Parenting Tips

If you find that you have to frequently have to postpone your time with your child, rethink your priorities and plan and come up with another plan that will work. Many parents of grown children will tell you that their great regret is that they didn't spend more time with their children when they were small. You’ll have to sacrifice other things to do it, and in the beginning you may feel it isn't the best use of you’re the best use of your time, but keep it up and you won’t be sorry. Every minute you give your child is an investment in the future. The rewards will last for eternity.

Being there for your child makes a great difference in his life, even when you don’t think you are doing a lot for him or accomplish much.

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn;

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight;

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be sharp;

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty;

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient;

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident;

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate;

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith;

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself;

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love and warmth. 

Some educational tips

Creativity is an alternative way of thinking, an outside-the-box approach to solving problems. A wider exposure beyond academics is necessary for learning. Learning music involves mastering the art of reading notes and applying them on a particular instrument. On its own, this develops the child’s brain areas involved in language and reasoning.

As children tap their creative abilities, their intelligence is triggered. This helps them ask questions and think about concepts introduced in class beyond what is taught by the teacher. Encourage curiosity, seeking answers and exploration. Value their ideas and opinions, and brainstorm with them. “One of the best ways parents can respond to a child’s question is by saying , I don’t know. What do you think? How could we find the answer?”

Ask your children to tell you stories. You can stimulate imaginative, independent thought by posing questions for alternative solutions. Keep the children away from the TV and computer for entertainment and instead give them books to read, simple games to play or handicraft projects to work on. Have quiet moments for reflection to give the mind extra space for inspiration.

Avoid discouraging phrases and negativity; judgmental comments discourage experimentation. As children grow in creativity, learning becomes an enjoyable experience. They are able to paly around wit the concepts and information they learn in school and apply them in real life and school becomes fun.

Experts believe that that in early formative years - all of pre-primary and most of primary- the goal is to foster social skills, creativity and problem solving that come with traditional peer interaction and play. You do not want stuff children with information. You want to spark curiosity, help children ask questions, understand and think about the world in their own way.

Happy parenting!

Mrs. Ruth Ndesandjo

Madari Kindergarten- Headmistress.

THE CHILD CENTERED KINDERGARTEN

Children of any age are learning in every waking moment. Education provided for children at any level simply serves to organize their learning into more well- defined paths, governed by the philosophical orientation of program planners and the quality of the program. Although broad variation in children’s abilities is evident, all children can learn.

Despite societal changes, kindergarten remains a place where children need a quality program in order to achieve their full potential.

Some parents have misconceptions about the goals of the kindergarten program and as a result, they focus on such cursory academic skills as counting and reciting the alphabet. Many people feel comfortable emphasizing such learning because it is easily measured. However, pushing children into academic areas too soon has a negative effect on learning.

The activity/experience-centered environment, which is essential if young children are to reach their maximum potential, provides for a far richer and more stimulating environment than one dominated by pencil-and-paper, teacher directed tasks. A well-designed kindergarten program capitalizes on the interest some children may show in learning academic skills. At the same time, it does not have that some expectation for all children; nor does it use up precious time to inculcate skills and knowledge for which children have no immediate use or real understanding. Learning to learn should be the emphasis in the early years.

A high-quality kindergarten program provides a strong foundation upon which children can build the skills, knowledge and attitudes towards schooling necessary for lifelong learning. An effective, individually and culturally developmentally appropriate kindergarten program:

  • Recognizes and accepts individual differences in children's growth patterns
  • Educates the whole child - physical, social, emotional, intellectual
  • Responds to the needs of children as developing, thinking individuals by focusing on the process of learning rather than on disparate skills, content and products
  • Provides multiple opportunities for learning relevant to children's experiential background.

The pressure for academic achievement, coupled with the mistaken idea that today's children have outgrown the need to play, has led to increased emphasis on "basic skills" in kindergarten. The principal source of development in the early years is play. The optimal development of young children is made possible through play. When viewed as a learning process, play becomes a vehicle for intellectual growth arid it continues to be the most vital avenue of learning for kindergarteners. Research indicates that academic gains from non-play approaches are not lasting. Play Involves not only use of materials and equipment, but also words and ideas that promote literacy and develop thinking skills.

