February 21, 2010

TAKING SOME GOOD (OLD) ADVICE…Yes Indeed, There Is Merit in Old Things!!!

While going through some old papers, we happened upon a piece we first read in the late 1980’s. It doesn’t seem that old to us, but then again, the only thing that seems old is the mirror!

Our children, parents of our great/grandchildren, have so much stress in their lives, especially as it relates to learning, performing, and just surviving. It’s a daunting task to raise children in this test-crazy, pressure to over-achieve world, we live in. What’s a family to do? What’s a great/grandparent to do?

We know from our parents, that whatever advice they gave us didn’t mean much until we got MUCH older. So these actions are passed down, generation to generation. BUT, what if we could show OUR children, who are “sound-byte”, technology driven, “above the fold only readers”, a few bullet points that might be useful to them. These tried and true ideas are especially poignant when they are feeling the stress of parenting. It doesn’t take long to read, and they can be posted on the refrigerator or their iPhones. It’s not an “app”…just good advice (and it WON’T be denied on SNOPES).

So, here again, in all its glory, is some really solid, good advice (and it’s aged beautifully)!!!


“Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do and how to be I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school. These are the things I learned:
• Share everything
• Play fair
• Don't hit people
• Put things back where you found them
• Clean up your own mess
• Don't take things that aren't yours
• Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody
• Wash your hands before you eat
• Flush
• Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you
• Live a balanced life
• Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday some
• Take a nap every afternoon
• When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together
• Be aware of wonder - Remember the little seed in the plastic cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that
• Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup - they all die. So do we
• And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first important word you learned-the biggest word of all-LOOK

Everything you need to know is there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and sane living. Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all-the whole world-had cookies and milk about 3 o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where they found them and to cleaned up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are-when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

** "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum. http://www.robertfulghum.com/ © Robert Fulghum, 1990, Villard Books, NY

February 11, 2010

BRIDGING THE DISTANCE: Using New and Old Technologies

One of the hardest parts of great/grandparenting is not being able to physically see, hug, cuddle and/or be present for a school production…in other words, you don’t live near your family.

For some, this is an advantage, while for others, it’s sad and difficult. But, in order to make the best of it, we’ve put together a few ideas that might work for you. As has become our mantra, moderation is the key to success. You don’t want to alienate the parents with a deluge of things that THEY have to supervise or have to be available to make happen.

Even before there were computers and high tech gadgets, there was sky-writing for the rich and adventurous, and the United States Post Office, cassette tapes and telephones for the rest of us.

Write a Card or Letter
Tune in on what’s of interest and pertinent to the child. Make the correspondence short and fun. You can even paste in a photo, or picture from a magazine. Insert a “self addressed stamped envelope” and ask for a letter in return, if the child can write, or if not, ask them to draw you a picture, add some stickers and then take it to the postbox to send back to you.

Send Voice Recordings
Assuming there’s a computer or listening device in your great/grandchild’s home, make a recording (C.D., an audio file, cassette tape, etc.) telling a story or reading from a favorite book. Try to be animated and put on your best entertainment voice. Have others join you on the recording, if they’re not too shy. If the family doesn’t have a listening gadget, perhaps you can offer to buy one for the next important gift giving celebration. DON’T buy it without asking first!

Use the Phone
Phone calls are always fun for children to receive. The catch here is to make it convenient and realistic for all involved (ex. calling at dinner time is distracting). You and the parents can decide on a schedule and it’s up to all of you to be consistent and yet flexible, if need be. Children anticipate things like this and are disappointed if the commitment isn’t met.

If one of you doesn’t have a computer, you can purchase and send a "phone calling card”, so that the great/grandchild can call YOU free of charge to them.

Use the Computer
Skype uses technology to bring people together, eyeball to eyeball, at no online or phone cost to the users (you can call ANYWHERE in the world free). If you have a computer with a camera and/or microphone, and the parents have the same, you can download Skype (http://www.official-down.com/skypes.php) and talk in real time. If you both have webcams, you can also see each other when talking. Webcams are not terribly expensive, and most come with microphones built in, so it’s not a huge investment to be able to talk “live” to your great/grandchildren. They’ll love seeing you and of course, you’ll love seeing them!

You can also make and send video files over the internet (if you know how to do it) or use a camera to make a video, copy it to a CD and send it in the mail.

