Author Archives: Rachel

Parenting children

Why Raising Kids Is Like Polishing Diamonds

Sometimes raising kids is like riding the electric walkways you find at the airport.

You kind of lean over a bit, relax a bit as it takes you where you want to go. Then you spy that little thruway thing, and brace yourself for a brief trip in no-man’s land schlepping all of your stuff.

It doesn't really matter how old your kids are. It doesn't matter if you’re a single parent, a grandmother raising her grandchildren, or a two-parent family. It doesn't even really matter if your kid (or kids) is an angel or a devil on training wheels. A problem comes up, you agonize, philosophize, poll the various parties about what to do.

Then you embark on a lengthy or not-so-lengthy “solution” to the problem. Things settle down a bit. You pat yourself on the back, enjoy the peace and quiet for a bit, and then BOOM! Kid #2 starts acting up.

I think they've got some sort of lottery system going.

In the beginning you don’t realize it. You come home from the hospital full of smiles, high hopes, and a bunch of unrealistic expectations. But after a while they start to grow up, and that sweet little spinach-covered regurgitation machine turns into this THING.

The first time they look at you and start singing to a different tune, it's really cute. Maybe you even take a picture. After a while, it's not so cute anymore, and then you realize that it's not as cute as you thought. By the time you realize that this is it, they're going to keep doing this for their whole bleeping life, it's too late. You can't go back to the hospital and insist that this can't possibly be your child, and that somehow they must have switched babies.

Seasoned parents disagree on which is worse: dealing with the same problem over and over again (what is this, the Twilight Zone? I thought we dealt with this already) or enjoying the thrill of a brand new problem each time.

And know that the solution that worked today isn't guaranteed to work tomorrow.

But there is one thing that I can guarantee you, and it's this: IT’S NOT GOING TO END ANYTIME SOON. And the reason is this: your child is not a finished product. And he or she won’t be a finished product until they come to you with their own children.

Maybe not even then.

It could drive a person to start longing for the good old days of orphan trains and Oliver Twist orphanages…unless you realize that kids are really like unpolished diamonds, and you are the diamond polisher.

Keep up the work, and someday you’ll look at your child and say-hey, I didn't do such a bad job after all.

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Parenting children

4 Ways to Help Your Anxious Child

Scared Max

It's not easy dealing with an anxious child. The whining, the tendency to overgeneralize and aggrandize every little incident, can push many parents to the edge. You may feel irritated and frustrated when despite all of your efforts at explanation, your child continues to be fearful.

However with help and these 5 suggestions, you can help your child overcome her anxiety.

1. Acknowledge her fears as real. When faced with a fearful child, it is tempting to try and soothe her by explaining away her fears. A 4 year old who is afraid of dogs might be given all sorts of explanations why the neighbor's dog won't hurt her. A 6 year old who is afraid of burglars might be given all sorts of logical demonstrations as to why his home is safe from burglars.

A better way of handling the situation is to acknowledge the feelings and thoughts behind the fear. For example, you might try putting an arm around the 4 year old, and say, "I see you're really scared by that dog? Are you worried he's going to hurt you?"

Most parents avoid this method, because they've seen their child become even more upset. It is true that when responded to like this, a child will become temporarily more hysterical. However this is only a temporary reaction.

This hysteria is part fear, but also part relief that you really do understand how they feel. If you stick with it, reassuring them that you understand these are scary feelings to have, and offering physical comfort, they will calm down fairly quickly after that initial hysteria.

2. Teach your child how to recognize and express his feelings of anxiety and fear. Children often don't know how to handle the strong feelings they experience. They may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of their feelings, and so they may rely on you, the parent, to help them.

When you see your child entering the "danger zone" of fear, you can help him be more aware of his body language, tying it in later to a particular feeling. For example, if you see your 5 year old starts clinging to you, you can stop, bend down next to him, and say, "I'm looking at you now, and I see a boy whose muscles are really tight! (Squeeze his arm muscles to show him what you mean).

