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Tips on Helping Young Children

A  Who gets to sit where?  Who gets to be first? Who licks the bowl? B  ...an idea to help your children be creative, to plan ahead, to learn a little about money if you wish,  and to stop excess waste of materials. C  Would you like your children to eat more of the food you want them to at meal times? D  ... a simple suggestion... E  Tired of seeing those shoes left anywhere but their room, or the toys left in the living room? F  Would you like to enrich your child's world, and maybe your own at the same time? Can your children listen carefully and understand?

A Who gets to sit where?  Who gets to be first? Who licks the bowl? Here is the way we solved this and it works. After hearing the children fuss and fuss over which program to watch on TV, or who gets to take a bath first, we knew something had to be done. They constantly fussed and we constantly got on to them. One day we simply realized that they could take turns, a day at a time. This is so simple, but I wonder haw many people have thought of it. When we had two children over 3 years old, we simply put their initials on alternating dates of a calendar for the whole month. It is convenient to have one of those large calendars. But you need to place by the calendar a list of the argument stoppers that their day covers. We called this the "My Day List."

A list can contain items such as the ones below. Add others that are suitable. Whose initials are on the date, they get priority for anything on the list that day.
Where to sit ( in the car, house, etc.)
What to watch on TV
Lick the batter bowl
Take bath (first or last, their choice)
Stroll the baby

There are some things you may require them to do on the list that they don't want to do, such as take out the garbage. But since it is "their day" they have the choice to do it or not to do it, The one whose day it is not would then have to do it. This really works but I suggest you be reasonable as to what goes on the list and stick to it. Most children want a solution to their problems, and will suggest things to be added to the list.

Of course with two children it is easy to remember whose day it is. For in a particular month, one child will always have the date that is an even number while the other child will have a date that is an odd number.

But if there are more children you will simply have to rotate their initials on the dates of the calendar, allowing on each day for one to be first, another second, and so forth. For instance, if the three children have initials A, P, and J, you may rotate their initials for each day as the calendar below indicates.

From the calendar above, on the first day of the month, A has first choice, P second choice, and J last. (Maybe our children are more argumentative than most, for they complained about whom they had to follow in first place. We had to rotate that each month! But it still worked.)

It doesn't take much effort to do this and please remind yourself every now and then haw fewer arguments there are over the "My Day List" items. No idea will solve all problems, but a potential reduction in problems could become a small blessing.

One day I caught our 3 year old on the porch stomping ants (stomp...stomp...stomp). I said, "Don't do that, the ants are not hurting you."   She replied, " Well they are not doing me any good (stomp...stomp... stomp)."

In the first grade, our son wore a pair of new shoes to school one day. When we asked him if his shoes hurt, he quickly replied, "No, my new shoes don't hurt but my feet sure do."

B Do you buy the economy size of art paper to only see most of it wasted in a short time? Do your children have a regular opportunity to select, economically, from a large variety of creative materials?

Well, here is an idea to help your children be creative, to plan ahead, to learn a little about money if you wish,  and to stop excess waste of materials. It's called "The Store", and will cost anywhere from 25 cents to $1 per month per child. We have three children old enough for "The Store" and get by for only about $20 a year (1960's, 1970's) for all three! And that's a lot of arts and crafts supplies. To understand how so little will supply them with so much will require a little faith until I get to the end of this of this topic.

First, set aside an area for supplies. We used a set of shelves against a basement wall. They were 4 feet high and 8 feet long and 12 inches deep. (I'm sure a set of drawers or some other arrangement could be used.) Our shelves had a door covering them so the baby and visiting children wouldn't bother the contents. (It created interest for our children to let them paint the shelves and door.)

Now, you begin supplying the shelves. You can buy economy sizes of whatever you think they might like, but everyone can gather many materials free. It is surprising how much a child would like bits of styrofoam, straws, free material samples, and on and on and on. Professional artist and craftsmen use similar items.

I will return again in a moment and talk about what materials can be gathered. But, once you have the materials you will need to place them on the shelves neatly, and then price them. That's right, on or about the shelf, put a price for those objects placed there. Our shelves at one time looked partly like the drawing below.

