Pre and post-activity training

 

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Has your child ever rudely ignored an adult when they said hello? Or perhaps you noticed just a moment too late that little Johnnie was helping himself to the buffet food with his fingers. Or did you have to practically carry your screaming toddler away from the merry-go-round in the shopping centre after saying no to their request to ride?

Most of us will face situations like these at some point and would prefer not to. We teach our children the right thing to do, yet they regularly demonstrate that they are not ready to apply this knowledge consistently without help.

While there are many ways to address the problem, today we will look at pre-activity training as a relatively simple and effective strategy for changing these failures into success. Simply put, pre-activity training is just training, teaching or reminding children before a given situation occurs as to how they should behave.

Trying to teach our children what they could or should have done in the heat of the moment is usually not very effective. Taking them aside at another time when you are both calm is a much better atmosphere for training the heart. Explain that you are there to help them and walk alongside as they work to change their own character and behaviours.

What might this look like?

Work on character

It is important that we actively teach the virtues that we do want to see, rather than just focusing on the negatives we are trying to wipe out. Actively teaching character development by studying positive character traits helps children to learn what it means, looks and sound like to be diligent, respectful, thorough, kind etc.

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In the car on the way to the shops, or a party or a friend’s house for a visit, discuss all the possible scenarios they may face and what the appropriate behaviour in the situation will be. Brainstorm ways to show good manners before you arrive at your destination. Outline the boundaries and expectations for the coming situation before you arrive. Have your slightly older children tell their siblings some of the things they may need to remember before they get there.

Create a personalized Mummy and Daddy CD for your child.

Full explanation and instructions here.

Family devotions/bible time

During our daily bible study times we can look for the life application for each passage that we read. Talk about what God’s word looks like in our every day lives and how the children can actively demonstrate that they are following it. Ask each child to choose one or two things they will do today to apply the knowledge they have just learned.

teddies up at night 3Teddy training

Most little children own several favourite toys. Take a couple of these and have them act out scenarios that you have noticed during the preceding days that need work. Have the dump truck eat rudely and spill food as it drives around. Spiderman can then come along and with the help of the child explain to the truck how he should be eating. Little Ted can demand a drink from China Doll who responds with a mini lecture (role-played by the child) about how he can ask nicely. Storm Trooper can interrupt Barbie’s conversation with Bride Doll and be instructed by the child as to how to use the interrupt rule. Children love this!

We have also had teddy sit up at the table next to our children and each time we can see them about to do the wrong thing we exclaim with horror; “TEDDY! You aren’t going to put your fingers in your food are you????” We are amused to see the little one who was about to do exactly that quickly retract the fingers and grab their knife and fork. If putting on a bib is a daily battle, then we have a chat with teddy as he is sitting there about how we expect him to have self-control and put his bib on calmly, before turning to our toddler to do the same. Little kids love it when we say in mock horror; “Did you see that?! Teddy was picking her nose! She is not being loving. Do you remember the bible verse that tells us love is not rude? Perhaps you could remind teddy what she needs to do so that she can be a lady.”

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Older children

Help older children understand their love language needs, identify their personality type and develop strategies together to work on their besetting sins.

Pray together as you work through their areas of struggle, letting them know that you have your own areas that you are working on. (They don’t necessarily need to know what they are.)

While you are out and about

We often notice other children doing the wrong thing while we are out shopping or visiting. Once we have moved away from the situation we have a little talk about what they were doing, how it made others feel, whether they were being respectful etc. We do have to be careful not to create little Pharisees who judge others with an attitude of “I would never do that” but it is a useful training tool.

There are also situations that come up along the way that I have not anticipated in the car. When that happens I stop, get down on eye level and have a little chat about what is going to happen in the next few moments. Here are a couple of examples;

  • In a moment we will be passing the merry-go-round without stopping to have a ride. You will need to have the self-control to pass by without a fuss.
  • Aunty May has just pulled in the driveway. When she comes in you need to look her in the eyes and say hello Aunt May.
  • Before we go and take our turn at the buffet line I want each of you to tell me 3 ways we can think of others and show good manners while serving yourself.

