Back to School! Are You and Your Child Ready?

back to school

Be honest, parents. Are you jumping for joy at the prospect of school starting soon?

We thought so. Now, how about your kids?

Some kids eagerly look forward to the first day of school. For others, though, it’s an event filled with anxiety. For parents, that can mean a battle when their child has to get up in time for the bus. So, what can you do to make the transition easier for both your kids and you?

Back-to-School Tips You Can Use Right Now

  • A couple of weeks before their first day, set appropriate sleep schedules. This may mean enforcing an earlier bedtime and setting a morning alarm. It’ll be tough, but not as tough as dragging a sleep-deprived kid to their first day of school.
  • End the summer brain drain by encouraging your kids to read a book or two before the school year begins. Even better? Read with your child to emphasize how important it is and get your child back into the habit of focusing and learning.
  • If possible, visit your child’s school and meet the new teacher. Kids feel more comfortable in a new situation when they know what to expect, so take some time before the school year to visit the classroom or go through your child’s routine.
  • Get the list of supplies needed and go school shopping! Take your kids with you so that they can pick out a favorite notebook, planner, or pencil case.
  • Set rules for homework time early. And plan for push-back. If kids have gotten used to unlimited screen time over the summer, they might resent new expectations, now that study time needs to be part of their daily routine again. It may help to create a space in your home for keeping school supplies or doing homework. Having an official “homework area” with limited distractions can let kids know you mean business.
  • The night before school begins, help your child choose an outfit, and get breakfast and lunch plans settled. Help your kids pack a lunch before they go to sleep. It’ll be a busy day, and the more you can prepare the night before, the better.
  • Have plans for after school, too! Will you be at home? Or will your child need other arrangements once the school day ends? If you need daycare of after-school programs, contact Mary Margaret! We offer after-school solutions in a caring environment.

Other Back-to-School Issues to Keep in Mind

Times have changed, and today’s kids face pressures that you may not have dealt with in your childhood, especially when it comes to social media. Teachers will tell you that some of the problems kids have with one another in the classroom get started on Facebook or Snapchat. Talk with your child about your rules and expectations ahead of time. It’s your choice, of course, whether or not you allow your child to have a cell phone during the school day. However, encourage your child to put the phone away during instruction time and avoid the drama that can infect social media interactions.

If your child seems nervous about the new school year, remind him or her that lots of students get nervous on the first day. Teachers are aware of this, and that’s why they make an extra effort to create a comfortable environment. Make sure to hit on these 5 Back-to-School Worries. Let your child know ahead of time how you expect him or her to behave in class. This will help him or her get over those first-day jitters and settle back into a routine.

If You’re Looking for After-School Programs for Your Kids, Mary Margaret can Help!

Mary Margaret is dedicated to fostering education, development, and building self-esteem in a secure and comfortable environment. We offer daycare and after-school programs for kids up to age 12. Contact us or come by one of our several locations if you have questions!

Is Bedtime a Nightly Battle? Here’s What You Need to Know about Bedtime for Kids

bedtime for kids

It’s the moment every parent dreads: Your child pouts, flails her arms, throws herself to the floor, and begins to howl. It’s another meltdown. While every parent faces this misery from time to time, there are some parenting routines that can make a difference. Perhaps the most important one of all? Your child’s bedtime routine.

The Importance of Quality Sleep

Did you know that lack of sleep is one of the factors that makes it harder for kids to manage their emotions? For a two-year-old, controlling feelings are hard enough! It’s even harder for your little one if she isn’t getting enough sleep at night. So, although it’s not easy to establish a bedtime routine, doing so is important not just for your child’s health, but for your state of mind, too.

Young Children Need Enough Sleep to Thrive

When young children don’t get enough sleep, they may be more irritable, hyper, or distracted. And often, parents suffer right along with them! What’s most troublesome is that these problems can multiply. Over time, sleep deprivation can cause more serious behavior problems, learning difficulties … even obesity.

In scientific terms, your child needs to optimize her natural circadian rhythms. Maintaining a consistent sleep routine is critical for positive “sleep hygiene.” A bedtime that is later than recommended may lead to your child waking up at night, waking up too early, or having trouble getting to sleep at all.

