How Reading Aloud With Your Child Helps Their Learning Development

Guest Post Contributed by: Andrea Gibbs

Helping your child develop their reading skills may seem to be a difficult task, especially when your child is very young. However, it may be easier than you think. Reading aloud to your child helps them to learn the proper skills to make reading on their own later a calming, relaxing, and fun activity. 

A child’s literacy journey begins when they first hear the rhythmic cadences of language. This is why reading aloud to your child is so important: It helps them develop their literacy skills by exposing them to both simple and complex sentence structures, expressive intonation, and a wide range of vocabulary. This greatly prepares children for their future when they are ready to read and understand more difficult stories on their own.

You may wonder how else reading to your child is benefits them. Research demonstrates countless ways, including improving literacy and even strengthening the bond between children and their caregivers.

Image: Pexels.com

Improves Their Literacy and Reading Skills

Reading aloud with your child is an excellent way to help them develop their literacy and reading skills. When you read aloud to your child, you are helping them learn how to take in new information from written text. Hearing the sounds of words helps children develop their phonemic awareness, which is the ability to listen to and differentiate between sounds in words. This is an important skill for learning how to read and write.

Reading aloud improves your child’s receptive language skills (the ability to understand what they are reading) and expressive language skills (the ability to express themselves verbally). Reading aloud with your child exposes them to speaking in complete sentences and using higher-level vocabulary.

When you read aloud with your child regularly, they will also increase their attention span and memory retention skills!

Enhances Their Language Proficiency

Reading aloud with your child helps their language proficiency, which is a key indicator of future academic success. Children learn new words and language patterns through reading, which allows them to develop a strong grasp of grammar and word usage.

In addition, reading aloud has been shown to increase vocabulary in children significantly. Reading 20 minutes per day exposes children to 1.8 million words over the course of one year, and reading for five minutes per day exposes children to a little fewer than 300,000 words in a year.

Strengthens Parent-Child Relationships

Having a good parent-child relationship can start with reading aloud to your child. When you and your child share a book, you create an opportunity for bonding and connection. Reading aloud also helps children feel more relaxed and safe with their parents. The love and warmth that comes through in a reading session encourage children to trust and open up to those they love most.

In addition to strengthening your bond with your child, reading aloud can also help children develop their own sense of self-worth. Kids can learn resilience in the face of adversity by reading stories about children who have overcome obstacles or have been mistreated by others.

Improves Concentration and Discipline

With the help of reading aloud, your child will develop better concentration and discipline.

You can teach your child to focus and increase their attention span by reading aloud to them. They’ll learn to control their emotions and focus on the objective, whether reading a book or doing homework. Be persistent. If you have an energetic toddler who doesn’t sit still, don’t give up on reading to them. Try to find a calm moment in the day—like when they are eating lunch or just before bed—and even if they wiggle, keep reading.

You may find your child becoming (just a little) more patient and disciplined as they learn to sit, listen, and anticipate what might happen next in a story.

Boosts Academic Performance

Reading aloud with your child is one of the good ways to help them succeed in school. It boosts their academic performance, helps them improve their vocabulary, and helps them develop critical thinking skills. Studies have shown that children who read aloud score higher on standardized tests than those who don’t.

Through reading and exposure to the written word, children can broaden their world view, which will help them better absorb new information in history and science classes. They will learn empathy, which will help them connect to their peers and work well in groups. Also, good writers are almost always avid readers, so keep reading to develop your child’s writing skills too!

Expands Their Imagination

One of the most important things you can do for your child is to help them expand their imagination. Reading aloud can do that in a number of ways.

First, it gives them access to new worlds and ideas. The more you read aloud, the more your kids will be exposed to new concepts and ideas, which can help them grow as learners and thinkers.

Second, reading allows kids to explore characters they might not meet in real life—like an astronaut or a cowboy! You might even see your child engaging in pretend play using some of the characters or roles they’ve encountered during story time.

Thirdly, reading aloud helps your child’s imagination grow by allowing them to create pictures in their minds based on the words you’re reading out loud. You can even ask your children questions to see if they are understanding if you think something might be confusing for them—this will help them connect with what they’re reading so much more than simply listening passively.

Maintains a Healthy Brain

Reading aloud to your child is a great way to help them develop their learning. It can also help them maintain a healthy brain.

Reading aloud helps the brain develop as physical activity does for the body. It builds connections between neurons and helps them grow stronger and more numerous.

