Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Infants & Toddlers’

Children in Crisis; Preschools in the Forests

May 24, 2010 1 comment

Our Children’s School began in a garage, grew into 2 garages, then an art room, then an outside garden plot, then a small kitchen for cooking, and then into the woods surrounding our home. Our sons decided daily, weekly, monthly  what it was that interested them and this determined their curriculum. They dissected worms, a cow’s heart they got “FREE” from the local slaughter house, and frogs. They looked at the stars and studied the universe and its constellations. This brought them to Greek mythology and the Gods. Soon they delved into space travel and astronauts and then went on to Space Camp in Alabama. Dinosaurs were big and so they studied the Jurassic period and took a field trip to Utah’s Dinosaur Valley. They built a tree house on a hill with a tree in the middle of the floor that they insisted could not be cut down – after all, “that is why we call it a tree house Mooooom!”

All of their preschool education incorporated the outdoors and the natural world. I can’t imagine how it is possible to educate preschool children without the outdoors for that is what intrigues them most. They love insects, small animals, rainy days with puddles to jump into, snowmen and snowball fights, butterflies, and the woods. The natural world and the woods are a home to them. They are free to run, explore, conquer, and grow.

It is with great satisfaction that I read an article this morning about a “forest kindergarten” in Vashon Island, WA. The Cedarsong Nature School is a forest preschool and among several that have opened in recent years in the U.S. This is a movement that originated in Europe (and my garages 30 years ago, chuckling). The purpose is to get kids out from in front of televisions and into the natural world. The kids love it! They are outdoors all day, studying how life interacts with them in the woods. These children are different when they enter elementary school. They are healthier, livelier, curious, more mature, compassionate, and intellectually alive. They have an inner joy that is hard to explain, which I believe comes from their knowledge of the natural world and their comfort within it. They are fearless.

Erin Kenny opened the Cedarsong Nature School, after she read “The Last Child in the Woods”, which I discussed in my previous post. In the book, Richard Louv coined the phrase “nature-deficit disorder” to explain a lack of connection between the country’s children and nature. He argues that the decrease in nature dwelling leads to a rise in childhood obesity, attention disorders, and depression. The evidence of this surrounds us. Go to the local mall on any afternoon after school and look at the children, who are usually obese, tattooed, “pants on the ground”, alienated, and looking for something to do inside an enclosed mall when the entire world is waiting for them to explore. They are an interesting comment on their parents and their rote education.

“We gain life by looking at life.”

Dr. Mardie Townsend, a researcher and associate professor  School of Health and Social Development at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia

In the woods on a Balancing Bar

Families in Crisis; Food for Thought

April 21, 2010 2 comments

When we discuss the alarming rates of obesity in our children we are only talking about food. Right?

WRONG!

When we discuss obesity in our children we are talking about iPhones, computers, the internet, iPod / MP3 players, cell phones, lap tops, video games, movies, and televisions in bedrooms.

Obesity is about both parents working. It is about moms and dads depending on MacDonald’s, Burger King, and other fast food places that serve up quick meals that are artificially manipulated to appeal to the taste buds of their children. The calorie loaded nutrition-less food appeals to the lazy or dead tired side of our nature.

It is about school cafeterias who serve the dark edge of junk food to their students. It is about the money schools receive from vending machine operators. They are the suppliers of colas, candy, chips, and the vast assortment of empty calories to our children. It is about parental, teacher, administrator, complacency in the health of our children.

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD! It is about the lack of exercise, play, friendship, and nature. It is about this generation’s sedentary, isolated, lonely life. The average young American now spends practically every waking minute, except for the time in school, using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The most disturbing fact in my mind is that millions of children have never planted a seed, walked through the woods, identified an insect, built a fort, fished in a stream, or sat in a field of tall grass or flowers. It is about an entire generation of children and the staggering divide between them and the outdoors.

I am reading a book by Richard Louv, “Last Child in the Woods”, which discusses the absence of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation which is directly linked to the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. He says, “We should explore ways in which to develop programs that bring children beside quiet streams, or on top of mountains, or in the middle of a forest where they may feel the peace within themselves.” Summer camps used to be about that, but they are now financially unreachable for many in this economy, so they stay at home in front of their TV’s or computers, eating pizza, and drinking colas.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

  1. We need to get our children outside and away from electronics. They need to meet their neighborhood friends. Neighborhood parents could help by planning events/games for the children – a parental commitment to their children’s health.
  2. We need to be able to provide affordable fun that is also an outdoor adventure for children. We have 391 National Parks with 84 million acres, in 49 states with 21,000 full-time employees, and 275 million annual visits. These are affordable places for children to have the great outdoor experience. The National Parks produced a document called, “National Parks Second Century Commission Committee Reports” and can be viewed at www.npca.org.
  3. There is a concerted effort on behalf of the government to address the physical activity of all children. The White House Press Secretary released a Memo on April 16, 2010 called, “A 21st Century Strategy for America’s Great Outdoors”.
  4. SCHOOL LUNCHES CALLED A NATIONAL SECURITY THREATAll branches of the military are seriously concerned about the inability of our future armed services to defend our country. A new report released Tuesday, April 20, 2010, states that more than 9 million young adults, or 27% of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military. Retired Navy Rear Adm. James Barnett Jr. said, “When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice.” He noted that national security in the year 2030 is “absolutely dependent” on reversing child obesity rates.
  5. Whatever happened to backyard gardens? Why can’t we plant neighborhood or community gardens where our children plant the seeds, harvest the garden, and help prepare the meals? Why can’t parents discuss nutrition with them as the seeds are planted and the garden harvested?

