Modern Parenting

A Parent’s Guide to Developmental Milestones

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A developmental milestone is a capacity that most kids achieve by a typical age.  For instance, some kids may start walking as early as 9 or 10 months while others don’t start to walk until 14 to 15 months. By looking at the various developmental milestones, parents, doctors, and educators can understand how kids usually develop to monitor any potential developmental issues.

For example, between 9 to 12 months, kids begin to achieve physical milestones such as standing up or even walking. While the exact age at which a kid achieves a particular milestone can vary, you may become concerned if your kid hasn’t achieved a skill that most of their same-age peers can perform.

Developmental Milestones by Ages and Stages

Physical Milestones. These milestones include both large motor skills and fine motor skills.

Cognitive Milestones. Milestones are centered on a kid’s ability to think, learn, and solve problems.

Socio-emotional Milestones. Centered on kids gaining a better understanding of their emotions and others’ emotions, social and emotional milestones include learning how to get along with other people.

Communication Milestones. Milestones that involve both language and nonverbal communication. A one year-old learning how to say his first words and a 5 year-old learning some of the basic rules of grammar are examples of essential communication milestones.

Kids Develop at Their Own Rate

While most of these milestones usually occur during a certain window of time, there is one essential caveat.

Parents and caregivers must remember that each kid is unique. Not all kids are going to hit these milestones at the same time.

Some kids might reach certain milestones early, like learning how to walk or talk much earlier than their same-age peers. Other kids might reach the same milestones much later. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one kid is gifted or that another is delayed; it represents developmental differences.

These developmental capabilities also tend to build on one another. More advanced skills, like walking, usually happen after simpler capabilities such as crawling and sitting up to have already been achieved. Just because one kid began to walk by nine months of age does not mean that another kid is behind if they still aren’t walking at 12 months.

A few things you should know

Kids begin to walk between the ages of 9 and 15 months, so anytime between those ages is considered normal. If your kid hasn’t learned to walk by 18 months and you’re concerned, check with your kid’s doctor.

Personality influences your kid’s development as well, which can be especially obvious with twins. One kid may be physically active and work hard at learning to walk, going back and forth from object to object; another kid may be laid back, content for the time being to observe others from their seat on the floor.

Concluding thoughts

By understanding developmental milestones and what age range is common for kids to meet them, you and your pediatrician can keep a watchful eye on your kid’s growth and development.

If your kid does have developmental delays, getting early intervention can help lead to successful outcomes. There are several programs available to help kids with delays from birth through high school.

The Edvocate’s Guide to Cooperative Play

Cooperative play is defined as being an organized form of activity that involves the equal distribution of efforts and responsibilities among the kids to reach a common objective. Understanding the cooperative play definition, many people see these activities as being essential in development through childhood.

It’s good for kids to spend time working with others, so they develop essential social skills as they matriculate through nursery and school.

An example of cooperative play games can involve building dens and putting on performances using a stage with props. Learning experiences like these encourage kids to share ideas, collaborate and come up with stories. They can integrate independent learning, which is another vital part of early childhood development.

Playing is a good tool for helping kids learn at such a young age. That’s because playing combines fun and education, which young kids need to pay attention and leave learning something new. Playing develops their physical, mental, social, and emotional skills which are vital at this point.

During this kind of play, roles like leader and follower are clearer to see among the class. Cooperative play enables those who suit a specific role to build upon it, while giving them a chance to experience the other role and comprehend what it involves. It is a vital part of kid development during nursery and school.

Games can involve as few as two kids up to bigger groups of five or more. Cooperative play is all about encouraging kids to have fun together and improve their cooperation skills.

Cooperative Play Examples

Below you will find a few cooperative play examples you can encourage kids to try at your school:

  • Treasure Hunt
  • Puzzles
  • Building Dens
  • Relay Races
  • Team Games
  • Creating a Dance
  • Board Games

The preceding activities encourage kids to play together and collaborate on a specific task. Kids should start to learn how to interact with others, follow instructions and prepare themselves for the next stages of schooling.

