036: Happier and More Engaged Kids – Just By Changing Their Playground! With Nursery School Director/Owner Tanya Trainor

Today’s episode was super fun to record because I got out of my usual studio and hung out at what’s easily the most amazing playground I’ve ever seen. All of the equipment we see on a typical playground – huge climber, big slide, jungle gym – was gone, and in its place were loose pieces. Bricks, cement pavers, wooden siding, bales of hay, an 8 foot long rowboat, tree stumps suitable for sitting on, or rolling around, a rain gutter with a hose near the top were some of the many things that replaced more typical playground equipment.

It’s not a huge space, and today’s guest, nursery school director and owner Tanya Trainor of Miss Tanya’s Nursery School, knew that typical equipment would no longer work when, in spring of 2014, she found out that the fall zones around each piece of equipment were expanding. So, Tanya and her staff did an amazing thing: they asked the children, “when we get rid of the climber out on the playground, what should we replace it with?” Their answers created the wonderful results spread out before me.

Listen to hear more about:

1) the improvements in how the children relate to one another and play together in going from more conventional equipment to this new kind of playground

2) the dramatic drop in frequency of negative behaviors; Tanya reports far fewer incidents of conflict or need for redirection since moving to the new kind of playground

3) how engaged the children are in both the creation of this new outdoor play space and their use of it

If you take just one thing from this episode, I hope it is this: play with “loose parts,” as this kind of outdoor play equipment is called, is a critical part of every child’s development and fosters all the important things that children will need to take into adulthood (social skills, problem-solving skills, creativity and curiosity.) Has your son or daughter’s preschool adopted the loose parts philosophy yet?

035: The Power of Positive Discipline – Part One, The Mindset

Today is the first of a two parter, because the subject of positive discipline – how we teach our kids right from wrong – is such a biggie.

In this first part, we talk about the mindset of positive discipline… Three things are required for us parents to get into this mindset:

1) a calm, quiet demeanor; yelling and screaming produces negativity, not to mention unhappy family members

2) making the punishment fit the crime; every situation is different, we can’t have a set list of infractions and punishments

3) taking our children seriously; by this I mean let’s start with the assumption that they are good kids, they want not to get in trouble, they’re doing the best they possibly can

All we need for the positive discipline mindset. They sound simple, but they can be really difficult to implement! Today, I try to persuade you that the best thing you can do for your child – and you – is get into the positive discipline mindset.

Thanks for listening! If you listen all the way to the end, I share a project I’ve just started: helping parents individually, when you feel like your challenges as a parent are more than listening to the podcast can fix. Go here to find out more!

In the next Just You and Me episode, number 38, we will get into the ninja tactics of positive discipline!

Podcast Episode 034: Why Do Kids Need to Play? A Your Child Explained episode

Podcast Episode 034: Why Do Kids Need to Play? A Your Child Explained Episode

This past Tuesday, I had a great conversation with mom and licensed mental health counselor Janine Halloran of encourageplay.com. Janine specializes in facilitating play, and our conversation ranged from the benefits of play and how little is really required to encourage it, to how endangered open-ended play is in our society.

Today, I want to extend on that conversation, and look at what’s really going on inside a child’s head during play, why it’s so important, and how we can bring more of it into our crazy-busy lives.

First off, kids process things completely differently from adults – and play is what helps them process the events going on around them. Play helps kids understand and make sense of their world, and it’s up to us to remember that both to foster learning and to make our lives run more smoothly.

Secondly, if you want to grab a kid’s attention, start a game! Games help kids clean up, remember routines, and just add some fun into an otherwise humdrum task.

Thirdly, kids learn with their whole bodies, and need all different kinds of play – alone and with others, indoors and out, self-directed and open-ended.

Finally, play helps kids learn to navigate their world and negotiate and resolve conflicts (nonviolently). Studies are showing that kids aren’t learning the kind of negotiation skills that we need to get along in this world, and I share about a study done a few years ago showing just how little playtime kindergarten children get in school. Called The Crisis In The Kindergarten, I hope you’ll read this paper, learn about the study, and work extra hard to get your child more playtime. It’s truly our hope for the future.

I’d like to leave you with a question: how are you getting your child the kind of open-ended play time that every kid needs? Drop me a line and let me know, whether over at the contact page on weturnedoutokay.com or on instagram @weturnedoutokay.

