Ahad, Disember 31, 2006
Jumaat, Disember 29, 2006
(Tune : Frere Jacques )
I love mother,
I love mother,
Yes I do, yes I do.
And my mother loves me,
Yes my mother loves me,
Loves me too, loves me too.
I Love Father
(Tune : Frere Jacques )
I love father,
I love father,
Yes I do, yes I do.
And my father loves me,
Yes my father loves me,
Loves me too, loves me too.
Rabu, Disember 20, 2006
Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu
Cuti dan Hari Persekolahan
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Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor, Pahang, Sabah, Sarawak, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Labuan, Wilayah Persekutuan Putrajaya
Cuti dan Hari Persekolahan
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Jumlah Hari Persekolahan Termasuk Cuti Am
Jumlah Hari Cuti Penggal
Sabtu, Disember 16, 2006
Tengah dari kanan: Aziah Shahirah, Siti Fatimah Hani, Aida, Intan Nur Afiqah, Nur Diana Shahira, Nur Anis Syuhadah, Normaizurah, Asmizah, Nur Illyani Haziqah, Nur Hazmira Zurin, Siti Aishah.
Duduk dari kanan: Wan Nur Najah Afiqah, Anis Zafirah, Puan Mazliah (Guru Agama), Tuan Hj Ali (Guru Besar), Puan Fauziah (Guru Prasekolah), Puan Rosmizana (Pembantu Pengurusan Murid), Atifah Hujaimah, Nur Aqillah Adlina.
Khamis, Disember 14, 2006
Isnin, Disember 11, 2006
Talking: What to expect when
At this age, your child's sentences should be smooth, clear, and pop out easily with no apparent effort. Five-year-olds can tell you what happened, describe people in detail, and ask questions clearly. A kindergartner can explain what you do with common objects, talk in complex sentences that often run together, and use past, present, and future tenses of verbs, such as "sit," "sitting," "sits," "sat," and "will sit." She should be able to recall and repeat about eight words, and comfortably listen to stories, conversations, and movies.
What you'll hear
Your child should have a good grasp of language by now. Some things to listen for:
Pronunciation: Her speech should be easy to understand by now. Some 5-year-olds, though, still mangle three- or four-syllable words — "manimal" for "animal" or "pasghetti" for "spaghetti" — and that's nothing to worry about. And some kids still struggle with a few tricky consonant sounds. For instance, she may say a w or a y for an l, such as "yeg" instead of "leg," or use w for r, such as "wabbit" instead of "rabbit," or substitute an f for a th, such as "baf" instead of "bath." These minor pronunciation problems will probably improve over the next year or so and are usually no cause for concern.
Lisping: Your child may lisp, or pronounce the s sound like a th. "My sister is seven" becomes "My thithter ith theven." If your child's s sounds this way, chances are you needn't be alarmed. Many children do it, and most outgrow it with no intervention by age 7.
Stuttering: While it can cause parents concern, stuttering at this age is a normal developmental phase that many children go through. Your child is coming to the close of a great leap in her language skills, so it's natural that she may have some difficulty putting her sentences together fluently. (Before every leap forward, there is typically a period of disintegration, followed by integration of the new skills.) Her rapidly developing brain is trying to pull up the right words in the right order. She may repeat the whole word or first syllable (not just the first sound); this is what most people think of when they think of stuttering. You may notice your child stutters more when she is tired, excited, or upset. Most kids outgrow this phase by age 5 or 6.
What you can do
Reading to — and with — your child is a great way to boost her language skills. Books help a child add words to her vocabulary, make sense of grammar, and link meanings to pictures, says Desmond Kelly, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician who works with children with learning and language difficulties at the All Kinds of Minds Institute in
When your kindergartner does stumble over long words, resist the urge to correct her speech. Instead, model the right pronunciation of these tongue twisters when it's your turn to talk. For instance, say: "Yes, we're having spaghetti for dinner" instead of "It's 'spaghetti,' not 'pasghetti!'"
You can also take steps at home to help a child who stutters. Keep your voice soft and relaxed, your speech slow — think Mr. Rogers. Don't tell your daughter to slow down, though, you should simply listen and wait for her to finish her sentence or story. Maintain eye contact, smile, and be patient. If you turn away and act hurried, your child will feel pressure to "get it out," and this will only make her stuttering worse. Allow your child to express her frustration or embarrassment. She may say: "I can't say it. It won't come out." Acknowledge her feelings by saying: "I understand how frustrating that must be."
If your child lisps, pop a straw in her drinks. This kind of sucking motion promotes good oral-motor strength, which is important in language development. Encourage play activities that improve oral-motor strength. Have your child blow into a party horn that has a small, round mouthpiece. This is a good exercise because the effort needed to make a solid sound also strengthens the lips and cheek muscles, and tends to push the tongue back in. Blowing bubbles is another good exercise. Or have your child look in a mirror and practice putting her teeth together while she makes an s sound. This exercise can help her remember to keep her tongue behind her teeth. If she gets frustrated or upset practicing this routine, let it go — there's no point in making her self-conscious about something she'll probably outgrow on her own. Finally, encourage her to blow her nose. Stuffy nasal passages are sometimes the culprit behind lisping.
Making friends is an important mission for your 5-year-old, as he increasingly separates from the family and broadens his horizons with the larger social circle that kindergarten brings. At this age, having social relationships is a truly gratifying experience. Your 5-year-old will take pride in telling you, "I like him. He's my friend." You'll also start seeing a shift in your child's allegiance away from you and the family and toward his peers, who he'll spend more time with than ever before. Your child may also start to believe that information he gets from his playmates is the indisputable truth, even if it's not.
Five-year-olds learn a lot about themselves from the feedback they get from friends, and other kids' reactions play a significant role in their developing self-image. If his classmates comment on how well he catches a ball, for instance, he may think he's athletic. Or if other kids laugh at his jokes, he may decide he's funny. In other words, he'll start to develop a more complex idea of who he is from his encounters with peers. If his peers accept him, he'll feel full of self-worth. If his peers reject or ridicule him, however, his self-esteem may plummet.
