Archive for May, 2009

Trouble Finding Quality Childcare?

May 13, 2009

If you are in the Miami County, Ohio area and are finding it difficult to find quality, affordable childcare for your children, Child Care Choices can help!  They provide information on which daycare centers and at home care providers have openings in your area as well as their open hours and rate information.

Visit their website and search online for childcare providers in your area!

If you are not located in Ohio, but would like more information about the nationwide network of Child Care Choices, click here.

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Conversations on the Go: Communicating with Your Teenager

May 8, 2009

Source: fact sheet by Jamie Seger, OSU Extension Program Assistant, Miami County

Clever Questions to Keep Teens and Grown-Ups Talking

teensIf you find yourself drawing a blank every time you have the opportunity to have a conversation with your teens, uset the following questions as ice-breakers:

  • What was the nicest compliment you ever received from an adult?
  • What was your first memory as a little child?
  • What does the word respect mean to peers at your school?  To teachers at your school?
  • How would school be different if kids made and enforced the rules?
  • Name someone younger than you that looks up to you.  How do you know that he/she looks up to you?
  • What’s the biggest way someone has made a positive difference in your life?
  • What are the best places to hang out in town?  If you could create the perfect hangout, what would you include?
  • Have you ever had a friend whom you later realized was a bad influence on you?  .How did you handle it?
  • Who is your favorite musician?  What do you like about his/her music?
  • What is your favorite family time together?
  • Do you think it’s important to have separation between church and state?
  • How do you know when someone is watching too much TV or playing too many video games?
  • Would you rather be in a class that deals with a subject you love with a teacher that is boring, or would you rather you aren’t excited about that has a passionate teacher?  Have these situations happened to you?
  • Describe a time when you gave something your best shot and it still wasn’t good enough.  Why is it important to give something your best shot?
  • What is the hardest part about school this year?  Is it homework?  Getting assignments done on time?  Test?  Class participation?  Getting along with classmates?  What makes that hard?
  • Was there ever a time when you had to stand up for something you believed even when your friends weren’t behind you 100 percent?  What was it, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • When you die and people are talking about your life, what do you want them to say about you?
  • Is it possible to have a world in which every person has equal rights?  What would it take to get there?
  • What is your favorite motto to live by?  What are some of your favorite quotations?
  • What is the biggest problem facing your generation?
  • Name three things that you really, really believe in that might surprise people.
  • Do you try to imagine how other people feel when deciding on an action to take?
  • Are you comfortable around people who are different from you?  Why or why not?
  • If you could ask any four people to dinner to have great conversations, who would you ask and why?
  • What is the trait you like most about each member of your family?
  • What does it mean to have personal power?  Are you born with it, or do you grow it, or gather it, or discover it in yourself?

Helping Your Child Succeed at Learning

May 6, 2009


You want your children to be successful in school and in life. You can start right now giving your children a foundation for success. With each of the following ideas is a list of ways you can make the idea work for you. Make a note of the things that you are already doing and the things you would like to start doing. Probably there is no parent that does all these things. But it’s good to pick a few things you can do with your children. You might even ask your children what they want to do. The key in all these activities is to make learning fun and interesting.


learning1. Make your home a learning place.

  • Show your children that you love to learn. Read books and magazines. Take continuing education classes.
  • Talk about things that interest you: gardening or building models or astronomy or whatever.
  • Sing songs together. Say rhymes. Learn poems.
  • Tell your children about new, interesting things you learn.
  • Ask them about the things they learn in school.
  • Have a set of encyclopedias in your home so you can look things up when someone has a question. Even an old, used set can answer most questions.
  • Keep many good books in your home. Some can be bought cheaply at used book stores or library sales.
  • Notice your children’s interests and praise them for what they are learning.
  • Talk and ask questions about things you. see on television.
  • Turn off the television and make quiet time for reading.
  • Limit the amount of television to allow for other learning activities, such as reading, talking, or exploring.
  • During meal times have family members talk about things they’ve learned recently.
  • Provide a special place for your children to keep their books.
  • Make a special area in your home for reading, maybe with pillows or a small desk.
  • Make reading together special by holding your young children close, allowing them to turn the pages, having them point at objects in the story, asking questions about what they expect to happen, or allowing them to tell part of the story.
  • Read and tell stories to your children. Invite them to tell you stories, rhymes, or tall tales.
  • Have your children read to you.
  • Put your children’s drawings or school work on the refrigerator or wall.
  • Have a special box or treasure chest where your children can keep their special projects and papers.