I also see how your eyes are wide, and you're breathing faster than you usually do. All of these things tell me you are feeling scared about something."

3. Teach her ways to cope with her anxiety. The real problem with your fearful child is not that he is fearful; but how he handles his fears. Everyone has fears at one time or another, whether we talk about or not. However, as adults, we have acquired various ways of coping with our fear.

Some people may go for a walk, others start housecleaning, while others head to the fridge. Your child also has a coping mechanism, albeit an ineffective one. You need to replace your child's ineffective coping mechanism by teaching her what to do when she feels anxious.

Sit down with your child, and explain that sometimes people feel scared or worried about things. Give an example of a recent worry that you or someone else the child knows had. Then explain that we don't have to be stuck with our fear; we can do something to help us feel better. Then brainstorm together with them,  and write up all the suggestions.

If your child is under 9, you could even take a picture of her carrying out each of the suggestions; in the midst of an anxiety attack a picture will get through to her panicked mind more easily. When your child starts becoming fearful, carry out the previous steps, and then bring your child to the chart you have made together.

You may have to gently prod her to engage in one of the activities, and it is okay to say to her that if she does X, then you will read a special story together before bedtime, for example.

4.  Put limits on his behavior. You and your child may find it easier to let old habits lie; after all, changing your child's ineffective ways of handling his fears takes time, effort, and energy. However, in order to help your child, you will need to be consistent about what you require of him.

If you only occasionally help your child learn to recognize his body language, or every so often casually remind him about his list of coping mechanisms, you will make very little progress. Initially it will require a commitment on your part to invest the time and energy you will need to get the job done. No, your child will not always respond well to your understanding reassurances. She may resist listening to her MP4, as you discussed.

But if you keep at it, little by little your child will replace those ineffective behaviors with new, effective ones - and you will find yourself one day with a child who handles her fears with aplomb.

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Hands-On Learning Games

Hands-on Learning Games:Teaching Kids How to Tell Time

Want to teach your kids how to tell the time?

How to tell timeLearning to tell time is one of the skills children naturally enjoy learning.  In my house, I hold back on giving the younger children a real watch until they can tell time.

Usually by 5 or so, they're already begging me to start teaching them. Here is a detailed plan you can use to help your child learn how to tell time:

1) Before you begin teaching your child to tell time, make sure they know their numbers up to 12. You can teach a child as young as 4 as numbers, so there's no need to wait until kindergarten to teach your child how to tell time.

2) Next, explain to your child that the clock has a long hand and a short hand. Point out that the long hand is called a long hand because it is longer than the short hand. Point out the same thing with the short hand.

Spend a day or so asking them to show you the long hand or the short hand on an actual clock. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you have an analog clock up in a prominent place. Then, every time you pass the clock, have your child tell point to one of the hands.

3) After they can consistently show you where the long and short hands are, you can start teaching them the hour. Explain to your child that when the short hand points to a number, we know what the hour is. Then show them the long hand pointing to the 12, and explain that means "o clock." Your child can make his own clock with a paper plate, hands cut out from cardboard, and a paper fastener. Show them how a real clock looks, and have them copy the numbers on the paper plate.

Now when you pass by a clock, you will ask your child to tell you which number the short hand faces. You should also refer to the time when you talk about what you will do that day.

For example, you can say, "We'll go to the park at 3:00." Then when 3:00 comes, ask them to look at the clock and tell you what time it is. If they have trouble, help them out, and then say, "Oh, now that we know the time we can go out to the park." They'll be eager to check the time, because they'll  feel it's the clock that tells them when it's time to do their favorite activity.

4) Now you'll start teaching your child to tell the half-hour. First, your child needs to understand what all of those "half" and "quarters" are that we throw around so casually actually mean. In order to help your child conceptualize this, cut out a large circle from cardboard. Make sure that it's the same size as your teaching clock (the clock you are working with to teach your child to tell the time. It needn't be a real clock).