A matter of choice
At this age, children find their own friends. They often pick pals with similar traits, patterns of play, interests, activities, or hobbies. Don't force a friendship if the chemistry isn't there. As with adults, not every child's temperament, personality, or style clicks with every other 5-year-old. Don't be overly concerned about how many friends your child has or whether or not he's popular. Some kids are happy to spend a lot of time with one best friend; other, more gregarious souls thrive on having many good buddies. As long as the friends have a positive influence on each other, stay out of it, says Denver-based pediatrician Edward Goldson, a member of the
Positive peer pressure
Five-year-olds will make a concerted effort to share, please their playmates, and resolve conflicts on their own. If your child wants to play with his buddy's skateboard, for instance, he and his friend will find a way to take turns that they can both accept. Peers can also encourage, support, and challenge each other to try harder in school, sports, and artistic avenues. If your child's best buddy is a bookworm, his enthusiasm for reading may be all your child needs to get hooked on books. Similarly, your child may strive a little harder on the playing field if he wants to emulate a friend who's a standout at soccer.
Not-so-positive peer pressure
When your child reaches kindergarten, his desire to be accepted by his peer group may lead to dangerous or antisocial behavior. "If I don't draw on the desk with my friends, they won't like me," he might reason. While you can't choose whom your child picks as friends, you can point out when peers are encouraging him to act in a way that isn't true to his nature. Then, rather than telling him what to do, ask him questions about this peer predicament to help him figure out a solution on his own.
Resist the urge to banish a bad egg from your child's social circle. Most children won't respond well if you tell them not to spend time with someone they consider a good friend. Instead, encourage your child's friendships with other kids whose behavior, values, and interests meet with your approval. Invite these children to your home or to accompany you on organized activities with your child.
When the opportunity arises, let your child know in a calm, reasonable tone what concerns you about his difficult playmates. Focus on specific behaviors (why Billy's bullying bothers you or why Tommy's troublemaker tendencies tick you off) rather than criticizing the child's character. Don't forbid him from hanging out with these pals, but do let him know what the consequences will be if he engages in their unacceptable behavior. That way, you can bolster your child's self-esteem by showing that you trust him to take responsibility for his actions and make the right decisions.
What to watch out for
If your child truly has no friends (particularly if he says he's lonely, feels socially inadequate, or has low self-esteem) it may be cause for concern. Your child could have trouble making friends for a whole host of reasons. He may be shy or overly aggressive, or have a speech impediment or poor gross motor skills, which could limit his ability to participate in games. In a subtle, non-intrusive manner, try to find out why your child doesn't have pals. If he senses you're anxious about the situation, he may withdraw or deny that he has a problem. Calmly ask him questions such as, "Are there children at school whom you would like to be friends with?" and "Are you worried about what the other kids think of you?"
Casually observe your child in action with his peers, talk with his teachers, and then — equipped with this information — sit down with your child to chat about any difficulties he has finding friends. Together, map out a plan he can follow that may make it easier for him to succeed socially. Suggest that he invite someone over who he'd like to be a friend. Or point out your child's strengths — his passion for painting, for example — and help him find opportunities to meet other children with the same interest, such as at an art class.
If your efforts to help your child aren't successful and he continues to have problems making friends, seek help from his pediatrician or a child psychologist. Although this can be a difficult and painful process for parents and children alike, once a child gains the confidence and tools he needs to get along with his peers, he'll reap the rewards and experience the joys of true friendship.
Nurturing your kindergartner's self-esteem may seem like a hefty responsibility. After all, a feeling of self-worth lays the foundation for your kindergartner's future as she sets out to try new things on her own. "Self-esteem comes from having a sense of belonging, believing that we're capable, and knowing our contributions are valued and worthwhile," says
"As any parent knows, self-esteem is a fleeting experience," says Nelsen. "Sometimes we feel good about ourselves and sometimes we don't. What we are really trying to teach our kids are life skills like resiliency." Your goal as a parent is to ensure that your child develops pride and self-respect — in herself and in her cultural roots — as well as faith in her ability to handle life's challenges (for a 5-year-old that may mean standing on one foot for several seconds). Here are ten simple strategies to help you help boost your child's self-esteem:
Give unconditional love.
A child's self-esteem flourishes with the kind of no-strings-attached devotion that says, "I love you, no matter who you are or what you do." Your child benefits the most when you accept her for who she is regardless of her strengths, difficulties, temperament, or abilities. So lavish her with love. Give her plenty of cuddles, kisses, and pats on the shoulder. And don't forget to tell her how much you love her. When you do have to correct your child, make it clear that it's her behavior — not her — that's unacceptable. Instead of saying, "You're a naughty girl! Why can't you be good?" Say, "Pushing Nina isn't nice. It can hurt. Please don't push."
Carve out time to give your kindergartner your undivided attention — this can do wonders for a child's self-worth because it sends the message that you think she's important and valuable. And it doesn't have to take a lot of time. Stop flicking through the mail if she's trying to talk with you or turning off the TV long enough to answer a question. Make eye contact so it's clear that you're really listening to what she's saying. When you're strapped for time, you can let your child know without ignoring her needs. Say, "Tell me all about what you did at school, and then when you're finished I'll need to make our dinner."
Establish a few reasonable rules for your kindergartner and, when appropriate, ask for her input when you make or update the rules. For instance, if you tell your child she has to wear her helmet when she rides her bike in the driveway, don't let her go without it at a friend's house. Knowing that certain family rules are set in stone will help her feel more secure. It may take constant repetition on your part, but she'll start to live by your expectations soon enough. Just be clear and consistent and show her that you trust her and expect her to do the right thing.
Support healthy risks.
Encourage your child to explore something unknown, such as trying a different food, finding a best pal, or riding a bike. Though there's always the possibility of failure, without risk there's little opportunity for success. So let your child safely experiment, and resist the urge to intervene. For instance, try not to "rescue" her if she's showing mild frustration over trying to shoot her basketball into her kid-sized hoop. Even jumping in to say, "I'll help you" can foster dependence and diminish your child's confidence. You'll build her self-esteem by balancing your need to protect her with her need to tackle new tasks.