When you read aloud, you’re giving your child a chance to practice their listening skills, which will help them learn to focus on what they’re doing and tune out other noises around them (like siblings).

Reading aloud helps develop a child’s imagination by allowing them to travel into worlds they’ve never seen before or re-live experiences they’ve had in the past through different characters’ eyes.

Provides Them with Entertainment

Reading aloud with your child will give them a way to enjoy something that you might enjoy as well. It’s a chance for you to share a mutual passion—whether it’s enjoying certain types of narratives, exploring nonfiction topics that interest you both, or taking a journey into the past with historical figures.

Regardless of the theme, children can become enthralled with books when you read aloud, and they can develop a passion for books and reading that can follow them far into the future and bring them joy throughout their lives.

Conclusion

The benefits of reading aloud to your child are endless. It sparks the imagination, which ignites the passion for learning, connecting with others, and opening up the world in front of them. Helping your child develop a love of reading and books is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child and one of the longest-lasting impacts you can have.

Author Bio

Andrea is currently the head of content management at SpringHive Web Design Company. This digital agency provides creative web design, social media marketing, email marketing, and search engine optimization services to small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also a blog contributor at Baby Steps Preschool, writing storytime themes, parenting tips, and seasonal activities to entertain children.



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Extracurricular Activities for Kids: How Much Is Too Much?

The benefits of extracurricular activities are plentiful, but we’ve also likely encountered warnings about the dangers of overscheduling your child.

As we begin to head into a new school year, we may be scanning long lists of extracurricular activities for kids available at school and in our community. Whether your child is begging to participate in 10 different activities or apathetically shrugging at the list and shaking their head at all of your suggestions, we as parents may feel unsure just what is the right approach to extracurriculars, and how much is too much?

Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

In general, extracurricular activities benefit children socially, emotionally, and academically. Children who participate in activities outside of school are reported to have higher self-esteem, improved verbal and math skills, a greater “sense of purpose,” and lower rates of drug and alcohol use (with the exception, unfortunately, of high school athletes), according to research from Child Trends.

Child Trends reports, in fact, that an absence of extracurricular activities for at-risk youth has been linked with lower academic performance, higher likelihood of not finishing high school, and higher rates of obesity.

After spending a day participating in obligatory academic training in a classroom setting at school, extracurricular activities can offer children a place to pursue passion-based learning. Children often get the chance to interact with both adults and children who share a passion, allowing them a chance to form social bonds. They also have the unique opportunity to try “playing the whole game at the junior level,” as David Perkins, Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calls it.

For example, participating in a theatre program allows children to witness and take part in everything from set design to acting and directing. They see the process of a performance through from start to finish. In contrast, in the classroom, they often only see a slice of a particular skill – how to deal with variables in algebra on paper but now how to apply this to coding to create a video game or new software, for example.

Effects of Overscheduling a Child

While we rush to sign children up for activities that help the stay active, unleash their creativity, give them an academic edge, build their resume for college and more, we may find ourselves and perhaps our children starting to feel frazzled.

To put it bluntly, “As much as we would like to keep our children active and engaged, overscheduling is simply not good for them or parents,” according to Josh Klapow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

He warns that overscheduled families spend less time together and tend to be on edge. He suggests families look out for symptoms of overscheduling that might include tiredness, irritability, academic struggles, and even physical symptoms of stress such as headaches and stomachaches.

Particularly for younger children, remember that play is essential to their development. Young children gain crucial social and problem-solving skills through play, and learning through play is more effective than learning through worksheets and flash cards for young minds.

Is My Child Overscheduled?

If extracurricular activities are beneficial, but too many structured activities offer a downside, where do we draw the line? With all the warnings against overscheduling our kids, that line may actually be farther out than you think.

Up to 20 hours per week of extracurricular activities is acceptable, according to research from Child Trends, which reports “academic performance and emotional stability levels off or declines after extracurricular involvement beyond twenty hours per week.”

Now, families with more than one child especially might scoff at the idea of 20 hours per week of activities per child, and I don’t blame them. Child Trends found that among children who participate in any extracurricular activities, the average is about 10 hours per week, which seems much more doable to me.

With this in mind, Child Trends classifies only between three and six kids out of 100 as “overscheduled.”

Of course, these are benchmarks and generalizations. They are helpful as broader guidelines, but each family and each child will have their own limits on how much stimulation and structure they can handle.

What About Underscheduled Kids?

Overall, about 60% of children and adolescents participate in organized activities outside of school. That means the other 40% are not participating in any extracurricular activities after school. According to Child Trends, this group of students is worthy of our attention.