Pros of Cooperative Play

Cooperative play offers several benefits to those who engage with the activities that are presented to them. These benefits include:

  • Expansion of physical, social, mental, and emotional skills
  • Speaking and listening skills are built upon
  • Teambuilding
  • Leadership
  • Making  use of various  skills
  • Distribution of ideas and responsibilities
  • Critical thinking
  • Collaborating to reach a common objective
  • The idea of everyone being “winners”

The key thing to remember when it comes to these types of cooperative play is how everyone is a “winner.” Cooperative play doesn’t have a way for kids to “win” the challenge set for them. Kids should like the facet of competition and may try and turn it into one. During this, many kids who fail the task set for them may think of themselves as “losers.”

The task requires collaboration teamwork, and instead of trying to win something, kids are trying to solve a problem and must collaborate. The key difference being you can’t lose at the task, so try and dissuade the mentality that some of the kids may have while completing this activity.  Kids learn that it’s not always about winning and losing but working as a team.

Playing Cooperatively in Early Years

Cooperative skills are essential in the later years, but I would argue that it’s equally essential during early childhood. Early childhood is a time the brain is developing at its most efficient rate, and so teaching kids the importance of collaboration through play is a good method to allow the learning to be absorbed into their minds.

Simple activities can be integrated into the mindset of the students with no problem. Cooperative play teaches essential ideas like sharing, abiding by rules, and patience. Teaching these concepts through a game at such a young age should also benefit the children in the future.

Communication Skills on the Playground

Cooperation requires a sense of communication for it to be effectively carried out. During early childhood, this can be hard for young kids as communication is a skill that is built upon via previous experiences. By performing cooperative tasks, communicating becomes easier.

Strong comprehension of how to talk to people in challenging situations or how to settle conflict can be taught through simple activities.  Kids need to encounter these kinds of issues during play to develop. They help build knowledge of effective communication and improve their fundamental comprehension.

Other activities may offer the benefit of developing communication skills, but cooperative activities put the kids in situations that apply to everyday life.

How Do You Promote Cooperative Play?

Below we have listed several ideas you can use to promote cooperative play with your own kids or with school and nursery pupils.

  • Promote taking turns – Kids should learn to share toys and games with others, ensuring everyone gets a fair turn using a piece of equipment.
  • Complete chores and tasks at home – Get kids involved in easy jobs with parents or siblings like cleaning up or setting the table for dinner.
  • Model compassion  – Kids learn from the behavior of adults. If you practice kindness and empathy in their presence, they are more likely to take on these characteristics.
  • Encourage free play – Having the freedom to engage in unstructured play is a good way for kids to interact with others.

Cooperative Play Learning Experiences

At first, constructing activities can be a bit of a challenge for someone who doesn’t know what to do. Here are a few cooperative play activities for toddlers and kids that we recommend you try and integrate into your teaching somehow.

A good place to start with cooperative games is building blocks. Ask groups of children to construct a building from blocks.  Here is the catch. One-half of the group are the suppliers of the blocks, and the other half are the actual builders. You are encouraging kids to take turns and cooperate with each other to finish the job with no problems.

A good activity to get kids involved with is running a pretend shop. This is a role-play based activity, so kids can also work on their imaginative thinking, along with social and logical thinking. Provide each kid with a different role in the game and leave them working together to run the shop for a while. Each role in these collaborative games should connect with one another, causing social interactions to happen. Also, there are plenty of outdoor play activities for kids that you can integrate into P.E. time at your school.

The Edvocate’s Guide to Associative Play

Associative play is the act of engaging in recreational activities in comparable ways to parallel play but with increased interaction between the participants, including taking turns, sharing and having a general interest in the activities of the others.

It is different from parallel play as while they are playing away from one another, they are also engaged with what the others are doing.

Kids in the associative stage play with other kids; however, while they participate in play with others, they are not yet at the stage to take part in groups. They should play together in the same game/activity but not necessarily collaborate.

Kids should start to interact through talking, borrowing, and taking turns with toys, but each kid acts alone.

While engaging in associate play, the more mature kid soon emerges as the leader or organizer.

Children engaged in the play are within a comparable activity. In this kind of play there is no division of labor, so there is no organization of the activity around contents, objective, or product.

Pros of associative play

  • Supports collaboration.
  • Enhances socialization skills through working/playing with others.
  • Promotes problem-solving. They should ask questions like the How, What, Why.
  • Enables the further development of language.

