Back to School, Highly Sensitive Children, Home

Back to School with Highly Sensitive Children

Is your child sensitive to sounds, textures, or even changes in routine? Is he highly observant — noticing when the smallest detail in the room may have changed? Do you notice he’s highly attuned to the emotions and reactions of others? If any or all of these sound familiar, you may have a highly sensitive child (also known as an HSC). And it’s more common than you might think. Up to 20% of children are born with this unique wiring.

 

boy in brown hoodie carrying red backpack while walking on dirt road near tall trees

Going back to school sparks anxiety and excitement for many children, HSC or not. But preparing your sensitive child for the beginning of the school year may help ease his fears. As a highly sensitive person, parent, and former teacher, here are some strategies I’ve found helpful.

  1. Talk about it. Casually bring up school throughout the summer and all of the fun new opportunities your child will have in his new classroom. About a month away from school’s start, begin ramping up your conversation and getting more specific about your child’s new teacher, classmates, and supplies to buy.

  1. Make preparation fun. Even if your child wears a uniform at school, you can still have fun shopping for new notebooks, colorful supplies, and maybe even some fun shoes. It doesn’t have to be expensive either; you could even try a few different lunch and snack options to put in your school lunch rotation. 

  1. Head to the library. Check out some back to school books at the library to get in the school frame of mind. Try to make them most relatable to your child. For example, if he is entering second grade and is nervous about making new friends, try to find a book that addresses either or both of those concerns. Check some lists out here and here

  1. Visit the classroom. Email your child’s new teacher and ask if you can drop in while he or she is setting up the room. Make sure you keep it casual, focused on your child, and brief as most teachers have enough stress as the school year looms. 

5. Make a book. If you have a chance to visit, take photos of the new room with your child and put them in a book so he can preview his new surroundings in a comfortable environment. If you can’t visit ahead of time, write and draw a simple and positive story about your child’s first days of school and try to visit the school or classroom website together. 

  1. Give the teacher detailed information. No one knows your child like you. Write up a description about your child and highlight his unique HSC tendencies to help the teacher understand him better. Give your contact information and keep in touch regularly to see how your child is doing. The first days are a whirlwind for everyone, so you may want to wait a couple weeks to let your child and his new teacher get acquainted.

  1. Take a break when you get home. Give your HSC time to relax and unwind when he gets home. Give him space to process the school day and reflect before you ask for more details about the day. A snack, a favorite television show, or time with books will help refresh his spirit from the stimulating school day. 

  1. Check yourself. Is your child the one who’s most anxious or are you? Sometimes, we project our own anxieties and fears on our children. Even if we don’t feel like we are exuding stress, our body language and tone may say otherwise. Keep conversations about school light and fun and vent those fears after bedtime. 

Books, Gifts, Reading

Gifting the Perfect Picture Book

person holding red and white gift box with ribbon bow

 

Have you ever wanted to gift the perfect picture book to an expectant mother, young child, or teacher? I know I have and the idea of finding the right one is simply overwhelming. The market is so saturated with strong writing and beautiful illustrations that it can be hard to know where to start. I’m still learning myself, but my experience as a book curator has given me a new perspective on this daunting task. Here are my tips:

 

  • Consider the receiver’s interests and taste. Does your niece love construction vehicles or your pregnant pal adore mid-century modern style? Consider her interests and style when selecting a book. This is where it can be helpful to flip through a book in a bookstore to get a better sense of the story and illustrations.

 

  • Preview on Amazon. If visiting a local bookstore isn’t an option for you (which is sadly the case for many of us), you can usually use the “Look Inside” tool on Amazon. You may be able to see a couple pages on your phone app, but the desktop version is much more thorough.

 

woman using gray laptop computer on her lap

 

  • Check out recent award-winners and starred reviews. I’m always worried that someone is going to have the book I gift them. This is especially the case when attending a baby shower. If you want to (almost) guarantee they don’t, research the latest starred reviews on Kirkus, the monthly selections on School Library Journal, or the annual award-winners courtesy of the New York Times or the Caldecott committee if the timing is right. If a book has been published in the last few months, you have a better chance of finding something fresh and appealing.

 

  • Double-check for sensitive material. Covers can be deceiving. Read a review and some book tags if you want to be careful about the material you’re gifting. This may not be the case with a simple baby book, but even picture books can be used to wade through difficult situations like death or violence. So peruse a couple reviews on Barnes & Noble or check the tags on Junior Library Guild to ensure you are buying the best book possible.

 

Happy book buying!

Christmas, Family, Home, Literacy

Incorporating Literacy into Your Christmas Preparation

christmas xmas christmas tree decoration

 

I’m a big fan of incorporating little learning moments into tasks that we are already doing. It doesn’t require any extra preparation and it gives your child a chance to practice essential literacy skills while you attend to necessary tasks. Christmas is the perfect season to start this habit. Here are some simple ideas to try:

 

  • Decorate the tree together and talk about the ornaments and their special meaning. You can even let your baby touch the ornaments and talk about the colors you see and textures you feel.