“The research illustrating the positive outcomes of participation in organized out-of-school activities tells us that we should direct our focus not to the few children and youth who are over-scheduled, but rather to those who do not participate at all,” they report.

Beyond encouraging our own sons and daughters to pursue their particular interests outside of school, perhaps we can reach out to other children. Sponsoring a child or helping to set up scholarships for children who do not have the resources to participate can go a long way in helping at-risk children and children from low-income households secure a brighter future and more pleasant present. Even offering rides to the child of a parent who has trouble accommodating extracurricular activities because of busy work schedules or multiple siblings can be a way to help a child pursue their interest and gain the social and academic benefits of their peers.

Fun Activities to Teach Your Kids Sustainability This Summer

(Photo from Pexels)

Guest Post Contributed by: Andrea Gibbs

The summer is a time for fun, adventure, and learning. As parents, we want our children to be able to explore the world around them, discover different cultures, learn life lessons, and have fun with their friends. We also want them to understand that they are a part of this world and need to care for it. The best way to teach your kids these ideas is through activities you can do together as a family.

Here are some activities that will help easily teach your kids sustainability.

Encourage a Connection with Nature.

When it comes to nature, never underestimate the power of play. Your kids will spend a lot of time outdoors this summer, so take time to get them in touch with nature regularly. 

One of the best ways to help your kids connect with nature is through first-hand experience. If you already have a garden, get the kids involved in planting seeds to help them understand how plants grow over time. Furthermore, you can choose flowers that bloom at different times of the year so they can watch them grow throughout the summer. It is much easier to teach them about the environment when they understand that they are a part of it.

Make Your Home More Green.

As parents, we should strive to make our homes as green as possible. There are many little things you can do to help make your home more sustainable, and it doesn’t take much effort. Start by switching out traditional lightbulbs one at a time and replacing them with longer-lasting more energy-efficient bulbs. Look for the Energy Star label on the box to verify that it meets the standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Opt for clothing with natural fibers, which won’t release micro-plastics into the water. Look for eco-friendly laundry detergents, and wash clothes in cold water instead of warm. Washing in cold water helps clothes last longer, uses less energy, and helps prevent synthetic fibers from braking down during the washing cycle and releasing small particles of plastic into the water supply. Lastly, introduce your kids to natural cleaners and fixatives to help keep dust from accumulating in your home.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Teach kids about the importance of recycling and how to properly dispose of trash. It will help give them the idea of sharing and caring for their belongings, which is essential for being eco-friendly. Ask them to donate items they no longer need to charity.

Shop for household items with your children, and seek out environmentally friendly items and packaging.

Teach Your Kids About Global Warming.

Talk to your kids about global warming and how they can help. As you talk about global warming and how it will affect them later on, explain what they can do now to slow down the process and prevent further destruction to our planet.

Kids must know how to be environmentally conscious because this will benefit them in the future. Let them know that they are the future of our planet and that whatever they do now will affect the environment in the future.

Plant a Garden and Play Outside.

Flowers are also a great way to teach your kids about nature. You can help them understand how important it is for them to help keep the world around them clean and safe by asking them to plant flowers that don’t need much water and are low maintenance. 

If you are not sure what kind of flowers you should be looking for, check out the natural environment around you to get some ideas. You can also ask your local plant nursery for ideas.

Lastly, spend time playing with your children outdoors this summer. It’s an excellent opportunity for you to show them how you can reduce your environmental footprint without compromising the fun you have each day. It teaches them how to be happy with less, which is something that will benefit them their entire lives. You will be surprised at how much your child will learn from being exposed to nature from an early age.

Shop Local.

Shop local whenever you can and visit your local farmers’ markets. That will encourage more people to buy locally and help support small farms, which is essential for sustainability. You’ll have the opportunity to get to know your neighbors and help out by buying goods from them. Become an advocate for reducing your carbon footprint. 

Explain to your kids why it’s important and how they can help by asking them questions about it.

Also, tell them about all the great things about being eco-friendly. For example, if you purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables, you will be able to support local farmers and reduce emissions associated with transporting food. It will help reduce global warming by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. 

Talk About Saving Water.

When you’re outside, please talk with your kids about how they can save water. When teaching your kids about conservation, teach them the importance of turning off their faucets when they are not using water instead of leaving it running. A great way to do this is by painting pictures of what happens when water is wasted. 