Cut the circle in half. Next, write on two small cards (about the size of a mailing label) 1/2. Put both halves together, and say to your child, "This is a whole circle."

Next, separate the circle into halves. Take one label, put it on one half, and say, "This is a half. " Do the same with the second half. Then take off the labels, put the halves together, and have your child copy you.

Wait a few hours before you go on to the next step, letting your child label the half circles. When your child gets this consistently, you're ready to connect this to the clock.

5) Take one of the half pieces, and place it on the clock. Point out how now you can only see half of the clock. Show them the six, and explain that when the long hand points to the six, it means "half-past." Then let them practice putting the practice clock at various numbers, and telling you the time.

6) Download the free worksheet for blank clock faces. Make one worksheet with the times filled in. Underneath each clock, write the time shown.  Make a copy of this page, and cut the labels off of this second page. That will leave you one page with the answers, and one page that they can practice matching the labels to the clock faces.

7) You will continue to call their attention to the time on the wall clock throughout the day, this time focusing on the half-hour.

8) After your child is able to tell time on the half hour 100% of the time, she can move on the quarter of an hour. Make another circle from cardboard, the same size as your teaching clock. Cut it into fourths, and make separate labels which say, "1/4."

9) Show your child how to use the material, and let them continue to practice as they did with the half-hour material.

10) Spend the next few days reviewing with the wall clock as you did before.

11)  Place the quarter circle on the clock, so that the numbers 1-3 are covered. Tell your child, “This is one quarter. When the long hand points to the 3, then we know it is quarter after. “

Move the short hand to 12. Explain that now the clock reads a quarter after …” Point to the 12, and let your child fill in the blank. Move the short hand to the next number, and say, “Now the clock reads a quarter after …” and again let your child fill in the blank. Continue this way through all of the numbers.

12. Your child is now ready to learn “quarter ‘till.” Place the quarter of the circle again on the teaching clock, so that the numbers 9-12 are covered. Then tell your child, “This is also a quarter of the clock. It’s called quarter to.

Then move the short and long hands so they point  to each number (as you did earlier), letting your child help you tell the time.

As before, print out new blank clock circles, fill them out, and make a copy. Cut the labels off of one page, and they can use the other to check their work.

13. Now your child simply needs to become proficient. Let your child practice over the next week or two all of the various worksheets.



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Language Development

Language Development: 6 Tips on Strengthening Your Toddler’s Language Development

Do you suspect your toddler has a language delay? Perhaps you’ve watched other children at the park or in a mommy’s playgroup, and noticed that the other children seem to understand and speak more than your child. Or perhaps your child’s speech is difficult to understand, but friends, family, and your child’s doctor suggest a “wait and see” approach.

While there can be a wide range of language ability between children, it’s often parents who first suspect their toddler has poor language development. Unfortunately, they are often told to wait until their child gets older, and regaled with stories of a child who didn’t talk until kindergarten and grew up to be a nuclear physicist.

If you suspect your toddler has a language delay, but have been told to wait a half a year and see what happens- your best bet is to ignore that well-meaning advice and get to work on strengthening your child’s language development.

There are several reasons for doing this, but the most important one is that not helping your child means that a large chunk of time was simply wasted. Taking a proactive approach can’t hurt your child,  but it could significantly help your child catch up to where they need to be.

You don’t need to go overboard, however, and start booking a private speech therapist to work with your child every day. As a parent, you are actually in a great position to help your child improve their language development in a nonthreatening, fun environment.

Here are some tips you can use to start helping your toddler today:

1) Sing throughout the day with your child. It’s natural for most parents to sing to their toddlers. The key word here, though, it with, not to. Choose simple songs – nursery rhyme songs are the ideal length- and encourage your toddler to sing along with you.

You can do this by singing a whole line and then stopping, letting your child fill in the blank. This helps build your toddler’s auditory memory, an area that is often weak in children with delayed language development.

