Sunday, March 21, 2010

What about our daily routines?

Here’s something that I hadn’t thought much about before: making use of the basic parts of your day to have a little fun and education with your child. On Saturday morning (3/20/10) at the Addressing Challenging Behavior Conference, I attended a workshop by Dr. Julian Woods entitled “Using Everyday Routines and Activities to Promote Positive Communication and Social Interaction for Children and Caregivers.” Dr. Woods is Director of TaCTICS at Florida State University, an organization that works with families to establish more responsive communication.

Whether we are teachers or parents (or both!), sometimes our days feel like one “must do” after another. What a different spin we can put on it, if we seek to make a more loving, communicative connection with our children during each of these routine, busy times. In the classroom, I try very hard to have a lengthy period of the day for exploration and learning. However, some days, for example, when we have visitors or a special class to attend, or perhaps a fire drill, it feels as if we spend our time coming and going, “lining up,” forcing transitions of the children from one place to another. Have you ever thought of seizing these routine times as the opportunities they are for the children to have a positive interaction with you?

The richest moments for early language learning are when the child is sharing attention, affect, and intentions, and the caregiver talks about the child’s focus of attention.” - Dr. Woods

This is the thinking behind following your child’s lead in play – the child shows what he/she is interested in and you play along, echoing and engaging in the fun, too. Routines are different from child's play because the child usually does not independently choose to do them. (Though I have fond memories of my youngest grabbing the broom after dinner, to sweep the kitchen. . . unfortunately, he gave that up after about age four). This workshop showed how there is still much we can do to promote positive communication, to help a child’s language and communication skills grow - even if the only thing your child is doing is following your crazy schedule.

Two basic things that are important to a child’s learning are available in abundance in our daily "must do's": a loving relationship with the caregiver and repetition of information.

Routines offer a framework for teaching because they are meaningful to the child, require a short time sequence, are repeated frequently and support interaction between the child and careprovider. - TaCTICS

If you are frustrated with some of your daily routines, particularly the way that your child(ren) participate in them, I encourage you to check out the extensive information provided by TaCTICS, an outreach training project funded by a U.S. Department of Education Grant. Dr. Woods and her colleagues work with parents, families, and caregivers to help foster responsive, caring communication in these most basic interactions with children.

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