July 2011 - Posts
Traveling with children falls into two categories: visits
to relatives and other ‘obligatory' excursions, and adventure travel. If you
are planning a trip with your kids to see new places, then you probably love
traveling for traveling sake. As with
anything you love and want to pass on to your children, it can help to put a
little thought into the matter.
Of course there's no way to guarantee that your kids will
share your wanderlust, but there are ways to stack the deck in your favor. Here are some of my favorite suggestions for
traveling with kids.
Let some rules
slide. For our family it's
sweets. We seldom have dessert or sweet
snacks at home. But when we are
traveling, it's another story. I keep a
supply of hard candies in my purse. And
I have been known to promise lemonade AND ice cream if they will only walk up
to the top of the hill with us. Another
gelato won't kill ‘em...
Hold fast on the
important stuff. Speaking
respectfully is our one ironclad rule.
No matter how tired or lost or desperate we feel; we still need to speak
kindly to one another-and apologize when we don't.
Be aware of your
child's routine. It's impossible to
stick to your usual schedule when you've just crossed twelve time zones, but
sometimes it helps to know what our body clocks are telling us. Daddy changes his watch to local time, while
I keep mine set to home-that way I can see at a glance that it's 3 am in Seattle and we all need to
cut one another a little more slack.
everything. You hurry everyone along
only to find that the flight is delayed.
Or the restaurant is closed. Or
the puppet show is cancelled.
Frustrating? Disappointing? Yes...but these situations give us parents the
chance to show our kids how to roll with life's punches gracefully. Take a deep breath and show them how it's
developmentally appropriate. My
husband and I love museums, so we wandered the British Museum
while our nine month old baby slept in her stroller. Five years and another kid
later, I refereed races down a little used corridor while my husband ogled
porcelains at the Shanghai
Museum. In Munich's
Pinokothek, with a nine and seven year old, we challenged the kids to find
which painting had the most dogs. This
year, at ten and almost thirteen, our kids outlasted us at the Prado in Madrid. Sweet.
Balance. Someone wants to eat. Someone wants to play. Someone wants to read every exhibit card in
the museum. How to meet everyone's
needs? Well, you can't. But you can
use all the tools in your parenting toolbox. Is it time to divide and
conquer? Let the kids lead? Call it a day? Just remember: even on the trip of a lifetime, the rest of
your life will unfold with these people.
Treat each other gently.
we all nurture the hopeful belief that if we just make the right choices, do
things a certain way, our kids will turn out to be happy adults. This is what we want most
of all in raising our children. In the
July/August issue of The Atlantic Magazine there is an article titled How to Land Your Kid in Therapy ; Why the Obsession With Our Kids Happiness May Be Dooming Them to be Unhappy Adults.
The article is rich and deep, with
many themes bringing up paths of conversation and debate.
In essence the article is a challenge
to parents to think, with all of our best intentions, what are
we actually doing for our children. Are
we doing too much, giving them too many choices, too much engagement around
their feelings? Are we projecting too many
of our own unmet needs on our kids without enough self awareness? Are we intervening too quickly when they fall
down or have difficulty at school and cheering them on too much saying, "Great
job!"-when in fact they need to feel challenged? Is it possible that we say ‘yes' too much and
that our children don't understand or know how to manage with being met at
times with an important and necessary ‘no'. How will they learn to overcome obstacles if
as parents we work so hard, out of love but perhaps incorrectly, to remove them
before they arise? The article is very interesting
and a worthwhile read, highly recommended by the editors of Family Year.
Let us know
what you think!
When our first child was nine months old, we flew from Seattle to London
to Tel Aviv. We've flown across at least
one ocean with our children almost every year since, so they've logged a lot of
time in airplanes. How to keep them
entertained on those long flights?
Endless games of peek-a-boo kept my babies happy all the
way to Europe.
Now that they are tweens and teens, a good book (and some healthy snacks)
are usually sufficient.