Let mistakes happen.
The flip side, of course, of having choices and taking risks is that sometimes your child is bound to make mistakes. These are valuable lessons for your child's confidence. So if your child breaks a beloved toy through rough handling, help her fix it and encourage her to think about what she might do differently next time. That way her self-esteem won't sag and she'll understand that it's okay to make mistakes sometimes. When you goof up yourself, admit it, says Daniel Meier, assistant professor of elementary education at
Celebrate the positive.
Everyone responds well to encouragement, so make an effort to acknowledge the good things your child does every day within her earshot. For instance, tell her dad, "Julia helped cook dinner." She'll get to bask in the glow of your praise and her dad's heartening response. And be specific. Instead of saying "Good job," say, "Thank you for waiting so patiently in line at the grocery store." This will enhance her sense of accomplishment and self-worth and let her know exactly what she did right.
If your child needs to talk, stop and listen to what she has to say. She needs to know that her thoughts, feelings, desires, and opinions matter. Help her get comfortable with her emotions by labeling them. Say, "I know you're sad because we have to go home now." By accepting her emotions without judgment you validate her feelings and show that you value what she has to say. If you share your own feelings ("I'm excited about going to the zoo"), she'll gain confidence in expressing her own.
Comments such as "Why can't you be more like your sister?" or "Why can't you be nice like Makayla?" will just remind your child of her difficulties in a way that fosters shame, envy, and competition. Even positive comparisons such as "You're the best player" are potentially damaging because a child can find it hard to live up to this image. If you let your child know you appreciate her for the unique individual she is, she'll be more likely to value herself too.
If your child begins to compare herself unfavorably to her siblings or peers ("Why can't I read as well as Maia?") show her empathy and then emphasize one of her strengths. For instance, say, "You're right, Maia does read well. And you're a great singer." This approach can help your child learn that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that she doesn't have to be perfect to feel good about herself.
Every child needs the kind of support from loved ones that signals, "I believe in you. I see your effort. Keep going!" Encouragement means acknowledging progress — not just rewarding achievement. So if your kindergartner is struggling to sound out words, say: "You're trying very hard and you almost have it!" instead of "Not like that. Let me show you."
There's a difference between praise and encouragement. One rewards the task while the other rewards the person. ("You did it!" rather than "I'm proud of you!") Praise can make a child feel that she's only "good" if she does something perfectly. Encouragement, on the other hand, acknowledges the effort. "Tell me about your drawing. I see that you like purple" is more helpful than saying, "That's the most beautiful picture I've ever seen." Too much praise can sap self-esteem because it can create pressure to perform and set up a continual need for approval from others. So dole out the praise judiciously and offer encouragement liberally; it will help your child grow up to feel good about herself.
Shyness and kindergartners
As your child prepares to start kindergarten, behavior that seemed natural and even expected as a preschooler — tearful good-byes, a reluctance to join in group activities or to engage in conversation with new people — may become worrisome now. But although at times kindergartners can seem oh-so-grown-up, some are still just catching on to the rules of social interaction. And many children continue to be bashful — especially when faced with new situations.
Will my child always be shy?
Of course, shyness isn't always developmental. But the notion that a baby is born with specific personality traits is a relatively new one. Experts long believed that environment was primarily responsible for shaping a child's character. It's now believed that a child's behavior patterns are a result of both genetic and environmental influences. Thus, your kindergartner's temperament may predispose her to be wary of new situations and slow to warm up to the unfamiliar.
How can I encourage my shy kindergartner?
How you nurture your child at this age can boost her self-esteem. Rather than striving to change your 5-year-old, gently prepare her for any situation she's likely to find difficult. If your kindergartner tends to come unglued at noisy, crowded events like a birthday party, for instance, try preparing for the event by planning a mock party at home. Use a puppet to represent the shy child. You provide the dialogue for the shy puppet, and let your child be the parent. Her job: Help the shy puppet feel more comfortable in social situations. Another approach: Ask your child to articulate her "What if" fears about the event. Then brainstorm together for solutions. To further boost her confidence, consider role-playing each of the scenarios.
How can I prepare my shy child for kindergarten?
• Take your child for a classroom tour. She'll be more relaxed if she gets to spend some time in her classroom and meet the teacher before her first day. Also, show her the bathroom, her cubby, and the principal's office, so she'll feel more at ease in her new surroundings.
• Practice talking to other children and adults. Make a game of it: Ask your 5-year-old to be the tour guide when her best friend visits your house, or encourage her to place her own order at a restaurant. She'll not only become more comfortable with other people but also begin to understand the give-and-take of conversation. If she tends to whisper or mumble, her shyness may stem from the frustration of not being understood, which will subside as she becomes more articulate.
• Enlist an older sibling. If your shy child has a brother or sister in the same school, ask the older child to look out for the younger one. A friendly wave or a knowing glance — even if it's just in passing — can provide momentary respite from the fear of not fitting in.
• Create a good-bye ritual. Sneaking away when you think she won't notice can backfire — she may be upset that she didn't get to hug or kiss you before you left, and you could undermine her trust in you. Also, let her know when and where she can expect to be picked up (for instance, when the bell rings in the lunchroom). For more information about separation and independence, click here.
How can I help my shy child make friends?
Introduce her to one potential friend at a time. Don't expect much at the first meeting. It may take several short get-togethers before both children click. If your child can form an attachment with one child, she'll learn more about how to handle herself socially, and her friend will help her enter a larger group when the time comes. She may also benefit from playing with children of different ages. An older child can take the lead and break the ice, while a younger child may look up to your child, boosting her confidence.
What's wrong with labeling my child as shy?
It's rarely beneficial for a child to have a label attached to her, whether it's one that places undue pressure on her ("gifted," for instance), or one that excuses unsociable behavior ("Oh, she's just shy"). The fact is, she may not even think of herself shy. But say it often enough, and she'll come to believe it. Likewise, your kindergartner may not think that being shy is such a big deal — to her it's only natural — but if you talk about it as if it is, you'll send a message that suggests she has some sort of defect. Consider saying, "It takes her a little while to get comfortable in a new situation," instead of labeling her as shy.
