1. Hot Topic: Comfort Objects

    Did you have a blankie as a child? C’mon, you can tell us. Most small children form attachments to blankets, pacifiers, plush toys, and other comfort objects at an early age. These items give kids a sense of security and help them cope with many everyday experiences and feelings. But it can be pretty mystifying to see the lengths a toddler will go to for their favorite blankie – as anyone who’s ever lost their kid’s blankie already knows. If you’re trying to make sense of the blankie phenomenon, we can help.

    The term “security blanket” (coined by Charles Schultz in the comic strip Peanuts) is an accurate one; blankets and other objects help kids feel more secure. Many doctors and researchers agree that these items often remind children of their parents and, in the absence of parents, provide support and reassurance that’s portable and always available. These cherished possessions also have a soothing effect when a child feels sleepy, sick, or anxious.

    As your child’s comfort object allows them to rely on you less, it becomes easier for them to separate from you. No, this doesn’t mean they’re going to disregard you altogether, but it does help your child take those first necessary steps toward independence. Studies have shown that comfort objects actually promote play, exploration, and overall happiness in children when parents are not around.

    Most children begin to disassociate from their comfort objects on their own as they transition from toddlerhood to pre-adolescence. But if your child’s devotion to a comfort object becomes excessive, it may be time to talk. Some children become so preoccupied with their comfort object they exclude other activities. In this case, it might be wise to take steps to wean them from this object. First, bring it to your child’s attention that they seem to be spending an awful lot of time with their comfort object. Then, try setting limits. The next time you’re going on a trip, ask your little one whether they would be willing to leave their comfort object at home. Then, start taking the comfort object out only at designated times, like bedtime. Before you know it, they’ll forget all about that ratty old blanket.

    On the other hand, if they’re not quite at that stage yet, and you’re thinking of throwing out that threadbare blankie or that one-eyed teddy, browse CookiesKids.com for a replacement. But make sure to call your toddler over to have a look at the options – toddlers can be very choosy!

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  2. Hot Topic: Their First School Dance

    Don’t you remember yours? The punchbowl with its wilting lemon slices? The tottering, arms-length slow dances? That one girl who borrowed a little too much of Mom’s makeup? It’s easy to see school dances as hokey or downright lame in retrospect, but for your middle schooler the approach of their first school dance may stir up some pretty strong anticipatory feelings. It may inspire fits of joy. On the other hand, it could inspire terror. No matter how your pre-teen feels about it, we have tips to help.

    Middle school ages represent a wide variety of maturity levels, so it’s important to prepare your dance-goer (and yourself, should you care to witness the spectacle) for a range of behaviors. There will be kids who don’t want to dance. There will be kids whose dance moves are provocative enough to require the intervention of chaperones. Figure out what level your kid seems to be on. If they seem indifferent to the dance, and you don’t think they know the first thing about dancing, show them a step or two, or share a story. If your pre-teen has been imitating their favorite music videos around the house for years, perhaps warn them that those kinds of moves may not be well received by all their fellow students and teachers.

    School dances are indeed a “public sphere” for kids, an environment less inhibited than those most kids inhabit on a daily basis. Thus, it gives kids a chance to see their peers in a whole new light – namely the light from a mirror ball. The thought of all that dancing in the dark can make a shy kid very nervous, and surely some kids will not want to attend. But it’s important to explain that sometimes it’s worthwhile to see how one’s peers get down. It may be funny. It may be pretty strange. But it will certainly be a night to remember.

    Though clearly we’re a self-interested party on this issue, clothes are very important. They can be a big confidence booster and the difference between your kid having an “okay” time and the time of their life. Special occasions such as homecoming notwithstanding, most school dances are informal gatherings, yet kids will want to be a bit more dressed up than usual. At the same time, if your pre-teen wants to bust a move on the dance floor, they’ll want clothes that are comfy. Casual tops, T-shirts, blouses, skirts, and jeans are all acceptable wardrobe choices. Of course they’ll also want to wear comfortable kicks! The key is to give your young party animal a look their peers have never seen before. CookiesKids.com has a vast selection of stylish fashions that will make your pre-teen feel like the belle or beau of the ball.

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  3. Hot Topic: A Little Homework Never Hurt Anyone

    Homework: scale-tipping backpacks, towering stacks of literary classics, mathematical symbols that seem to swirl on the page after a while. These memories are alive and well for today’s youth, whose take-home assignments aren’t all that different than the ones you did as a kid. After all, homework has been an educational staple since the dawn of formal schooling, and it’s endured because of its positive effects on children’s attitudes toward learning. But let’s examine the issue a little deeper – because not everyone loves homework!

    Many parents and educators believe at-home assignments help students develop independence, responsibility, and time management skills. Furthermore, homework makes students realize that learning can take place anywhere, not solely in the classroom. And homework can benefit parents as well, giving them a window into the classroom.

    But some parents (and MANY students) scoff at the notion that homework has any tangible benefits. Homework’s opponents say the extra work puts unnecessary pressure on students, “robs children of childhood”, and may even cause self-esteem issues. The most fervid detractors contend that homework turns learning into a mind-numbing exercise, based solely on rote memorization and repetition of material, as opposed to an exciting learning adventure.

    What can you do to make sure homework doesn’t overwhelm, frustrate, or bore your child? Be positive – your attitude about homework is the one your student will base theirs upon. If they’re struggling with a subject, have them work on that subject first so they’ll be most alert. When they ask for help, provide guidance, not answers. And when it comes to tasks that seem like pure, boring memorization, try and show your student other alternatives: vocabulary words, for example, are a lot easier to recall if you can come up with a sentence that uses them in a funny and memorable way. Finally, don’t forget to reward your child’s progress. Set goals with incentives, even if those incentives are just a parent’s praise. (And, though we’d never recommend “bribery”, there are a lot of fine toys on our site to reward the most exceptional homework-improvers!) 

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  4. Hot Topic: Classic Read “Huckleberry Finn” and the “N” Word

    Today’s hot topic is over Mark Twain’s classic, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn,” required reading in many elementary school curriculums.

    Publishers Weekly reports that NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition is replacing the “N” word with “slave” instead.  The new edition will also delete all uses of the word “Injun.”

    The two sides of the argument are whether this is censorship or whether racist slang, even in historic context, is unsuitable for a younger audience.

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    What do you believe? Is it impossible to separate the moment in American history that Twain describes in the book without the “N” word? Or is it better to eliminate a hurtful word from a classic read by a younger audience?

    Give us your thoughts in the comments below and see the full story here.

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