Podcast Episode 033: Play Is The Key With Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Mom Janine Halloran

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From the moment I first read her article on The Many Perks Of Play in the October 2015 issue of baystateparent, I knew I was going to have to talk to Janine Halloran. She explains everything there is to know about play and how it can benefit kids, in a really well-written and entertaining way.

Janine graciously agreed to come on to the show, and our interview is really one of my favorites so far!

Today, Janine shares that play is:

1) critical to the well-being of every human, and even many animals – the skills learned through play are uncountable, our reasoning and thinking skills are honed through play, we even learn how to get along with other people through play

2) endangered in our culture; the average kid’s time is way too structured, which crowds out the potential for open-ended play; since open-ended play is where so much of the magic happens, it’s downright dangerous to have so little of it in a child’s life

3) cheap, and/or free – think about how entertained your kids are just by the boxes that the stuff we buy comes in… we do not have to spend all kinds of crazy money to provide great playthings to our kids

If you take just one thing from today’s episode, I hope it is this: a thriving family needs play, and lots of it. How are you playing with your kids today?

Connect with Janine at her website, encourageplay.com, where she has great advice about helping get more play into your child’s life.

032: Four Ways to Stop Halloween from Scaring YOU

As a kid, I loved Halloween.… But as the mom of young children, it used to scare the heck out of me! There is so much to worry about: pressures to spend money on costumes and decorations, what to do about all the candy coming into the house, helping our kids deal with their emotional fears.

I decided to do an episode that’s actually an audio kit to help you stop being scared by Halloween – because I can’t be the only one who feels like this! So, here goes:

4 Ways to Stop Halloween from Scaring You

1) create a spending plan… decide beforehand what you feel comfortable spending on everything Halloween including candy, costumes, decorations, and parties to feel more in control and thus less frightened

2) get creative… lots of fun can be had when you decide to make something rather than buy it; I share about building a scarecrow from thrift-shop clothing and a carved pumpkin head, something the kids and I could do together that created great memories while limiting our spending – making the whole Halloween experience less parent-scary and more fun

3) figure out your approach to candy… for the first part of 3 I suggest that you listen out of earshot of your children, as I describe the wonderful phenomenon known as the Halloween Witch; for the second part I ask you to consider something that might seem extremely insane: giving your kids free reign over how and when they consume their candy… however you handle candy, make sure you know what you’ll do going in to the Halloween insanity, because having a game plan makes things less scary

4) help your young children not be scared… I was caught completely by surprise at how nakedly frightened my boys were at ages three and four by Halloween; I share about a favorite book that saved our bacon every year for about six years, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

And that’s the four ways to keep Halloween from scaring you! If they help, please let me know – go to weturnedoutokay.com/contact, or shout out to me on twitter @StoneAgeTechie or on instagram (my favorite place in the social media universe) @weturnedoutokay. I can’t wait to connect!

Podcast Episode 031: Making Space for Wonder in Busy Daily Life – Your Child Explained

In today’s Your Child Explained episode – where we always take a subject and look at it from within the mind of our kids – we figure out how to incorporate time for daydreaming into our kids’ daily life.

If you remember, in episode 30 I spoke with dad and business owner Steve Mirando (give it a listen if you haven’t yet, it’s a great interview with lots of ideas for balancing work and life), and Steve told a really compelling story about his youngest attempting to “stop the wind.” This four-year-old’s idea for stopping the wind involved stopping a shrub from moving in the wind, and Steve recognized that moment as a really significant one… Because they’re so curious and creative, children just naturally bring a lot of wonder into our lives.

Today, I extend on this idea of daydreaming and big ideas and wonder – and how easily we can trample those things without even meaning to in the daily rush.

Did you know that Einstein came up with the theory of relativity by daydreaming? He imagined sitting on a beam of light as it moves through space, and asked the question, what would that be like? Often, people feel their most creative when they’re given the space and time to daydream. Adults really need that time – but kids need it even more, or at least more of it. The question is, how do we find the time for it in our daily lives?

