Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Can we influence children's eating habits by what we say to them?

As parents and caregivers, we want our children to eat healthful foods and be in the habit of doing so all the time. We try our best to motivate them to eat. We give them rewards when they finish their food, we talk to them about the health benefits of good food, we set up a good example by eating the right foods ourselves, etc., but do these sincere efforts really work? If not, then what really works?

If you said to the children that eating ice-cream and chocolate is good for them, will they really look forward to eating it as much as they do because you stop them from eating too much of it? On the contrary, will the children eat peas and broccoli more willingly if you focus on their taste and texture rather than the health benefits associated with them?

Follow the link below to read an eye-opening research article published by the University of Chicago about what really works towards imbibing healthy food habits in children. This article confirms the fact that the psyche of the child has a big role to play in all the aspects of child development.


I am using the strategy stated in the article with my own daughter and, slowly but surely, it seems to be working.  Do share your thoughts and your success stories so that we can all learn from each other's experiences.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

External rewards cripple your child! Shy away from stickers and stars...

Giving rewards to children for getting them to do good work has a very short- term effect on their performance. When you attach a reward to a task, the ‘feel good’ factor of the completion of the task per se gets lost. Also, the children don’t get ‘intrinsically motivated’ to do the task, which in turn goes against their inclination to be independent and lifelong learners.

The novelty of getting a sticker, a treat, T.V. time or the like, makes the children dependent on an external agent to motivate them at all times. Compare the two scenarios… in the first instance, the teacher/parent gives a writing assignment to the children and says, ‘If you finish this on time, you will earn a star’. The children will do the task to earn the reward and not because they want to and feel like writing a good essay. In the second instance, a teacher/ parent gives a writing assignment to the children and lets them do their best. When they are done, s/he gives feedback to the children regarding their work and offers specific and ‘genuine’ praises and appreciation for their work, for example, ‘I like the way you have started the introductory paragraph’, ‘this reminds me of the time when I was traveling’, ‘I like how you used a different word for happy’, etc. or reads their essay out loud to the class and then puts it up on the board. Statements like these are motivators and have better and longer lasting effects on children's future performance. 

Once you have motivated the children from within to yield good work in this manner, you will see that you have not only made so many things easier for yourself but also have given them the wings to achieve greater heights. Think about it yourself, wouldn't you rather be genuinely appreciated than be superficially rewarded for your performance? What would work better on your psyche?

For further reading:

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Calendar

Just like the world map and the number grid, which you could  display in your child’s room or the classroom for meaningful and contextual learning, you could put up a small calendar somewhere too. There are many printable templates available online or better yet you could take a blank sheet of A4 or A3 sized paper (depending on your child’s age) and make a grid on it. In fact it’s better you make it yourself as you can have your child practice drawing out the columns and rows and a lot of thinking goes into it in terms of how many lines will be needed and how you will organize the space on the paper. For the first few turns, display how you make straight lines and as the child understands and is ready to give it a try, allow her to draw it out herself.

Once you have the grid, mark the year, month, the days of the week and the dates. Do it in front of your child, say out the words clearly and keep giving her information like ‘There are 7 days in a week’, ‘We are in the month of October now’, ‘This year is 2014’, ‘Daddy’s birthday is in this month’, ‘This month has 31 days’, etc. As your child learns how to write the numbers and a few words, have her draw/write down important events of the days, mark the weather for each day, her feelings etc.

The calendar not only serves as a good record of happenings and upcoming events of the month but is also packed with literacy and numeracy skills. For example, when you write down ‘dad’s birthday’ and draw a little picture of a cake next to it, your child will develop picture-word association and in turn will be learning some important decoding skills of reading. Similarly, when she attempts to ‘write’ words like ‘sunny’, ‘rainy’, ‘happy’, ‘sad’ she will be learning/ practicing encoding skills.

The child exercises her Math skills by counting the days up to an event, keeping a track of yesterday, today and tomorrow, writing numbers, estimating how many lines she will need to make the grid, etc.

Motivation will be high for this activity as it is real and personal to the child. It also puts her in the habit of keeping a track of her routine and remembering important events.

Monday, 1 September 2014

A kick-start to Vocabulary Development

When children are young, their mind is like a sponge that soaks in different things from the environment. It is very important for them to hear the words for the things that are all around them. Right from the beginning, talk as much as you can to your children. Take them with you to the grocery store, marketplace, bank, garden, library, and all the other places you can think of! Talk to them about what you are seeing and what is happening even if you feel it’s not their time to learn about these things or it would be too hard or irrelevant for them. For example, when you are walking through a garden, talk to them about different flowers, parts of a plant, what a plant needs, insects you might spot, the gardener and his tools and so on and so forth. By doing so you can be assured that you have made a good start towards your child’s vocabulary development.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Reflection from the Classroom: A simple strategy for motivating students to write

Today when I was working with 8 to 9 years olds, I realized that a simple variation of your lesson plan could go a long way in keeping the interest and motivation high of your children/students.
I was planning on giving a topic for an essay to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students. These students have not mastered English as a language and often struggle and shut themselves up from writing assignments. I started out by saying let’s come up with a topic that you want to write about. There were several suggestions. Then I realized that everyone had her/his own interest and choosing one topic was not going to make everyone happy. So I let them all choose their own topic. It was such a delight to see them entirely engaged and motivated- each student was doing her/his best!

I am not saying that children should be allowed to pick their own topic every time but I think we can balance it out. It will go a long way in maintaining their interest in writing. When the children are engaged they pick up skills much faster.

Friday, 25 July 2014

S/he Doesn't Pay Attention!

You may have heard from your child’s teachers- ‘she doesn’t pay attention’, ‘she can’t finish her work’ or you may have heard your child say- ‘I am bored in class’. Attention is something that should naturally come about as the child grows older. However, many a time due to various reasons a child develops ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This causes academic failure and social incompetence in classroom setting. Nowadays we come across many cases of children that have developed or are developing this disorder, one of the reasons being overuse of electronic gadgets.

The good news is that you can do several things from your end to ward off the possibility of AD/HD. Here are a few simple strategies to help keep your child’s attention levels appropriate:

1.     Curb the use of electronics like tablets (I-pad etc.), smartphones and games (X-Box etc.)
2.     Reduce television time especially cartoons
3.     Balance the day out between physical activities and sitting down activities
4.     Play board games like Pictureka, Pictionary, Monopoly, Taboo, Cards, Uno, Memory game and Battleship
5.     Play physical games and sports like Twister, Simon Says, badminton, tennis, soccer and cricket
6.     Give them activity books which have spot the differences, mazes, word searches, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, match the pictures, odd one out, hidden pictures, etc. You can also print them out from the internet; find them using the above keywords
7.     Give them puzzles- increase the number of pieces as her attention span and ability increase
8.     Read to/with them- it is good for everything!
9.     Make time for art and craft (refer to my post on creativity kit)
10.  All the activities that enhance fine motor skills also enhance attention as the child needs to focus when he manipulates objects (refer to my post on poor handwriting)
11.  Yoga and meditation

12.  Provide emotional support and empathize with your child- it will work wonders

If you have any more ideas please post on this page. When you share, you care!