Brain Rules For Babies: Part 2

I’ve finished the book now, and I loved it all! In case you didn’t read “Brain Rules for Baby Part 1”, I’m referring to a book by the marvelous John Medina.  You can find it on amazon here. I would definitely recommend it for any nanny or parent to read.  So much great information, along with studies to back it all up.  Here’s another topic from the book that I think is important.

How do you praise children? What’s the best way to praise a child?

Praise is so important- you probably already know that.  But Mr. John Medina talks in his book about how important it is to praise in a certain way. Many people think that telling a child that he’s really smart will convince him that he is and give him the self esteem to tackle difficult problems.  But it’s not true.  Let’s look at an example.

When little Brian, aged 5, showed a proficiency for spelling words, he would often fly through spelling homework.  His mom would praise him again and again, “Brian, you are so smart!  I’m so proud of you!” Brian would beam with pride because it was so easy for him to do so well. Fast forward a few years, and Brian was struggling with more difficult words and the more complicated rules of spelling in the English language.  In his mind, he believed that he must not be smart anymore.  Or maybe he was never smart in the first place.  His parents wouldn’t be as proud of him now because he couldn’t fly through spelling tests and reading tests like he used to.  So he gave up. And his grades plummeted along with his self esteem.

Brian didn’t know what to do when things get hard, and he thought that “being smart” meant that you knew things without much effort.

So what could his parents have said instead?  They should have praised his effort.  Examples of praising his effort would be things like, “Brian, you worked so hard to finish your homework!” or “That homework wasn’t easy, but you kept at it and did a great job!”  When a child has a hard time, remind them that sometimes things are hard, but if you keep trying, you’ll eventually get through it.  You want a child to know that it’s ok to make mistakes, and that those mistakes are part of the learning process.  Challenges require more effort, not ability.

Be sure to always think about the messages you’re sending when you praise your child.  What are you teaching him when you say “You look so handsome!” instead of “You must’ve spent extra time combing your hair today!”?  How about “You’re such a great artist” versus “That art must’ve taken a lot of time and patience!”?



What my Dad taught me

Today would be my dad’s 52nd birthday.  He committed suicide in 2001 at the age of 39 after struggling for years with a debilitating, painful disease that had no cure.  I miss him every day.  But I remember everything he taught me in the 17 years I knew him.  He taught me to work hard, treat people with the same kindness you’d like to be shown, and to appreciate everything you have.

He also taught me to learn everything you can about the world around you.  As a child, he was raised in poverty in Louisiana, but at the age of 17, he joined the Navy and he got to travel all over the world.  He’d bring back souvenirs- toys and clothes like the kids in other parts of the world had.  When I was older, he explained that while most of the other sailors went straight to the bars when their ship landed in some other country, he explored the markets and looked for the restaurants where the locals ate so he could experience new foods (like barnacle soup, which he said tasted as awful as it sounds).

My dad had a love and curiosity for the world that was contagious.  And I definitely inherited that.  I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much outside the US, but I certainly enjoy learning about the way people live around the world, and what they care about and believe. I collect circulated foreign coins and have 800 or so from at least 110 countries.  Those coins are like my trip around the world.  I like to imagine the people that might’ve once carried them in their pockets or bags.

I try to teach some of this curiosity to my charges as well.  When we look at a world map, I talk about what those places are like, no matter how little I know.  And if I don’t know the answer to a question about a country, I enthusiastically find the answer somewhere!  You could listen to music from around the world, or compare the art of different countries.  You could talk about differences in food, or clothes, or houses.  You could listen to examples of different languages.  There are so many ways to explore and learn about our big, big world!

Thank you, Daddy, for helping me see how amazing our world can be!  Happy Birthday!

Snow!!! Enjoy it outside or in!

