Category Archives: late elementary

Halloween Costumes

Most children enjoy dressing up and pretending to be someone/something else.  This is a common part of play among preschool and early elementary kids.  Halloween is a great opportunity for kids to use their imagination.  

In general, costumes for very young children should be of familiar characters, people or objects and not cover or alter the face.  By second grade, most kids understand the difference between reality and fantasy.  Watching your cousin put on a scary mask can still be frightening for some of 6 year olds.  If Ursela and the Wicked Witch of the West are characters your child dislikes, be proactive in helping your child avoid interactions with big kids that might enjoy werewolves and mummies.

Thirty years ago, almost all Halloween costumes were home made.  Consider reviving the tradition.  A paper grocery bag can be cut into a vest and decorated as a police officer, native american, cowboy, etc.  Paper plates can be cut and safety pinned to the back of a shirt as wings for a fairy, angel, insect or princess.  Parents can help add glitter to the edges.  Paper or fabric letters can be pinned to a shirt to create an athletic jersey.  Spots can be added for a cow or dog.  Stripes can be added for a tiger or bumble bee.  The school glue that advertises it is washable is an easy way to attach ribbon for stripes and they conveniently come off in the wash.

Is Trick-or-Treat taking candy from strangers?

Trick-or-treating is an old tradition.  (The History Channel has a good explanation of its origins.)  Past generations of children took candy from strangers on Halloween.  You have probably already tried to teach your child not to accept candy from strangers.  Halloween is a good opportunity to see how well your child understands.

If you ask four year olds what a stranger is, many will not be able to answer.  Those who do will mostly fall into two categories: a person you don’t know and a bad person.  When I ask kids I have never met before if I am a stranger, many say no.  Some justify it because they know my name.  Others justify it because I have been talking with them a few minutes.  Some assume that if I know their parents then I am not a stranger.

Candy and rides are often mentioned when teaching children about stranger safety.  There are lots of other enticements that are used to lure children.  If your child is old enough to understand, give a quiz asking if it is ok to take specific things (money, candy, stickers, toys) from people they have never met, people their parents know, etc.  Just talking about it before Halloween can give you a great opportunity to reinforce the lesson when you Trick-or-Treat.  If you are going house to house, explain how you do or don’t know specific neighbors and qualify them a strangers or not.  If you are going to a trick-or-trunk event in a parking lot, explain how you know that the adults giving out treats are safe.  If you go from store to store in a mall or booth to booth at a fair, you can ask about who strangers are and what behavior is safe.

I don’t like new foods!

Some picky eaters are afraid to taste new foods.  This is often worsened by adults who insist the child try the new food.  Often, forcing a child results in a self-fulfilling prophecy of not liking the new flavor. 

Consider serving a new food but excluding your picky eater.  Let the picky eater know that she will not be asked to try this new food because she is not old enough, etc.  Tasting this new food is a privilege that the child has not earned.  If the child asks to taste, decline.  In a few days, serve the food again.  This time mention that the child might get the opportunity to try it but in the end do not allow a taste.  The third time around if your child asks for the food, allow only a tiny portion (smaller than an adult bite).  Again, this food is a privilege.  If your child does not ask for it after several opportunities, place a tiny portion (3 peas) on her plate.  Do not mention the new food.  Simply eat yours and perhaps ask someone other that your picky eater if they would like seconds.  Continue to place minuscule portions of these new foods on your picky eater’s plate being careful not to mention them.  Eventually, your child will either discretely try it or ask about it.  Your reaction is key.  Try not to care.  If eating is a way for your child to show his independance, appearing nonchalant is your best weapon.  The secret taster is trying not to loose face.  Do not mention that she tried something new.  Next time that food is served, give a larger but still small portion.  If he asks why he is being served such a small portion, gauge your reply carefully.  If she tastes it an still appears not to like it, then her avoidance is probably based on true preferences.  Each of us has foods we dislike.  However, research shows that children are more likely to accept a food if they have tasted it before.

Please Quit Nagging

Why aren’t you ready yet?  (Because I really don’t want to go anyway so I am dragging my feet to delay the inevitable.)

Why did you hit your sister? (Because I thought she deserved it.)

Why can’t you sit still?  (Because you did not bring anything for me to play with and I am bored.)

If kids actually gave these truthful answers, they would be in trouble for mouthing off.  Instead they play it safe by ignoring the question or the old standby “I dunno.”

The actual answer to the question “Why do adults ask kids rhetorical questions” is most often because the adults want the last word.

Everyday I hear parents and grandparents ask kids ridiculous questions.  My favorite is “Do you want me to (insert punishment)?”  When I listen, sometimes I want to put mom in time-out.

If parents stopped asking rhetorical questions the amount of nagging would astronomically decrease.  Would it be easy?  Of course not!  Would it increase compliance? Definitely.  I never ask a child to do something more than once or twice.  If you haven’t complied, I help you do whatever I asked.  For example, if I ask a child to close the door and they continue playing, I help them comply by guiding their hand to the door and pushing it closed.  No punishment, just forced compliance with my simple request.  It doesn’t take many opportunities before the kids realize that when I tell them to do something, they will do it.

Mom, I’m Bored!

I see bored children every day.  Often, their parent has brought nothing for them to do during an expected wait.  Occasionally I see very happy children who are disappointed that it is time to finish the activity that their innovative parent started while the family was waiting.  Portable video games, books and DVD players are an obvious choice but there are lots of other options, most of which are free and require only a little attention from you.

Colors:  Work on learning colors if your child does not know them all.  If your child knows several colors, you can ask questions about colors like What color is the sky?  grass?  the car?  and a firetruck?  Kindergarteners through tweens enjoy a good game of I spy.

Animals and their sounds are a fun game for toddlers.  If it is dark or you can turn off the lights and talk about animals that are more active at night with preschoolers.  Elementary students can take turns naming animals that fit into categories such as larger than a person, ocean creatures, walks on 2 feet, eats plants, etc.  Don’t forget about different names for males, females and babies.

All ages can enjoy a good game of “What am I?” (AKA 20 Questions).  Thinking of good objects for your audience is key with this game.  A dog is just right for a beginner and a platypus is a fair challenge for an advanced player.