2) Teach your child songs with gestures. Songs like “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Little Bunny Foo-Foo,” and “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” are great ways of helping build your toddler’s auditory and motor memory. Choose a set time each day to do them, and it will be easy to make sure your child gets practice every day.

3) Read to your child. You know you’re supposed to read to your child, but did you know that how you read can make the difference between peanut butter and jelly and a submarine?

Don’t just read the story to your child, occasionally pointing out a picture or two. Use the book as a jumping board for discussing other topics as well. You don’t have to cover everything at once; chances are if your toddler likes the book, you’ll likely be reading it more often than you like.

4) Mirror your child’s speech. Some parents, in their quest to raise little Einsteins, speak to their toddlers as if they were already in middle school.

While this might be fine for some children, children with weak language development get lost with this type of language. Instead, if your child is speaking 2-3 word sentences, then when you ask them where your favorite pen is or what they’d like to eat, you should too.

You won’t hinder your child’s progress; on the contrary, speaking on their level means they will finally be able to understand you. Try it - you’ll see progress in a week or two, guaranteed.

5) Give them lots of experiences. Parenting toddlers is tiring work. It’s easy to fall into the habit of going to the park, to the store, and perhaps a friend’s house.

However, your toddler needs lots of different experiences in order to build their vocabulary, learn new ideas, and practice new skills. Before you start packing for Disneyland, keep in mind that there are many places you can take your toddler right in your own neighborhood.

For example, take a walk to a local bakery, and show your child all the different foods that are there. Your child will learn the names of some common (or not so common) foods, and perhaps have a chance to see how some items are made.

6) Have fun! Don’t look at your sessions with your toddler as work sessions; not only will you start feeling pressurized, but your toddler will heartily resist your taking control of things. Instead, use the time to enjoy being with your child, and sharing with them the beauty of the world around them-while strengthening their language development at the same time.

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Visual Memory

Hands-on Learning Games: How to Improve Your Child’s Visual Perception

Does your child have problems with her visual perception? A child who has weak visual perceptual skills will have trouble matching letters, numbers, or words. They might also have trouble telling what is different or the same about several objects or symbols.

For example, if you show them a picture of a horse and a cow, they would find it hard to explain that both have four feet and a tail. Older children might understand a word in one context, but not in another. So they might understand what extreme sports means, but not "taking things to the extreme."

Weak visual perception skills are not something your child is stuck with forever. You can use these simple games that are both inexpensive, easy to make, and fun to play.



  • nuts, bolts, buttons, shells, beans, seeds, small colored "jewels,"  miniature animals, foam geometric shapes, different coin  denominations
  • small containers to hold each type of object. These could be small  Tupperware containers, mini baking tins, tiny plastic serving bowls-  visit your local paper/party goods store for ideas.
  • a small tray to hold the containers. This is necessary in order to define  the work order and also to contain spills; it's not fun trying to pick up      dozens of rolling pinto beans!

How to Play:

  1. Choose the items you would like to sort. In the beginning start out with only two different types of objects. Later, as your child becomes more proficient, you can increase the choices to 3 or 4.
  2. Select the number of containers you will need. This will depend on how many different types of objects you have. So if your child is sorting geometric shapes, and there are 4 different types of shapes (make sure that each shape is always the same color, otherwise your child will not know whether to sort by shape or color), then you will need 4 different containers. You will also need a larger container to hold the unsorted items.
  3. Place all the containers on the tray, with the objects that need to be sorted in a container in the middle.
  4. Demonstrate to your child how to sort, making sure to demonstrate what to do if something spills, or if they finish (how and where will they put everything away?). They should pick up the objects with their thumb and index finger, but if they are older you can vary the game and make it more complicated by choosing tongs, tweezers, or other fun items.  Don't use a lot of explanation to do this; your actions will be enough.
  5. Let your child enjoy practicing sorting. Be prepared for siblings demanding to play as well- it is enticing even for older children as well.

TIP:  You can make this game especially pleasing by choosing matching colors for all the containers, and the tray, or by using crystal look-alike plastic. These are fairly inexpensive but add a lot to the game.