Sleep Requirements by Age

We regularly get questions about the best bedtime for children of different ages. While every child – and every home environment – is different, we can provide a few basic recommendations …  

1. Bedtimes Vary in Infancy

Newborns tend to set their own sleep schedule, and this is by design! Their little tummies can’t hold much, so they need to be fed every two to three hours. Circadian rhythms don’t emerge until a child is about four months old. New babies haven’t developed them yet, and so they may sleep in two- to three-hour spurts, as exhausted parents know all too well. By four months, however, children can begin taking brief naps during the day and going to bed earlier – between 5:30 and 7:30 at night.

In fact, a bedtime before 7:30 pm is recommended for kids up to age 3, as naps go down to one per day or eventually disappear altogether. Remember: your child needs sleep. You’re not a bad parent for setting an early bedtime and enforcing it.

2. Young Children will Test You; Stay Firm!

Toddlers naturally seek more independence. Plus, their active minds can interfere with the sleep you know they need. Even when the sun stays out longer in the summertime, your child needs a regular bedtime.

From age three to six, your child might not be taking afternoon naps any longer, but she still needs that early lights-out time to get enough sleep.  We recommend a bedtime between 6:00 and 8:00 pm. We also recommend no TV or electronics for children this young. Yes, it’s hard. But kids who depend on their screens at bedtime just don’t get enough sleep compared to kids who don’t.

3. School Age Children and Teenagers Need Limits, Too.

Children from age seven to twelve are more and more active. Their brains are learning a lot at school, and their bodies get worn out from play. At this age, kids will beg you for ten more minutes or ask to stay up later on weekends or over the summer. An occasional sleepover is fine! However, they should be getting to bed between 8:00 and 9:00 pm on most nights.  

Teenagers need more sleep than you might think. In fact, they need more sleep than adults. So, don’t be afraid to enforce a bedtime for your older child. Too many teens stay up all night playing video games or chatting on social media, which can hurt their performance at school. Be the “bad guy” and take those screens away from them overnight! It helps them get the extra sleep they desperately need, and it sets them up with healthy sleep habits in the future.

These Tips can Make Bedtime Easier

Like so many other aspects of parenting, making bedtime easier for you and your kids requires developing a routine and sticking with it. Allow for flexibility … your bedtime routine may last between thirty minutes to an hour, but it should start at the same time every night. Does this take energy on your part? Of course. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

   1. Make Sleep a Priority – and Bedtime a Predictable Routine

Children thrive on routines, and a bedtime routine is vital. Developing a nightly ritual in which your child knows to change clothes, brush teeth, and calm his or her body down for sleep can go a long way toward making bedtime stress-free. Add a special touch – like getting your child’s favorite toy or reading a story with her – to associate positive feelings with bedtime.

   2.  Set up a Cozy Environment for your Child

The sleep environment matters, too. Does your child have a quiet, dark room to sleep in each night? Even if your child shares a room, try to make the environment as calm, cool, and quiet as possible so that your child has an easier time going to sleep. Letting them sleep with an object familiar to them, like a blankie or a favorite teddy bear, can help provide them with security, as well.

   3. Final Dos and Don’ts

A snack is okay, but avoid sweets and anything caffeinated. Little reminders or advance notice – even if it’s as simple as “bedtime is in 10 minutes!” – can help your child prepare.

Finally, avoid the “one last” trap. Your child will inevitably ask for one last drink of juice or one last cartoon episode. Try to absorb some of these “one last” activities into the overall routine, and then hold firm, parents! Your child will be just fine without one last episode of My Little Pony.

Good Habits at the Dinner Table and Beyond: How Teaching Table Manners will Improve Your Child’s Social Skills

If you live with kids, you’ve probably seen it all: The relentlessly wandering toddler, the preschooler who talks with her mouth full of food, the kid who picks at dinner with her fingers instead of using a fork. As a parent it can be exasperating to teach your kids to behave at the dinner table, but it’s a necessary skill that can help them in the future.

