Don’t Forget Who You Are

I think every parent goes through a period of time where our children find themselves in situations that rattle their self confidence.  Perhaps it is a group of mean kids at school, maybe a teacher that has lost his/her compassion for those they teach, or maybe a sport or other competitive activity has turned from healthy life lessons to a political mess of adult goals and favoritism.  Regardless, we parents often feel inadequate to help ease the pain of such situations and powerless to protect those that are so dear to our hearts because, in fact, life is not always fair.

I’m in one of those situation now.  With four children, this is not the first time I’ve faced the situation and, I suppose, it will not be the last time either.  But I wanted to blog about the one thing we can do to help our children, no matter how old they are or become. Confidence is a very important life tool.  It becomes a shield to protect from life’s challenges and injustice.  We can’t stop the world from presenting difficult times or situations that feel unfair, but we can build and prop-up our children’s confidence.

Remember to tell your children how proud you are of them, tell them they are strong, smart, talented.  Find their strengths and give them opportunities to be successful so they can build their identity in confidence.  And when life gets hard and people are telling your child they are not good enough…remind your child of their talents, successes, intelligence.  Teach your children sometimes things just don’t fit together and that is O.K.  Give your children the power to remove themselves from situations that are abusive and everyday they walk out your front door to face the world tell them, “Don’t Forget Who You Are.”

Because who you are is good enough even when others say less.

From one parent to another,

Ellen

Can Playing More Be The Answer?

Parenting is tough.  There is so much to do!  To complicate things, entertainment has become almost anti-family values.  Do you know the background of those who are creating your child’s playthings and entertainment?  How much do they know about childhood development?  Do they even think past just selling a toy?  Via E does.  My goal is to help by providing a play culture and play things that are engineered to follow the latest science of child development and learning so you can rest assured.  Here is a list of courses I have completed or are in process (this list will continue to expand over time):

  • Child Growth and Development
  • Teaching Foundations and Frameworks for History and Social Science
  • Child Guidance and Communication
  • Early Care and Education Administration
  • Foundations and Frameworks for Language and Literature
  • Child Family and Community
  • Teaching Language and Literacy
  • Teaching in a Diverse Society
  • Infant and Toddler Development
  • School Age Before and After School Programs
  • Personnel and Leadership in Early Childhood Education
  • Principals and Practices of Teaching Young Children
  • Math and Science for Young Children

Supporting research and books:

  • Mind in the Making – The seven essential life skills every child needs by Ellen Galinsky
  • The Owner’s Manual for The Brain – Everyday applications from mind-brain research by Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D.

We have a whole lot of fun playing, but our play has a purpose of building strong minds and values.  The more play, the more learning…so let’s Play More!

Play More = Higher Intelligence

Playing makes children smarter.
In fact, playing increases intelligence in adults too.  Sounds like a marketing pitch, right?  Wrong.  I have spent over seven years investigating this premise and I can’t find any data to debunk this claim.  Actually, the more I research the better I understand the why of this claim.  The crazy thing is our schools are decreasing the amount of free play in their curriculum in the United States.  No doubt this is the result of the well-meaning politicians who know not what they do.  The subsequent increase of homework for all ages is almost at epic levels.  Well my friends, here is a bit of homework that will increase your child’s intelligence and at the same time, decrease stress at home…Play More.

Tinkering:  Time Magazine reports, “Research in the science of learning shows that hands-on building projects help young people conceptualize ideas and understand issues in greater depth.”[1]

Free Play: “The average bright child seems to spend about 45 to 50 minutes a day more in play than the average dull child. In mental recreation (“picture shows; playing checkers; cook and similar games; playing the piano or other instruments, etc.”) the average bright child spends an hour more than the average dull child.” Writes Boynton and Ford, in The Journal of Applied Psychology back in June of 1933![2]

Sports: There are scores of reports that show a positive correlation between participation in sports and academic improvement.

Doll Play:  Another scholarly paper writes, “Pretend play might be a zone of proximal development, an activity in which children operate at a cognitive level higher than they operate at in nonpretense situations. “[3]

I like to keep my posts short and to the point. But if you wish to read on, here is a great article found at Parenting Science: http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html.

My goal for Via E is to provide an educational experience that is cloaked in fun.  Since play is a natural part of learning, we have science on our side.  So, come on…let’s Play More!

Always yours, Ellen

 

Ellen Callen, B.S., M.B.A., Instructor at the University of California, Irvine, Division of Continuing Education, researcher of Child Development and Early Learning, is the founder of Via E, Inc. Via E’s, mission is to develop and deliver wholesome play products and integrate methods to increase cognitive and creative abilities in the young and young at heart–and have a lot of fun doing it.

