Take a Bite Out of . . . Biting: How to keep Playtime a bite-free zone!

Posted by on May 30, 2013

Take a Bite Out of . . . Biting: How to keep Playtime a bite-free zone!

This book by Elizabeth Verdick is a great way to teach kids notto bite. Playtime has copies available in the office! Nearly every Playtime volunteer has seen it happen: one minute, everything is going along swimming in the playroom. Then, seeming out of nowhere, a toddler has sunk her teeth into, well, another toddler.  Biting is actually very common in toddlers, but it is still a behavior we would prefer not to see at Playtime! Zero to Three has a great article on why toddlers bite, and what can be done to prevent biting. Why do children bite? As with any behavior, it is helpful to understand WHY kids bite. Remember, there is always a message behind a child’s behavior – they are trying to communicate something to you when they bite. Babies and toddlers have limited language skills, so they often rely on other methods to tell you their wants, needs, and feelings. Here are some of the messages children may be trying to send you by biting: 1) “I am so angry/scared/excited/frustrated right now.” 2) “I am overwhelmed by all the noise, colors, and other children in the Playroom.” 3) “I am bored. Play with me or give me something else to do!” 4) “I am a little scientist and I just want to know what will happen when I do this.” 5) “I am really, really tired.” 6) “I am teething!” 7) “My mouth is bored & needs something to do.” Understanding why kids bite can help you to have patience when bites occur, and can also help prevent bites. Preventing biting Now that you know why kids bite, here are some ways to be proactive and stop the bite before it happens! Click here for more strategies. Help verbal children practice naming their feelings, so they can grow their expressive vocabularies. E.g., Chris, I can see you are feeling angry. If the playroom is particularly noisy or crowded, keep an eye for children who seem overstimulated or frazzled and bring them to a quieter space. Trouble with sharing is a big reason for the angry & frustrated feelings that lead to biting, so help kids negotiate sharing toys. Perhaps set a timer, to mark how long a each child gets to play with a particular toy. If a child seems to crave oral stimulation (puts toys in their mouth, sucks their thumb, etc), offer them a carrot stick or a cup of water. Biting relieves the pain associated with teething. The average age of the onset of teething is 7 months, so if you know a baby is at that age, ask his parent to provide a teething toy. Make sure there are plenty of appropriate book, toys, and activities for all ages in the playroom! What to do when a bite happens 1) Stay calm. Even if you are angry and upset, stay calm!...

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Helping Clean Up Time Happen Smoothly

Posted by on Apr 12, 2013

Helping Clean Up Time Happen Smoothly

Cleaning up is an essential element of every Playtime, but it isn’t always the most popular part of the evening for the kids (or for volunteers for that matter). Here are some suggestions for making clean up time go over better: 1) Give Clear Signals. Clean up time can be a difficult transition for the children. Many children – especially those with chaotic histories – struggle with switching gears, so remembering to give a clear warning that there are 5 minutes left before clean up can help kids prepare for the change. For individual children you know find clean up especially challenging, more frequent reminder may be necessary. 2) Be Flexible. We want to be consistent about cleaning up, but if a child has just one more piece left to put together a puzzle, or only needs to add a set of googly eyes to finish up their clay monster, it is okay to give them the space to complete their project. 2) Respect and Acknowledge Feelings. Clean up time also signals to them that Playtime is ending, which can be sad for kids – especially for those children who don’t have many toys in their rooms.If a child is refusing to help clean up, it may help to acknowledge that you understand that they are sad that Playtime is almost over. Offer to read with them after the toys are put away, so they have something to look forward to. 3) Give Them Visual Cues. Help children know where things go by having clearly labeled storage areas that are always in the same place. Since many of our Playtime kids aren’t yet readers, picture labels might be helpful. Tip: If your Playroom is not already labeled this way, your site leaders will love you (even more) for offering to help out with this. 4) Offer Specific Praise & Be Developmentally Aware. As always, give lots of specific positive feedback when a child is engaging in a desired behavior. For example, “Makiya, you are working so hard to put all those books on the shelf!” Remember that children function at different levels: a two-year can (and should be expected to) help clean up, but they may only be able to put away one or two large and easily-graspable items whereas most five-year-olds can do much more than that. However, each child is different and if a child who frequently has tantrums during clean up picks up even a single toy, make sure to praise them.  5) Put Some Play Into It!: Clean up time can be tough even for kids who have stable lives and lots of toys. After all, cleaning up is not as much fun as playing! Here are some suggestions to make cleaning up a little more fun, so that it still feels like part of the play. This is the Playtime Project after all!: Play...