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5 minute warning

The 5 minutes warning is another simple tool that assists us with pre-activity training in the heat of the moment, when there is little chance to talk about what is coming. Full explanation here.

Like many of my behaviour and training related posts, these ideas are all based on the Growing Families Australia parenting courses, including Growing Kids God’s Way.

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Mummy and Daddy CD’s

99. Andy and Ang

Do you ever get tired of repeating yourself? At times, repetition is required to train and grow our little ones in the way they should go. One tool that I personally find helpful is our Mummy and Daddy CD’s. I think of them as repeating myself every day for an hour or so without having to say a word!

A Mummy and Daddy CD is a recording that you make of anything you would like your child to memorize or know. Using a question and answer format, you and your husband record yourselves talking and singing and invite your child to join in. We have created one for each of our children to use during room time from around the age of 2 or so and they have all loved them.

Our recordings have included:

  • personal information we want them to remember: (Address, phone number, their full name etc.)
  • some basic general knowledge (naming the days of the week, months of the year)
  • some math skills (counting, skip counting)
  • bible verses we would like them to memorise
  • character definitions and descriptions
  • good manners scenarios
  • children’s bible songs interspersed throughout

The question and answer format uses the child’s name each time and is repeated twice. One parent asks the questions and the other gives the answer. The idea is to have both voices recorded throughout, continuously engaging the child’s interest by using their name and encourage participation. For example;

When Jo wants a drink, what does Jo say?

Jo says “May I have a drink please?”

When Jo wants a drink, what does Jo say?

Jo says “May I have a drink please?”

Or

What is attentiveness?

Attentiveness is listening with the eyes, ears and heart.

Jo shows attentiveness when he stands still and looks at Mummy or Daddy’s face while we are speaking.

What is attentiveness?

Attentiveness is listening with the eyes, ears and heart.

Jo shows attentiveness when he stands still and looks at Mummy or Daddy’s face while we are speaking.

To make the recordings we use a free downloadable recording program from the internet called Audacity. It’s very basic and with my very limited technological understanding I have had no problems operating it. If I can do it, anyone can!

The idea for Mummy and Daddy CD’s comes from “Creative Family Times” by Allen Haidian and Will Wilson.

 

 

Mini-world invitation to play – arctic playscape

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Mini-world play continues with our ice and snow landscape. Some wadding over rocks to create snow-capped mountains, plastic dishes for icebergs, glass jewels for water and ice-flow and a selection of plastic penguins, polar bears and a killer whale complete our scene. While not technically correct (for instance polar bears and penguins do not live in the same pole) it looked inviting and was something different.

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As is usually the case for our mini-worlds, the older girls set up the scene repeatedly and the younger boys provided them with many opportunities to do so as they wrecked it almost immediately, with polar bears and killer whales eating penguins and beaching themselves on the mountains. Surprisingly the scene didn’t really interest the children long term, but was revived when they collected some boats and divers from the bath toys and NOW the little boys had some interest. Penguins dived into piles of jewel water and divers crashed their boats all over the place, fighting off killer whales along the way.

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My 5 year old made a snow dam with a white blanket and spent quite some time building towers with the small plastic iceberg bowls and jewels. While the boys didn’t use the scene as I had imagined, they enjoyed it in their own way.

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The 2 year old just wanted to tip and pour the jewels and insisted on taking them off the step and onto the carpet for her play. She also loved the bears and wanted to put them in her handbag and take them away to her bedroom, chucking a big tantrum becoming rather unhappy when told they needed to stay in the scene.

Target and Kmart now have a range of realistic plastic animal models similar to the Schleich brand but much more affordable and that is where I sourced this selection. Later on I will put them out again with some frozen sheets of ice in trays and a variety of ice blocks in the water trolley; perhaps in the summer months I think!

Outdoor activities – water table play

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I was given a bag of these plastic ball-pit balls recently and decided to combine them with a bunch of plastic containers from our local op-shop for 10 cents each. A little water in the water trolley and the kids were all set for some creative outdoor play. Even though it is getting cold here, water play on occasion still goes down well, we just have to follow it up with a nice hot shower for all.

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As you can see, the children immediately began sorting the balls by colour, filling the jugs with “juice” and baking all sorts of wonderful creations. And the sound-track to this happy experience? Lots of bickering and arguing about who had what first and how it all should be arranged and other petty disagreements. We all have those days…..