If your child has already been labeled shy, try altering that self-image by letting her overhear something positive. When she's in earshot, discuss how friendly she has become or make a fuss over some effort she made to be social. It's equally important to encourage relatives, family friends, and teachers to avoid labeling.
Should I seek professional help?
For the best gauge of your child's ability to socialize, look to her friends. Does she have any? Does she talk about them? If she always seems to be alone, ask her teacher about it. It's possible that you don't see those moments when she's happily interacting. If, however, they agree that your child is having more trouble socializing than most kids her age, talk to your child's pediatrician, who may suggest a developmental evaluation.
What to expect at this age
For the most part, kindergartners are good at sharing. They understand and even act on empathy, they're developing friendships, and they like to please others. They have learned many of the rules of social interaction, so unless they're having a bad day (or going through a rough patch), they generally share pretty well — so well, in fact, that they may come home from school with a classmate's shoes on, because they're "sharing."
Some kindergartners, though, aren't convinced that sharing is such a good thing. This is a matter of temperament. "Kids who are more easily irritated by changes or difficult circumstances sometimes have a hard time sharing," says Susanne Denham, a developmental psychology professor at
What to do
Talk it up. Your kindergartner is old enough to engage in a discussion about sharing, so talk about the issue and problem-solve together: "Let's say Ginny comes over and wants to try out your new glitter paints. What will you tell her?" If your youngster is reluctant to share her art supplies, ask her, "How can we avoid a problem?" or "What can you do so that Ginny isn't disappointed?" Maybe she'll suggest putting away the paints before Ginny arrives or decide to let her pal try one of her new colors, along with all of the old ones. In your conversation, point out to your child how sharing will help her build friendships, something of paramount importance to her now.
Don't punish stinginess. If you tell your kindergartner that she's selfish, discipline her when she doesn't share, or force her to hand over a prized possession, you'll foster resentment, not generosity. "To encourage sharing, use positive reinforcement rather than admonishment," advises Roni Leiderman, Ph.D., associate dean of the
Respect your kindergartner's things. If your youngster feels that her clothes, books, and toys are being manhandled, it's unlikely she'll give them up even for a moment. So ask permission before you borrow her colored pencils, and give her the option of saying no. Make sure that siblings, friends, and babysitters respect her things too, by asking if they can use them and by taking good care of them when they do.
Lead by example. The best way for your kindergartner to learn generosity is to witness it. So share your ice cream with her. Offer her your scarf, and ask to try on her new barrette. Use the word share to describe what you're doing, and don't forget to remind her that intangibles (like feelings, ideas, and stories) can be shared too. Most important, let her see you give and take, compromise, and share with others.
Teach her what not to share. Once she gets the hang of it, your kindergartner may be so eager to spread the wealth that you'll need to teach her that some items — like her toothbrush, comb, hat, and shoes — are best kept to herself.
What to expect at this age
Chances are that your kindergartner's bed isn't really a bed right now at all — it's a spaceship, pirate vessel, or dragon's cave. Children are hardwired to be imaginative, and your kindergartner's imagination is operating at full tilt. You're likely to catch many glimpses of his make-believe games, since he probably isn't yet as private about these things as older kids tend to be.
Although you could sit by and watch, it's even better if you join in now and then. "A kindergartner's imagination develops naturally, but there's a lot you can do to spark it," says Kristi Alexander, a pediatric psychologist at
How your kindergartner's imagination works
Your kindergartner is used to thinking abstractly; the couch easily becomes a ship at sea, and his toast makes a perfectly plausible telephone. At this age he's also gotten the hang of group make-believe — playing "dinosaur chase" with his friends at recess — and complex role-playing, making up games with elaborate rules.
Why encouraging imagination is important
An active imagination helps your kindergartner in more ways than you might think.
Children who play imaginary games or listen to lots of fairy tales, stories read aloud from books, or tales spun by those around them tend to have noticeably better vocabularies.
Pretending allows your kindergartner to be anyone he wants, practice things he's learned, and make situations turn out the way he wants. Stories where the brave little tiger journeys through the nighttime forest or playacted scenes with your child rescuing his whole family from space invaders give him a sense that he can be powerful and in control even in unfamiliar or scary situations.
Learning social rules.
Getting along socially can be a challenge at any age. When your kindergartner joins the other kids in the sandbox to create a castle out of sand, sticks, and leaves, he's not only exploring a fantasy world, he's learning complex, real-world rules about sharing, social interaction, and resolving conflicts.
Dreaming up imaginary situations teaches your child to think creatively in real life. A study at
What you can do to spark your kindergartner's imagination
Read books. Reading stories together about unfamiliar lands and people is a good way to jump-start your child's fantasy life, and books that expand his vocabulary of words and images will help, too. (How can you imagine crossing a desert if you've never seen one?) With books, he can explore visual details, make up stories, and read to himself as much as he's able. If you're reading the text, stop often to explore the pictures and talk about what's happening: "Imagine how Tom must have felt when he lost his brother's baseball!" Encourage your kindergartner to make up his own endings to the stories you read. Read about the world, show him pictures of everything from beetles to pinwheels, and explore in further detail those things that interest him most.
Telling your own made-up stories is just as good for your child as reading a book together. Not only will your tales provide a sense of possibilities for his inventive thinking, they'll demonstrate the basics of creating characters and plots. And using your child as the main character is a great way to expand his sense of self.
Trade off lines of a story. While you're driving, say to your child, "Once upon a time there was a dog. He lived with a little boy, and they liked to go to the park. One day..." Then give your child a turn. Let him tell the fun parts, like naming the boy and the dog and describing the climax and the ending.
Your kindergartner may be adept by now at creating his own narratives and adventures. If you'd like to encourage his writing skills, prompt him to put his stories on paper, using pictures and simple words. Some kids will take right off; others will need a bit more direction ("Write down three words that describe the cat").
Relish his artwork
While your kindergartner may be more goal-oriented now than when he was younger, the process, rather than the product, is still the most important part of making art. Ask him how he made his creation, why he chose certain colors, and how he feels about it. He doesn't want or need to hear that his finished puppet "should look like this." When he does make something representational, like a picture of the family or a sculpted house, invite him to interpret it for you. Instead of "Oh, it's our family at the beach!" say, "What cool colors you've used! What's happening in this picture?"