Kids are developing friendships and preferences for playing with some. It is at this stage that the kids start to make friendships and begin to work cooperatively together.

It is during this stage that pretend play is at its height.

Associative play is followed by Cooperative play – play in a group of one or more collaborating– at around 4+ years of age.

The Edvocate’s Guide to Parallel Play

Parallel play is one of many essential stages of play that introduce kids to social interaction. With parallel play, kids aren’t really playing with each other but rather next to each other. Kids may play with comparable toys but work independently and are not communicating with one another. This form of play is common between 2-3 year olds, but it can happen at any age.

Why is parallel play essential?

Your kid is too young for deep friendships and is trying to figure out the world we live in. Parallel play is a good start! While they aren’t directly interacting, kids are still learning social and observational skills. Kids are taking mental notes of what their friends are doing and can mimic their behavior. Moreover, kids can learn social conventions like taking turns and sharing. The parallel play stage is like a bridge that helps them grow their awareness, which should lead to additional complex activities and social maturity.

How can you promote parallel play?

Making a parallel play date is easier than you believe! Here are some pointers to make sure you get the most out of every play session:

Don’t force it

When you start, it’s  essential to let your kid embrace their independence. When kids  aren’t interested in play or have something else in mind, don’t force it! With parallel play, you want your kid to step out of their comfort zone but feel comfortable coming back if they wish.

Bring out all the goods

Make sure you have lots of toys and materials on hand for a parallel play session. Toys that encourage creative thinking are perfect for parallel play. It’s essential that every kid has access to the toys so no one feels left out. I recommend placing the toys in the middle of the room and place each kid near the pile and let them pick which toy strikes their interest.

It’s okay if they don’t interact!

While you watch kids parallel play, it’s easy to wonder why they aren’t playing together or even acknowledging the other kids. This is completely normal. Interactions should come with time as their social skills develop gradually.

Less is more than enough

When you’re introducing your kid to parallel play for the first time, it may bring them light stress. Viewing a wide range of toys with other kids may be a new sight for them. If you want to get the most out of this play, keep the number of adults and distractions to a minimum. Keep the duration of this play so kids will feel encouraged to try again the next day. This is a skill-building stage, and you must allow your kid to move at their own pace.

Take it to the next level, at the right time

If your kid has been parallel playing for a while, it’s appropriate to start encouraging direct interaction. Ask your kid to exchange a toy with another friend. You can start to explore additional cooperative forms of play if all goes as planned. If it does not, keep the parallel play strong – they’ll get there in their own time!

Play outdoors

Play does not have to take place inside all the time. The spring and summer months are a great time to take parallel play outside.

The Edvocate’s Guide to Solitary Play

Occupancy Sensor

Solitary play is one of the initial play stages. Playing independently is a natural step in the development of a kid’s play behavior for a 0-2 year old.

 Kids learn through play, and in this stage they have not learned enough from relationships to being able to play with others.

Playing independently gives kids the time they need to believe, explore, and create. As a kid plays alone, they learn to concentrate, believe for themselves, come up with creative ideas, and regulate feelings. These things are essential for a kid to learn. Playing alone is essential and normal.

Babies and toddlers are in this stage. The age group is busy exploring their new world. Each new object or situation that is introduced is a new learning experience.

Positives of Solitary Play

  • Kids are given a chance and freedom to use their imagination.
  • Kids learn and practice physical and mental skills.
  • Kidscan explore, create, and learn how things work.
  • Solitary play allows kids to make their own rules for play.
  • Solitary play means a kid does not need to meet anyone else’s expectations.
  • It should not be used to identify unsociable kids.

Social play develops at around the age of 3 or 4, but it is essential to note that solitary play does not disappear.

Types of Solitary Play

  • Solitary active play: Involves playing make-believe while playing alone or with an imaginary friend. Solitary active play is a bridge between solitary play and true social play. Involves repeated activities with or without toys or objects, for instance, banging two blocks together.
  • Solitary imaginative play:  Can strengthen healthy development. For example, a kid alone in their room using an action in an imaginary story exhibits abstract thinking, language, and creativity.

Solitary play is followed by onlooker play: watching and observing others play, at around two years of age.