In between, it helped to have a few tricks up my
sleeve. Waldorf kids are taught to use
their hands at an early age and all those quiet handwork activities are ideal
on a plane (or in the back seat of the car).
Depending on your child's age, knitting, origami, drawing pencils (not
markers-the caps always go missing), paper, and lots and lots of stickers will
help wile away long hours on the airplane.
I cut pages of stickers into individual pieces before our
flight and my toddler spent many happy miles offering them to other passengers
as she waddled up and down the aisles.
Tiny presents, individually wrapped and doled out over
time, helped break up the monotony of long flights. A collection of tiny farm animals or dessert
shaped erasers then become props in other games played out on the tray table.
Another unexpected hit was face crayons. Since face painting is not an everyday
activity at home, the kids were totally captivated by the novelty of being able
to draw all over Mommy, Daddy, and each other.
We looked frightful when we landed, but with a little forethought we
could have cleaned up before arrival.
And despite considering myself to be a Waldorf parent, I
am not above popping a pre-approved DVD into the laptop while something far
less appropriate is exploding all over the cabin screen. Most international flights now have
individual screens with a special children's channel, but we still bring along
one classic film just in case.
Lastly, don't forget to talk to your kids. When else will you have 14 hours to tell them
stories? With any luck, they'll tell you
a few too.
My husband's mother had to work summers, but she made the
season special by eating outdoors as often as possible. When she got home from work, she packed the
picnic basket while the kids gathered up the Frisbee, softball and gloves, or
the croquet set.
There were several parks in their neighborhood and they
visited them all regularly. Sometimes
they just ate in the backyard. On
weekends, they often went out of the city for a more adventurous outing, always
with the picnic basket in hand.
A well-outfitted picnic basket is a lovely sight to behold,
but it is also possible to put together dishes and utensils from what you have
around the house or the local thrift shop.
An old blanket for sitting on and a small tablecloth are nice to have as
they separate the eating and seating areas for the youngest picnickers. Consider packing a squirt bottle of water and
a washcloth for cleaning little hands before or after eating.
My mother-in-law's picnics were mostly composed of traditional
fare- cold chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs and dill pickles. There was always a jug of lemonade. While I sometimes make potato salad, my menus
are more varied.
Here are some of my favorite cold suppers: quinoa tabouli and a Greek salad; soba
noodles with tofu and vegetables; humus and pita sandwiches with yogurt and
cucumber dip; ratatouille, French green lentil salad, marinated beets and a
fresh loaf of sourdough bread.
Some young children have difficulty eating when surrounded
by distractions, as there might be in a park setting. If this describes your children, you might
want to start with backyard picnics. Or
give them a substantial snack in the afternoon and have clear times for eating
and playing. If you are consistent with
your expectations, the children will soon be able to manage.
For thirsty picnickers, try making some herbal iced tea
early in the day so that it has time to brew and then chill in the
refrigerator. Or try our recipe for
fresh mint and lemon balm lemonade, posted earlier in the month.
Summer is short, so make it memorable with the time-honored
tradition of summer picnics.
R. Johnson, M.D., F.A.A.P.
YouandYourChildsHealth.org is a library of
health information about raising children and creating a healthier family
life. This Living Book also contains personal stories about the joys and
triumphs, as well as the struggles and challenges, we face as parents. It
is made freely available as a public service.
are struggling with reading: what are your thoughts and recommendations:
Question: What are
your thoughts about children in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grades who still
seem to be reading mostly by sight memory, can't sound out words easily, have
difficulty spelling, and have trouble imagining in their mind the story they
are reading? What is going on with these children?
