Sarah Wilson shows us how to put together a “Whimsical Woodland Party”, something she did recently for her five year old daughter. Great, creative ideas shared by an energetic Mum!
A response to our previous post on “The Fear of the Dark” in children… see the following link…
I must admit that I have a different understanding of children’s fear of the dark.
When I was a child–I was born in 1940 in Australia–the Second World War had started, and one of my earliest memories is that I KNEW that, after dark, Japanese soldiers–the enemy– were behind the garage. We had an outside toilet, built on to the end of the garage. I was terrified to go outside to the toilet at night. I’m amazed that no-one ever asked me what I was afraid of or why I was afraid. they thought my fear was irrational
But my understanding of these ‘irrational fears’ of childhood has been altered by my understanding of attachment theory.
I am posting some notes on my current understanding of children’s fear of the dark.
Bowlby on the attachment behavioural system
‘Once we postulate the presence within the organism of an attachment behavioural system regarded as the product of evolution and having protection as its biological function, many of the puzzles that have perplexed students of human relationships are found to be soluble. . . An urge to keep proximity or accessibility to someone seen as stronger and wiser, and who if responsive is deeply loved, comes to be recognised as an integral part of human nature and as having a vital role to play in life. Not only does its effective operation bring with it a strong feeling of security and contentment, but its temporary or long-term frustration causes acute or chronic anxiety and discontent. When seen in this light, the urge to keep proximity is to be respected, valued, and nurtured as making for potential strength, instead of being looked down upon, as so often hitherto, as a sign of inherent weakness. (Bowlby, 1991, p. 293 of postscript to Attachment Across the Life Cycle)
Attachment involves four distinct but interrelated classes of behaviour
 ‘Bowlby (1982) defined attachment in terms of four distinct but interrelated classes of behaviour: proximity maintenance, safe haven, separation distress, and secure base. These behaviours are readily observable in 1-year-old infants in relation to their primary caregivers (usually mothers). The infant continuously monitors the caregiver’s wherabouts and makes any adjustments necessary for maintaining the desired degree of proximity, retreats to her as a haven of safety in the event of a perceived threat, is actively resistant to and distressed by separations from her, and uses her as a base of security from which to explore the environment. Infants often direct one of more of these behaviours toward individuals to whom they are not attached. Importantly, it is the selective orientation of all these behaviours toward a specific individual that defines attachment. (From Hazan et al. 2004) .
Infant attachment behaviours: behaviours that maintain proximity to the mother
Bowlby noted that infants all around the globe manifest five behaviours that help keep the mother and infant together. They are: crying, sucking, clinging, following and smiling. The first four are also common to other primates. Only chimpanzee infants also smile.
What turns on attachment behaviours? Clues to an increase in danger
There are natural clues to an increase in danger. Infants have evolved to recognise these clues. They do not have to learn them from experience. They are:
- being alone,
- separation from the mother,
- sudden loud noises,
- looming figures,
- unfamiliar environment,
- the presence of strangers,
- change in temperature,
- being sick.
In the past, children’s responses to some of these clues (or cues) to danger—such as fear of the dark—have been considered to be the ‘irrational fears of childhood’. But in hunter-gatherer societies they were clues to increased danger and this increased danger provokes attachment behaviour in the infant and therefore the need to be close to the mother or mothering person.
- Function. ‘Many aspects of infant and child behaviour and mother-infant interaction seem irrelevant to the modern world, and can only be understood in terms of the evolution of humans in an environment very different from the modern city.’
These fears used to be seen as ‘the irrational fears of childhood’. They make sense only when seen as functional in the environments in which humans evolved.
The environment of evolutionary adaptedness
‘The environment of evolutionary adaptedness’ refers to the environment to which the human species has become adapted through evolution: that is an environment similar to that in which current day hunter-gatherer societies live.
The solution to fear of the dark
Bowlby discovered that the only thing that can ‘terminate’ attachment behaviour such as fear of the dark is closeness to the attachment figure. So what is required is not explanations to a young child about how there is nothing to fear, but be close, be available. This is what removes his/her fear.
Moira Eastman has her own website, essentialmother.com and is particularly interested in attachment. Moira works at Mothering Business and studied Sociology of education at Monash University, Melbourne.
She is a member of the group “Mothers at Home Matter”, a UK based group. “Mothers at Home Matter” – PO Box 43690 London SE22 9WN
www.mothersathomematter.co.uk – is about redefining values, re-honouring the name “mother” and highlighting children’s developmental needs. It is about understanding the impact of economic forces on the family – mothers and fathers – and campaigning for change. The full aims of the organisation are on their website (see address above). “Mother at Home Matter” are not affiliated to any political party or faith group.
The Earth’s global climate is changing. Although this has been a naturally occurring process for millions of years, only recently has the change accelerated to the point where significant impacts are felt the world over. People are causing these bulk of these changes, which are bigger and happening faster than any climate changes that modern society has ever seen before. From increasing temperatures and rising sea levels to intensifying natural disasters and loss of entire species, climate change is an issue we’re all confronted with now and one our children will face for years to come.
Below are ten books about climate change to educate and empower our future generations:
by Jan Thornhill
Great Auks were flightless birds that resembled penguins. They were prolific in the icy waters of the northern Atlantic until human hunters, egg collectors, and climate change led to their extinction. Unfortunately, many other bird species are on a similar path. “The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk” is a beautifully designed picture book that reminds us how precious life is – all life. Booklist says, “This vivid, fascinating story emphasizes not only the importance of conservation but also how deeply intertwined the human and animal worlds can be. Eye-opening and tragic, to be sure, but surprisingly hopeful all the same.”
by Maria-Pilar Landver
This fun and creative story is about a little girl named Giddy, who wakes to find a wilting flower in distress. It’s much too hot, even at night, and all the flower’s delicate petals are drying out. In the garden the next day, Giddy discovers all is not right in the world and embarks on an imaginative tale to help the flowers survive. Although climate change is not mentioned directly in the book, the message is multi-faceted with a deep connection to helping the earth. The story is accompanied by a wonderful collection of abstract illustrations that will captivate young audiences.
by Pam Bonsper
The trees have stopped growing. The grass is all gone. The world is too hot, and there’s no more water to drink. When the forest world is turned upside down, how will the animals survive? Five friends – a fox, a bear, an owl, a mole, and a deer – set out on a journey to find where the water has gone. Can they bring it back? “The book has a lovely forest setting with recognizable animals, very interesting and charming illustrations (in perfect synergy with the story), and tells the story of environmental changes in a very simple, friendly, serene way,” says one Amazon reviewer.
by Dr. Seuss
Well before climate change was a household term, Dr. Seuss shed light on the harms of hurting the environment in his classic book “The Lorax.” The rhyming tale is a timely warning of the dangers of clear-cutting, polluting, and disrespecting the earth. Told from the perspective of Once-ler, readers learn how the narrator once discovered the Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots and harvested the trees until nothing was left but a single seed – which ends up in the hands of a caring child. “The Lorax” is a wonderful reminder that we all have a role to play in protecting Mother Earth.
(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)
Our connection to our children means everything.
It means the difference between a confident child and an insecure one. It means the difference between a cooperative child and a defiant one. Our early attachments and ongoing connection to our children fostered through love, nurturance, and guidance is a strong predictor of our child’s success in many areas of life.
We’ve heard a lot about attachment, so the concept and importance of bonding with our baby seems obvious. Just because your little one has grown to become a lot bigger, smellier, and sassier doesn’t mean your bond and connection with them is any less vital to their development. In fact, it continues to be of the utmost importance throughout childhood.
Life with kids is busy. It’s not uncommon at the end of the day to find yourself wondering whether you even sat face to face with your child. Here’s the good news: You’re likely already engaging with your child in activities that promote a strong parent-child relationship.
We all know reading with children is a simple way to improve their language and reading skills. But research also shows that reading with children actually stimulates patterns of brain development responsible for connection and bonding.
This makes sense when we consider that story time usually involves cuddling, eye contact, and shared emotion. If you make reading together a priority in your home, you are without a doubt connecting with your child.
Engaging in art or craft activities with children is an awesome way to provide not only a fun and enjoyable experience, but a therapeutic one as well. No matter their age, you’ll be hard pressed to find a child who can’t find an art medium that interests him.
When engaged in a creative process with children, we provide an outlet for them to express their thoughts and feelings. This is especially true with younger children, who aren’t yet able to verbalize their complex emotions. When your child has access to acreative outlet, odds are that interactions between the two of you will be more positive.
Whether listening to them play an instrument or dancing to the “Trolls” soundtrack together, music offers lots of benefits for both parent and child, including bringing our awareness into our bodies and into the current moment. Your kids will be practicing mindfulness without even knowing it!
It’s pretty difficult to focus on a mistake at school yesterday or the test coming up tomorrow when we’re busy processing auditory input as well as coordinating our motor skills.
Feeling stressed? Stress is often a huge barrier to parents engaging with their children. Spending time with your child out in nature will go a long way to increase emotional health and physical well-being for both parties.
Research tells us that exposure to nature reduces our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, as well as the production of stress hormones. Nature is no joke. Even if you don’t have time to go for a hike, simply water a plant together. These studies show similar effects can be derived from even small amounts of nature.
Play is the language of children, so it only makes sense that we should try to connect with them though something that comes so naturally. When parents enter their child’s world and follow their lead in play, they open up the possibility for many positive outcomes, including taking on a different relationship role and seeing our children from a new perspective.
(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)
For thousands of years, color has been thought to have power over our emotions. Artists, interior decorators, fashion designers, and advertising agencies utilize the meaning of different colors to influence human behavior and attract customers. By considering the lessons of these experts, how can we as parents use the science of color to guide our children’s mood? Does the color we paint their rooms really affect how happy they feel or how soundly they sleep?
History of color psychology
Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, used color for healing purposes as far back as 2,000 years ago. This type of therapy is called chromotherapy, light therapy, or colorology, and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment.
It is believed that color therapy uses the visible spectrum of light and color to change a person’s mood and their physical and mental health. Each color is part of a specific frequency and vibration that can affect certain energy, or chakras, in our body.
Practitioners also believe that certain colors entering the body can activate hormones causing chemical reactions that ultimately influence emotion and help the body heal. Red, for example, is used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation. Orange heals the lungs and increases energy levels. Blue treats pain, while indigo cures skin problems. Finally, green relaxes patients who are emotionally unbalanced and yellow invigorates those suffering from depression.
How color impacts mood
Psychologists have found that color can influence how we feel and can even cause physiological changes in our body. Keep in mind, however, that there are different interpretations of color’s impact on emotions depending on culture and circumstance.
Research shows that certain colors can increase blood pressure, metabolism, and adrenaline. Other studies have found that certain colors can improve sleep habits, boost memory, and enhance academic performance. One study discovered that seeing the color red before taking a test can hurt performance. Students who were shown a red number before taking the test scored more than 20 percent lower than those shown a green or black number.
Just as color influences our mood, it can also be used to describe how we feel. A study reported in the journal BMC Medical Research indicated that people with depression or anxiety were more likely to associate their mood with the color gray, while happier people preferred yellow.
Researchers at the University of California determined that young children chose bright colors to represent positive feelings and dark colors for negative feelings. They were even able to identify how specific colors made the children feel: red is for mad, blue is for sad, yellow is for happy, and green is for glad. Color can therefore be a very helpful tool in accessing children’s emotions instead of relying on them to tell us how they feel.
Institutions like the American Red Cross, St. Jude’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Scholastic incorporate this ability to connect feelings to colors as a way to better understand the emotions of young children. So if our children tell us they feel gray or blue, are seeing red, or feel green with envy, we will know what they are talking about can guide them through their emotions.
What each color means
Over time, studies have shown how different colors impact us in unique ways. Warm colors, such as red, yellow, and orange, stimulate emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to hostility and anger. Typically, warm colors make us feel happy and cozy. Bold shades of warm colors also help stimulate our mind and energize our body.
On the other hand, cool colors, like blue, green, and purple, relax us, but can also make us feel sad, especially if they are too dark. Despite their soothing nature, cool colors are not always welcoming and can leave people feeling removed and distant. Here’s a bit more about the impact and symbolism of colors:
- Excites and energizes the body, increases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration
- Creates alertness and excitement
- Encourages creativity
- Increases appetite
- Can increase athletic ability, causing people to react with greater speed and force
- Associated with increased aggression, an inability to focus, and headache
- May be disturbing to anxious individuals
- Evokes empathy and femininity
- Creates a calming atmosphere
- Can become irritating over time, leading to anxiety
- Associated with positive feelings of happiness and motivation
- Encourages creativity
- Soft, subtle yellows promote concentration
- Bright shades stimulate the memory and increase metabolism
- Too much can lead to anger and frustration
(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)
Continuing our series of articles on findings discovered by the “Dunedin Longitudinal Study”…
“The Dunedin Study“ identifies five major personality types. These can be recognised in children as young as three years of age and do not change as we grow older: they are the personality types we are born with, they seem to be “in our blood”.
Most people fall into the groups classified as “Well Adjusted”, “Confident”,”Reserved” or some combination of these three: together these three groups cover 83% of the population. “Well Adjusted” individuals tend to fit in with their surroundings, sometimes being “in the lime light”, but not having to all the time. They tend to be able to “get along” with others, for the most part. “Confident” individuals are the risk takers and “go getters”. Like those described as “Well Adjusted” they don’t necessarily always have to be in the limelight, but they are thrill seekers and will “go out on a limb” to try a new idea. An example used in the documantary about “The Dunedin Study” findings, “Why Am I?” was New Zealand’s A.J Hackett, founder of “Bungy Jumping”.
Alan John “A. J.” Hackett is a New Zealand entrepreneur who popularised the extreme sport of bungy jumping. He made the famous bungy jump from the Eiffel Tower in 1987 and founded the first commercial bungy site in 1988. Wikipedia
Those classified as “Reserved” make up 15% of the general population. Reserved individuals tend to “hang back” and watch things for a bit first, before getting involved. They are often a little shy and are more comfortable in smaller groups. These traits do not, however, prevent them living full and productive lives.
According to “The Dunedin Study” monitoring of 1037 people born in 1972-3, “Well Adjusted”, “Confident” and “Reseved” individuals, 83% of the population, usually go on to have “successful life outcomes”. By their 40s they are usually happily married or in positive relationships, are persuing careers and/ or parenting well. The remaining 17% consists of two personality types (again, identifiable in early childhood) which go on to adult lives which create immense angst and unhappiness– both for themselves and for the rest of the community.
People with a personality type described in “The Dunedin Study” as “Undercontrolled” are usually highly strung and don’t cope well with novelty or change. These individuals are usually quick to anger and struggle with self control. (Self control was discovered by “The Dunedin Study” to be one of the biggest indicators of a successful life outcome, a characteristic which was even more important than a high IQ). Children identified as being in the “Undercontrolled” personality group at age three were more likely to go on become adults with diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, heart disease and lung problems.
These same adults, despite disliking change or novelty, were described as “impulsive” and “sensation seekers”. They were more likely to drink, take drugs and/ or have sex at an early age and to manifest other behaviour which takes a toll on physical and emotional well-being over time. Children identified as being in this category at age three were highly likely to have been in serious trouble with the law by the time they were 23.
The other 7% of the population have personalities classified, according to “The Dunedin Study” as being “Inhibited”. These individuals do not usually commit crimes or become violent. They seem, instead, to “turn inward on themselves” and what may initially manifest as shyness or social awkwardness in a pre-school child becomes extreme self-consciousness to the point where, in many cases, teenagers manifest “school refusal” ( a refusal to go to school which differs from truancy, in that it is an anxious/ depressive reaction to school, rather than a rebellious act against going to school). Teaching in High Schools in Japan for five years, I saw a number of examples of this, the Japanese call it Hikikomori.
Hikikomori (ひきこもり or 引き籠もり Hikikomori, literally “pulling inward, being confined”, i.e., “acute social withdrawal“, is a Japanese term to refer to the phenomenon of reclusive adolescents or adults who withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. The term hikikomori refers to both the sociological phenomenon in general and to the people belonging to this societal group. Hikikomori have been described as recluses, loners, or “modern-day hermits.” [Source: Wikipedia].
An example of a young Japanese man living this kind of life is shown in “Why Am I?” People in this personality group have a difficult time attending school during the High School years and frequently struggle to leave home and establish a life for themselves in the adult world. They tend to be fearful, anxious, highly strung, closed to change or novelty and prone to depression. Whilst “hikikomori” is a Japanese term to describe teenagers or young adults who behave in this way, it is now a recognised problem in developed countries around the globe.
What is remarkable is that “The Dunedin Study” first identified these five personality types in pre-school children. These types appear to be set and have persisted in study participants, even becoming more pronounced, into adulthood. This is, as the study says, one thing for those in the three “normal” groups, but what do we do if a child is identified as being in the “at risk” groups (“Undercontrolled” or “Inhibited”)?
What this study does establish are theoretically meaningful connections between 3-year-old children’s behavioral styles and their adult personalities. There is more to establishing this answer than satisfying intellectual curiosity. If early-emerging behavioral differences did not predict outcomes, behavioral scientists, parents, and teachers could safely ignore such individual differences. However, because such differences do shape the course of development, information about these individual differences can be harnessed to design parent-training programs and school-based interventions to improve children’s development. Ironically, although demonstrations of continuity are often viewed as deterministic and pessimistic, such findings provide the strongest support for the urgency of early intervention. [Source: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.576.9452&rep=rep1&type=pdf]
The most important thing to remember about “The Dunedin Study” and the reason we here at “The Forever Years” love it, is that it investigates nurture as well as nature and results show that nurture has an important part to play in whether those children with “Undercontrolled” or “Inhibited” personality types go on to have “positive life outcomes” or not. Personality traits can overlap. Nurture can “push” children from “functional” to “non-functional” personality types and vice versa. For example, a “Reserved” child who isn’t adequately socialised could become “Inhibited”. An “Inhibited” child, with the right supports in place, can be “drawn out” to become “Reserved”.
Findings from “The Dunedin Study” show conclusively that for some individuals, multiple problems tend to aggregate. A portion of children on the study who manifested the “Undercontrolled” or “Inhibited” personality types had these in combination with delays in significant areas such as speech and language acquisition and in taking their first steps. For a portion of them (interestingly, these children were predominantly male) learning to read was also a great struggle. This in turn led to a dislike of school, leaving school early and, following on from this, a high incidence of involvement in criminal activity. “Something as innocent as delayed speech then, if not dealt with early, can gather force over the course of a lifetime,” says “The Dunedin Study” Associate Director, Dr. Terrie Moffit.
Director Professor Richie Poulton says knowing now (because of study results) that some kids have a much higher chance, for example, of ending up in trouble with the law, can provide an opportunity to avert negative life outcomes by creating individually tailored intervention plans. Such things as significant learning delays, poverty, childhood abuse or neglect, witnessing domestic violence, substances consumed by a child’s pregnant mother whilst he or she is still in the womb, an absence of attachment, structure, boundaries, positive encouragement or correct professional intervention for particular significant issues, invariably lead towards “negative life outcomes” when combined with particular personality types.
Children who come into the world, then, with “Undercontrolled” or “Inhibited” personality types could be described as “guns loaded by Nature”. But it is Nurture, meaning the presence or absence of certain positive or negative factors, that determines whether or not the “triggers” of these guns are pulled. “Nurture” and “early positive intervention” are our hope. The childhood years are indeed, when we look at the set personalities that we are born with, “The Forever Years”, as these personalities persist into adult life. The outcomes don’t need to be negative, however, if “at risk” personality types are parented accordingly and if we teach our children “Self Control”, an all important trait which is learned, rather than fixed and which we will discuss in a separate article about “The Dunedin Longitudinal Study”.
There are numerous positive effects which come from encouraging our kids to be aware of nature and the seasons. Recently in our house we have done some Autumn related crafts, which I will share with you below. Some of these were my own ideas, while others came from a book we borrowed from the library: Art for All Seasons, 40 Creative Mixed Media Adventures for Children inspired by Nature and Contemporary Artists, by Susan Schwake. (For more information about this book, please follow the link here… http://www.amazon.com/Art-All-Seasons-Kids/dp/0991293592).
Some of these Autumn crafts require coloured Autumn leaves, so they are also a great excuse to go for a walk in nature. Teach your kids words such as “deciduous” and “evergreen” and draw their attention to the different shapes, colors and textures of the leaves from various kinds of trees. You may also like to create a box or tray of “Autumn things” at home, such as nuts, berries, various leaves and fruits. (NOTE: make sure that none of the things included in this are poisonous and always supervise kids when they are examining these things).
Find some Autumn poems, preferably ones which are not too long and which appeal to children. Read the poems aloud for your kids or have older ones read them out to younger ones. You could also do an “Autumn Brainstorm” of words they associate with Autumn. After this, the kids can write out the poems and decorate them with Autumn leaf pictures or actual leaves. One of my sons found what he called a “skeleton leaf”, a leaf which was nearly completely decomposed, and was quite fascinated by the appearance of it. I was lucky, two of our children came home from school with poems. Another fun activity would be creating your own Autumn poems. If you have more than one child they could make up a line each of a poem, so it would be a “family Autumn poem”.
2. Photos of Autumn Leaves and Trees
While you’re out on your walk, have your kids take photos of Autumn leaves and trees. You can follow this up by making an “Autumn Gallery” or Collage of their pictures and these can inspire drawings and other works of art too.
3. A Seasons Chart or Poster
Drawing a poster or chart showing the four seasons and characteristics of each one is another good activity. This can be incorporated into learning about any one of the four seasons. You can also link it to learning about space, if you’re wanting to explain why different countries have different seasons at different times. We live in Aotearoa/ New Zealand, so we have put the months of our Southern Hemisphere seasons on our poster. For those operating in two or more languages, this offers an opportunity to use season and nature vocabulary in each of the targeted languages. We have written our seasons’ names in English and Te Reo Māori… this could be extended to months and words associated with each season (hot, cold, colourful etc).
4. Autumn Trees At Night
These pictures of Autumn trees at night look really effective, but are easy and cheap to create. Get some black paper and white crayons, as well as some colourful leaves picked up on your “Autumn walk”. The kids then draw a tree trunk and branches in white and stick the leaves to it. You can make individual trees or a whole “Autumn Trees at Night” forest.
An “oldie but goodie”: doing leaf rubbings with crayons always looks interesting and effective. Variations can include turning the leaf shapes into leaves on “trees” or using them to make shapes of other things (animals, houses, sailing ships… let your imagination take a walk).
6. Autumn Leaf Mobiles
Using “Autumnal” coloured paper, have kids cut out leaf shapes. Fold the “leaves” down the middle, then fold them in a pattern so the folds look like the veins in a real leaf. Thread the “leaves” onto cotton (older children can do this themselves, you use a needle) and hang on an old coat hanger.
7. Autumn Models
Make models of “Autumn stuff” out of clay or fimo. “Autumn stuff” could include leaves, acorns, animals, worms… anything you can think of. This idea came from Art for All Seasons, the book mentioned above. Another idea is that your “Autumn stuff” can later be hung on a “tree” made of twigs. To allow for this, paper clips can be put into the figure while the clay is still we, or a hole can be made and cotton put through for hanging later. When your items are dry, you can paint them and, once the paint is dry, hang them or use them as Autumn ornaments.
We’d love to hear from you if you have any other great Autumn craft ideas to do with children. There are probably lots more good ideas out there. Have fun with these ones and enjoy Autumn!