10 Disturbing Facts About Teen Dating Violence

According to Choose Respect (a national initiative), some dating patterns start early in life that cause violence throughout a person’s lifetime. This initiative aims to help youngsters in the age group of 11-14 years to keep away from abusive relationships.

Parents, teachers, and students in the US should be aware of the prevailing dating violence among teenagers in the nation. Based on the information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in eleven adolescents suffers from physical violence related to dating. The number of victims might be even more because most youngsters and adults prefer not to reveal their involvement in an abusive relationship. Besides this, some young people do not know what abuse is. If they are aware of the signs of abuse, they can avoid partners who mistreat them emotionally or physically.

Facts About Dating Violence Encountered by the Youth

The information provided by the Choose Respect initiative can enable the teenagers to understand the patterns of abusive relationships. In case they have encountered abuse, they will know that others have experienced the same thing, and it is possible to find someone who will respect them.

  1. Most teen dating violence takes place in the house of one of the dating partners.
  2. About seventy percent of young girls have suffered rape at the hands of someone they know, such as a friend, casual acquaintance, or boyfriend.
  3. About twenty percent of teenage girls said their partner threatened to harm themselves or commit violence if their relationship ended.
  4. About eighty percent of the young women who have been abused physically during dating continue to have a relationship with the abuser.
  5. Eighty percent of teenagers feel that verbal abuse is a severe problem.
  6. One out of three teenagers knows a peer or friend who has encountered violent actions like hitting, kicking, slapping, punching, or choking by their partner.
  7. Fifty-four percent of the students in high school have witnessed dating violence amongst their peers.
  8. About one out of five girls have been abused sexually or physically by their dating partner in high school.
  9. About one out of five adolescents have reported that they have suffered from emotional abuse.
  10. Every year about one out of four teenagers report physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse.

Ways to Combat Dating Violence amongst Teenagers

Teachers, counselors, friends, and parents should be vigilant about it. As soon as they notice any signs of abuse, they can talk to the victim.

Usually, abuse takes place in the houses of adolescents. So parents should watch the interactions of their children with their partners. They can forbid their partners from visiting them when there are no adults to supervise. If their child encounters dating violence, parents can provide therapy for them and inform law enforcement.

Parents’ relationships with their children play a significant role in preparing them for healthy dating partnerships. Youngsters who experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from caregivers, parents, or others might develop trauma. As a result, they may attract dating partners who are not safe. If parents love their children, treat them respectfully, and fulfill their emotional requirements, there will be fewer chances for them to enter into abusive relationships later.

Homeschooling Your Gifted Child

Homeschooling has been on the rise for the past decade. In 2017, it was reported that 3.3% of the nation’s students, about 2.3 million students, were homeschooled. Although these numbers may seem small, they are a big jump from the 1980s, when homeschooling burst into the public consciousness in a big way, leading it to be legalized in 20 states.

There are many reasons parents choose homeschooling, ranging from parents’ desire to have more control over their child’s curriculum, those who prefer a religion-based education, to concern about a school’s overall culture and environment. But the biggest reason? A school’s inability to meet a student’s specific needs. Gifted children specifically fall under this category. Gifted children make up between 5-10% of children in the United States, many of whom, frustrated with the lack of resources and support from traditional schools, choose to homeschool.

Choosing to homeschool

It’s no secret that our education system has been dragging its feet in recent years. With budget cuts, overworked teachers, and unsteady and poorly planned programs, it’s no wonder many have chosen homeschooling, especially those with gifted children. Gifted children are often overlooked and misunderstood by the educational system. To begin with, educational policy dictates that giftedness is not tested until a child reaches third grade. This, says Marianne Kuzujanakis M.D., is simply too late. By the time a gifted child reaches that point, she argues, they may have given up academically and socially.

Because of the scope of giftedness, a gifted child may become bored or wrestle with the traditional curriculum. Gifted children also struggle socially when placed in an environment with traditional learners. The difficulties in forging social relationships may lead to a gifted child feeling isolated or outcasted. On top of the isolation they may feel socially, they may also feel unstimulated or frustrated academically. Therefore, waiting until a child is third grade to test for giftedness could potentially stunt them academically and socially.