[1] http://ideas.time.com/2011/10/19/in-praise-of-tinkering-2/

[2] http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/apl/17/3/294/

[3] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1993.tb02914.x/full

The Freedom to Play

When my grandson was about a year old, I introduced him to an Alexis to see what his reaction would be.  I don’t know why I was surprised when he took to her right away.  He sat her on his push toys and pushed Alexis around the room, picking her up when she fell and promptly seating her back to continue the ride.  He would study her face and poke at her eyes and then he moved on to the next toddler thing to do.  So, I decided I should dress this Alexis in more appropriate “boy wear” and braided her hair so she would be read for tough love.

My grandson, now about 2 ½ years old, moved away last year as my daughter received a great job offer in Virginia.  She keeps me up to date and we Skype so I can still talk to my grandson.  This week my daughter sent me this picture. She said that my grandson, Gunnar, pulled Alexis out of the bottom of his toy box and took careful effort to sit her up to watch him play with his cars.  I’d like to think Alexis reminds him of his grandma, but most of all I love the story because it reflects a world where parents are more open to gender-neutral play.  My grandson also plays with a 12” action figure, but neither are anything more than just Gunnar having the freedom to play and explore.

In a Psychology Today post on their website, Peter Gray Ph.D. wrote, “Play is, first and foremost, an expression of freedom. It is what one wants to do as opposed to what one is obliged to do. The joy of play is the ecstatic feeling of liberty. Play is not always accompanied by smiles and laughter, nor are smiles and laughter always signs of play; but play is always accompanied by a feeling of “Yes, this is what I want to do right now.” Players are free agents, not pawns in someone else’s game.”[1]

Bravo Dr. Gray!  Here’s to the freedom to play and a wish that you may…Play more.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200811/the-value-play-i-the-definition-play-gives-insights

Play More…Play is for grown ups too.

playmore-logoPlay More is a series of posts presenting the value of play.  Play, for both children and adults, is as essential to health as are eating well, exercising and diet. Integrating play into the family unit, increases emotional bonds, a sense of well being, and is an element of successful navigation in an ever growing complex world.

This post is based on, “The Healing Potential of Adults at Play”, by Dottie Ward-Wimmer https://www.psychceu.com/Schaefer/intro.pdf retrieved 2/16/2017

When at play, both our analytical and creative mind interacts in a symbiotic, relaxed nature that increases the flow of creativity and elicits a feeling of a relaxed state.  In this relaxed state of being our body is able to better support the biological needs such as breathing, digestion, and heart functions.  Play allows the “unwinding” of stress that attacks the immune system.  There are several books about increasing outdoor activities and getting involved in a sport and although this is strongly supported, not many talk about the health aspects of simple play.  No competition (not even with yourself), no rules, just simple play as found in coloring, tinkering, toy cars, action figures or dolls.

Dottie writes, “Play can increase our self esteem.  It invites access to states of well-being and calm as well as stillness and joy.  When released in play, we often have an increased capacity for empathy and intimacy.”  She goes on to support the premise for adult play therapy stating that it releases stress, increases confidence, and connects adults to the joy projected on the things loved in childhood.  “Play is a natural and enduring behavior in adults.  It has healing powers for the mind and spirit that we are only beginning to appreciate and learn to use.”

Take the time to Play More.  You have earned it; your mind and body need it.

A Halloween Story by Alexis and Elena

Forward

From the outside the house was weathered; paint cracking and faded, the once green grass now brown, weeds growing so tall they looked intended and dirt caked over the windows like a thick brown frosting.  The house was just four years new and settled in a cul-de-sac just down the street of our neighborhood in São Palo, Brazil.  Mom, Dad and I would often walk past the house during our ritual evening family time.  We live next to a wildlife preserve so it was natural to see wild dogs roaming about and enormous black birds fly overhead.  What made this house so spooky was that the birds seemed to claim the house as their own.  At night the coyotes would howl in the spookiest way.  It was fun to pretend that the house was haunted.  For fun, Elena and I would ride our bikes to the deserted house then sit across the street and make up stories of what might have happened to the family that once lived there.  We wondered why they would have left so suddenly–leaving their house to sit empty.  This is one of our best stories:

Alex and Elena testOur Spooky Story–
A story of ghostly friendship

By Alex (Alexis) and Elena

It started with the first stone. The street wound through a housing track built on the edge of town, nestled up to miles and miles of burnt yellow grass hills with scattered old oak trees.  At the very end of the street was a house unlike all the rest. The new house had an old style making it look like it had lived peacefully with the burnt yellow grass hills for centuries.  A family had recently moved into the house and was in the process of putting in a new yard.  To keep with the old country look of the new house, the family had stepping stones shipped all the way from Transylvania, half way across the world, to place in their yard—Transylvania is home to some of the spookiest things in the world!  The night of the placement of the first stone in the yard a large black bird came to visit and sat on the roof of the house.  The yellowed eye black bird’s head tilted down and then tilted to the left and again to the right as if it were inspecting the stone’s placement in the new yard.  As the days went by more Transylvania stones were laid in the yard as if they were recreating an old path and sitting wall.  It was as if that path and wall had already existed for centuries.

Each night one more black bird came to watch the construction of the old looking yard, quietly, as if they didn’t want anyone to know they were there, watching. One night—the night of the first full moon to shine on the completed Transylvania yard—something strange happened…a white mist rose out of one of the stones.  The mist formed into an image of girl.  The girl floated and came to sit on the wall as if it was her own.  She didn’t look very scary, but instead she looked a bit confused.  As the ghost girl rose and floated up and down the newly laid stone path, the black birds seemed to surround her like the blue birds that follow a Disney princess.  Elena and I secretly watched the ghost girl as she inspected her new home from behind a thick old oak tree growing across the street from the house.  As she continued to moved across the yard, her brow furrowed and the delicate corners of her mouth turned downward making a sad, confused frown—I don’t think she liked the new path or the new house very much.

The ghost girl had big beautiful, black colored eyes and long black hair that tumbled down to the floor in soft waves. If she had skin, the color would be like that of a cool white, ivory. She didn’t look very scary but rather pretty, in a spooky sort of way. Elena and I whispered to each other as we watched the ghost girl carefully.  Her smoky grey dress came down to her knees and swayed back and forth as she stood next to a newly transplanted olive tree.  Elena and I wanted to stay and watch all night but we knew it was getting late. If we didn’t get home soon, our moms would surely worry about us.  So we quietly attempted to tip-toe out from behind the tree from which we had been hiding. Eeek, Screech, Eeek… the black birds started to holler as if to warn the ghost girl of our presence.  We froze in our steps, goose-bumps raised on our arms and if our hair could stand straight up, I’m sure it would have!  We swung around quickly and in a moment she was gone.

Lights flashed on inside the house, each window glowed a soft yellow. The front door of the house swung open and out came the owners of the house with brooms lifted up behind their heads and gripped tightly in their hands as if they were to attack.  Elena and I quickly ran back behind the tree as it was too far to run all the way home without being seen.  We thought this house must be full of witches!  But as they waved the brooms bottom up into the air, we realized they were just trying to get rid of the birds who were so loudly screeching, creating the spookiest concert of noises we had ever heard.

Comforted by the thought the owners must be normal people like us, we laughed and started to talk about the ghost girl. “Where do you think she came from?  How old was she?  Where are her parents?  Is she friendly?”…we jabbered on with excited energy caused by the scare.

“I come from Transylvania, I’m eight years old, and I’m looking for my parents,” said a small voice.  Elena and I looked at each other with our eyes as large as saucers and bright with fear.  We grabbed each other’s hands and then slowly turned around.  There she was, the ghost girl, floating right next to us.

But when we looked into her worried eyes we were no longer afraid. We felt sadness for her. The ghost girl went on to say that she didn’t know where she was or why she can no longer find her family and friends.

“I’m lonely and I miss my parents so very much.” the ghost girl said.

“We can be your friends. I’m Alex and this is Elena. We live just down the street.” I said.

But the ghost girl’s sad eyes lit up only a little. “Thank you for your kindness and for not running away when you saw me.” The ghost girl continued, “Can you help me get back home?”

“We can try.” Elena and I said at the same time, now looking at each other for support.  “But we have to go home right now because our parents will soon be looking for us.  We promise to come back tomorrow and help make a plan to get you back home.”  With that, the ghost girl nodded, took two steps back and then vanished into the cool night air.

Wow, that was so cool! We said to each other now looking face to face and tightly holding each other’s hands. We couldn’t believe what we just experienced.  Giggling with excitement we jumped on our bikes and quickly rode home.