Category Fun

  • Pictures of items in several categories, such as: household furniture, food, clothes, animals, vehicles, appliances. You can use Yahoo Images to search for appropriate pictures. Just go to the regular search page, and instead of the page you automatically do your searches (this is called "web") you will click the word "images" next to it.
  • You should laminate each picture, or glue each picture to hard paper for durability. Tip: when laminating, be sure to cut out each picture before you laminate, rather than just laminating your whole sheet of pix and then cutting them out afterwards. Doing so might cause the two pieces of plastic holding your picture to open up a the ends.

How to Play:

  1. Choose two categories.
  2. Take one picture from each category and put them next to each other horizontally.
  3. Mix up the remaining pictures. Take a picture from the pile, and show your child how to decide where it goes. For example, if you have furniture and food (two obviously different categories) you would take a picture and ask your child, "Is this something we could eat? Oh, so it has to go here, with the furniture.
  4. As your child gets the hang of things (and it shouldn't take long), you can use more difficult categories, like: fruits vs. vegetables, wild animals vs. pets, hot vs. cold.

Another version of this game is called Secret Squares. You can find it in most toy stores, or online. You can also make it at home.  Basically you play it like 20 questions: you set out all the cards (face-up for an easy game, face-down for much harder), and one of you secretly chooses a card, and places a red plastic disc under it, to mark it.

The other players then have to guess where the red disc is by asking categorical type questions, like "is it something we eat?" If it is, then they can automatically take out all the things that are not edible. They then proceed to ask more specific questions, like,"is it a dessert?" until the tile is found.

This is a game for advanced players only, but you can make it easier by helping your child with the questions, and then letting her eliminate the tiles that don't belong.

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children with autism

Inspirational Friday: Jason McElwin Autistic Basketball Player

Saw this one and couldn't resist..

Of course you realize it's not only Jason who's special here, but his teammates and the crowd as well.

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Parenting children

Parenting Solutions: How to Teach Your Child to Problem Solve

How to Teach Your Child to Problem-Solve

There is a lot of talk about teaching children to solve problems on their own. Whole curriculums have been erected by educators determined to train children to “independent thinking” with a host of group games, written exercises, and mind games.

If you walk into any bookstore or browse online you’ll be inundated by workbooks, computer games, and five-minute brain teasers that practically guarantee your child will be at least as competent as Wittengenstein, if not more.

I’m not against any of this, mind you. I’ll be fair, and allow any good man to go ahead and make his buck; after all, this is a capitalist society, is it not? But one thing all of the slick covers and eager beaver salesmen forget to tell you is that the trophy of problem solving is intimately connected with independence.

I don’t want you to confuse independence with the kind of cocky speech so common to child stars and sitcoms, the kind where the child has an answer (usually not a nice one) for everything the parent says.

When I was a kid my parents called that backtalk, and any kid who did that could expect to hear, “Did I ask your opinion?” followed by a swat on the bottom. (let’s not get started on the spank/no spanking debate- one swat on the behind didn’t kill me or any of my siblings-or their friends for that matter-but to each his own).

Independence also doesn’t refer to this generation’s tendency to let children decide what’s best for them, even though their parents may be uncomfortable or downright against those choices.

If you think letting your teenager hang around the mall until late at night, or hang out with friends for long periods of time at your house unsupervised is independence, then this article can’t help you. You’ll have to look elsewhere for the panacea to your problems.

If, however, you can understand that true independence means making some difficult choices that may not be so popular, then you are already well on your way to helping your child survive on their own.

If you also understand that true independence can only occur when you have given your child the structure, the values, the conscience to do what is right so they will be able to exercise their independence in a way that will be helpful to others, then you are most certainly ahead of the crowd.

I have one more surprise for you: The real definition of independence is more than being able to solve problems on your own. The fact is that not all problems can be solved on your own; heck, a good number of problems either can’t be solved or will never be solved in one person’s lifetime.