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“You can’t play with us!”: Handling Relational Aggression in the Playroom

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013

“You can’t play with us!”: Handling Relational Aggression in the Playroom

The Playtime Project aims to provide children with a safe play experience, where they can leave some of their stress behind and just have fun. This goal can be undermined when the children are mean to each other, which is why we are careful to intervene when children hit each other or call each other names. However, there are other kinds of hurtful behavior that can be just as damaging to the kids. When children exclude their peers from playing with them or try to control their behavior (e.g., “You can’t sit with us unless you . . . “), it can be tempting to dismiss this as normal developmental behavior. However, this is actually a form of bullying called Relational Aggression, and if it occurs in the playroom, it needs to be addressed. While often thought to occur more frequently with girls, relational aggression is actually seen almost as frequently in boys. It is most common in children in middle childhood (around 8 years old) through adolescence, so there is a high likelihood you will see this type of behavior in most of our sites. Unsurprisingly, victims of relational aggression tend to develop low self-esteem and depression. But perpetrators of relational aggression are also at risk – many aggressors have traumatic pasts and engage in bullying to feel better about themselves. If their behavior is not addressed, they may continue to engage in negative social interactions throughout their lives. So, what should you do when you see relational aggression at Playtime? Follow these steps: 1) Intervene immediately: Approach all the children involved and separate them so you can talk to each of them alone. Seek the help of other volunteers or your site leaders if you need it. 2) Get the facts: Speak to each child involved individually to get their perspective on what happened. Do not place blame on any of the participants – not even the child you perceive to be the perpetrator. 3) Support the victim: Listen to the child and show them you want to help. Ask them what the need from you. Help them understand that they did not do anything wrong, and role-play some strategies with them about what to do if the bullying happens again. Do NOT tell them to ignore the bullying. Ignoring bullying does not stop it – they need your help.Talk about friendship and help them understand how to choose good, caring friends. Let them know that you take this seriously, and that they should come to you or another volunteer if they continued to be bullied. 4) Support the perpetrator: Remember, children who act as aggressors in the playroom are usually victims in other areas of their life, so be understanding of them and listen to their perspective. Make sure they know what the problematic behavior is and calmly tell them that bullying is not tolerated at...

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Decode the Hidden Messages Behind Children’s Behavior

Posted by on Jan 11, 2013

Decode the Hidden Messages Behind Children’s Behavior

No matter how much you love working with children, handling a meltdown can challenge even the most patient among us. While it can be difficult to do when you are frustrated, try to take a moment to remember that when a child acts out, he or she is trying to tell you something! Making an effort to spend a little one-on-one time with each child at your site can go a long way. Different personalities need different things, and knowing what makes each individual child you work with tick can help you stop tantrums before they start. Even if you aren’t able to anticipate what the child might require before they go into meltdown mode, understanding what the child is ultimately trying to accomplish through a tantrum or outburst will help you teach them the words they can use to more effectively convey their needs and wishes in the future, leading to a more peaceful Playtime for both kids and volunteers! This fun, colorful chart (full-sized version here) is a great visual for starting to think about why different kids get angry and learning how to best work with them so that we can all “enjoy the joy!” Via The Child...

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