To make your mealtimes fun for you, as well as your kids, it’s important to teach your young children good eating habits early and consistently reinforce them. Teaching kids table manners will improve their social skills overall.

What table manners does your child need to know?

There are a few basic manners you can teach your children as soon as they can sit at a table. These include knowing to wash their hands before they come to the table and to sit up nicely — no wriggling around, putting feet on the chair, or wandering during the meal. Your children should learn to say “please” and “thank you” and to use utensils instead of their fingers. Here are five more table manners to slowly introduce to your children as they mature:

  1. Wait until everyone is seated and served before eating.
  2. Use a napkin correctly —that means knowing how to put it in your lap and use it to tidily wipe your mouth.  
  3. Take little bites and eat politely — not slurping, smacking, or chewing with their mouths open.
  4. Use a knife and fork to cut food.
  5. Take turns listening and talking with “inside voices.”

Remember that kids aren’t born knowing how to make requests politely or offer to clear the table. These are things they have to be consistently taught.

Model and Reinforce to Help Your Child Master Table Manners

The most important thing to remember about child-rearing is that your children will model what you do. You have more influence than you think. If you model positive behavior and then reinforce it by repeating easy-to-follow rules and recognizing when your children follow these rules, you’ll make progress. Keep in mind, though, that it is a process; be ready to repeat yourself and demonstrate these skills over and over again.  

Also keep in mind that there are consequences if you don’t reinforce these skills. According to Donna Jones, who wrote Taming Your Family Zoo: Six Weeks to Raising a Well-Mannered Child, “if you don’t, you’re going to have to unteach bad behavior later on.”

So begin early and reinforce often. Your kids should view mealtime as a pleasant time, but a time when good manners are important. If your kids throw fits or behave rudely, have consistent consequences ready, such as a time-out away from the rest of the family. Getting ready for a holiday dinner or a trip to a restaurant? Go over the expectations with your children on the way.

Your kids want to succeed, and this reinforcement can go a long way toward making them responsible, polite young people. After all, good table manners are really just about having respect for others.

Teaching Table Manners: Worth it for Your Child’s Future

Good manners are worth the initial time and effort — and not just so your mealtimes can be blissfully free of food fights and screaming meltdowns. These social skills set your children up for the future.

Think about it: A kid who can sit still and wait patiently at the table is a little more ready to sit still and learn in a classroom. When a kid has clear rules and expectations, that kid can begin to gain confidence and thrive. Ultimately, teaching manners is all about curbing children’s impulsive nature and teaching them to practice self-control; they will learn how to be polite in social situations, not impatient or offensive. This will help them become better versions of themselves as they grow up and face more challenging social situations.

 

Is technology bad for kids?

image of a little boy using a smartphoneIn the age of smartphones and tablets – where us adults are constantly connected to text messages, social media updates and the vast expanse of information strewn across the web – it can be easy to place an electronic device in the hands of your child from time to time. While these devices serve as a great distractor to take your child’s mind off of less exciting topics, like traveling in the car, grocery shopping or waiting in a doctor’s office, how often have you stopped to consider how a smartphone or tablet is affecting your child’s development?

In this article, we’re addressing a new-age question that doesn’t have an easy answer: Is technology bad for kids?

What is “technology?”

Technology means many things to many people. For some, technology is a smart TV with Netflix and Youtube built in. For others, technology is a video game console. Others believe that their computer is technology.

To be completely honest, all of the above are true; these are all items of technology. For the sake of this article, the type of gadgets that your child can hold in his/her hands – smartphones and tablets – are the technology we’re referring to.

What does technology do to children?

Technology, when used responsibly, can help a young mind wonder and grow. Unfortunately, if your child is using a smart device to watch uneducational videos or play games, it may be preventing your child from branching out into other compelling aspects of life.

Technology and the Pathway to Addiction

As many adults have found out with the advent of smartphones and tablets: technology can be addicting. We love to feel connected to social media and apps and all of these other pieces of software designed to capture our attention. It’s easy to “fall down the rabbit hole” and spend countless hours on our devices each day. Why would a child be immune to these same flashy screens?

They’re not.