Gifted children and their families also wrestle with the preconceived notion that the gifted do not need any aid or recognition. However, the reality is that giftedness is a spectrum; not all gifted children are equal, they do not have the same talents or abilities. This accounts for many parents and their frustrations with the educational system, who believe homeschooling is the answer.

The benefits of homeschooling the gifted are definitely present. Parents have the ability to create a curriculum based on the specific needs of their gifted child. This tailored curriculum will challenge them, pursue their interests, and focus them as needed. Additionally, the nature of such a fluid curriculum means that the gifted child can explore a subject as deeply as they choose. A child can also move at their own pace and allow for parents to give their child much needed one on one time.

Homeschool Methods

The essence of homeschooling means that parents will be building their education, their “school,” from the ground up; but there are a multitude of methods and approaches available.

Unschooling: Based on curiosity, this method has no set curriculum. Students pursue learning by following their own interests, finding their own resources, and working through educating themselves on their own.

Project-Based learning: In this method, the student will pursue a project and be solely responsible for examining its concepts and its completion. Topics (or questions) can range across all disciplines. Child and parent can work together to create a structure that suits the child, i.e. what resources to use, how long the project will take, and whether there will be a presentation.

Unit Studies: In this method, a theme or topic is chosen with the student and structured units and curriculum are created around it. These units can last weeks to months depending on parent and student goals.

Interest-Led Learning: Also known as Delight-Directed Learning, this method is similar to unschooling but lends itself to more structure. Hone in on a particular interest your child has and then pursue it from different angles or disciplines. For example, if your child loves insects, that should be your topic. Analyze the anatomy of insects or the different species of insects through Science. Paint, draw, color, or craft an insect through Art. Read fiction about insects through English. A field trip can even be created by finding an event or museum with an insect exhibition.

Homeschooling is diverse in what it can offer gifted children and their parents. Along with pursuing an education on their own terms, gifted children and their parents are able to do so from the comfort of their own home. The freedom and creativity of homeschooling allow both parent and student to explore and experiment with these different styles. Take notes of what methods and styles are effective. What about elements of those styles really clicked? Put all of these elements together to create a homeschooling method that uniquely belongs to your gifted child.

Confronting Suicide Among K-12 Students

According to the American Association for Suicidology, suicide was the second leading cause of death in the world for people 15-24 years of age and for people 10-14 years of age. The paper suggested suicide prevention/intervention and training is “justified and imperative” for family members, the community, and especially for teachers and faculty members. It is also important to note that every year 1 in 15 high school students attempts suicide.

Students should have access to suicide prevention/intervention programs, especially in the school environment. All educators and parents should be aware of the risk factors and warning signs that should be recognizable in a child or adolescent considering suicide. These risk factors don’t necessarily mean someone will attempt suicide but they should never be ignored. These factors include:

  • mental illness
  • alcohol or other substance abuse
  • easy access to lethal items (e.g., firearms and pills)
  • previous suicide attempts
  • non-suicidal self-injury
  • exposure to friends’/family member’s suicide
  • sexual orientation confusion
  • bullying
  • low self-esteem

Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental illnesses that can lead to suicide. What is striking, however, is that at the time of death, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more than half of the people who died by suicide “did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition”.

There are also a number of protective factors that can mitigate or reduce the risks of suicidal behavior.  These include:

  • strong connections to family and community support
  • restricted access to lethal items
  • cultural and religious beliefs
  • problem solving and conflict resolution skills
  • access to health care for mental, physical, and substance abuse concerns

Warning signs to watch for include:

  • talking about dying
  • changing behavior, personality, sleep patterns, or eating habits
  • acting erratically or recklessly
  • harming self or others

There are many suicide prevention resources available for schools. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration under the Department of Health and Human Services has a wonderful resource called Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools. The tool kit “includes tools to implement a multifaceted suicide prevention program that responds to the needs and cultures of students.” At a minimum, all school personnel should be aware of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  This lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

The Edvocate Podcast, Episode 7: How Digital Age Teachers Can Win Over Parents

Education is a collaborative process, as it takes many stakeholders working in unison to help students succeed academically. One of the most integral parts of this collaborative team is parents, as teachers know all so well. So, if you are a teacher struggling to increase parental engagement, how do you fix this issue? In this episode, we will discuss 7 ways that digital age teachers win over parents.