Some kindergartners are ready for structured music lessons, while others need to be a bit older before making such a commitment. If you're unsure, ask a music instructor to help you evaluate your child's readiness. Either way, you can still fill his world with music. Listen to a variety of tunes together and encourage him to participate by singing, dancing, or playing instruments — real, toy, or homemade. He can follow along with a song being played or make up his own, complete with lyrics. (Be sure to have a video or audio recorder on hand!)
Encourage pretend play
Children learn a lot from dramatizing events from their daily — and fantasy — lives. When your kindergartner invents a scenario and plot line and peoples it with characters ("I'm the teacher and you're the student and it's sharing time"), he develops social and verbal skills. He'll work out emotional issues as he replays scenarios that involve feeling happy, sad, frightened, or safe. Imagining himself as a superhero, a horse, or a wizard makes him feel powerful and gives him a sense of what it's like to be in charge. And he'll develop his understanding of cause and effect as he imagines how you or his friend or his teacher would behave in a particular situation. He's also practicing discipline, especially since he'll be making the rules, whether by himself or along with a playmate (the array of intricate rules kids come up with always astounds adults).
Towels become turbans, plastic bracelets become precious jewels, old bathroom rugs turn into magic carpets, and that moth-eaten collection of stuffed animals transforms itself into a rain forest, animal hospital, or farm. Because kindergartners love to take on the role of someone else — a parent, a baby, a pet — a simple object like a toy cash register or a chalkboard can be all that's needed to spark creative play. Since most of the action happens inside your child's head, the best props are often generic, and detailed costumes modeled after specific superheroes or action figures aren't really the ticket.
Providing a special box or trunk to hold pretending paraphernalia can make fantasy play even more of an adventure, especially if you occasionally restock when your child's not looking ("Let's see what's in the trunk today!"). Including more than one of the same item can help, too, since two pirates or princesses are always better than one.
Use the computer judiciously.
Just because tech companies are churning out software for kids doesn't mean your child will turn out computer-illiterate if he doesn't do daily computer time. Still, some quality programs for kindergartners can spark your child's imagination, from drawing, painting, and music software to virtual treasure hunts. And the Internet can be an invaluable resource for looking up topics of interest — hunting down the latest photos of Jupiter or colorful pictures of a coral reef — and exposing your child to different cultures and ideas from around the world.
Limit TV time.
When it comes to your child's TV viewing, balance is key. There are some excellent programs for teaching kids how a baby kangaroo behaves or how other kids their age live in
Movies and TV shows tend to limit a budding imagination since they do the visualizing for your child, says Michael Meyerhoff, executive director of Epicenter, a parenting information center in
Let him be bored.
We tend to think we need to provide our children with constant enrichment through school, after-school activities, and weekend sports or music classes. And it's painful to hear "I'm booooored!" on unscheduled Saturday afternoons. But don't feel compelled to whip up an activity every time he whines. Being forced to figure out how to amuse himself often leads to the most inventive and absorbing games your child will play. You never know what you might learn yourself when he decides to see if one roll of Scotch tape can run from the upstairs bathroom all the way to the backyard, or whether couch cushions balanced on blocks make as good a fort as a blanket slung over the kitchen chairs.
How to live with your kindergartner's imagination
Set limits. Creating and enforcing rules — no hitting with the "sword" — is crucial for everyone's sake. But if you can, let your child live for a bit with the reminders of his flights of fancy. The fact that the dining room table isn't available for dinner because it's currently serving as an igloo gives you the perfect excuse to have a "picnic" on the living room floor.
Accept his imaginary friend. Experts believe that having an imaginary friend is a sign of a creative, social child who's working out a way to manage his own fears or concerns. Some studies suggest as many as half of all kids have an imaginary pal at some point.
However, if your child starts blaming the buddy for something he did, it's time for a reality check. You don't need to accuse him of lying, but do address the behavior. Have your child, along with the imaginary sidekick, rectify the situation (clean up the mess, apologize, etc.) and make it clear the act was unacceptable.
Keep messes manageable. Yes, reenacting the story of Hansel and Gretel might lead to a trail of crumbs through the living room. If you have the space, it's a good idea to designate a room, or part of a room, as an arts and crafts corner, where your child is free to create without worrying about making a mess.
Some containment strategies can also help: Old button-down shirts make great smocks when worn backwards with the sleeves cut off, plastic sheeting under the Play-Doh construction site can protect the rug, and large sheets of butcher paper over the crafts table can prevent an encrusted layer of multicolored paints or glue.
Encourage wild ideas.
When an enthusiastic kindergartner says, "Let's build a roller-coaster in the backyard!" it's easy to be practical and point out the expense, building code violations, and safety hazards that would incur. But far-fetched whims can be the seeds of inventive thinking. It's better for his creativity if you answer, "Why don't you start by building a small-scale model for your toy soldiers?" and point out the long-unused toy train track that he can fashion into a mini amusement park outside. (Be prepared to help out!)
Enjoy the offbeat.
When your kindergartner decides his favorite clothing color is black and he wants to wear it (along with his lime green belt) head to toe every day, or that his bedroom looks best with the curtains rolled up onto the rod, cut him some slack. Adults are socialized to view only certain behavior and aesthetics as acceptable, but your child is still developing his sense of what's attractive or appealing. So let him experiment (within reason!).
Like any parent who wants the best for her children, Trish Bragg has done everything she can to make sure Isabel, Charlie, and Madeline are healthy, have plenty of stimulating activities to fill their day, and are loved unconditionally. Yet, like many, she struggles with parenting's million-dollar question: Are my kids happy? "Among all my friends, that's what we want to know," Bragg says.
What makes children happy may surprise you.
Child development experts who study the subject say that happiness isn't something you can give a child like a prettily wrapped present. In fact, says Edward Hallowell, psychiatrist and author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, over-indulged children — whether showered with toys or shielded from emotional discomfort — are more likely to grow into teenagers who are bored, cynical, and joyless. "The best predictors of happiness are internal, not external," says Hallowell, who stresses the importance of helping kids develop a set of inner tools they can rely on throughout life.