 

  • Play Christmas music. The songs of the season trigger nostalgia and a coziness that is hard to replicate any other time of year; plus, most Christmas music is upbeat and kid-friendly! Teach your children traditional Christmas songs and occasionally leave out a word or two, letting them finish the line. For example, “Rudolph the red-nosed _____________ had a very shiny _______.” This back-and-forth interaction will be sure to leave your child smiling!

 

  • Prepare the home for Christmas using Advent traditions (it starts on December 2nd this year). Take out or create a simple Advent wreath together (I like this one or check out this printable wreath). Bless it as a family. Read preparatory books about the birth of Jesus together and make an Advent calendar or purchase one at the store (I found one at Trader Joes for 99 cents!). Each day, you are building the narrative of Christmas, your family culture, and even number sense while you count the days together.

advent architecture blur business

 

  • Write your names on your stockings. Notice the letters in each family member’s name and compare and contrast them.

 

  • Take out your Christmas books, check some out at the library, and read them together. Give your child some time to explore them. You can notice the pictures together. Remember, you don’t need to read each book all the way through each time. Enjoy this special season and all of the quality literature it boasts.

 

  • Bake Christmas cookies together! Count out the buttons you want for the gingerbread men or the snowman cookie. Talk about the steps in the cookie making process. Feel the textures of the dough, frosting, and candy together.

sweet cookies christmas baking

 

  • Once the presents are wrapped, have  your child help you write out gift tags. You may want to make your own since there isn’t often much room to write. Or, have your child write one letter and you write the rest!

 

  • If you’re sending out Christmas cards, give your child some fine-motor practice by asking for help affixing the stamp or return address label. Talk about what you are writing where and perhaps your child could help you make the envelopes more festive with some extra decorations.

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Family, Home, Literacy

Create a Literacy-Rich Environment at Home

adorable blur bookcase books

 

I strive to create a literacy-rich environment at home to show my children that we prioritize reading, writing, and words. There are so many ways to do this. Below you’ll find some of my favorite ways to create a culture of language and literacy in your home.

 

  • Have mini-libraries around the house. Don’t get caught up in what these look like or how you store them. Just having a few books in each room on a shelf, container, or even a shoe box will promote reading.

 

  • Cycle books in and out. I once created a numbered system for book rotation, but it didn’t work out perfectly. However, we have continued to cycle books in and out. There’s no perfect recipe here, but my main tips are to allow your children to keep their favorite books out, don’t cycle too quickly since it may take your child a while to get into all of their books, and keep holiday and seasonal books in the rotation. I am looking forward to bringing out the Christmas books post-Thanksgiving!

 

  • Go to the library often. During each season of your children’s lives, this is going to look a little different. But going to browse books together at the library will always be enjoyable. Sometimes I’ve had particular books and authors in mind and other times, it is just fun to search the shelves or check out the latest librarian-curated titles. Library books are also a great way to gauge your child’s interests in certain books or genres before you purchase.

 

  • Write labels, sentences, or stories with your children. Nothing fancy here. If your child draws a picture, ask him what it is and write it down with him. You can ask your child the beginning sound he hears, how to spell a familiar sight word, or even share the pen if he is ready. Try labeling items around the house or record your child’s stories in a notebook and have him illustrate it. Our thoughts become our words become our stories become our  memories. Record his thoughts so you don’t forget and to show the value you place on them.

 

  • Use magnets. An unexpected way to build vocabulary can be magnets. Of course alphabet magnets are great for building letter and word awareness, but the magnet you have from a special beach vacation (or whatever else is currently on your fridge) also provides ample opportunities for language development. Here’s an example, “Oh, that magnet reminds me of when we went to Florida last winter! Look at the sand on it. It was so much warmer there and the sand was really soft. I hope we can go back someday and look for shells together.”

 

  • Look at magazines and ads together. Leaf through your latest circulars together before you recycle. Talk about what you might buy at the grocery store this week or what could go on your Christmas lists.

 

  • Encourage your child’s interests and passions. As adults, we find the books, hobbies, and media that suit our particular interests and tastes. We should do the same for our kids. Go ahead and check out that Thomas book alongside a more classic text. Talk about your child’s favorite animal, character, or show with him and extend that passion to the reading, writing, talking, and playing you do together.

 

  • Read boxes and labels together. What does your cereal or pasta box say? What is that logo on the back of the potato chip bag? Use these everyday experiences to build vocabulary and understanding of our world.

 

  • Write on leftover blank cards and envelopes. If you’re like me and still have whale stationary from fourth grade or even a few extra envelopes or Christmas cards around, give them to your kids and let them go to town. Snail mail may be diminishing, but nothing will ever replace the feeling of getting a special message in the mail. Children love the physicality of letters and envelopes. Plus, the process builds language, social, and fine motor skills!

joanna-kosinska-439234-unsplash

 

  • Be flexible. This is probably my most important tip. My children like to bring their current favorite books all around the house. There are letter magnets under our refrigerator. Our playroom functions as an artist’s studio and post office. And since words and stories are so important to us, I let it go. It may not always be neat and organized (or follow a magically tidy system I once imagined), but it shows that we prioritize language.