I don’t love winter.  There’s less daylight, it’s cold, everything gets covered in ice that I can fall on, the roads become deadly… I could go on and on.  But snow sure is pretty, and I don’t like to pass on my dislike for winter to my charges.  And there are tons of great snow crafts out there!  Here’s a few that I like:

Plastic Plate Snowglobe Picture : So Cute!  And you can include loose glitter that can move around inside the picture.  Just make sure you let the picture dry first!

Easy Glitter Snowflake: I would do this on blue cardstock so that the glitter really pops!  For younger kids, try putting glue in a mini cupcake liner or a tiny bowl and let them apply the glue with a q-tip.

Kool-aid Snow Paint: Bundle up the kiddos and do some good-smelling painting!  Bonus:  spray bottles are great for strengthening the muscles in a child’s hands!

There’s so many other great ideas out there!  Seriously, I could do this all day.  Just have fun with it!

Brain Rules for Baby Part 1

I’m reading a fascinating book right now, and even though I’m not done with it yet, I’m afraid I’ll forget some good parts, so I’m just going to write about stuff as I go along.  The book is “Brain Rules for Babies” by John Medina.  You can get it from Amazon here.

I can’t say enough great things about this book, even though I’ve only read about half of it so far.  The title is deceptive, since the advice given can apply to children up to 5.  The book is practical, but based on research and studies that the author often references.  It’s a great guide that talks about what you can and can’t do to give your child the best start possible, and you don’t have to be a scientist to understand it.

I won’t be able to talk about everything in the book.  If I could, I promise you, I would.  But it has too much material to cover.  So I’ll talk about the things that interest me most as a nanny.  This time- I want to talk about IQ and intelligence. What does it mean to be smart?

The book talks about the history of the IQ test, but in the end, the author states than an IQ test doesn’t tell you how smart a child is or will be.  He uses a great analogy for what intelligence is- his mom’s beef stew.  Apparently, it was amazing, but it was never the same recipe.  The recipe would change depending on who was coming over, or what she already had in the house.  She said that if the quality of the beef was good, and if the gravy surrounding the beef was good, the stew would be a success no matter what else was in it.  So how does this relate to intelligence? The two essential things your brain needs in order to be intelligent are 1) the ability to record information and 2) the ability to adapt that information to unique situations. The better you can do these two things, the smarter you are, basically.

But there are other ingredients as well that must work with these fundamentals.  The author points out five that he thinks are most important to address:

  • the desire to explore
  • self control
  • creativity
  • verbal communication
  • interpreting nonverbal communication

You can’t completely control how well a child does with these things, but you can help encourage children to develop them to their fullest.   Notice that “good at math” and “knows the whole alphabet” aren’t on this list.  Don’t worry- each child will learn his ABCs and 123s in time. So put away the flash cards and the “Baby Genius” dvds and help the children you work with to become curious, imaginative, creative problem solvers, self-disciplined, good communicators, and good observers.  I’ll talk about some ways to do this another time.

Where will a map lead you?

In my charges’ basement, there are two big maps on the wall- a world map and a US map.  I love those maps, and so do the kiddos, especially the 6yo boy.  Today, as happens often, the maps started a whole discussion. He wondered how many states he’s been to.  Turns out, he’s been to 6.  How many states have I been to? I counted them up- 25.  “Whoa! That’s a lot!” he said.  Then I asked him where he’d like to go, and I told him that I’ve been to California, but I’d really like to go to northern California to see the giant Redwood trees!  And I started talking about how big they are and how people have made tunnels for cars to drive through some of them, which kind of blew his mind.  When he gets home, we plan on looking at pictures of giant Redwoods.  He says he wants to go there with me!  Isn’t it interesting where a simple conversation over a map can go? Now we have a whole exciting new world to discover!