The good news is you don't have to be an expert in child psychology to impart the inner strength and wisdom it takes to cheerfully weather life's ups and downs. With patience and flexibility, any parent can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of happiness.
Learn to read the signs
When your child was a baby and toddler, you probably had a good sense of whether he was happy or sad. His face lit up in a huge smile when you came home, and he sobbed endlessly when the dog shredded his beloved blankie.
Now that he's older, his emotions are more complex. But fortunately, his ability to control them is a lot stronger. Still, the outward signs of whether he's happy or unhappy are not hard to read. A happy child smiles, plays, shows curiosity, socializes with other children, and doesn't need constant stimulation.
Conversely, says Hallowell, the signs of an unhappy child are clear: The child "is withdrawn, quiet, not eating very much, doesn't spontaneously get involved with other children, doesn't play, doesn't ask questions, doesn't laugh and smile, and has very spare speech."
If you have a naturally shy or introverted child who doesn't laugh or interact a lot, that doesn't mean he's unhappy. Shyness is not the same as sadness, but you'll have to work harder to read his signs. Hallowell says to be aware of any major changes in his behavior — becoming more isolated or fearful — that might suggest he's having problems you should pay attention to.
Paul C. Holinger, professor of psychiatry at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's
Most parents recognize that a fearful, easily upset child isn't a happy camper, but Holinger finds that many parents don't recognize that an angry child is usually expressing sadness. No matter the age, "anger is simply excessive distress," says Holinger. When your child hits his brother or yells "I hate you!" it means he's distressed beyond his ability to deal with it.
Your child probably has his own ways of showing you when he's going through a hard time. Some kids may withdraw, some may lash out, and still others may become clingy. As you get to know your own child's temperament, you'll become better at learning the signs that something's not right in his world. For more insights into your child's natural temperament, check out our article, "Are children born happy?"
Make room for fun
If your child took a minute to think about her happiest times, she would probably realize that what makes her happiest is you. And that's the first key to creating a happy child says Hallowell. "Connect with them, play with them," he advises. "If you're having fun with them, they're having fun. If you create what I call a 'connected childhood,' that is by far the best step to guarantee your child will be happy."
Play creates joy, but play is also how your child develops skills essential to future happiness. Unstructured play allows her to discover what she loves to do — build cities out of blocks, teach math to her stuffed animals — which can point her toward a career that will seem like a lifetime of play. Play doesn't mean after-school lessons, organized sports, and other structured, "enriching" activities. Play is when children invent, create, and daydream.
Kim Orr of
Help them develop their talents
Hallowell's prescription for creating lifelong happiness includes a surprising twist: Happy people are often those who have mastered a skill. For example, when your child practices riding a bike, he learns from his mistakes, he learns persistence and discipline, and then he experiences the joy of succeeding due to his own efforts.
He also reaps the reward of gaining recognition from others for his accomplishment. Most important, he discovers he has some control over his life: If he tries to do something, he has the satisfaction of finding that, with persistence, he can eventually do it. Research shows that this feeling of control through mastery is an important factor in adult happiness. Finally, Hallowell warns that children, like adults, need to follow their own interests, or there'll be no joy in their successes.
Remember: Healthy bodies equal happy children
Lots of sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet are important to everyone's well-being, especially children's. For exercise, your child doesn't need to be on a soccer team: Just running around outside helps children with their moods. And pay attention to your child's need for structure: While some children are very easygoing, many children thrive and are happier with a set schedule that lets them know what's coming.
You might also want to pay attention to any connection between your child's mood and particular foods. Some parents find that while sugar can give their child an energy boost, it can also create mood swings or aggressive behavior. Food allergies and sensitivities may also play a role in your child's behavior and mood.
Let them struggle with problems
But, you say, I'm supposed to be creating a happy child! Shouldn't I swoop down and make everything better? In fact, Carrie Masia-Warner, a child psychologist and associate director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Institute at the New York University School of Medicine, sees this as a big mistake many loving, well-intentioned parents make.
"Parents try to make it better for their child all the time, to make them happy all the time. That's not realistic. Don't always jump in and try to fix it," advises Masia-Warner. "Children need to learn to tolerate some distress, some unhappiness. Let them struggle, figure out things on their own, because it allows them to learn how to cope."
Hallowell agrees that allowing children a range of experiences, even the difficult or frustrating ones, helps build the reservoir of inner strength that leads to happiness. Whether a child's 7 months old and trying to crawl or 7 years old and struggling with subtraction, Hallowell tells parents, he'll get better at dealing with adversity simply by grappling with it successfully again and again.
They learn that no matter what happens, they can find a solution. This doesn't mean children shouldn't ask for help if they need it, but your role is to help them find a solution, not provide it for them. Learning to deal with life's inevitable frustrations and setbacks is critical to your child's future happiness.
Check in with your child
The best advice on how to know if your child is happy is the simplest: Talk with him. Even more important, says Hallowell: Listen. "I ask my kids if they're happy so often they roll their eyes," he says. "It's a way of checking in, of letting them know that I care."
Masia-Warner agrees that open communication is essential in understanding your child's moods. "For instance, say to your child, 'You seem to be dragging lately, you seem sad. Is there something you want to tell me, something that's bothering you?' Then, let him talk."
If your child brushes you off, try again the next day. But
Allow them to be sad or mad
When your child pouts in a corner during a birthday party, your natural reaction may be to say, "You should be having fun like everyone else!" But it's important to allow her to be unhappy. Hallowell is concerned that "some parents worry any time their children suffer a little rejection, they don't get invited to the birthday party, or they cry because they didn't get what they wanted."
Children need to know that it's okay to be unhappy sometimes — it's part of life. And if we try to squelch any unhappiness, we may be sending the message that it's wrong to feel sad. We need to let them experience their feelings, including sadness.
You can encourage your child to label her feelings and express them verbally, which then helps her to regulate them. Don't try to solve her problems for her. Instead, just listen and help her talk through her feelings.