In fact, children tend to be lured into technology where their love for devices almost becomes instant. Children are drawn in to bright vibrant colors, attention grabbing sounds and making things happens – three characteristics many app developers build into their applications.

A Born Natural With Technology

Too often, we hear parents say, “My child is a natural with technology. He/she can use a smartphone better than I can!”

While on the surface, this may seem like a positive attribute for your child to have – a clear representation of how quickly your child picks up new things – there are inherent dangers with praising a child for being so good with a smartphone.

Positive vs. Negative Mental Stimulation

Children’s minds are in a continuous pattern of learning; they tend to absorb whatever is placed in front of them. If a child is given a smartphone so that he/she can play games or watch videos, the child will excel at using said phone. If a child is given a book to read or a puzzle to solve, he/she will excel at broadening his/her literary understanding and solving problems.

While some time with a smartphone can be beneficial to childhood development and play, it is also critical to ensure your child’s mind is being challenged and stimulated by resources that don’t come from a screen. Let your child turn a page in a book, feel a crayon in his/her hand, and build something with blocks. Let your child explore the world beyond the confines of a touchscreen.

How much time is acceptable for a child to spend with technology?

As you may have picked up from the last paragraph, this article is not a complete condemning of technology. We are simply suggesting that, like many things in life, technology should be used in moderation, especially when raising a child.

In order to keep a heathy balance between technology and other mental stimulants, we recommend for children to spend no more than 30-60 minutes each day with a smartphone or tablet. Taking this concept a step further, all smartphone time should be restricted to certain kid-friendly apps, like any of the educational options listed here. There is plenty of content on the app store that is not appropriate or beneficial for younger age groups.

Bottom Line on Technology

Smartphones and tablets can be great tools to learn with, but they can also cause intellectual harm if not used sparingly. By limiting your child’s technology intake, you are ensuring that he/she is able to connect with the world beyond these gadgets. This includes being able to learn and play with real-world items, engage in thoughtful conversation as the child grows older, and it encourages your child to get outside and stay active, even when a device is readily available.

As a parent, you have the power to mold your child’s success. Make sure he/she is spending more time in the real world than the ones designed on your devices.

Adulthood vs Adolescence: The Debate on How to Treat Children

imagine of a young man, woman and daughter demonstrating how to treat children

There’s plenty of debate on how to treat children throughout their development toward adulthood: Should “kids just be kids?” Should our little ones be treated like the adults we hope they become? Is there a right and wrong answer?

At Mary Margaret, we don’t take a stance on either perspective. We recognize that your parenting style has been tailored to work best for your own needs. Nevertheless, we felt that the topic was intriguing enough to warrant a discussion…

Treating Children Like Children

The saying goes: “You’re only young once.” For most of us parents looking back on our own childhoods, this sentiment rings true; wasn’t being young easy? No bills. No responsibilities. Our only job was to soak up life and everything it had to offer.

This is the methodology behind the parenting style that treats children like children. To bolster this perspective, science somewhat agrees: Did you know that the human mind doesn’t fully development until age 25? That means children need guidance to be delivered in a simplified way that they can understand throughout these crucial years; they don’t need too many choices or responsibilities to muddle up this development process.

Why rush to grow up? There will be plenty time for “adult stuff” in the years to come.

Treating Children Like Adults

On the flip side, children – like their adult parents – are just little human beings. As a result, they deserve to be treated with the same respect as any other individual, right?

This article doesn’t only propose that treating children like children is wrong; it’s demeaning. Author, Brian Davis, states that many parents unknowingly speak to their child in a condescending manner by delivering a series of arbitrary orders and rhetorical questions that aren’t developmentally beneficial to the child. Instead, he proposes a method that engages the child in adult-like conversation, complete with thought-provoking questions and explanatory answers. This method ultimately helps the child have more autonomy over their own development while still operating within the behavioral expectations any child (or adult) would adhere to.

Which parenting style represents you?

Now that you’ve read the perspectives on both parenting styles, which method do you use with your own children? Maybe you use a blend of the two? Whatever it is, we invite you to start a conversation about this topic on our Facebook pages. We’re excited to hear what you think!

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