For example, when your kids are at the sink washing dishes and they notice a lot of water running out of the faucet, have them pretend to be a sponge. Have them talk about how it takes water to be carried by water pipes that travel thousands of miles until it comes back to wash their dishes. When they’ve finished talking, have them come up with alternatives for how they could get this same thing without wasting so much water.

Conclusion

Living Green is a way of life, not just a fad. A little planning and hard work can enormously influence the environment and your children’s future. By teaching your kids about the importance of being green, you will help them learn about how to live out their dreams while leaving behind a legacy that will benefit future generations. 

With education, patience, awareness, and commitment, there is no reason why they can’t be responsible adults that can maintain their eco-friendly lifestyle.

Author Bio:

Andrea Gibbs is the Content Manager at SpringHive Web Agency, where she helps create content for their clients’ blogs and websites. She is currently a blog contributor at Montessori Academy, a blog dedicated to helping parents with the ins and outs of parenting children within the Montessori tradition. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and her dog.

Happy National Sibling Day! And a Fun List of Kids Books About Siblings!

For national sibling day, I’m sharing a book list of children’s books about siblings. These books about brothers and sisters may inspire a little love between your own kiddos, or they may provide a little sense of validation for the tough feelings that sometimes come with these special relationships. Perhaps the little brother or sister in your home will relate to the little sister in Secret Tree Fort as she desperately tries to tempt her older sister into her tree for to play.If your kiddos share a room, they may have felt like Mia from Mia Moves Out when she becomes so frustrated with sharing her bedroom with her brother that she packs a bag and leaves home!

I hope you’ll find one of these books or another favorite story that celebrates the love between siblings today.

Siblings Day originated in 1995 by the Siblings Day Foundation. “Sibling Day follows the spirit of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparent’s,” the Sibling Day Foundation stated. “It is an uplifting celebration honoring people who have shaped our values, beliefs and ideals.”

Here’s a few fun facts about siblings in America:

  • 89% of Americans have siblings.
  • 36% of Americans would choose to be the older sibling.
  • 31% of Americans would choose to be the youngest sibling.
  • More than half (62%) of Americans with no siblings wish they had a sibling.

And now for your sibling day book list…

Kids Books About Siblings:

Secret Tree Fort by Brianne Farley

This little sister has quite the imagination as she tries to tempt her big sister into joining her in her amazing secret tree fort. The big sister with her head in a book is uninterested. Will she change her mind?

Mia Moves Out by Miranda Paul

Mia has had enough of sharing a bedroom with her messy little brother and decides to move out, but will she find that there’s no place like home?

Little Miss, Big Sis by Amy Rosenthal

Little Miss is all to excited as the prepares for her new role as “Big Sis.”

Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn

When Lola becomes a big sister, the first thing she wants to share is her love of reading.

Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep by Joyce Dunbar

In this sweet bedtime story, a little brother asks his older brother to lull him to sleep with “something happy,” and the big brother’s response is all too perfect.

Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats

Adjusting to a new sibling can be difficult. Peter is not pleased that things around the house are being painted pink for his new baby sister!

Maple & Willow Together by Lori Nichols

Sisters don’t always get along, but they can learn to navigate conflicts and have fun like Maple and Willow.

My Sister, Daisy by Adria Karlsson

This big brother just loves his little brother, but one day his younger sibling and best friend says she’s actually his little sister. It’s a surprise, but he finds she’s the same person she always was and is still his best friend.

Charlie and Lola Series by Lauren Child

This fun and whimsically illustrated series is a joy to read as big brother Charile helps guide little sister Lola in this own way and with his big brother wisdom.

Ling and Ting Series by Grace Lin

These early readers about twin sisters a fun for kids to read on their own. Whether they are twins, have a sibling who is mistaken for a twin sometimes, or just know some twins, these stories can help validate the fact that twins are “Not Exactly the Same!”

Happy Sibling Day!

Practical Ways to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time

Guest Post Contributed by: Daniel Sherwin

Parenting young children is hard. Even if you’ve been thinking about how you would like your child to spend less time in front of a TV or other electronic device, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. After all, sometimes you need a few minutes to do the dishes or laundry or catch up on work. Sometimes, you just need a break to allow your mind to recharge.

Screen time is not harmful in and of itself. There are plenty of shows, games, and activities that can benefit your child’s education and socialization skills. But when they have unlimited screen time—which means less time in nature and in-person interaction—it can harm their physical, mental, and emotional health.

If you’re ready to learn more about limiting your child’s screen time, keep reading this guide. We’ll even provide you with some alternatives to help keep your child entertained, active, and learning!

