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!

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!

Vacation Exploration: Star Projectors

shining-stars-kidAh, winter. It’s cold and dark out, yes. But one of the best parts of winter is the star gazing. The stars come out early enough for even your youngest children to observe…just make sure you bundle up when you go out to see them!

After you’ve stargazed a few times, and picked out a few constellations with your kids, you can bring the learning inside by creating your own constellation projectors. This activity is based on “Shining Stars” from Boston Children’s Museum’s Beyond the Chalkboard curriculum. Click here for those more detailed instructions. Constellations are pictures that people have imagined in the patterns of the stars, and they are familiar in some form or another to most children. Creating homemade projections of these constellations is a fun way to connect to astronomy at home. This activity is a good follow-up to Constellation Creation, posted on this blog earlier this week, and also from Beyond the Chalkboard.

Materials

  • Flashlights (see Preparation below for notes on these)
  • Paper cups (a few per child) (see Preparation)
  • A thumb tack, paper clip, sharp pencil, or wood skewer
  • Pen or thin marker

Preparation

Flashlights – The kind of flashlight you use for this activity is important. LED flashlights are preferred, but whatever kind you use, it is best if you can remove the reflector from the head of the flashlight. The reflector is the shiny, silver cone that lies just inside the lens, and the bulb of the flashlight typically shines inside it. Here’s what it looks like:

flashlight-reflector

Some LED flashlights make it impossible for you to remove the reflector, so check your flashlight before you start. Old school flashlights with removable bulbs almost always work, and are less expensive than LED lights, but are not as bright as LEDs.

Cups – the paper cups should fit over the lit end of your flashlight, and the flashlight should fit at least part of the way into the cup. It might be a good idea to have a few different sizes of cup available for testing.

Remove the reflectors from your flashlights, and make sure all of the flashlights are working.

Instructions

  1. Talk about constellations you know, or look some up online, or in a book. You could also try the Constellation Creation activity, posted earlier this week, before you make your fancy projectors.
  2. Look at the constellations you found, and choose one you like.
  3. Notice how a cup will fit over the flashlight, and turn the flashlight on with a cup on it. What do you notice? You should see the cup is all lit up. Poke a few holes in the bottom of a cup, then slide it on the lit-up end of the flashlight again. Turn off the lights, and point the flashlight (with the cup on it) at a wall. What do you notice? You should see a projection of the holes you made as points of light on the wall. If the holes look fuzzy, you may not have taken the reflector out (see above).
  4. Make some new cups with holes representing stars in a constellation.

You may notice that if you poked the holes going in from the bottom of the cups, so that the constellations look correct on the bottom of the cup, then they will look backwards when projected. Try either poking the holes in the correct configuration from inside the cup, or draw the constellation dots with a heavy, dark marker (like a Sharpie) on a piece of paper, flip the paper over, hold that paper over the bottom of the cup, and poke the holes of this backwards constellation through the cup. Your constellations should now project correctly.

Some children who have made these projectors have used black construction paper circles on the bottoms of the cups, before poking the holes. Some kids have trimmed long cups so that they were shorter and easier to handle. Some children have even decorated the outsides of their cups with themes that match their chosen constellations. What could you do?

Notes

  • Mag Lites are the best flashlights for this activity, as they are LED, bright, and have removable reflectors. The Mag Lite Mini LED 2-Cell AAA Flashlight is around $15, and the AA model is around $20. You can find Mag Lites at Amazon (click here for an example), Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc. You can try this activity with less expensive, incandescent bulb flashlights – just be certain the reflector is removable, and that your room is nice and dark to accommodate the dimmer lights.
  • Doing a simple image search for familiar constellations like Orion, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, and others will yield many results.

Continue reading

Vacation Exploration: Constellation Creation

constellation-creationConstellations are pictures that people have imagined in the patterns of the stars. They are now accepted scientific ways of organizing the night sky. This idea that a scientific model could begin with imagination might seem surprising, but should it be? Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He was pretty smart. This activity, based on “Constellation Creation” from Boston Children’s Museum’s Beyond the Chalkboard curriculum, invites you and your children to look at star patterns and imagine your own new constellations, while practicing STEM skills like observing, recognizing patterns and thinking creatively. This kind of creative activity encourages children to make personal connections to objects in the sky, and to seek out their new constellation when you look up together at the sky at night. Continue reading

Vacation Exploration: Grocery Store Gifts

grocery-store-gifts“I just want something interesting and educational….not just another piece of plastic.  You know?”

“I know they like to do art and science stuff…but the kits are expensive.”

“Help!  I need a present for my 4-year-old niece and I don’t have time to shop.”

These are all things I’ve heard lately as a parent and museum educator as we count down to the winter holidays. All of us have the best of intentions as gift-givers, but not necessarily the budget, time, or inspiration to back it up. The unlikely solution?  Your neighborhood grocery store.

As I strolled down the aisles of our local supermarket recently, I made up a game for myself:  how many cool art or science “preschool activity kits” could I put together using only items available at a typical grocery store?  I was thrilled to concoct several such kits in my head that I knew would thrill my own kids if they found them under the Christmas tree. Below are some of the winners. Notice my recurring suggestion of including a plastic tablecloth with each kit – it’s a lot easier to find time and space to do these activities in a busy household if you know that your table is protected and you can throw the whole work surface in the trash afterwards! Continue reading

Put Your Listening Ears On!

canon-1-aug-83When my older son was four, he begged for Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site at bedtime.

When he was five, it was Magic Treehouse.

But now that he’s six and just started first grade, he can read to himself, and there is a new treat he begs for…a science podcast for kids.  Yes, BEGS!  To the point that we have had to negotiate an allowance of two podcasts per week so that we’re still reading most nights.

A little background: I grew up on a farm in the landlocked Midwest and had vivid dreams of marine biology and ocean exploration.  I devoured all books on the subject that I could get my hands on (that list was short).  Now I’m raising kids in a world where we can watch (and have watched!) a documentary about giant squid tracking anytime we want.  A YouTube video of open heart surgery.  An app about human anatomy, or insect identification.  A live cam on the otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  An animation of primate evolution or chemical bonding.  Suffice to say this would’ve blown my 6-year-old mind.  The access to science and all its wonders is…limitless. 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!