In addition to the three R"s, play also promotes problem-solving, critical thinking, concept formation, and creativity skills. Social and emotional development also is enhanced through play. Teachers have the responsibility for providing the play opportunities in which children can consolidate and make personally meaningful the experiences they have had.

Many "how to" books for teachers are simply collections of reproducible worksheets that result in a pencil/paper curriculum. Such practices do not reflect what we know about how young children learn. Kindergarten programs must reflect developmentally appropriate practices that promote active learning and should match goals and content to the child's level of understanding.

Assigning primary and upper elementary teachers to the kindergarten is a questionable practice - many of these teachers have limited understanding of appropriate programs for preschoolers and operate under the false assumption that young children learn in the same way that older children do. Consequently, they use a "watered-down" primary curriculum, replete with workbooks, textbooks and one-dimensional tasks that can be readily evaluated.

Parents can show their support for their children's learning by helping with homework, reading to children, discussing the school day with the kindergarten child, informing teachers about home situations that may affect the child's behavior at school and paying attention to materials sent home. Teachers, administrators and parents must work together as advocates for child-centered kindergarten programs.

Reading is the backbone of any educational curriculum and the foundation of learning as well as a basic skill.

The world of language is entered at birth, the first utterance being the birth cry. The ability to distinguish human voices from other sounds quickly follows. The child’s early random utterances rapidly change to a more limited repertoire of those sounds which have been reinforced and gradually these are transformed into meaningful speech. The major difference between the acquisition of speech and that of reading is that reading involves print. The similarities offer many implications for reading instruction.

Proficient readers and listeners use an assortment of skills simultaneously. Good readers are constantly asking the question: “Does this make sense?” They bring to the printed page a set of mental ideas fashioned by their own personal background and experience. Reading is meaningful. Good teachers are not material bound or method bound. The role of schools and teachers is to make learning to read as effortless and enjoyable as possible.

Good readers are usually children who read and those who read generally become good readers. The role of the school and teachers is to provide a wide variety of literature for students at all levels. Time for self-selection and silent reading within the school day should be provided. Parents and students should make time for independent reading at home.

Reading instruction should be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of cognitive styles and learning rates, that no one method is equally appropriate for every child. Materials and activities should offer a broad range of approaches and allow for greater individualization.

Children learn best in an atmosphere where mistakes are not merely tolerated but accepted as a natural and necessary part of the developmental process of acquiring new skills. The current trend toward more and highly structured, formalized reading programs at the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten levels is a danger and can produce large numbers of confused, failure- oriented children. Early reading programs often employ methods and materials designed for use with more mature children; and tend to force all children into a single, regimented system of instruction.

The use of any single criterion for making important educational decisions is grossly unfair and spurious. Yet parents and teachers frequently overreact to the information gained from a single standardized test, viewing it as a summary of the child’s total educational effort. Children are often permanently labeled on the basis of one or two tests and retention and promotion may hang in the balance on the basis of a single test scare.

The school can help parents and caregivers be more aware of their roles as the child’s first and most important teachers of reading. They should know that reading development is fostered in the home when children are read aloud to on a frequent and systematic basis. Reading aloud to children helps promote vocabulary development, a sense of story, an understanding of the speech-print relationship and an interest in literature. Sharing literature aloud can and should continue as long as parent and child continue to share the many things they care about. Parents should also be aware of their influence as role models.

Adults who are readers themselves serve as positive reading models for child, If reading is important to those people the child loves and admires, then it Is likely to be important to the child. Homes where language is valued as unimportant means of sharing are homes where reading development is nurtured. In such homes, adults truly listen to what children have to say and spend time discussing topics of interest and concern to child. Language games, riddles and word play activities are valued forms of entertainment; limits for watching television have been agreed upon and adhered to. Parents should be encouraged to help children select books of interest to them. Gifts of books and magazine subscriptions will insure the child has a wide variety and abundance of literature from which to select.

Throughout the child’s schooling, the roles of parents and teachers frequently overlap: parents provide experiences that assist children in learning to read, and teachers often treat children with parental affection and encouragement. Both must work together toward the common goal of nurturing reading development in children.

The challenge to provide literacy for all children is one that must be met. It requires educators who will continue to seek instructional methods that work with large, diverse populations, while retaining the emphasis on individuality in learning. It requires parents who will conscientiously carry out their responsibility to nurture. And it requires a public that will be both constructive and supportive as it prods the schools to do an even better job.