The best working definition of independence must include the ability to seek out others to help you solve a problem, if necessary, as well as having the coping skills to deal with a problem that has no best solution.

Let’s take for example, the problem of a class bully. Little Timmy, smart as a whip but small for his age, finds himself at the receiving end of Midge and friends, a group of older boys who swagger around the school grounds in search of fresh meat. Until now Timmy has managed to escape their notice; perhaps Team Midge was busy with other prey, or perhaps he simply fell under the radar.

At any rate, now Timmy is the light of their life, and finds himself in a bit of a sticky situation (to put it mildly) about two or three times a day. What should Timmy do? The problem of bullies is one that has existed since Cain and Abel, and Timmy is not about to wave a magic wand and solve all of Midge’s deep-seated feelings of inferiority.

Timmy has several choices, none of which are all that great. He can turn to the powers that be and beg for 24/7 police protection. That might work, at least a little while, but then he risks the wrath of Midge  and company, and will possibly be looked upon as a snitch by his friends. He could try the ol’ lunch money trick, but Timmy is not rich, and he has hopes of some day eating more than twice a day.

The truth is that this situation really has no good answer. Any solution that Timmy hits upon is likely to work for only a little while.

The real question then becomes: who can Timmy approach to help him handle this situation? Can he approach Midge’s sworn enemy? Can he look towards an older, stronger neighbor to help? Can he get together a group of other kids Midge has picked on in the past, and maybe wage a secret war?

And how will he handle the effects of being picked on? The lost school books, missed lunches, not to mention concerned parents, will have an influence as well. Timmy must know how to juggle all of the various balls in the air, or face the unpleasant consequences.

All in all, it’s a situation with no easy answers. Timmy’s parents might want to rush in and solve the problem for him, but in reality it’s a problem that is all his own. It is Timmy who must walk the plank each and every day, never knowing how hungry the sharks are that day.

It is Timmy who will have to muster up the courage to try and solve the problem. Timmy’s parents can cheer him on, they can kiss the boo-boos and serve him ice-cream, but ultimately it is Timmy who must face the music. And the sooner they both realize that, the better.


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School Tips

3 Tips On How to Start the School Year Off On the Right Foot

School is right around the corner, and if you're like most parents, you probably can't wait until everyone is back at their desks, and gainfully occupied somewhere other than the living room. First day of school

But before you embrace a little freedom, it's worth it to start thinking of a few simple things you can do to help your kids start things off on the right foot.

Starting school again is a big transition: a new teacher, new classroom, and new expectations.

And like all transitions, your child will make the leap from carefree hobo to earnest student a bit easier if you take the time to prepare the way:

Get Back Into the Flow of Things

You don't have to start the first day of school with tired, cranky kids rushing around to get their things together at the last minute. Avoid the arguments and the wear and tear by reading this post on how to get your child ready for school painlessly.

Organize Beforehand

Is your child always digging around trying to find their homework notebook, or a special assignment? This post on helping your child organize their school stuff has plenty of practical advice on helping your child organize their notebooks, use a homework planner, and more.

What NOT to Tell Your Child's Teacher On the First Day of School

Your child takes a a creative soul at heart...

It's not uncommon for parents to feel a need to share information they feel is critical to their child's success in school. Read this article to find out exactly what you absolutely shouldn't share with your child's teacher on the first day of school... or else.

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Parenting children

Parenting Children: When a Mother Leaves Her Child Behind

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Rahna Reiko Rizzuto says that she never wanted to be a full-time mother.

She came to this discovery after leaving her family behind to pursue a six month fellowship in Japan. When her children came to visit, she says she realized that she had never really wanted to be a mother at all. She adds that she was "afraid of being swallowed up" by motherhood.

And so after ending her 20 year long marriage, she gave full-time custody of her 5 and 3 year old to her husband.

