Lunch and Learn: Changing the Channel on Children’s Media

It’s official—the digital age is getting younger.

This revelation is far from shocking. After all, iPhones have long been parents’ last line of defense against restless toddlers to the point where big-name companies like Fisher Price and LeapFrog now offer their own replicas. According to a recent study by Common Sense Media, kids as young as two are already clocking in an average of two and a half hours of daily screen time. But amid this ever-shifting technological landscape, how can parents hope to keep up? What steps can we take to ensure today’s media trends do not become tomorrow’s pre-programmed addictions?

Enter Dr. Seeta Pai. Executive Director of Education at WGBH and former Vice President at Common Sense Media, Dr. Pai has devoted her extensive research career to exploring children’s use of technology. Boston Children’s Museum is pleased to welcome Dr. Pai for Children and Media Usage: Trends and Tips, a special Lunch & Learn event, designed to help families navigate the pitfalls of adolescence and offer advice from leading experts in the field.

Join us November 2nd to hear Dr. Pai share her knowledge and convene a conversation around concerns and best practices for digital media with young children.

In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, the Statue of Liberty Weeps

Posted by Nirav Dagli, Chairman, Board of Trustees and Carole Charnow, President & CEO Boston Children’s Museum

Throughout its history, our nation has not only persevered in the face of challenges, but in most cases has triumphed over them. From the revolution for independence, to the Civil War, to the two world wars, and to the struggle for civil rights for all, we have often waved the torch of the American faith in individual freedom as a beacon to the world. We have prevailed over many threats to our democracy and having been the singular super power for the past twenty-eight years, the United States has used its power on many occasions to help those in need around the globe.

Hence it is shocking to see scenes of hundreds and hundreds of children inhumanely separated from their parents and held in detention centers at our borders – scenes that were historically witnessed in particularly cruel dictatorial regimes elsewhere in the world that we fought and overcame. Is this the same America that has led the world in achieving many rights and freedoms of the individual for the last hundred years?

We are a nation of immigrants. In 1774, Thomas Jefferson said: “Our ancestors… possessed a right, which nature has given to all men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice, has placed them, of going in quest of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as, to them, shall seem most likely to promote public happiness.”

The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness applies to all.  Almost every one of us is here because of the words on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty “Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Regardless of the challenges and the need to protect and support the physical and economic security of all Americans, the recent enforcement undertaken by the current administration is nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment. This lowers our esteem in the eyes of not only the families who are the target of this unnecessary action, but also our allies, and distressingly, our own.

Boston Children’s Museum stands resolute in its support for the well-being of ALL children in the United States and around the globe. We unanimously reject inhumane treatment of any person anywhere. We welcome the involvement of all cultural and educational institutions, businesses and citizens to implore and demand that our lawmakers act immediately to reverse the current injustice.

If we do not act now to end this crisis, the next time we look in the mirror or in the reflection of our children’s eyes, will we see someone who rightfully belongs in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?”

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Happy Healthy Helpful Halloween

It’s October and that means Halloween – costumes, candy, pumpkins, parties. It can be an exciting time for families to play together and be creative. It can also be stressful, balancing expectations, deciding on costumes, and maintaining a healthy diet. Two previous posts on the Power of Play blog offer thoughtful tips for navigating the Halloween season and are worth a first read, or a second look.

Happy Healthy Halloween by Saki Iwamoto suggests ways to turn Halloween challenges into fun learning opportunities.

Note: In 2017, we will celebrate Halloween in simple ways at Boston Children’s Museum, starting with a Monster Mash KidsJam dance party on Friday October 27, and continuing with activities such as mask making and pumpkin explorations through October 31.

Indigenous Halloween Costumes: Empowering or Problematic written by Sara Tess Neumann and Meghan Evans tackles the complicated topic of costumes and cultural respect.

Note: The Native Voices traveling exhibit referred to in this post is no longer at Boston Children’s Museum.

Happy Halloween!

Say Hello to Unruly Studios!

You may have jumped, stepped on or whacked some moles on the Unruly Splats, the first product being released by Unruly Studios, at the Boston or New York Maker Faire in September 2017. If not, don’t worry! Unruly Studios will be camping out of the Boston Children’s Museum as part of the Museum’s Tech Kitchen programming.

Unruly Studios creates interactive games to empower kids with critical STEM skills while combining active learning, physical play, intellectual stimulation and social engagement. Unruly Splats, their first product, is the first ever educational technology product that teaches STEM skills through active learning, physical play, intellectual stimulation and social engagement.