Later, we painted prices and arrows on small blocks of wood so as to be able, say , to move the block which was the 1 cent marker down a little and make more space for 1 cent items on the shelf.

Now, once a week, we choose every Saturday, we opened the store and gave each child 20 cents.( You could use any kind of tokens and keep them in the store so they will always be ready.) After, the children are satisfied with what they have "bought" with their "20 cents", you close the store for a week.

This is really not complicated nor time consuming. The oldest child runs  the store for me now. What gave me the idea originally was when I would buy a large package of construction paper and they would either use it up, partially wasting it, and then be without, or, we tried to ration it, but we would forget of be bothered by them or something. But now, we don't worry about what they do with it. And children do see things differently from adults sometimes. They may make something which to us seems like a waste. I guess we don't understand it often.  I suspect they see things different from us most of the time and a lot of what they "see" I'm sure is good and should be developed if we could recognize it. But that's another subject.

We bought them each an inexpensive bag (a paper sack would do) to keep their materials in. Before opening the store they would have to go through their bag and remove what they didn't want. Any salvageable materials would go back into the store. Here, after being under way for a few weeks, you will get back from 2 to 10 cents worth of unused, or still usable materials! So this reduces the cost of operation considerably. Another cost reduction comes by way of free materials you easily get for the store.

So I guess it's time to mention materials again. You can easily juggle the prices you put on them. For instance, we buy a large quantity of crayons at say 1/2 cents each and price them for 1 cent each in the store. We will buy tape at 25 cents a roll and price it at 15 cents in the store. You should have standard items such as pencils, crayons, glue, chalk, various types of paper, some form of modeling material which can be packaged in those small plastic bags, maybe paint brushes and some forms of paint packaged in 1 or 2 cent quantities in small containers ( some eating places use small plastic containers they will sell or give to you). Here are some other items, not all by any means, that we have also added at times. Styrofoam bits, swatches, carpet samples, straws, dried vegetables (corn, beans, etc.) and nuts, rulers, rubber bands, foil, marbles, poker chips, tacks, metal slugs, seeds for planting, yarn, popsicle sticks, discarded jewelry pieces, children's scissors, feathers, caps from various containers, plaster of paris, bolts, nuts, springs, most anything being thrown away has small objects to stimulate their imagination, sewing scraps, cotton balls, etc., etc., etc.

Often, a friend who knows about the store will bring a sack full of bits and scraps from their place of business.

With all the advantages, wouldn't it be wonderful if children from homes with low income could have these opportunities? Most could, if parents only knew about it and tried it. Six dollars a year per child is very inexpensive. Maybe it would work at no cost.

Our youngest daughter  was disappointed one Christmas when she received a talking Mrs. Beasly doll. She decided just before Christmas day that she wanted a doll named Velvet. Since she didn't get Velvet she refused all day to play with Mrs. Beasly. Finally, the next day, while traveling to her grandparents, we enticed her to pull the string herself on Mrs. Beasly. The doll said, "If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?) In a slow disgusting voice, our child answered "Velvet...Velvet... Velvet."
C Would you like your children to eat more of the food you want them to at meal times? If they don't, try a "Tray of Things".

Place many small things on a tray. You don't have to buy them. We use small, one inch tall, plastic animals, souvenirs, shells, unusual or usual bottles, bottle caps, small pixies, those small wire and wooden puzzles, and numerous little things that I cain't even name.

If one of the children has been slow about eating, we place the tray next to the table at meal time and let each child pick one item for each serving they eat. We sometimes vary this but you can use your own imagination. We give them one item if they just taste a new food. We also will give them two additional items if they eat everything on their plate.

What do they do with the items? They just arrange them next to their plate, and after the meal all of the items go back on the tray. You should add a new item to the tray every week or so to keep up the interest.

This may be hard to believe, but it sure helped around our house. They compete for certain items and how many they can get for their menagerie.