Also, be sure to send photos via email that you think the children will enjoy seeing, and ask them to send some to you.

The possibilities are endless…all you need is some patience, some technical know how, and voila. If you’re not too sure of the technologies, you might ask one of your kids, one of your older great/grandchildren or a friend to show you the basics.

Make a Memory Book
We’re all delighted when our great/grandchildren give or send us drawings, photos, letters, etc. If you like doing this kind of thing, keep all of the goodies in a safe place and then create a “memory book” or “album” of things you’re received over the year. Give it to your great/grandchildren for a special birthday or each New Year. Add narratives to make it more personal.

Poetry Galore
We all have favorite poems. Unfortunately, most children don’t get to hear or read a lot of poetry today, for many reasons. There are some wonderful books of poetry that you can use to: make a book, add some lines to a letter or card, or record for the child to hear. Here are a couple of our favorite collections:

The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - by Caroline Kennedy

20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury – Compiled by Jack Prelutsky

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices – by Paul Fleischman

Where the Sidewalk Ends – by Shel Silverstein

This is an ongoing process that will keep you connected to your family. The technologies will keep changing, so use the gadgets that you like, and STAY IN TOUCH!!!

February 4, 2010

YADA YADA YADA - Stories, Songs & More

Kids get restless when travelling. They are confined to a small space, whether in a car, train, plane or bus. Car manufacturers realized this was an issue, so many now provide video components for the children to watch while in the back seat. Airlines have provided this “perk” for years. We all know to bring along favorite “cuddlies”, toys, books, or perhaps hand held devices for travel with children, but what about just having a conversation? Or singing a song?

You don’t have to make up a story to tell all by yourself. You can have the child/ren join in.

Start off with a sentence: “Once upon a time there was a puppy dog who got lost…” or “I saw an elephant walking down my street….” or for older kids a more sophisticated beginning: “As I sat down at my school desk today, I realized something was different…” or “I heard about a boy who found a hundred dollar bill on the ground....”. Then ask the child/ren to make up the next sentence, and you follow with the subsequent one. This is great fun…no matter how many people are participating. The stories can be scary, serious, or just plain silly.

You can also tell a story about your great/grandchildren’s babyhood. Children are always interested in hearing about their early, early years. For example: "When you were a baby, I used to play on the floor with you, even before you could crawl. We used to gently bump heads together and that was enough to make you laugh and laugh”. For the older child, a more complicated story, such as: “I knew from the moment I met you, that I was the luckiest great/grandparent in the world. We made up words, songs and got silly together…”

“YOU SING A SONG, AND I’LL SING A SONG” (borrowed with love from Ella Jenkins’ famous song of the same title).
Just follow the famous children’s recording artist, Ella Jenkins', advice. Singing together, can be a truly rewarding experience. When you’re with your great/grandchildren, travelling or sitting in the living room, think about songs that are familiar to the children and invite participation. If you’re feeling particularly creative, you and/or the children can make up your own songs. You can also play a CD or watch Pete Seeger or Elmo on YouTube and sing along. We’ve listed some fun songs below***…check ‘em out.

Children love to explore, and an extension of that process invites some visual and observation games. I SPY is fun anytime, anywhere and for most any age. Look around for some object or color or word to identify. Then say “I spy someone with brown hair” or for the older child, “I spy the word ‘SALE’ on a sign”. Then it’s their turn to “spy”. How about a new version of that game? ”I spy an orange bus and who do you think is riding inside?”

Check out your environment. “How many taxis can you see along the road?”, or “How many pot holes can you find (probably too many)?”or “Let’s find all the red things in the living room”.

Don’t forget that you can YADA, SING and PLAY at home, because children get restless there, too.

You’ll Sing a Song, And I’ll Sing a Song by Ella Jenkins

We’re Goin’ on a Bear HuntKid's In Action by Greg & Steve

Willoughby Wallaby Woo - Singable Songs for the Very Young by Raffi

Juanito - Diez Deditos by José Luis Orozco

Abiyoyo - Stories & Songs for Little People by Pete Seeger

Blah Blah Blah: Stories About Clams, Swamp Monster, Pirates and DogBill Harley

If You’re Happy and You Know It
She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain When She Comes
Peanut Butter and Jelly
This Old Man
Miss Mary Mack
Do Your Ears Hang Low
On Top of Spaghetti