This is the product we all have been waiting for! Understanding the importance of physical activity and social interaction for child development while also being mindful of the need of 21st century technical STEM skills, Unruly Spats blurs the line between physical activity and learning STEM. Now, you are no longer the bad cop pulling your kid away from the screen – this product will do it for you. Once the kids ideate new games, they can code these games on tablet or smartphone by changing the lights, sounds, and sensing of the Splats and that is when the fun begins! Once the game is coded, kids leave the screen aside and physically play the games they created with their siblings, friends, parents or even by themselves. They may always go back and change the code of the games and learn through the process of doing. By stimulating creative problem solving and intellectual thinking, Unruly Splats is the one to look out for!

Tech Kitchen at the Boston Children’s Museum provides a perfect platform for companies like Unruly Studios to create their own game zone to prototype, and test with millions of kids and fans of the Boston Children’s Museum. There is no better way to learn than by prototyping, testing and iterating. And that happens to be what Unruly Studios teaches kids to do through their product.

Come check Unruly Studios and many other companies that are part of the Tech Kitchen at the Boston Children’s Museum, from iRobot to Bose. Unruly Studios has a Kickstarter campaign live starting October 3 for 30 days where you can pre-order Unruly Splats for your home, school, library, or after-school program.

 

Dress to Express

Take a velvet robe, add a football helmet, or a floppy summer hat and let your imagination soar. Dress up and role playing fosters creativity and empathy and helps children grow physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually.

Physical Development

First you’ve got to get the costume on. Dressing up is a chance for young children to practice basic skills like pulling arms through sleeves and slipping shoes onto feet. Buttoning a button and tying a belt require fine motor skills.  Strutting around pretending to be a king, twirling like a dancer, and crawling like a cat, develop muscles and balance.

Social and Emotional Development

Continue reading

Healthy Food Fun at Fresh Fridays!

Do you like eating fresh fruits and vegetables?  If you do, that’s great, but don’t worry even if fruits and vegetables are not your or your child’s favorite. There are many ways to interact with fresh produce beyond just eating it!

Last Friday, July 7, 2017, Boston Children’s Museum hosted the opening event of Fresh Fridays, partnering with Boston Public Market and supported by Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare Foundation. Fresh Fridays came out of our collaborative wish to help children and families enjoy more fresh local produce and have a more enjoyable time with food. For the young children to be more interested in fruits and vegetables as well as healthy eating in general, we wanted to create a program in which everyone feels safe and can have fun together from a variety of angles beyond just preaching, “eat your vegetables”. Many experts suggest that having early, positive experiences around food as a family can help children develop more curiosity about food and the willingness to try new food. With this philosophy in mind, we developed a series of activities representing the ideas of “shopping together,” “cooking together,” and “eating together.’ Continue reading

How to Feed Picky Eaters?

Boston Children’s Museum’s Tasty Tuesday program happens every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. During Tasty Tuesday, children and their grown-ups can sit together, eat yummy, healthy snacks, and read a story! Although Tasty Tuesday is a casual, fun circle time for the very little ones, it’s packed with a lot of tips and hints that help foster healthy social emotional development of infants and toddlers. While the children are having fun, adults can also get helpful tip sheets. This month, we are talking about picky eating, which is very common among young children.

Join us in PlaySpace and share your own experience in helping children eat all their healthful food!

  1. Do not stress.

Yes, children should be eating a lot of different kinds of food. However, if meal time is stressful, children get less and less interested in eating. Even if your child does not eat what you serve, do not bribe or force your child to eat it. Just say, “Not a big deal,” and you can try again some other time. It might just take several attempts until your child gets familiar with the food. Continue reading

Sleep Hygiene

This blog post is written by our Health and Wellness intern, Alexa Curtiss. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life.

From difficulty falling asleep at night, to troubles sleeping through the night, even to the emergence of nightmares. There are so many questions regarding a child’s sleep as they develop during the first few years. Because the topic of helping children sleep is so popular, I decided to write about a few suggestions that may help with various sleep troubles. Try out any of these suggestions for a few nights and see how it goes!

  1. Cool, dark, quiet rooms help children sleep.

Cool, dark, and quiet rooms can help children get optimal sleep. Being too warm can cause children to be uncomfortable and therefore cause tossing and turning. This is why a cooler room can help them get better sleep. Too much light in a room while a child is trying to sleep can cause the brain to become stimulated, as if it was daytime, meaning the child might have a hard time sleeping or getting restful sleep. The same goes for noise either in the room or around the room the child is trying to sleep in. A white noise machine can be helpful if there is unavoidable noise outside or nearby. You can set a white noise machine to run quietly to mask some of the extraneous noise. While white noise machines can be very useful, young children’s ears are very vulnerable, so it is recommended to use machines that specify on the product information that they do not exceed 50 dBA (decibels) and to keep the device at least seven feet from the child.