Another mother,  Talyaa Liera, says leaving her children behind wasn't an easy decision to make. After attachment parenting, breastfeeding through toddlerhood, and the family bed, she says that, "I realized that by being so nurturing, I was in some ways keeping my children from growing to their potential." So after months of preparation, she left her then 13, 9, and 5 year old and set out on her own.

Both mothers explain that they felt overwhelmed my motherhood; swallowed up by its' responsibilities to the point where they felt there situation was harmful to their children and themselves. Neither mother, however, was ever abusive to her children, either physically or emotionally.

So the question remains: is it okay for a mother to leave her children? Somehow leaving your children behind is considered more acceptable for fathers, or at least understood. But I think that most people who look at these mothers would see their choices as purely selfish.

It's easy for me to feel sympathetic for a mother who feels she must give up her children to keep them safe. But giving up your children in order to find yourself? Or them? Was there no middle ground?

I also wonder if the second mother, Talyaa Liera, didn't overdo things with her committment to her children. It sounds a lot like she felt the way she raised her children was the only way. Perhaps she really did believe that she was raising her children in the best way possible for them. But it doesn't sound like she stopped to consider that her needs come first.

Many parents nowadays feel they have to do everything for their children, regardless of whether it is right for them or for their families. They feel pressured by friends, extended family, society in general.

But it's critical that parents remember that you come first. Remember the safety instructions on the airplane? You mask up first not because you're selfish, but because that's the only way you can help your child.

Parenting from the inside-out is the same way. You do what is best for your children, not based on what society thinks is best for your children, but based on the values you and your partner have chosen after careful consideration.

And like giving yourself a mask before your child, it's your responsibility to make sure you take care of yourself too. Because parenting is not at all about losing yourself; it's about using the challenges, joy, and frustration that parenting brings to make you a better individual.

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Hands-On Learning Games: How to Teach Consonant Sounds

How to Help Your Child Learn Consonant Sounds

Learning letters need not be a painful process where your child is drilled on letter sounds. This is a game that not only teaches your child the consonant sounds, but also helps them learn how to recognize sounds as they naturally occur in words.


  • Sturdy paper or cardboard-one piece is enough for four letters
  • Objects or pictures of objects beginning with each consonant sound ( be careful NOT to choose a word with a blend. For example, book instead of bread). You can glue the pictures on cardboard or laminate them for durability and to make it easier for your child to pick up.

How to Make:

  • Fold each paper in half.
  • Now fold the same paper in half again, so that you have four sections.
  • Cut the paper into four sections, and print four letters on each section.
  • Laminate or cover with clear contact paper for durability.
  • Glue the pictures on small pieces of cardboard about half the size of each letter. On the back of each picture write the sound that it starts with.

How to Play:

Stage 1

  1. Choose two letters that look and sound different. Place them in front of your child.
  2. Point to one and say, “This is “S”. This is “B .” Make sure to tell your child the sound the letter makes, NOT the letter name. Many children get confused between letter names and letter sounds, and so it is better to teach the letter names at a later stage. You should also teach the hard consonant sounds first: c for cat, not c(s) for circle.
  3. Ask your child, “Show me the “S.”  Show me the “B.” If your child gets confused, simply tell them the correct answer.

If your child has trouble remembering the letter sounds, don’t spend time drilling him on it over and over again. Children (and adults too) learn and remember better when there is a space between learning periods.

Come back to the letters a few hours later; even if it takes your child a few days to remember each set, she will still be finished in only a few weeks.

Stage 2

Once your child knows at least two letters, you can introduce the object pictures.

  1. Choose two letters. Place each one level with each other, with a bit of a distance between them.
  2. Take the pictures of objects that go with those sounds, and mix them up in a pile to the left of the letters.
  3. Choose one, asking your child to tell you what it is. Model sounding out the words, stretching out the sound of the first letter. Then place that picture under the corresponding letter.
  4. Do one more, and then let your child try it out. Show her how to check her work when she is done, by flipping over the picture.

TIP: Stay with your child the first few times she plays this game; she will need help stretching out the first sound.

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