2. Plan family learning activities.

  • Take your children to the library. Help them pick their own books. Help them get their own library cards.
  • Take your children to ordinary places with you and talk about what you see. Trips to the grocery store, hardware store, post office, and bank can all be learning opportunities.
  • Ask your children questions. “How do you feel about that?” “What do you think that means?” Listen carefully to what they say.
  • Take your children to special places with you and talk about what you see. Many places are free or inexpensive: children’s museums, art museums, historic sites, planetariums, science exhibits. There are so many interesting places!
  • Have your children write letters. With very young children, let them tell you what they want to say, and write it for them.
  • When they want to start writing, let them. Don’t worry about misspellings unless children ask if a word is misspelled.
  • Help them write their own histories, telling about important events in their lives. Looking at family photographs may help them remember.
  • Encourage their hobbies that will help them learn and feel successful: building, cooking, drawing, collecting bugs, collecting stamps.
  • Provide a chalkboard with chalk.
  • Provide paper, crayons, and markers for drawing and writing.
  • Play games with your children at home, in the car, and while waiting in lines or in a doctor’s office.
  • Set a special time each week when the family can get together to talk about their family heritage, play board-games, or just have fun together.
  • Play follow-the-leader with your children.
  • Be explorers. Make a map of your neighborhood. Mark your house, school, and favorite places on the map. Explore new places.
  • Use your imagination. Look at the clouds and let all the family members describe what they see.


3. Start early and adapt to the needs of your children.

Birth to two years:

  • Even when children are very small they enjoy having people talk to them lovingly and tell them stories. Help them learn the names for things.
  • Follow their lead. If they’re looking at something, continue to talk about and explore what they’re looking at rather than change the subject.
  • Use everyday routines to teach children. For example, while getting dressed, talk about the names of the body parts and the clothing.
  • Give your children lots of opportunities to explore the environment through their five senses. Give them things to play with that are not sharp, breakable, or in any way harmful.
  • Take walks together. Play together. Play pleasant music.
  • Begin to look at books together. Select books that have sturdy pages that children can turn. Sing together.
  • Read books with animals and make the animal sounds.

Two to four years:

  • Talk in simple sentences with your children. Listen to their ideas without criticizing their mistakes. Talk with them about things that interest them. Children at this age enjoy silly rhymes, guessing games, tongue-twisters, riddles, chants, and secrets. Enjoying language with them is important at this age.
  • Help children recognize symbols such as restaurant signs, store signs, and traffic signs. Talk with them about what the signs mean.
  • Notice and compliment your children’s ideas. Say things like: “What a great idea.” “I’m glad you thought of that.” “I like your ideas.”
  • Play games with your children where they listen to and follow directions. Games like “Simon says” are good.
  • When you’re taking a walk together, take time to sit down, close your eyes, and listen to sounds. Talk about what you hear.

Four to six years:

  • Assist children in solving everyday problems. For example, instead of directing children on how to get ready for bed, ask them, “What do we need to do next to get ready for bed?”
  • Four- to six-year-olds enjoy imagining, talking about their ideas and feelings, and telling tall tales. Help them with reading and writing. Reading familiar stories with them may allow them to take part in the story. Let them tell parts or all of a story.
  • Provide children with writing materials and encourage them to make signs, to draw, to scribble, and to write.
  • Use everyday situations to help children understand math. Ask them to help you count. Play with adding and subtracting things, dividing things into groups, and other math concepts.
  • Act out familiar stories with children, Use dolls or stuffed animals to act out “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Three Bears,” or some other favorite.
  • Provide the props for them to play dress-up or store.
  • Help your children learn to play with other children, They can learn about sharing, taking turns, and cooperating.
  • Make books together. You can write the words, and the children can draw the pictures. Let them write as much as they want to.

Six to eight years:

  • Use home materials to introduce your children to science and how things work.
  • Let your children help you plan, shop for, and prepare meals.
  • Let children write, produce, and present short skits for family gatherings and holidays.
  • Help your children explore nature, whether it’s the backyard or a nearby park. Teach them about the environment they live in.
  • Give children small responsibilities. Put them in charge of recycling aluminum or feeding the pets.
  • Encourage your children to develop hobbies such as stamp collecting, drawing, or bird watching.
  • Teach children a craft like woodworking or sewing and encourage their creativity.
  • Take them on a short family trip where they can learn about their community through historic sites or about life by camping out.

As children get older, they can take more responsibility for their own learning. You can help them by asking questions, encouraging their explorations, and providing many learning opportunities.


4. Work with other people who will help your children learn and develop.

  • Build good relationships with your children’s teachers. Ask the teachers things you can do at home to help your children succeed at school.
  • Help your children be ready for the school day by being sure that they get enough sleep and a good break- fast before going to school. Try to make the morning routine happy so they’ll go to school in good spirits. Create a good feeling about homework. Encourage them. Praise them for their efforts. Set a time and place for homework. Provide healthy snacks for breaks.
  • Support your children in their school reports by helping them find and use resources, make models, and find interesting ways to complete assignments. Help them but don’t do their work for them. Doing their work sends the message “I don’t think you can do this.”
  • When you visit people with interesting stories, songs, or hobbies’, take your children along. Don’t stay so long that your children become bored. But allow them to see collections and workshops of all kinds.

You can make a big difference in the attitudes your children have about learning. As you learn and involve your children in learning, they’re likely to develop into successful students.

You can help your children by being understanding when they experience failures, too. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone mispronounces a word. Everyone fails in something once in a while. It helps children when you offer understanding and support. It discourages them when you expect perfection.