Three things are necessary to create an environment that fosters big ideas and wonder:

1) an absence of screens

2) material for kids to keep their hands busy – a tray of sand (on a table covered with newspaper), some warm water and soap in the sink, play dough, or just some open-ended outside time

3) our willingness to engage in a conversation that is mostly us listening and observing our kids

What we’re doing here is noticing our kids questions and thoughts… Even if they can’t be lengthy, even if it’s just for a little while a few times a week, something special happens in these moments. They help us know and appreciate our kids more, and helps them know themselves better in the long run. As they get into school, grow up and experience the pressures of daily life, knowing what gets them excited about learning is the key to happiness.

So really, fostering the sense of wonder when they’re young translates to engaged, creative adults later on – and that’s really what we want for them, isn’t it?

Podcast Episode 030: Balancing Family and Work with Dad and Business Owner Steve Mirando

Today’s guest, along with his wife and children, have been special people in my family’s life ever since we had the excellent luck of moving in across the street from them more than a decade ago.

We’ve watched Steve Mirando and his wife Sue support each other through a lot – having children, figuring out work-life challenges, Steve’s going to full-time school for acupuncture and then hanging out his shingle as a practicing acupuncturist… many of these all happening at the same time!

Listen in to hear about:

1) Steve’s past as part of an improv theater troupe, and how that’s helped him cope with the surprises that life brings as a parent and business owner (check out Steve’s website, theacuworks.com, here.)

2) how critical it is to surround yourself with people who want to help you achieve your dreams – and who you want to support as they achieve theirs

3) Steve and Sue’s awesome ideas about family time, what it is and what it means to truly “spend time together”

If you take just one thing from this episode, I hope it is this: even in the really busy day-to-day that everyone with young children experiences, it is possible to connect with our spouses and children on a meaningful level every day. We can make a conscious choice to figure out how to make that happen! Steve and Sue Mirando, our across-the-street neighbors, are a great example of how to do that right.

Podcast Episode 029: Grandparents Are People Too

Recently, I got to have an amazing conversation with a dear friend, granddad to a 1 1/2-year-old girl. Today’s episode is a recounting of that conversation, because we can learn so much from it! Here are the three big ideas that my friend and I (who remains nameless, to protect the privacy of he and his family) spoke about:

1) The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law dynamic is very different – and can be far more antagonizing – then the mother/daughter dynamic.

2) What happens when we, this generation sandwiched in the middle who are raising young children while simultaneously engaging with our parents, want something different for our children than our parents want for them? I advise my friend, the caring and worried grandfather, to do all he can to help his son and daughter-in-law feel supported and competent… In a nutshell, this means backing off and waiting for his son and daughter-in-law to ask for help or advice.

3) The paradox of stuff: we all want stuff, we spend way too much money on it, and yet the having of so much stuff can paralyze us. This is noticeable in adults, but especially noticeable in children. With too many toys to choose from at a time, with too much background noise or overstimulating screen time, with too many food choices – kids literally can’t choose. They can’t make a choice! My friend the Grandpa and I put this in the context of giving gifts to grandchildren, talking especially about what gifts to give in a world where we all have too much stuff.

What is your relationship, dear listener, with your parents and your in-laws? I hope it’s a good one, and if it needs some help, I hope that today’s podcast starts you along the path to improving these relationships. Please drop me a line and let me know how it’s going by commenting here or going to weturnedoutokay.com/contact!

Podcast Episode 028: YCE – Listener Q&A, and Your Child Explained, The Screen Time Edition

I love shows like today’s, when a listener has written in and I get to respond on the air!

Today, Melissa asks how to help give her young kids the support they need in the outside-of-school hours. Here’s what I suggest: that Melissa and her husband give their children some control over what they do in their out-of-school time. Listen in for more details!

The other reason I love today’s episode is that it is a Your Child Explained. This is where I get to do something I’m pretty good at, which is understanding what’s going on inside your child’s head and giving you tools to use in your quest to be a less-worried, more-happy Old-School Parent.

In this Your Child Explained we get into screen time; episode 27, which aired this past Tuesday in real time, featured the postmortem (finally!) with journalist and mom Heather Kempskie. Heather was on over the summer to share about her amazing family trip in an RV, and I went and blew it by accidentally deleting the second half of our interview about the trip… So this past Tuesday, Heather came back on – our first returning champion – to share about the ups and downs of RVing. A big part of our conversation centered on shutting off the Wi-Fi and how that felt for her kids during their trip, and it resonated so much with me that I wanted to talk more about what happens inside our kids’ heads both during screen time, and after screen time.