity in children so that it will grow and not fizzle out under the stresses of school or as they start to understand rules and restriction.

* Allow children to express their thoughts and feelings freely. Do not belittle them so that they will gain confidence in their own abilities and will not feel that their good ideas should take second place to rules.

* Ask open ended questions that encourage them to think and evaluate further, such as "Why do you think so?" and "what do you think will happen if....?"

*Encourage them to ask questions. When children ask questions it shows that they are trying to work something out. The solution is not as important as them knowing that there are question they should be asking.

* Children must not assume something is too difficult before they even start working on it. It is important not to put ideas of "I can't" in their minds, but to encourage them to always try.

* Children learn by trial and error, so resist the temptation to stop them in the midst of their activities and guide them in the 'right' way. If they look like they are enjoying themselves, leave them to continue their tasks even if their methods are clumsy.

* Expose them to art, television programmes, books, music and physical activities, etc. The more exposure they have the more accepting they will be of new things and ideas. Through varied activities, adults can also spot what are each child's strengths and talents are.

Note that creativity should not be used as an excuse for children's inappropriate behavior. Neither should parents and teachers be blind to possible genuine behavioral problems, attributing misdemeanours to over-abundant creativity.

There should still be reasonable discipline and specific training where it matters. Decide on what rules are most important for your children and be more flexible with the rest.

Do check out my earlier post - Games and Activities to ignite the creative spark

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Cost of Competition on Kids

What is the price of winning? There's many a time that, as a parent, we have instilled the need to win, to be first even at trivial things. A game such as musical chair is a good example. Instead of having a fun time, the aim is always to win.

I came across an article by Rae Pica which I think every parent should read and understand so that we will not continue to make the mistake of "Pushing" our child to win.

The subject of competition is one that provokes some pretty strong feelings in the United States. In fact, even hinting that competition might not be such a great thing can cause one to be labeled un-American.

The prevailing belief is that competition is good for everyone ? that someone without a strong competitive nature is just a wimp. That being competitive is human nature and to be noncompetitive is to have been born without a necessary gene.

But is it human nature, or is it learned behavior? The research shows that, given a choice, most preschoolers prefer cooperative to competitive activities. This would seem to indicate that dog-eat-dog is not a natural inclination. And in a New York Times essay, Nicholas Kristof told a hilarious story about trying to teach the game of musical chairs to a group of five-year-old Japanese children, who kept politely stepping out of the way so others could sit in their chairs. This would certainly seem to indicate "dog-eat-dog" is taught in some societies and not taught in others.
In America we play musical chairs in child-care centers, during play dates, and at almost every preschooler's birthday party. The rules say that a chair is removed with every round and one more child gets to sit against the wall and watch everybody else continue to have fun. The game is over when there remains one winner (and lots of losers).

In case you don't recall from your own childhood (or maybe you were always the one winner among many losers), being eliminated feels lousy, as does feeling like a loser. And those other kids you're playing with? For the duration of the game they're not your friends; they're what's standing in your way. Children only have to play this game once to know that, if they're not going to be labeled losers, they have to do whatever it takes to win. And we've all seen what that means: punching, poking, kicking, scratching, screaming, and shoving. It's no wonder the research shows that competition fosters antisocial behaviors.

When parents consistently place their children in situations where winning is the ultimate goal, where the winners are considered heroes and the losers "losers", winning is what they come to value. They learn that only the end result counts, not the process involved in getting there. Further, when parents themselves fail to conduct themselves with character, their actions speak much louder than any words preached about good sportsmanship and the value of teamwork and cooperation. While the goal of many parents is to give their children a running start on the development of sports skills (because success in sports certainly must equal success in life!), the research shows that competition is actually detrimental to skill development. One reason is fear of failure and its resulting stress, which isn't conducive to either learning or performance. Young children, in particular, are susceptible to this problem because pleasing their parents means so much to them. And when their parents focus on winning ? Either through action (screaming on the sidelines) or words (asking "Who won?" instead of "Did you have fun?") ? winning becomes the children's goal as well.
Of course, you may think the goal of winning would be enough to propel children into performing their best. But young children aren't cognitively ready to make that connection. They attribute winning or losing to ability, not effort. Nor are they emotionally ready to handle the pressure of playing mistake-free games. And they're not physically ready to play without making mistakes!

Finally, when product (winning) is emphasized over process (making an effort), extrinsic reward is granted more validity than intrinsic reward. As a result, trophies and championships become the whole point of participation. And while this may not seem like such a bad thing in a goal-oriented society, we're back to the issue of the young child's stage of development. Children under the age of eight are motivated by pleasure. And, yes, winning feels good when everyone around you is making a big deal out of it. But does that feeling last? And what about the children who aren't winning?

Dare I say it? Winning isn't everything. And if we want our children to grow up to be self-assured, character-driven adults, who also happen to have positive feelings about physical activity, then it really shouldn't be.

Rae Pica is a children's physical activity specialist and the author of Your Active Child: How to Boost Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive Development through Age-Appropriate Activity (McGraw-Hill, 2003). Rae speaks to parent and education groups throughout North America. You can visit her and read more articles at http://www.movingandlearning.com.

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