In addition to the ideas listed above, you can help your children become successful by helping them become balanced, healthy people. Other publications in this series, Principles Of Parenting, can help you make the world a safe and caring place for your children.


Source: Ellen Abell, Extension Family and Child Development Specialist, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University. This publication was originally written by H. Wallace Goddard, former Extension Family and Child Development Specialist

For more information, contact your county Extension office. Look in your telephone directory under your county’s name to find the number.


For more information, contact your county Extension office.


Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work in agriculture and home economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, and other related acts, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) offers educational programs, materials, and equal opportunity employment to all people without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability.

Building Baby’s Brain: Ten Myths

May 4, 2009

“As scientists learn more…many of our old
ideas about the brain are being challenged.”

babyclipartAs scientists learn more about how the human brain develops, many of our old ideas about the brain are being challenged. We now know that a baby’s brain is not completely wired at birth. The basic brain cells exist at birth, but most of the connections among cells are made during infancy and childhood.

Here are some common myths about brain development:

  • What happens before birth does not affect learning. Poor nutrition and exposure to drugs and alcohol can lead to serious problems in brain development even before birth. A developing fetus needs adequate nutrition to develop properly. If the fetus does not receive enough folic acid early in development, certain neural birth defects can happen. A fetus exposed to alcohol or other drugs before birth may not develop normally. If the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the baby is at risk for developing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Babies with FAS tend to have heart problems and be hyperactive. And most FAS babies have below-normal intelligence.
  • The brain is completely developed at birth. Most of the brain’s cells are formed before birth. But the cells actually make most of their connections with other cells during the first 3 years of life. And even after age 3, the brain’s structure continues to change as connections are refined based on experience.
  • Brain development is completely genetic. Early experience is very important in brain development. The baby’s day-to-day experiences help decide how her brain cells will connect to each other. And if the baby does not have certain kinds of experiences, some areas of the brain will not make the necessary connections. Babies born with severe cataracts may never see clearly–especially if the cataracts remain for many months–because they could not see clearly as infants.
  • A bigger head is better. Some parents mistakenly think that children with bigger heads have bigger brains and are therefore smarter. But a bigger head doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger brain. And just having a bigger brain doesn’t make you smarter. Dolphins actually have larger brains than humans. And rat brains have more cells per cubic inch. Humans are more intelligent because our brains have been fine-tuned to be more efficient.
  • Brains get more active as they mature. A 3-year-old’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s. Why? The adult brain is more efficient. It has gotten rid of connections that it doesn’t need. By about age 3, the brain’s cells have made most of their connections to other cells. Over the next several years, connections are refined based on experience. The connections that are used most will become stronger. Those that are used least will eventually wither.
  • The brain grows steadily across childhood. The human brain actually develops in spurts. There are prime times when the brain is best equipped to learn certain skills. Babies and young children learn languages more easily than adults because their brains are still developing language connections.
  • We can’t learn certain skills after childhood. There are certain prime times in development when learning is easier. The brain is especially efficient at learning during those prime times. But brain development and learning continue throughout the lifetime. Learning may be more difficult once the prime times are over, but it can still happen. Adults are able to learn foreign languages, even if their learning is not as quick or easy as a young child’s.
  • Learning begins when a child enters school.Pre-kindergarten or kindergarten is the start of most American children’s formal education. But the foundations for learning develop well before a child starts school. The brain connections needed for learning begin developing even before birth.Early care also makes a difference in children’s ability to learn. Warm, sensitive, consistent care helps babies develop a secure attachment with their caregivers. Children with this secure bond are more ready to learn. Early traumas such as abuse can slow brain development. This makes learning more difficult.
  • Enrichment is only for gifted and talented children. All babies and children need experience to develop a rich network of brain connections. Remember that children learn by doing. Give your baby a chance to explore the world. Expose her to a variety of challenging experiences. Support her when she tries new things. Encourage her to be creative.
  • Children need special help and expensive toys to develop their brain power. What children need most are loving care and new experiences. But these experiences don’t need to be expensive. Talk and sing to your baby. Go on a daily walk and point out some of the things you see. Visit the library and pick out a book on a new topic. Sharing time with your child and exposing him to new things goes a long way toward helping his brain develop.But beware of overstimulating your child. Some parents are so concerned with brain development that they buy expensive educational toys, videos, and flash cards. But there’s no evidence that these toys, by themselves, will make your child smarter. Too many new experiences all at once won’t help his brain development. He needs time to process what he’s learned before he’s ready for something new.

Selected References:
Jensen, E. (1998) Teaching with the brain in mind.Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Shore, R. (1997). Rethinking the brain: New insights into early development. New York: Families and Work Institute.

Willis, C. (1997). Your child�s brain: Food for thought.�Little Rock, AR: Southern Early Childhood Association.


Part of the “Better Brains for Babies” Collaboration.Supported by the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences
“Strengthening Georgia Families and Communities” Initiative.The University of Georgia, a unit of the University System of Georgia, is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action institution. The University does not discriminate with respect to employment or admission on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap or veteran status. If you have a disability and need assistance in order to obtain this fact sheet in an alternative format, please contact the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at (706) 542-7566.