Light table play – coloured shot glasses

Our latest invitation to play at the light table was a simple selection of colourful plastic shot glasses. For the first few days only the glasses themselves were on offer and it was interesting to see the different ways each age group approached their play.

I had to resist the urge to show the younger children how to build with them, knowing that given enough time they would figure it out for themselves. They initially used the glasses to construct in a way I had not thought of; laying them down and creating 2D style robots and spaceships. My 2 year old was quite content stacking and unstacking the cups and sorting them by colour. There was some counting as they wondered how many layers they would need to use exactly 100 cups in a tower.

 

After a few days of playing and constructing with just the cups themselves, I added 3 plastic rulers and some see-through plastic cars. This opened up a whole new realm of play as the older children in particular worked together to make balancing structures and car garages.

There are many simple “hacks” out there for making your own inexpensive light table; see this post for links to my Pinterest page.

Toy rotation; less is more & what to buy

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When I was an early childhood teacher an experienced sales rep from a large educational supplies company used to visit me periodically. As I made my yearly purchases she gave me some advice which has been proven by my experience over the years to be true. She suggested that rather than purchasing a new construction set or toy, it would be a better investment to build on to a set that I already had.

While it was tempting to have the latest and greatest thing, adding something new to an old favourite sparked renewed interest and expanded the possibilities of play, rather than purchasing another frustratingly small collection that was limited in its uses. This principle has stayed with me as a home educator and as I am tempted to buy a new construction toy in particular, I remember that my children will be better served by a small addition to a much-loved activity that we already own.

Perhaps this will mean searching Pinterest for ideas of items to add to our wooden block collection such as some river stones and other found materials. Or some farm animals to expand our Duplo collection. Perhaps some mini fishing nets and plastic sea creatures to make a new display in our water trolley outdoors. A small, often inexpensive addition that renews interest and revs up the use of an activity that we already own will often prove to be a better long-term investment.

Toy rotation serves the same purpose. Having them all out at once makes for a lot of mess and clutter and often everything seems “old news” to the kids with nothing being used. Take 50% of what you have available and put it in storage. Set out some new combinations of old activities, and put a flexible routine in place that includes times when children are playing where you direct them to play, with what you tell them to play with. Often the unexcited moan will be quickly followed by a great play session with something that has not seen the light of day for quite some time when left on the shelf amidst a sea of other choices.

When it is time for what is available to be changed over and those activities you tucked away come back out, it’s like Christmas all over again as the children rediscover toys they haven’t seen in a while.

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The way toys are presented makes all the difference. We love this mirror as a backdrop to many different play set-ups and the green cloth covers the bricks at the base of a bricked-in fireplace that provides a natural frame for different invitations to play. I thought for a long time that our coloured small building  blocks were a white elephant, but since I have started presenting them differently they have been well-used.

 

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The grand teddy wedding of the year saw Pink Teddy and Honeybear tie the knot as the other stuffed toys watched from the church pews. No extra spent here, just bringing the teddy basket out with the blocks was enough for an afternoon of play.

 

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For some reason the girls prefer to set their dollhouse furniture on the floor instead of inside the dollhouse and consequently they were gathering dust. When I moved them into a cane basket and added them to the block area instead, the whole family (including the boys) ended up creating mansions.

 

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Magnet toys are great for little kids. They are not too hard to connect and don’t make too much mess or noise.

 

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2 mirror tiles from Ikea (4 for $10) taped together to make a free-standing backing and placed on top of another mirror creates another frame or invitation to play backdrop that we use regularly. I place one kind of material out for a while and as interest dies, rotate something new in. These pattern blocks are never chosen from the cupboard but most of the children played with them more than once while they were out at the mirror table.

 

Toddler activities: flower arranging

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My friend Kristy has come up with another simple and captivating activity for her 2-year-old to use for highchair timetable time or blanket time. An upturned colander, a couple of vases and containers and a variety of cheap artificial flowers gave her little one some creative fun while she practised her fine-motor skills as she carefully poked the flowers into the holes.

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I’ll be adding this one to my “to do” list for the future.

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