The other thing I did was bring over a free magazine that Columbus Metroparks publishes each season. It has articles and awesome photography. One of the articles was about flying squirrels, which I explained don’t actually fly, but they can glide from tree to tree, like a paper airplane.  “They’re so cute!” said 3yo girl.  Then I showed her a picture of baby flying squirrels.  “They’re not quite as cute when they’re babies, are they?” I asked about the hairless little things.  She said no, and we talked about what animals are cute when they’re babies, and what aren’t.  In the magazine, there was also a picture of a dragonfly larva.  “Not cute!” she said.  I had to agree. But they sure are awesome when they grow up!

You don’t always have to go outside or spend money to get kids interested in nature!

PS- How cool is this? Thanks National Geographic!

Pinterest Science! <3

I resisted trying pinterest for a long time because I was afraid of getting addicted.  I don’t spend all my time on pinterest now, but it is a GREAT way to find new ideas and store all the neat stuff you’ve found.  And because I’m such a visual learner, it’s a dream come true for me!  All those pretty pictures…

As a school ager, I wasn’t a big fan of science. I don’t know why. I guess it just seemed too complicated.  But as a grown up, I’ve realized that you can’t escape science, especially if you’re curious like me!  It’s everywhere!  I’m trying to show my kiddos at work how science is like a guessing game, but better, because you get to play with it too!  Remember to keep science activities age-appropriate.  And remember that most of the science learned at this age will be through observation, not through big words that sound really boring.  Keep the activity going for as long (or as little) as interest continues. And ask questions!  “What do you think will happen when I do this?”  Sometimes it’s best if you answer first, to show that you’re not looking for a correct answer, just an honest one.

I’ll talk more about science again sometime, but for now, check out my science board on pinterest, which I will continue to add to!

Who I am, and why I am who I am…

What do you write in your first post?  I’ve heard writers say that the beginning and ending of a book are the hardest to write, and I’m guessing the applies to blogs, too.  I hope this isn’t too boring.

I’m Amy.  I grew up as a navy brat, traveling around the US every few years. I was a quirky child- my mom says I was “an odd little duck”.  I think I just always had too many ideas in my head!  As a kid, I loved to read, craft, love on fuzzy critters, dig around in the dirt, play board games, and write stories.  In high school, I was in band, choir, and theater. I think I’m just allergic to boredom, really.  I got my BA in K-12 Music Education. My primary instrument was the french horn, but I don’t have much time to play it now.  As an adult, I like to read, craft, love on fuzzy critters, dig around in the dirt, play board games, and write stories. I guess I haven’t changed a lot, except that I’m much more organized and responsible and stuff. I’m still a bit of an odd duck. I randomly break into song sometimes. I watch Disney movies a lot.  I don’t think I’ll ever see enough cat videos on youtube. I tell cheesy jokes. Children’s books often make me cry.  I’m definitely in touch with my inner child.

So why and how did I become a nanny? Ever since 8th grade, I thought I wanted to be a band director.  It wasn’t until I was nearly done with my degree and was student teaching that I realized the reality of the job- long hours, lots of paperwork, and ever-decreasing budgets.  I wanted more than that.  I wanted a career I could love AND a personal life.  I wanted to leave work with a smile on my face every day!  While I tried to figure out what that career would be, I spent time teaching in preschools and day cares.  I LOVED working with the kids, but I didn’t like some of the decisions that had to be made in order to keep the school profitable.  I knew some people who had become nannies, and I was curious, so I met with an agency and gave it a go!  I love being able to work with parents to give their kids the best life possible.  I love being able to focus on just a few children at a time so that we can get to know each other really well and teach each other things.

As a nanny, the things I want to give to my kiddos the most are a lifelong love of learning and a truly creative spirit.  I adapt my activities every day so that they align with whatever the kid is interested in.  I do a lot of sensory activities, simple science experiments, and arts and crafts. I help kids gain confidence and independence. And I encourage them to always ask “why?” and if I don’t have an answer for them, we’ll find out together!  I want them to be happy about who they are and to know that being “an odd little duck” just means that you’re unique and wonderful.

I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my awesome guy, Drew, and my two loving kitties, Melody and Tomaso.