Sharon Cohn of
However, Masia-Warner warns, you shouldn't overreact to your child's negative feelings. "It's normal for kids to become oversensitive or clingy or nervous at times because of something in their environment, but it's not an unhappiness."
Be a role model
According to Dora Wang, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and mother of 3-year-old Zoe, research shows that you can pass on your temperament to your children — not necessarily through your genes, but through your own behavior and childrearing style. For better or worse, children pick up on their parents' moods. Even young babies imitate their parents' emotional style, which actually activates specific neural pathways.
In other words, when you smile, your child smiles and his brain becomes "wired" for smiling. But be genuine — your child will sense if you're acting. If you make a point of enjoying small things and saying what you're grateful for, you'll be a positive role model for your child.
You can help your child see his glass as half full rather than half empty. For example, if the baseball game gets rained out, point out what a great chance it is to go see a matinee. Cohn tells her kids, "Be happy about what you have instead of being sad about what you don't have." A wonderful dinnertime ritual might be for each family member to say what the best part of the day was.
Peggy O'Leary of
But you don't have to hide your negative emotions, either. You can show your child that you're upset about your best friend moving away, and if you follow up by talking about how you will keep in touch and how much fun it will be to visit her, you'll be teaching your child that sadness is a part of life as well as showing him how to find the silver linings.
However, if you find yourself constantly stressed out or depressed, it's important to seek help. "Parents who tend to be depressed are often not good at being consistent with their discipline and providing structure, or at providing consistent praise and having fun with their children. All of this can contribute to emotional problems," says Masia-Warner.
Teach them to do meaningful things
Research shows that people who have meaning in their lives feel less depressed.
Cohn says that after her daughter Rebecca learned about Hurricane Katrina, she and her classmates collected school supplies and backpacks to donate to the kids who lost their belongings. Even helping out with the household chores, such as setting and clearing the table, can help your child feel that she's making a contribution.
If you're concerned your child is going through a difficult period, try talking with her teacher and the parents of her friends to see what they're observing. O'Leary says that her daughter Jean's kindergarten year was very stressful for her. "I knew instantly from the look in Jean's eye, and later from her tears, that she was overwhelmed," says O'Leary. She talked to Jean's teacher to find out what was happening in the classroom and to see how they could ease the transition for her.
Most of the time, kids are unhappy or upset due to something stressful in their environment: a fight with a friend, pressures at school, or tension at home. But sometimes the source of their discontentment is more serious.
If you see persistent signs of unhappiness — anger, crying, aggression, constant complaining, frustration that's easily provoked, frequent headaches or stomachaches, difficulty sleeping or eating — don't hesitate to consult a mental health professional for an evaluation. Whether you go the route of a licensed therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist, make sure you choose someone who specializes in children. Take heart though: Masia-Warner says that depression in children is rare.
By now, you and your child are old hands at the playdate game. But the dynamics are beginning to change. The big difference? Hurt feelings. Common playdate squabbles still involve sharing toys, taking turns, choosing activities, and winning (and losing) games. Now, though, your child is starting to take such social slights more personally than he did during the preschool years. By keeping some guidelines in mind, you can help ensure that bruised feelings, dangerous dares, and playdate putdowns don't mar your grade-schooler's get-togethers.
Making a "date"
Let your child take the lead. At this age, kids are starting to plan the time they spend together at school — who they'll eat lunch with, for instance, and who they'll meet up with on the blacktop during recess. So it makes sense to allow your grade-schooler the same freedom when it comes to making playdates. The less you interfere in the planning process, the more control your child will feel over his social world — and the more he'll learn about being a gracious host. So let him choose whom to invite, when to make the date, and what the kids will do (schedule and common sense permitting, of course).
Keep it small.
Three really can be a crowd when it comes to playdates, says Sara Wilford, director of the
Keep it short — at least at first.
An hour is fine for a first visit, and two hours is plenty for after-school get-togethers, says
Get the facts on food.
Because your guest will probably have a snack or two during the playdate, be sure to ask his parents about any potential food allergies, sensitivities, or preferences: Is he allergic to peanuts? Lactose intolerant? Vegetarian?
Play down TV and computer games. Playdates are supposed to help kids polish their social skills — something that's hard to do when they're staring raptly at a flickering screen or impatiently awaiting their turn at the mouse. Save the video or computer game for the post-playdate wind-down, and plan activities the kids can do together instead. (Let your guest's parents as well as your own child know about this no-TV policy ahead of time. That way, the playmate won't show up expecting a private viewing of the new Rugrats video your child's been bragging about.)
Set limits on their play space.
As kids get older and more adventurous (especially when egged on by a peer they're desperate to impress), you may need to clearly limit the scope of their play area. (You may want to tell them that playing in the backyard is fine, for example, but no shooting hoops in the driveway unless you're there to watch.) While you don't want to hover too much around kids this age, you should know exactly where they are at all times and look in on them every few minutes.
Keep younger siblings out from underfoot.
Do your best to distract younger children when an older sibling has a friend over (better yet, pair a younger child with his own playmate). Much as you may welcome a playdate as easy entertainment for both of your kids, being saddled with a little brother or sister isn't fair to the child having the playdate — not to mention frustrating and possibly even unsafe for the younger one, who can't keep up with the older kids' more advanced (and daring) play.
Let the kids choose what to do.
Plan two or three activities you think the children may enjoy, suggests Lisa Church, but don't insist on trotting them out if the kids are doing fine on their own. This will only agitate a child who feels that you're intruding on special playtime with his friend. Instead, wait for your cue — usually something along the lines of, "We're bored. What can we do?"
Be prepared for "break time."
Besides having some healthy snacks on hand, it's a good idea to have a quiet-time activity ready in case the kids get too wound up — or are beginning to butt heads. Sara Wilford suggests baking cookies or reading a book together, making a brief excursion outside, or doing a restful arts-and-crafts project.