There is no greater thing we can do for our children and for the future of this country than to insure their good health, self esteem, and compassion for the earth. It begins at birth, in the home, with loving parents who rise above their own self interests and toss the baggage from their past to become exceptional humans. Parents are the only people who can make permanent changes in childhood obesity. The government can pour billions into programs, but if the parents are not committed the children will follow their lead and wallow in their fat.

Deferred Gratification – OR- The Marshmellow Test

February 14, 2010 3 comments

DEFINITION:

Deferred gratification or delayed gratification is the ability to wait in order to obtain something that one wants. In formal terms, an individual should be able to calculate the net present value of future rewards and defer near-term rewards of lesser value. Animals don’t do this. This challenge is fundamental to human nature.

EXPERIMENT:

In the late nineteen-sixties, Carolyn, a four-year-old with long brown hair, was invited into a “game room” at the Bing Nursery School, on the campus of Stanford University. The room was little more than a large closet, containing a desk and a chair. Carolyn was asked to sit down in the chair and pick a treat from a tray of marshmallows, cookies, and pretzel sticks. Carolyn chose the marshmallow. A researcher then made Carolyn an offer: she could either eat one marshmallow right away or, if she was willing to wait while he stepped out for a few minutes, she could have two marshmallows when he returned. He said that if she rang a bell on the desk while he was away he would come running back, and she could eat one marshmallow but would forfeit the second. Then he left the room.

OBSERVATIONS:

Footage of these experiments, which were conducted over several years, is poignant, as the kids struggle to delay gratification for just a little bit longer. Some cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so they can’t see the tray. Others start kicking the desk, or tug on their pigtails, or stroke the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal. Most struggled to resist the treat and held out for an average of less than three minutes. “A few kids ate the marshmallow right away,” Walter Mischel, the Stanford professor of psychology in charge of the experiment, remembers. “They didn’t even bother ringing the bell. Other kids would stare directly at the marshmallow and then ring the bell thirty seconds later.” About thirty per cent of the children successfully delayed gratification until the researcher returned, some fifteen minutes later. These kids wrestled with temptation but found a way to resist.

GOAL OF EXPERIMENT:

The initial goal of the experiment was to identify the mental processes that allowed some people to delay gratification while others simply surrendered and how this influenced behavior. What they discovered is that low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships. The child who could wait fifteen minutes had an S.A.T. score that was, on average, two hundred and ten points higher than that of the kid who could wait only thirty seconds.

QUESTION:

Psychologists assumed from their observations that the children’s ability to wait depended on how badly they wanted the marshmallow. But it soon became obvious that every child craved the extra treat. What, then, determined self-control? Mischel’s conclusion, based on hundreds of hours of observation, was that the crucial skill was the “strategic allocation of attention.” Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow—the “hot stimulus”—the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated—it was merely forgotten. “If you’re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you’re going to eat it,” Mischel says. “The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place.”

CONCLUSIONS:

In adults, this skill is often referred to as metacognition, or thinking about thinking, and it’s what allows people to outsmart their shortcomings. For example, when Odysseus had himself tied to the ship’s mast, he was using some of the skills of metacognition: knowing he wouldn’t be able to resist the Sirens’ song, he made it impossible to give in.

Mischel’s large data set from various studies allowed him to see that children with a more accurate understanding of the workings of self-control were better able to delay gratification. “What’s interesting about four-year-olds is that they’re just figuring out the rules of thinking,” Mischel says. “The kids who couldn’t delay would often have the rules backwards. They would think that the best way to resist the marshmallow is to stare right at it, to keep a close eye on the goal. But that’s a terrible idea. If you do that, you’re going to ring the bell before I leave the room.”

According to Mischel, this view of will power also helps explain why the marshmallow task is such a powerfully predictive test. “If you can deal with hot emotions, then you can study for the S.A.T. instead of watching television,” Mischel says. “And you can save more money for retirement. It’s not just about marshmallows.”

Mischel found a shortcut. When he and his colleagues taught children a simple set of mental tricks—such as pretending that the candy is only a picture, surrounded by an imaginary frame—he dramatically improved their self-control. The kids who hadn’t been able to wait sixty seconds could now wait fifteen minutes. “All I’ve done is give them some tips from their mental user manual,” Mischel says. “Once you realize that will power is just a matter of learning how to control your attention and thoughts, you can really begin to increase it.”

This information was taken from the following site where you can read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer?printable=true&currentPage=6#ixzz0fXCrbwh9

MY CONCLUSIONS:
Teaching Deferred Gratification to infants and toddlers gives them a promotion into their future. It prepares them for a lifetime of choices that determines their success. We cannot always have what we want when we want it. As Parents we have the advantage of teaching our sons and daughters character, focus, and self determination. If you want to see what happens to our children when we do not parent responsibly, go to your local mall any day after school. Sit down on a bench and observe the “wandering herd”, who all look alike because they lack character and have failed to delay their choices.

%d bloggers like this: