5.26.2008

Recognizing and Understanding Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for all U.S. soldiers who have died in service to their country. While it is often hailed as the unofficial start of summer, the holiday was not instituted for the convenience of a 3-day weekend at the start of a season. It was established to honor those who gave their lives for their country.

While there are conflicting historical reports as to where and when the practice of setting aside a day to honor U.S. war casualties began, General John Logan officially declared May 30 to be Memorial Day in 1866. It seems as though a similar observance was followed at various times and places throughout the U.S. following the civil war, but in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, NY to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. The holiday officially falls on May 30, but is observed annually on the last Monday in May. The day was originally referred to as Decoration Day, but did not become more commonly known as Memorial Day until after World War II.

Regardless of political affiliation or feelings about military action, this day is to remember the individuals who have died in support of our country's defenses. I think it's very important to ensure that younger generations appreciate this day for the purpose for which is was intended. Even if just taking kids to a Memorial Day parade and explaining the basic premise of the day, a little education on the topic will keep the spirit of the holiday intact. I'm not advocating treating the day as a somber occasion with kids, simply making them aware.

If you would like more information on Memorial Day, check out USMemorialDay.org or Wikipedia.

5.21.2008

Goodnight Moon

Reading to our son is a cornerstone of his nightly pre-bed bedtime routine. It helps calm him down when he's cranky and tired, and acts as a signal that it's time to start winding down. One of the first books we got for him and a household favorite is Goodnight Moon.

It's the simple story of a bunny climbing into bed and saying goodnight to everything in his surroundings. He says goodnight to pictures on the wall, kittens, a balloon and, among other things, the moon. This Margaret Wise Brown classic has a great rhythm which reads quickly and melodically. The illustrations are great and are all in primary colors, which makes them more easily visible to younger children.

Our son quiets as soon as we start reading and follows along with his little eyes darting across each page. Funny enough, one of his favorite parts is the large white-on-orange circle on the back cover. One reason my wife and I like it so much is that the story is very similar to rituals we practice with him every night; saying goodnight to his stuffed animals, his turtle light, his giant Winnie the Pooh doll, the plants, etcetera before putting him down. Reading is a great way to help boost a child's cognitive skills, establish a nighttime routine and strengthen the parent-child bond, so it's a great things to start if you're not doing it already. If you haven't ever read it to your child, I strongly recommend Goodnight Moon.

* Photo via Amazon.com

5.18.2008

Fatherhood Quote - Ken Nerburn

This is a very poignant quote that captures a father's love for his child, and comments on the difficulty of balancing one's attempts to be an ideal role model and provider in spite of being human.
Until you have a son of your own... you will never know the joy, the love beyond feeling that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks upon his son. You will never know the sense of honor that makes a man want to be more than he is and to pass something good and hopeful into the hands of his son. And you will never know the heartbreak of the fathers who are haunted by the personal demons that keep them from being the men they want their sons to be.

- Kent Nerburn

5.13.2008

Math Flash Cards for Babies and Children

I'll just come out with it and say that, frankly, I think my baby is a genius. His spit bubbles are form advanced geometric patterns and his jibberish is the most eloquent I've ever heard. Regardless of his intellect, my wife and I have noticed how intently he absorbs his environment, how his eyes trace over new objects and how quickly he seems to grasp new concepts and situations, as simple as they may seem to adults.

He's a sharp kid and I know that it takes extra effort to keep a child like that from getting bored and restless. I wish to foster his natural abilities, so I started looking around for brain-centric activities for babies. In my search I came across Child Genius Magazine online from the International Parenting Association. While digging through their site I found exactly what I was looking for: flash cards for babies.

I downloaded and printed the math diamond flash cards for my son, as I think developing mathematical inclinations at an early age is particularly important. Kids are surrounded by speech constantly and urged to talk as soon as possible, but math tends to be of secondary importance. The cards consist simply of a quantity of diamonds on a page and are flipped through as the parent says the corresponding numeral. They help the child understand the concept of numbers before they learn the numeral or words associated with them.

When I first opened the PDF, I was reminded of Rick Moranis' character in the movie Parenthood, who had his two year old daughter selecting which messy page full of dots was the square root of some arbitrary number. I am against pushing a child to 'achieve' at an early age, as was the case in the movie, but I hoped this would be an activity in which he demonstrated his own interest. I was genuinely surprised by his level of intrigue.

With each card I held up, both my wife and I clearly noticed his little eyes scanning the contents of the otherwise empty pages. I only did numbers one through ten, (the cards go up to 50) but he was clearly acknowledging the shapes on the page. Even more, he would look to the stack of remaining cards to see which card was next as soon as I set down the previous. While that may not seem significant, I think it's a great step towards developing his cognitive abilities.

Will it make him a numerical genius? Who knows. Will it keep his mind active in his formative years? I certainly hope so.

To check out the math flash cards, as well as word and phonogram cards, check out the Early Learning Library section of the Child Genius Magazine page.