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Early Childhood

Advice for parents raising children

In regards to childraising, Rudolf Steiner (philosopher) once said that our "Every action should be worthy of imitation". Wow, this really piles the pressure on, but is alarmingly true.

How much they grow and learn is just a few short years ! We all see behaviour in our children that comes directly from the blueprints of ourselves (sometimes less than desirable... ! ). And I think it takes a pretty special sort of person to be able to leave all their "negative" qualities behind them once they have a child ! So the behaviour we demonstrate is an ongoing project that may just last forever. I know I struggle almost daily to be a good role model (all these hours at the computer aren't helping ! ), but it's possible with inspiration ! The more I learn about natural child development, the more I want to exhibit the good qualities within me that children respond so well to.

I came across the remarkable qualities of music and singing in a Waldorf school we attended. In the Early Childhood program, the teachers will most often sing gentle, uplifting songs to get the children to co-operate and listen to them. This is a magic that has to be seen (think "Pied Piper") !

Children are far happier to tidy up, come with you or quieten down if there is a song that you can sing specific to the task and you don't have to be Celine Dion either,

the soothing qualities of a live human voice is captivating for children, they aren't interested in perfect pitch. A good book on this is Seven Times the Sun - guiding your children through the rhythms of the day, by Shea Darian. She focuses on the important of rhythm and routine for children and offers some great suggestions, songs and verses. A family favourite.

Play is work to be taken seriously and respected. Toys can be most anything for a child at this age and the less "form" a toy has the more it will stimulate his/her imagination. It may sound odd to suggest just giving your child a few pieces of cloth or wood to play with, but just watch as they turn them in to costumes, tools, houses and are away ! The less "character" or pre-determined purpose a toy has, the less limits there are to play with it. One reason children get bored so quickly with those toys they've been begging for, is that they are limited in play potential and perhaps why Lego (although not entirely formless) is a favourite with most children. My eldest son explains that Lego can transform when you are bored with one project into something else. Try offering your child smooth pieces of twigs and wooden blocks , leaves, shells and simple dolls with no features (for them to "imagine in" the expressions). I have also found that I am happier to pick up these more attractive toys after their play and feel good about their qualities (a bonus ! ).

Children's play is also a reflection of their environment, so if your child's imaginative play is dictated by the programmes on TV they watch i.e. they pretend to cartoon characters and/or use "smart-talk" catch phrases, etc., use that as an indication of needing to restrict their viewing, be more selective about what they watch, or eliminate it!

Developmentally, the TV is more harmful than most of us realise. When children are young, they're brains are not fully grown and are still making many cognitive connections. TV and it's quick imagery interferes with the process of these connections and can lead to children having trouble concentrating, ADD/ADHD amongst other things. Due to the areas of the brain TV affects, it also causes right-side body dominance. All this without even mentioning the unhealthy exposure to radiation as well as the inappropriate content of TV (see above about Imitation ! ).

I was raised on TV and subsequently find it a real struggle to "kick the habit" despite being quite self-disciplined. It is a powerful addiction that I do not want to pass onto my children.

If your children currently watch more than 1 hour of TV a day or you want to eliminate their viewing altogether, a short period of adjustment will be needed. I found that for the first few days, when they would ask to watch their favourite show I firmly refused and quickly offered alternatives. They were keen to accept the new activities and I was surprised at how soon they stopped asking to watch ! I limited my own viewing until after bedtime Here are my tips on weaning your family from the tube:

Be prepared for your children to have extra energy - after being such passive recipients to TV, the real spirit of the child may be released (this may surprise even them ! ).

Have alternatives ready - Invest a few board games or packs of cards and play with them when they would normally be watching TV.

Start reading a favourite book in the evening - this will give them something to look forward to and help recapture their imagination.

Be strong- don't give into their whining or cries of boredom!

Cover the TV with a cloth - out of sight out of mind !

Plan lists of jobs they can do alone and with you. Young children love polishing and cleaning, put that extra energy to work !

It will be during the hours they normally watch that you will need to be more involved in their activities to start with, but I have been told it takes three weeks for children to learn a new routine, so give it at least that long.

To hear more information and details on this topic visit these sites.

TV and Our Children's Minds - A look at behavioural and health problems.

How Television Images Affect Children -violence on TV
AAP's Statement on TV and Brain Development
Brain Development Easy to read with some good links