 

I’d love to hear from you! What are some ways you create a literacy-rich environment at home?

 

Baby, Literacy, Talk

How to Talk to Your Newborn

baby holding human finger

Congratulations on your new bundle of joy! Talking to your newborn may feel odd at first, but once  you see the first hint of a smile or coo of your sweet baby’s voice, it will all make sense. Your baby has been listening to you since she was in the womb and your voice is music to her ears. I’ll never forget the way my son immediately calmed after delivery as soon as I hugged him close and started talking softly to him. Our voices are the most soothing tools we have to settle our babies.

Talking to our babies encourages bonding, attachment, and even language development. The more words a baby hears, the quicker the connections in her brain are forming. The brain develops the most rapidly in the first few precious years of life. Although you won’t hear your baby say any words in these first few months, you will be laying the foundation for a greater bond and better communication as you inch towards the one year mark. Here are FIVE basic tips for talking to your newborn:

 

  1. Talk about anything. Your newborn isn’t really comprehending what you’re saying, so you can talk about anything. Make your grocery list out loud or complain about the weather — it doesn’t matter!

 

  1. Read ANY book aloud. Go ahead and read your recipe, email, or latest library find aloud. Don’t forget about the sweet board books you got while pregnant too! Again, it’s your voice that counts here.

 

  1. Be an observer and a narrator. Talk about what you see and what you’re doing. I’m not suggesting you do this all day long because that is too much for both you and your baby. But, the occasional comment like, “Oh wow, look at that bird hopping around. I wonder if it’s a robin?” or “Right now, I’m getting some milk out to pour in my cereal. I am so hungry this morning!” won’t hurt either.

 

  1. Repeat yourself. Don’t worry about keeping the conversation fresh with your little one. You can babble about your sweet baby’s fingers and toes (“baby talk” is a real thing and highly encouraged, by the way) all day long. In fact, babies and young children find safety and delight in repetition.

 

5. Get a head start! Some of us are especially eager to start educating our children.              Feel free to sing nursery rhymes, note the different colors in the room, and count                fingers and toes. Your baby will internalize more than you know. And if you’re                    having fun, so is she!

Books, Family, Literacy, Preschool, Reading

Reading with Your Preschooler

adult black and white books boy

 

As someone who was a classroom teacher, reading specialist, and now mother, I have a LOT to say about reading. But for today, I am just going to focus on the preschool age, specifically ages 3-4.

 

In the United States, there is increasing pressure to have our children reading earlier and earlier. Not just being read to, looking at books, but actually READING by themselves. As an (older) millennial, I remember attending half day kindergarten, reading aloud, and really beginning the reading process in school in first grade. That has since shifted and students are expected to be reading in kindergarten. Many of our children are ready at this point and there is nothing wrong with that, but pushing our children before they are developmentally prepared can leave them frustrated and with negative attitudes about reading.

 

Children in the preschool age should be given the freedom to explore books to develop a love of  reading. Here are some simple ways we try to do this at home. And the best part is that the only materials are you, your child, and a book!

 

  • Leave books in most rooms. Just like toys, books are fun and always leave space for discovery.

 

  • Let your preschool “read” a book on his own. You do not always need to read it aloud. Let him develop his own concept of a book and a story through the pictures and perhaps even some words.

 

  • In a book with sparse text, use your finger to track the words. This will help anchor your child’s understanding of how we read left to right and that each word is its own unit. You should not do this with all books and don’t even need to do it on every page.

photo of a boy reading book

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Reading with Your Preschooler”

Family, Literacy, music

Sing More at Home

 

adorable asian baby bonnet

 

Singing to your baby or young child has endless benefits.

 

Your voice is your child’s favorite. Don’t worry about what you may sound like because to them it is perfection. The soothing effect of your voice can help calm your child down and even help her retain information better. There’s a reason why so many little ones know their letters thanks to the ABC song!

 

Here are some ways to incorporate more song into your daily routine:

  • Sing familiar nursery rhymes. Try to include some hand and finger motions. Your little one will delight in tracking your movements with her eyes or imitating them herself. I love singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Pat-A-Cake, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and This Little Piggie. Sing your favorites!

 

  • Make a playlist of songs on your favorite music provider. We’ve discovered my children’s love of Motown and Fleetwood Mac this way using Spotify. You never know what they’ll enjoy!

 

  • Make up songs ALL DAY LONG. Sing narrate what you are doing – cleaning up, taking a bath, playing, brushing your hair, etc. It doesn’t have to make sense or even sound good. Be silly and have fun!

 

  • Have a calming car playlist at the ready! Maybe your child is prone to fits in the car or you are preparing for an upcoming road trip. Find music that is soothing and familiar. We used Music Together because my children took classes and loved hearing “their music” in the car.