Elena lives in the house right next to mine so just as I got upstairs to my room and turned on the light I heard Elena on the can phone. The can phone is a science project Elena and I have that goes from my bedroom window to hers.  It is two cans connected by wire; she speaks in one side and I listen on the other.  I can hear her talking in her room anyway so I’m not sure if the can phone really works or not.  Elena tells me to log-on to our secured chat room so we can develop a plan to help the ghost girl.  We have our own chat room setup online so we can talk to each other even when we are not together.  We recounted the night and tried to figure out how to help the ghost girl until late in the night.  The chat only ended because I fell asleep with my hands still on my keyboard and my face smooshed on top of them.  Dad later scooped me up and placed me in my bed where I continued to try to find a way to help the ghost girl in my dreams.

Everyday we rode our bikes to meet with the ghost girl and became great friends. After awhile, she was not as sad as when we first met her, but she still missed her family very much.  By now there must have been at least 40 black birds that came to the now haunted house to keep the ghost girl company.  The people who lived in the house were not very happy about their uninvited bird guests.  They would chase them with brooms and bang tin cans together to make loud crashing noises in hopes the birds would go away…but the birds would not.  Instead, more and more birds came to visit the ghost princess–we named the ghost girl that because only princesses could talk to birds.

We discovered that the stones from Transylvania were taken from the ghost princess’s house. She use to run up and down the path daily and since becoming a ghost she kept that ritual not knowing that she was now a ghost girl.  Only since she met Elena and me, did she realize she was no longer a little girl.  But it was no matter to her whether she was a girl or a ghost.  All she wanted was to find her family so they could all be together again.

Elena and I tried, and tried to find a way to send the ghost princess home. None of our ideas seemed to work, save one.

One day we knocked on the door of the haunted house. A kind looking woman answered the door and we began to tell her the story of the Transylvania stone and the ghost princess.  She listened to us for at least an hour as we told her everything we knew and begged her to find a way to take the ghost princess back to Transylvania to be with her family.  The kind woman’s eyes looked compassionate and without even a word she nodded and slowly closed the door.  Elena and I looked at each other with questions in our faces. What was the woman going to do?  Did she listen to us at all?

Later that evening we met with the ghost princess and told her what we had done. “We’re sorry.” we said, “We have tried everything we could think of to get you back home.”  “But you can be part of our families…we can be sisters…all three of us!” Elena said.  We all looked at each other and knew this was already true—we would be sisters-friends forever.  But sadly that was not enough.  Even though we had each other, the ghost princess needed her family.

The next night was a full moon. It was so bright that it looked like a big flashlight had been hung in the sky.  Elena and I went to the same tree we had gone to each night before to meet the ghost princess, but this time it felt different.  Not one black bird was at the haunted house.  None sitting on the fence.  None were sitting on the house or the mailbox or even in the olive tree…they were all gone.  The house was dark, not even the porch light glowed as it had every night before.  We walked across the street to take a closer look.  There were no cars in the driveway and the evening paper was still on the porch.  We decided to knock on the door.  Knock, knock, knock.  No answer.  No sound.  Nothing.  Knock, knock, knock, we repeated.  Still nothing.  We turn around and headed down the hand-laid path of Transylvania stone and noticed, one stone was missing.

Elena and I look at each other and our hearts filled with happiness. We knew at that moment the ghost princess was on her way home to her family.  The nice woman who owned the house did listen and did care.  Just as we got on our bikes to ride back home a warm wind blew through the leaves of the olive tree.  We looked over our shoulders towards the sound of the rustling leaves to find the ghost princess sitting on the wall under the tree.  We were so excited to see her that we dropped our bikes and ran back towards the tree.

“I wanted to say thank you and let you know that I will always be your friend…no, I mean your sister.” The ghost princess said warmly.

“I wish I could hug you goodbye.” said Elena “Me too!” I said feeling happy and sad at the same time.

“Maybe we can…maybe we can do a group hug…all three of us.” The ghost princess continued, “Elena, grab Alex’s hands…O.K….now both or you close your eyes and I will enter into the space between the both of you.” I looked at Elena and then grabbed both her hands with mine, not knowing what to expect next.  We then looked at each other and with anticipation closed our eyes at the same time.  It was then we felt a warm touch and a whisper, “Thank you, I promise to visit and never forget how you helped me get back home to my family.”  When we opened our eyes all Elena and I saw was each other’s smile…the ghost princess was gone.

The End

Even though a new family has moved into the once deserted house that inspired Elena and me to write Our Spooky Story, every Halloween we sit across from the house and read Our Spooky Story again.  We had so much fun writing it that it makes for great Halloween fun every year!  What is your best spooky story?  I’d love to read it!  You can send it to me at Alexis@Via-E.com.  Write to me soon!AlexElena2

Have fun this coming Halloween!

Your best dollfriend,

Alexis

Copyright 10/31/2009 all rights reserved Via-E, Inc.