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Out With the Old and In With the New

As we bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new, let’s look ahead with optimism and determination. Now is the perfect time to acknowledge the challenges we’ve faced and express gratitude for our blessings.

Affliction and blessings are polar opposites. Or are they? Often unexpected misfortunes bring unexpected comfort. I am reminded of a series of articles Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg wrote for Southern Living following the devastating tornado that roared through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 27 April 2011. From What Stands in a Storm: When the Winds Died Down through Faith, Food, and Fellowship, the Alabama native writes of the devastation of “a gothic monster off the scale of our experience and even our imagination…killing hundreds, hurting thousands, even affecting, perhaps forever, how we look at the sky.”

In Faith, Food, and Fellowship, he shares his experiences of how survivors harnessed their resources to help each other. Families, friends, neighbors, even strangers, rallied to do whatever needed doing – from comforting, feeding, and housing to clearing debris and repairing roofs “because it looked like rain.” In his words, “there was no end to this generosity.”

I am reminded of the World War II admonition to Londoners living with the Blitz: Stay Calm. Carry On. Staying calm and carrying on, doing what needed to be done in the aftermath of death, injury, and massive destruction could not undo the affliction. Yet that coming together demonstrates how closely tied tragedy and blessings often are.

Among the oft repeated maxims I heard growing up, one stands out: “It could be worse.” I’ve learned that’s always true, whatever the problem. As we embark on a new year, let’s resolve to keep calm, carry on, and no matter how beset with problems we become, to acknowledge we’re fortunate even in our misfortunes. Likewise we must remember to be a blessing to the afflicted.

We wish you a new year filled with peace and beauty, joy and love.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Sharing Leisurely Meals & Lively Conversation

Spending time together playing board games can be an enjoyable way to create cherished memories. Another way is to make a leisurely meal time into a getting to know you better time. Granted those around the table are likely family and friends, but we can always learn something new about those nearest and dearest to us.

Getting to Know You Better

Begin by coming up with a list of questions. What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite book? and why? work for everyone. So does what’s your favorite food? What do you most like to do for fun?

Comparing Notes Across Generations

Other questions can include intergenerational explorations. Without a doubt, different generations will have different memories of common experiences. What was your first school like? What’s your fondest memory of school? I know how different the answers to these questions would be in my family. Our matriarch, my mother, is 90 years old and grew up on a farm in central Virginia. The great grandchildren likely would be amazed by her memories of the one room, rural schoolhouse she attended as a first grader: multi-age classmates, one teacher, a wood burning stove for heat, a common ladle for drinking water, and a wooden privy for “relieving one’s self.” There’s lots to learn when elders and youngsters get together and “compare notes.”

Travel Notes

Well traveled folks might pose questions around the theme of places they’ve been. What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from home? What place do you like best of all the places you’ve been? What place that you’ve never been would you most like to go? Why?

The beauty of this game is everyone is a winner. That are no right or wrong answers, and everyone gets to know each other better.

Our family enjoys the discussions that ensue from these random queries, and often one question is all we need to get a lively and far ranging conversation underway. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn and how relaxing and enjoyable the time spent in friendly chatter with family and friends can be.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Choosing Books for Toddlers (12-36 months)

Having explored play recommendations for infants, let’s look now at toddlers, starting with books and in subsequent posts looking at toys for the 12-36 month olds in our lives. Young children thrive on repetition and insist upon hearing their favorite books read over and over again.  After multiple hearings, most become so familiar with their most beloved ones that they become alert to skipped pages or missed words.

Choose Topics of  Interest 

Good books for younger toddlers include ones focusing on topics that interest them, such as animals, food, and faces with different expressions. You can include books with multiple images on a page, but those images should be visually simple. Ask your child to name objects on a page. If you are reading about animals, ask her to make animal sounds,

For older toddlers, good books are those with repetitive text that allows the child to “read” a story herself and ones that tell stories about familiar experiences such as going to the park or cooking. Other helpful books encourage skill building such as dressing, toileting, and sharing. This is an age when “do it myself” is a common refrain, and books showing children successfully doing everyday tasks re-enforce emerging skills.

Engage Your Child

Make story time a part of every day. Engage your child with the story by asking questions about happens next or how the characters are feeling. These questions develop sequential memory and invite exploration of feelings and how facial expressions reflect feelings. . Encourage your child to say familiar words and phrases that appear in the book.

Make Books

You can also make a book with photographs of your child to encourage language and social/emotional development. You can make a book about a daily activity such as going to day care and coming back home. Include photos of your child engaged in favorite activities at both places. Photos of favorite people at day care invite your child to share information and feelings about those with whom she spends her days, enhancing her language development and giving you a child’s perspective.

Document Experiences 

Documenting trips to visit grandparents with photos of these special people in their homes engaged in mutually delightful activities with your child also encourages language. Let the child describe the who, what, when, and where of the story the photo captures and write that down. This helps your child learn who’s who in her family, develop sequential memory, and capture those memories. Writing down what your child says and reading that back to her demonstrates the connection between spoken and written language.

Walk Down Memory Lane

Who doesn’t enjoy “walks down memory lane” that remind us of times spent with beloved extended family members? We have a snapshot of our son as a “beaming” preschooler decked out in a sailor suit, which he called a “tailor tuit.” He’s showing off a cake he and my mother baked and decorated with a picture of his “hero of the minute,” Popeye. At the time, that photo prompted him to tell a story. Three decades later, it invites us to pause, remember, and relive that special moment.

What books do you recommend for toddlers (and preschoolers for that matter)? Please let us know your absolute favorites. We’d like to compile a list to share with all our readers.

Adapted from TRUCE Guide on Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media, with permission from the Child Life Council.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Infant and Toddler Toys to Avoid: Beware of Branding

Our exploration of quality play started with Throw Away the Script and Engage the Imagination. Now TRUCE shares even more reasons we ought to avoid toys and other items based on TV shows…

Even though children want toys that are based on characters from TV shows or movies, these toys encourage consumerism, unhealthy food choices, and limit your child’s imagination.

Serena received a Baby Elmo stuffed animal as a baby gift and her parents had placed it in her crib where she had slept with it every night since. Now at age 18 months, when she and her mother are in the grocery store, and she sees Elmo’s face on a box of unhealthy snack food, she cries when her mother will not buy the product.

Toys, clothing and foods often use a TV character, like from Disney or Sesame Street, to capture young children’s attention. Why is this a problem? Whenever kids see it, they want it because it’s familiar. These kinds of licensing agreements, which support branding efforts, can lead to unwise buying choices, unhealthy eating habits and nagging.

to be continued next week…

With permission from the Child Life Council,  PlayopolisToys is pleased to share this most informative and thought provoking article with you, section by section. TRUCE Guide on Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media, reprinted from the Winter 2010 Child Life Council Bulletin.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play