Answer: First I
would check to see if bilateral integration of the right and left sides of the
brain has developed. If children can do the cross-lateral skip with
opposite arm and leg extending at the same time and their skipping motion is flowing
and not mechanical then bilateral integration has developed. If this
pathway has not developed then Biodynamic Cranial Osteopathy treatments
followed by THERAPEUTIC EURYTHMY movement therapy, parelli horseback riding
lessons, EXTRA lesson work, or sensory integration movement therapies
(e.g.. HANDLE, BRAIN GYM, BAL-A-VIS-X) will be needed to help this
pathway fully form. Often the development of the proprioceptive system
(sense of the body in space), vestibular system (muscle tone, balance, speech
articulation, eye tracking, and convergence) as well as bilateral
integration of the right and left cerebral hemispheres are compromised or
blocked when children experience a c-section birth, suction forceps delivery,
pitocin to stimulate labor, prolonged labor, or a very fast delivery.
Once these neurological pathways are
"opened" and developed, children in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades may spontaneously
start to read phonetically, notice how words are spelled, and create
imaginative pictures in their minds from the words they are reading in a story
or book. Once children can do the cross lateral skip with opposite arm
and leg, cursive writing will become much easier and more flowing.
Incidentally, form drawing and practicing cursive writing help develop bilateral
integration of the cerebral hemispheres, and therefore serve to strengthen the
about children in 4th, 5th, 6th and even children in the older grades who are
still reading mostly by sight? They usually figure out a word by guessing
and can only slowly sound out some words phonetically? They still may
have difficulty with spelling and do not have much comprehension or internal
picture making capacities when reading stories? What is going on in this
Sometimes when children are asked to read and spell at an early age
or their pathways for reading are blocked, the right brain was the only
hemisphere available for reading. Therefore, these children learn to read
every word by sight memory. Later on (several years later) their left
brain finally may have developed for reading, but they still do not use the
left brain as their primary method for reading. Instead, these children
still look at words using their right brain and try to recognize the words by
the overall shape of the word and the first and last letters of each word.
If they can't figure out what the word is by sight, they switch over to
using their left brain and try to sound out the word phonetically, matching
sounds to letters. As long as children mostly are using their right brain
to recognize words by sight memory, their right brain is not free for internal
picture making. In addition, these children will have tremendous problems
with spelling since their right brain doesn't pay attention to the arrangement
of letters within a word. Remember in "true reading", the right brain is
used to recognize only about 500 small words by sight, while all the other
thousands of words are decoded by the left brain using phonetics (sounding out words
by matching sounds to letters) therefore freeing the right brain to
simultaneously provide an imaginative picture of the word that the left brain
has sounded out.
In these older children whose
proprioceptive and bilateral integration pathways have finally developed but
are not being used, I will recommend tutoring that emphasizes phonetics,
matching sounds to letters and sounding out words. It is most beneficial
if this tutoring is accompanied by movement games such as playing catch or
spelling words forwards and backwards while walking on a balance beam.
Teaching children the long and short sounds of all the vowels and the
rules of spelling now makes sense and stimulates the reading area in the left
hemisphere of the brain. For example, one rule of spelling that
stimulates the left brain would be to have children look at words containing
two vowels in a sequence and teach them that the first vowel is the one that
says its name while the other vowel is silent (ex. oa in boat, ea in meat, or
the ea in bead). Another spelling rule that exercises the left brain would be
to have children note the single vowel in the middle of a word and teach them
that vowels use their long sound in words that end with "e" such as in the
words plane, time, or stone. If children are pushed to learn phonetics
before bilateral integration and the left brain has fully developed, they will
still struggle with reading and spelling. In this case parents will
spend thousands and thousands of dollars for intensive hours of tutoring every
day for years that won't be very effective. Children will become very
frustrated and learn to hate reading. When bilateral integration has
developed, then tutoring is fun and easy and only requires 1 to 2 hours/ week
for the next 1 to 2 years as children learn the sounds of all the
letters, the rules of spelling, and start picturing words.
Question: How does
one know what movement therapy or tutor would be the best for a particular
Answer: The most
important thing to look for is a movement therapist and/or tutor who is fully
present when working with your child. The child needs to love the
therapist or tutor and the therapist or tutor needs to love their job and love
your child. This is not a sentimental love but an unconditional love.