Let me add that we never let them be excused before all of us are finished unless they eat everything on their plate. Having to sit there often causes them to eat a lot more. I guess they get bored. Try it.

When our oldest daughter had reached the age that she should learn something about sex, we checked out an excellent book from the library. My wife sat down with her and explained about love and sex and gave her the book. My wife ended the long conversation with the statement "Now, if there is ever anything you want to know, you can come to me and ask about it. Is there anything else you would like to know now?" Our daughter asked " Anything at all?" Her mother answered "Yes, anything." --- "Mommy, what's one thousand plus one thousand?"
D Here is a simple suggestion that cost just a few dollars. Buy a timer. A clock that rings when you set it to however many minutes you wish, up to 60 minutes.

If you punish your child by making them stay in a particular place for 20 minutes, simply set the timer for 20 minutes and tell them not to leave until it rings. (You might add 5 minutes or so if they yell out or come out). This was about the only effective way we could punish our third child. Our third child didn't mind spankings by her mother. She simply laughed when she would even get a shot or her finger pricked by the doctor. She claimed it tickles.

The timer is excellent to take 10 minute turns with toys at home or on a trip. (And if you don't want the TV on and blaring at you but you are afraid you will miss that special program that starts in 45 minutes,  just set the timer with one easy twist).

I almost forgot, a timer can give a child an excellent challenge in doing a chore. Set the timer for however many minutes you think it takes for them to do the chore. Many children will try hard to beat the timer.

These little tots, when they first start talking, have to have an imagination to communicate. One day in the car, after  ours had broken air, said "My po po burped!"
E  Tired of seeing those shoes left anywhere but their room, or the toys left in the living room? Then make it inconvenient. Inconvenient for them! It will only be inconvenient for a little while, then things get much better.

When you see a toy left on the dinning room table, call the child to pick it up. Not when they are standing by the table but after they have gone outside, or are busy somewhere else in the house. Then they have to go to the trouble to stop what they are doing to put it up. (I'm not really cruel, I don't call them over from someone elses house, but I will interrupt their TV program.)

At first I didn't do this about every little thing. But soon they would take a tour of the house to be sure they wouldn't be interrupted!

If you are too soft hearted and think it is unfair to wait till it is inconvenient to call them, remember, they don't have to know what you are doing necessarily. When you call them to put something up, they don't have to know when you first noticed it. So play it by ear and try not to make an enemy of your child. My children knew through that I would call them when it was inconvenient and they did not resent it. They could understand the problem of housekeeping in a large family. A problem that grows directly as the size of the family.

Children are so wonderful if you will sit down and try to analyze your problems. Try to develop ways to solve them. Ask for their advice. But. I believe you and they should remember, you are the parent.

More on imaginative communication. In congested traffic our toddler asked "What's that?" We pointed to this landmark and that until she said "No that." She opened her eyes wide and closed them and repeatedly opened and closed them. I knew exactly what it was. Many blocks away in the distance was a rotating police light. 
F Would you like to enrich your child's world, and maybe your own at the same time? Can your children listen carefully and understand? A few years ago I came across a book that someone was throwing away which contained classical stories. The stories were condensed and written so children could more easily understand them, and each story was only a few pages. One day after supper, while still at the table, I read to the children the story of Beowulf. They fell in love with this kind of great literature. We have collected a few other books containing both major and minor works of literature, mostly in condensed form. (Please don't write for titles because ours are out of print. Ask your bookstore manager for ideas. And used bookstores probably will carry old children's literature books that would be helpful.)

We ask our children sometimes to repeat a story in their own words. If they cain't, we read the story over at another meal.

This is a great way to teach ideas to children. If you are a religious person (or not), then how impressive it is for a child to learn respect for life from the Ancient Mariner. The Ancient Mariner was in a horrible state until, as he watched those slimy creatures in the ocean, a spring of love gushed from his heart, and he blessed them unaware.

I believe our children will have much pleasure from literature as they reach an age to read the full versions of these stories. And we all build our vocabulary. ( It is good to have a dictionary handy to learn new words and show your children that you know how to use books to.)

Best of luck.

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