Lay down the "house rules." Situations will undoubtedly arise that require you to correct your visitor's behavior. Rather than simply reprimanding him, says Wilford, remember that the rules may be different in his house and that he needs to understand the reasoning behind your requests. Instead of saying, "Don't eat in there!" for instance, say, "We only eat in the kitchen at our house." If he's running down the stairs, say "Those stairs are slippery, so please walk carefully on them." This cuts down on the reprimands while still keeping the kids in line.
Let kids work out their own problems.
If the children don't see eye-to-eye on something, resist the urge jump in right away. Small disagreements seldom last long, and if you hang back you'll often find that the kids work out their own resolution.
Intervene rarely, but firmly. If, however, a conflict is escalating into put-downs or physical confrontation, it's time to step in. Remain calm and make firm statements like, "I can't let you do that to Natalie." Remind both parties that words and actions that hurt are not acceptable, and then coach the kids on coming up with a compromise to the original problem. If the fighting continues, separate the children for a while or introduce a new activity that's less likely to cause conflict.
Give fair warning. When the end of the playdate draws near, remind the kids that their time together is almost over: "Ten more minutes, boys. Time to wrap up your game." If the playdate was a success, preface their parting with a brief discussion about what they enjoyed this time and what they might like to do at their next get-together: "You two did so well making muffins together. Want to try a cake next time?"
Send a memory home.
If the kids created anything tangible (drawings, crafts, cookies), send your guest's creation home with him. If not, consider snapping an instant photo of the children together and offer it as a parting gift. Kids are often so excited to share these treasures with their parents that it helps ease them out the door at the end of a playdate.
Take the playdate on the road.
Some parents find that rather than leaving both kids whining (or hiding) when a guest's parent arrives to drag him out the door, it's easier to end the playdate by getting everyone out of the house. If it's feasible, consider walking or driving your guest home, then make the trip there seem like an adventure: Have the kids race to see who can get their shoes on first, and talk about the different sights you'll see on the way home. You just might find that the goodbyes go more smoothly on your guest's doorstep than they would on your own.
Kindergartners and fear
It's normal for your kindergartner to be fearful. After all, anxiety is a natural condition that helps us cope with new experiences and protects us from danger. Around age 5, your child's worries may shift from the world of fantasy (monsters and aliens) to those rooted in reality (animals, insects, and forces of nature like fires, thunderstorms, and earthquakes). Fear of the dark and of being left alone at night, though, may continue. News stories about death, crime, violence, war, or natural disasters may also cause anxiety. A 5-year-old may also be anxious about the health of her loved ones if there's been a recent illness, accident, or death in the family. And a shy or withdrawn kindergartner may be afraid of strangers or social situations such as birthday parties. Most of your kindergartner's fears will pass as she becomes more secure in her world.
What you can do to ease your kindergartner's fears
Acknowledge her fears. They may seem silly and irrational, but they're very real and serious to her. Try not to smile when she tells you she's scared of, say, the neighbor's poodle or a thunderstorm. Let her know you understand how it feels to be afraid of something. If you're reassuring and comforting, she'll learn it's okay to have fears and that it's best to deal with them. "Try to depersonalize the fear by getting your child to talk about what's making her scared," says William Coleman, a behavioral pediatrician at the
Trying to convince your 5-year-old that there isn't any reason to be afraid will only backfire. You'll probably only make her more upset if you say, "It's okay, the dog won't hurt you. There's nothing to be afraid of." Instead, try saying, "I understand that the dog frightens you. Let's walk past him together."
Explain, expose, and explore. At this age, there are a host of tools you can use to distract your child from her fear, as well as ways your 5-year-old can work through it on her own. She might, for instance, find comfort in drawing or painting what it was like to see a house on fire. Pretend play can still help a child this age. A game in which your kindergartner pretends to be the scary character — a snarling dog, a slithering snake, or a buzzing bee — can help her feel more powerful the next time she encounters an animal that makes her anxious.
You can also help your child learn about frightening things from a safe distance by reading a book, watching a video, or going on an outing. (Of course, you should avoid exposing your child to anything horrific, gory, or otherwise inappropriate, either on television or in books.) If your child is afraid of insects, try watching a video together about the natural world or take a trip to the natural history museum or zoo. If she's scared of animals, a trip to a petting zoo, where docile creatures can be stroked and fed, may help. If your 5-year-old is scared of the dark, try holding her hand as you take a nighttime stroll identifying the constellations or spend a few minutes in a dark room together looking at glow-in-the-dark stickers.
Teach self-comforting skills. You'll help your child more in the long run if you teach her how to calm herself when she's anxious instead of always rushing to soothe her. If she's upset or agitated, encourage her to take deep breaths or sing a favorite song. By redirecting her attention away from the object of her fear, she'll regain physical composure and then work on getting her feelings in check.
Praise every small step and focus your attention on her accomplishments rather than on the fear itself. "Some kids — like adults — do better with distraction, others with more information," says Kristi Alexander, a pediatric psychologist at the
Don't be judgmental. Never make your child feel that she is immature for being afraid, and above all, avoid belittling her in front of her peers. Instead, empathize with her. Say, "I can see that the lightning and thunder really scared you." Then together, brainstorm a plan that might help her cope with her fear in the future. Talk with your child in a calm, matter-of-fact way about what's troubling her, and let her know that you're confident that she can overcome her fears. Ask her, "What do you think might help you feel less scared?" By encouraging your 5-year-old's involvement, you help strengthen her coping skills. For instance, you might suggest that she put headphones on to listen to her favorite music during a big storm or curl up with you to watch the spectacle in the sky safely from inside.
Don't share your fears. If your kindergartner sees you break out in a sweat because you're afraid of flying, or if you cringe when you walk into the dentist's office, then she's likely to feel scared of these things, too. So try to work through your own anxieties, or at least try to downplay them. It's okay, however, to confess that you didn't like going to the dentist, either, as a kid, but you went to keep your teeth healthy. It helps a child to know she's not alone, and that you, too, learned to overcome something scary.
What to watch out for
If your kindergartner's fears routinely interfere with her normal daily activities — if she won't go to bed because she's afraid of the dark or she insists on staying home out of fear of seeing a dog — then talk to her pediatrician, especially if her fears have intensified over time. She may have a genuine phobia (a phobia is an intense and persistent irrational fear).
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