The idea of barter, the exchanging of goods, is not
difficult for a child to comprehend, but the concept of money is much harder to
grasp. Coins clinking into a piggy bank
seem more real than paper money. Checks
and credit cards are even more abstract. A friend's daughter (when told that there
wasn't enough money to buy the object of her desire) said to her mother, "Can't
you just write a check?" Today, one would more likely hear, "Can't you just charge
So, it makes sense to give your children some experiences
with money, while you are around to guide them.
The most typical way is by giving an allowance. Whether or not this is an educative
experience will depend a lot on the context you create. As with so many aspects of parenting, our own
attitudes and examples are what affect our children most deeply.
A good first step is to recognize how your own relationship
with money arose. My mother always
shopped for the family's clothing at the end of the season when everything was
on sale. Recall the experiences in your
childhood that shaped your habits and taught you the value of money.
If you are parenting with a partner, it is also important to
talk about the values you hold --individually and together. What are your highest priorities? For example: thriftiness or generosity or
ecological consciousness. Out of these
ruminations, you will be able to articulate what it is that you want your
children to learn. Then you can create
the kinds of experiences that can help them the most.
Money is most often connected to work. However, not everything we do in life is
compensated with money. As a
kindergarten teacher I often spoke to parents about the importance of children
participating in tasks around the house and garden. Not only do children gain essential skills by
doing chores, they also experience the social aspect of work. Being a part of a family or community means
that each of us does what we can to take care of our home and one another.
If we pay children to participate in everyday chores, it
gives them the impression that the satisfaction of working together and taking
good care of our space is not a sufficient motivation. On the other hand,
special jobs, like cleaning closets or washing the car, are good ways for kids
(who are old enough to complete the tasks on their own) to earn a little extra
pocket money. Most likely they know how
to do these tasks because, when they were younger, they helped you do them just
for the joy of working with you and learning something new!
Around the age of 9, children have an increased awareness of
the material world. Measuring and money
start to make sense to them in a new way.
This is an age when I would consider giving a child an allowance. How much and whether the child is free to
spend it as s/he pleases are questions needing further family
conversation. A general guideline is
that the amount should require the child to gain discipline, patience and
practice in making considered choices.
Here are some examples of ways parents have helped educate
their children about spending, saving and sharing money:
- In one
family, the children (aged 10 and 13) helped create the dinner menu for
the week and did the shopping with their mother during the school year. In
the summer they helped pick fruit and do the canning. They learned a lot about food and the
cost of food in a hands-on way.
- A 10
year-old boy wanted a puppy and he was given extra tasks around the house
and yard until he had earned enough money to buy one.
family showed their children all the requests for donations that they had
received in the mail and let the children help decide what organizations
the family would support each year.
If you have other ideas, please feel free to add them in the
comment section below.
However you choose to introduce your children to the world
of money, watch over the relationship to be sure it reflects your family's
Commercial lemonades contain lots of sugar and because of
that, don't always quench your thirst.
Here's a simple recipe for an iced herbal tea with lemon that is
refreshing, fun to make with the kids, and contains only a spoonful of honey.
Gather a handful (1/2 cup) of fresh mint and lemon balm
leaves from your garden or buy some at the farmer's market. I like the combination of mint and lemon
balm, but you can use one or the other, or try some other combination of fresh
Put the fresh herbs in a quart jar and add 3 cups of boiling
water. Add the juice of half a lemon, or
thinly slice a half lemon into the jar with the fresh herbs. Dissolve one tablespoon of honey into the
warm tea. Let the tea brew for 10
minutes and then refrigerate.
The tea is concentrated and can be diluted, with up to 2
more cups of cold water, and/or ice when served. It is nice to garnish each
glass with a sprig of one of the herbs and a slice of lemon.
Make your tea in the morning and put it in the refrigerator
for those hot summer afternoons. Enjoy
while sitting on the porch or in the shade of a tree in the yard.