Why You Should Limit Screen Time     

Experts recommend that babies and children under 18 months should not have any screen time and that children ages 2 to 5 should not have more than one hour each day. If your child is video chatting with friends or family members, you don’t have to count that as screen time because it is seen as high-quality media use.

When toddlers are not sitting in front of a screen, it gives them more opportunities for developing essential skills like creativity, communication, agility, and so forth. Replacing screen time with imaginative play can do wonders for helping younger children learn and grow. And you can also use your child’s unplugged time to help them get exercise and rest.

Older kids can benefit from having their screen time monitored as well. Establishing daily screen limits can result in academic, physical, and social improvements. Also, having conversations with your child about the content they enjoy can show your child that you are interested in what they are interested in without them staring at a screen for hours on end.

Then there is the content itself. Particularly with elementary-age kids, monitoring their media use can help you limit their exposure to harmful messaging and media violence. This can reduce aggression and improve sleep, academic performance, and social skills.

Risks of Unlimited Screen Time      

Across all age groups, the average daily screen time is seven hours. Electronic media use consumes more of the average child’s day than any other activity. Kids ages 2 to 5 use tablets and smartphones for almost two hours a day, elementary-age children spend four to six hours, and teenagers spend about nine hours per day.

If you notice that your child is using technology to escape their situation, thoughts, or emotions, it could signify that they are spending too much time on their devices. Another indicator is if your child’s screen time is disrupting their or your daily routine. Moreover, if your child shows obsessive behavior when you take their device away or has a meltdown when the battery dies, you might consider tightening their screen limits.

Many negative consequences come from spending too much on electronic devices. Here are a few common symptoms:

  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Poor academic performance
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Irritability
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

How to Limit Screen Time     

We can’t pretend that technology does not come with its fair share of benefits. It can help our kids stay connected to relatives and friends from a distance, make learning more entertaining and engaging, and provide parents with a much-needed break. But to maximize the advantages and minimize the drawbacks, it’s critical to set healthy screen limits. Here are a few strategies to help you do just that:

Establish Clear Rules     

One of the most practical ways to ensure technology is not harming your child’s health, well-being, or development is to establish tech time limits in your household. The precise ground rules should depend on what your child enjoys doing on their devices. Many parents allow their children an hour of TV after completing their homework for the day or 30 minutes of social media time. Whatever your rules are, make them clear and stick to them.

Fortunately, most major device manufacturers and cable carriers provide parental control features to help parents set and maintain their goals. Just remember not to give in when your child is pleading, crying, or negotiating to have more time in front of their device!

Come Up With Alternatives   

If you want to succeed in your screen limits, you will need to compile a list of alternative activities that can keep your child learning, active, and engaged. For example, perhaps you could build a firepit and host family camp nights in the backyard. Maybe you can plan a weekend getaway that includes hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. If your child holds up to their end of the bargain by heeding your screen limits without complaining, you could even give them a few choices of destinations for your getaway!

One of the best overall activities you can do with your child is to read with them. Not only will this help them in their academic endeavors, but there is endless content out there to keep them entertained and engaged without a screen. For instance, look into interactive children’s books and reading activities.

Prepare Your Home       

If you plan to engage in backyard activities with your child, you’ll want to make sure your property is safe and that it facilitates any activities you have in mind. First, consider installing a fence around your property if you don’t already have one. You can easily connect with local contractors by searching “fence company near me” online.

Monitor the Content     

Like most parents, you may want to know precisely what your child is viewing on their devices. Make sure you take advantage of all the parental control tools on your TVs, tablets, computers, and wireless subscriptions. Other than that, it can help discuss the content your child is engaging in actively. This will allow you to pick up on some of the themes and ideas your child is getting from the content.

Remove Screens from the Bedroom      

Finally, another practical way to limit your child’s screen time is to remove all media devices from their bedroom. If your child has a mobile device or TV in their room, they are likely to spend much more time using technology than if they don’t have access to those devices all the time. Sleep is critical for children of all ages, and keeping your child’s bedroom device-free can ensure that online activities or blue light emissions are not harming their rest.

Conclusion

There are plenty of technologies that can help your child develop social, communication, and academic skills. But unless you establish boundaries around screen time, technology can harm your child more than it helps. Keep the information and advice above in mind, and try to think of as many alternative activities as possible to keep your child healthy, well, and thriving!

Author Bio:

Daniel is a single dad raising two children. At DadSolo.com, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.