PHYSICAL FITNESS LEADS TO BETTER GRADES

How well children perform in the classroom is determined by how physically active they are, says researchers. Exercise helps cognition by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Physical activity also reduces stress and improves moods, making children more likely to behave in the classroom.

Physically fit students are less likely to miss school, partake In risky behaviours, get pregnant or attempt suicide which are all associated with better outcomes in school Different factors that may influence student success In school are cognitive skills, attention or concentration In class, memory, verbal ability academic behaviours like conduct, attendance, time spent on a task, completion of homework and academic achievements like standardized test scores or grades and all these factors are influenced by the physical fitness and activity of the student.

Exercise benefits cognition through increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain which increases norepinephrine hormone levels and endorphin’s, these factors in the body lower a child's stress levels and improves their mood while increasing growth factors that help create new nerve cells and support synaptic plasticity.

Regular physical activity builds healthy bones and muscles, improves muscular strength and endurance, reduces the risk for developing chronic disease risk factors, improves self-esteem and reduces stress and anxiety says John Ndirangu, a pediatrician at Kenyatta Hospital, Nairobi.

Children who learn to participate in sport also learn to obey rules. This may mean they are more disciplined and able to concentrate better during lessons. Researchers say they have found strong evidence of a "significant positive relationship" between physical activity and academic performance.

Children should be active for at least one hour a day for health reasons but we also need to look at what bind of activities they should do and when they should do them and for how long. But the bottom line is that researchers have found strong evidence of a 'significant positive relationship' between physical activity and academic performance.

AN INSIGHT INTO OUR CURRENT EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

The education system we inherited and nurtured faithfully over the past five decades was designed to give Africans basic education and not tools and skills that enable critical thinking and problem solving. The goal was to produce literate but unthinking people to serve the colonial administration. It is not possible to deliver a critical mass of analytical minds and leaders of innovative solutions needed to realize the much-hyped Vision 2030 through the current education system.

A robust transformation of the educational culture must happen before homegrown Kenyan innovation, not imitation, can challenge the scientific and technological dominance of the West and increasingly, of the East. 

Education reform is needed to nurture a new generation of characteristics and abilities among young learners. Students at all levels should be taught using problem-based and enquiry- based learning. This approach will develop powers of investigation and critical thinking. Student grades should depend on active contribution during group-based learning and problem- solving sessions to change the focus from competitive examination to collaborative learning.

The key to reform in education is a curriculum that emancipates Kenyan children, liberates them to play, explore, experiment, discover, reflect and doubt - hence unleashing the full complement of human ingenuity and creative capacities of every sort, which must be the source of our collective resilience.

 MAKE TIME TO BE WITH YOUR KIDS

The greatest challenge of the urban working parent lies in striking the delicate balance between the roles of parenting and earning a living. To tackle this challenge you must decide what you want for you and your family. Acknowledging the huge demands bids place on parents we must remember that children's need for time is as great as that of bread on the table, clothes on their back and a roof over their head. 

Although supporting the family Is the main reason people seek employment, people also work for financial reward, personal success and social esteem. Regardless of why you go to work, children are the losers when both parents are out working and they should, therefore, be factored into work decisions.

The average dad spends just three minutes a day in quality conversation with his kids. The average mum does slightly better, knocking up five and a half minutes. By contrast, the average child spends three hours a day watching TV. So it doesn't take Einstein to work out who has the major influence on many kids' lives. School, music, magazines, computers, radio, books, advertising, videos, other adults, pressure groups and friends all form the constant barrage of views and values that your child sees and hears every single day. 

The point is that if you wish to shape your child's values you have no option but to strive to reclaim the space currently occupied by TV et al. The secret lies in being organized and recognizing the existing tension between work and family. Being organized means creating time to be with your children. 

Failing to keep your home commitments sends a clear and devastating message to your child - which they are simply not high enough on your list of priorities to matter.

How do you make your presence meaningful for the child? Can you, for instance, use TV viewing time as an opportunity to make your child a discerning media consumer?

No child asks to be born; it is therefore wise for prospective parents to reflect on how much time they are ready to put into child upbringing.

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