  1. Routines before bedtime.

If your child is having a hard time settling down at bedtime, you can try creating a nightly routine of several things you do in a certain order before bedtime. Having a routine like this can help signal to your child and their brain that it is time to start winding down. An example of a routine could be: bath time, pajamas, brush teeth, read a book, sing a song, lights off, two minutes of rubbing the child’s back while they lay in bed.

  1. Nightmares.

If your child starts having nightmares, first, it is important to know that it is common for children to start to have occasional nightmares especially as they start to have a real sense of imagination but are not yet capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. There are many ways to help your child following a nightmare. One example for helping your child is going into their room if they call out for you. Stay long enough to help them calm down, provide them with a comfort item (favorite stuffed animal, blanket, etc.), and then slowly leave the room. In some cases, it can be helpful to speak to your child about a time in which they feel comfortable with you coming back to check on them, for example, agreeing to come back to check on them in an hour (quietly, so if they are asleep, they are not woken), as this can give them a greater sense of security.

Bring your snacks to Tasty Tuesdays and share your strategies of helping your child get a better sleep!

The Benefits of Yoga for Children

When you hear about yoga classes for children you may be a bit skeptical. You may find yourself thinking, why? Why should my child do yoga? Won’t that be too hard for a child to understand and physically do? How would it help them? Isn’t yoga linked to religion? Why should my child do yoga when they can do other activities like riding their bike, running, sports like soccer and playing games like tag?

Whether you practice yoga or not, you most likely have heard about the benefits it provides. Practicing yoga is known to help reduce stress, promote calm and positive emotions, as well as increasing balance, strength and overall health. One of the great things about yoga is that the benefits it provides are for everyone, regardless of age. Anyone from children to grandparents can participate in and benefit from yoga.

To give you a brief history, Continue reading

Encouraging Kindness

milk bottle 2bThis month’s blog post is written by Boston Children’s Museum’s Health and Wellness intern, Marissa Veilleux. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life. Marissa is helping provide various health programs in the Museum, and she is passionate about helping our visitors learn about caring about themselves and others.

This semester I had the opportunity to design and run this year’s “Message in a Milk Bottle” project entitled Be Kind, Spread Love. I traveled to local area hospitals and schools where we created heart-shaped suncatchers and discussed love and kindness, and then transported these beautiful suncatchers to Boston Children’s Museum and hung in a window for all to see.
Visitors then had the opportunity to create their own suncatchers and add to them to this display, creating a united window of suncatcher hearts.

kindness b

But kindness cannot be taught in one day. There are many opportunities in your day to day life where you can teach kindness to your child, especially by modeling it for them every day.

Children are constantly told to be nice to others. But what does that really mean? Here are four ways to teach your child kindness during your daily tasks.

milk bottle 1b
Let’s work together.

Ask children for help with projects, like cooking in the kitchen. Ask them what they would like to do to help. When taking a walk, suggest that they pick flowers to give to someone to brighten their day. This can be used as an opportunity to talk about kindness. You can work as a team to do things like cleaning up toys. You can say, “You pick up three and I will pick up three”. Follow that with, “You picked up your toy. Thank you. That was helpful.”

Use your manners.

Walk the walk, and talk the talk. Model good behavior by saying please and thank you or no thank you to the cashier at the grocery store or to a server at a restaurant. Children learn through others. You can praise your child’s kindness by describing your child’s action and stating how their contribution benefited others. For example, “Thank you for giving your sister a toy. That was thoughtful.”

Use kind words and smile.

It is important for your children to learn to compliment people by using kind words. You can say things to your own child like, “I love the red blocks you used to make that house.” as a way of giving them an example of a compliment that they might share with their friends. You can also ask your child what they like about something. For example, “What is your favorite part of this picture you colored? My favorite part is the blue clouds.” This will teach your child a nice way of paying compliments. Smile and laugh with your child. Happiness and kindness is contagious.

It’s not just about being kind to people.

Teach respect for the earth by discussing environmental kindness, such as throwing trash in the garbage and not littering. Have your child collect cans from home and bring them to recycle at your local supermarket. Being kind to our environment in turn teaches your children to be kind to others too.

Join us for Tasty Tuesday on 1st and 3rd Tuesdays with your snacks and share your ideas of how we can help children learn kindness!