Your guide to parenting in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts

The Family & Development Lab at Providence College—under the direction of Dr. Kelly Warmuth, Assistant Professor of Psychology—is currently recruiting families for a study exploring how family relationships influence child development.


If you choose to participate, you, your spouse or partner, and your child will be asked to visit our lab (151 Sowa Hall on the Providence College campus). Each visit takes about 2–3 hours. You and your spouse or partner will be asked to fill out questionnaires about family relations and participate in a discussion about common disagreements in your relationship. Portions of the visit will be videotaped.

Your child will also be participating! Your child will be given story stems to finish, answer questions about your family, and play games with student researchers. Your child will be given a small toy for participating.

Your family will earn $50 for completing this visit with the potential for another $20 in a year if you agree to fill out some online questionnaires which will allow us to see what has changed for your family. In order to make these visits as easy as possible for your family, we schedule visits 7 days a week, including weeknights and any time on the weekends, and offer complimentary child care during your visit for your other kiddos!

Learn more about us or register your family at famdevlab.com

By Suzy Letourneau and Robin Meisner, Providence Children’s Museum

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Providence Children’s Museum’s recently reinvented Coming to Rhode Island exhibit explores history through four story galleries ­– an English colonist’s farmhouse (1640), the new Fort Adams worksite (1835), a Cape Verdean packet ship (1892) and a Dominican bodega (1961). The exhibit uses these stories to build empathy and foster respect for the diversity of individuals who make up the world. Empathy is the ability to sense, understand and share other people’s emotions, and it allows individuals to take others’ perspectives, communicate and collaborate.

Children develop social and emotional skills like empathy as they begin to understand their own identities and appreciate differences between themselves and others, and research shows that pretending is a natural avenue for this development. In Coming to Rhode Island, children engage with each story through pretend play, allowing them to practice social and emotional skills in developmentally meaningful ways.

Toddlers (and even infants) start to notice and react to others’ emotions, a foundation of empathy. They also start pretending in simple ways and playing in parallel with other children, setting the stage for social skills and later forms of pretending. In the exhibit, a toddler might offer fake food to someone who says they are hungry or share with another child while playing side by side.

Children ages 3 to 5 begin to engage in more complex forms of pretend play, from wearing a costume or using props to creating stories with different roles. Children in Coming to Rhode Island might pretend to cook in a kitchen, build a fort or sail a ship. When pretending together, they talk about their ideas and decide how a story should unfold. In the process, kids learn that other people might not think and feel the same things they do, and they practice seeing other’s points of view and learn to work through conflicts.

Children ages 5 to 7 start to understand similarities and differences between themselves and others, and can take many different perspectives. When playing together, they create elaborate stories and practice empathy by imagining what others might feel in different situations. In the exhibit, kids might take on roles that are very different from their own lives. They might think about what life was like for the people whose stories appear in the galleries, and they recognize differences between their own lives and those who lived in the past.

Children ages 7 to 11 begin to recognize that different people might have different interpretations of the same situation, and that multiple perspectives can be equally valid. They also start to understand that people’s feelings are influenced by what others think and how others act towards them, helping them develop deeper empathy for others. In Coming to Rhode Island, older kids might reflect on how other’s previous experiences shaped the decisions they made and their perceptions of the world.

While children begin developing empathy and perspective-taking very early on, these skills continue to grow throughout their entire lives. In Coming to Rhode Island, older children and adults might question stereotypes and challenge assumptions, and appreciate the diversity represented in our community.

Learn more about Coming to Rhode Island and get a peek at the process of creating the exhibit on the Museum’s blog.

By Anna Johnson

When the school year ends, kids are excited. They can’t wait to leave the hallways and homework behind. But despite the thrill of those summer months ahead, the transition can be hard. For kids who have learning, social and/or sensory challenges, this change in routine can be especially difficult and creating unexpected problems.

To make things easier for you and your child, here are a few things to watch for. Try to plan ahead and manage things with some of these preventative strategies.

hiking

The Outdoor Elements

For some kids, the sunshine calls and they’re off. But for others, the hot sun is like kryptonite, zapping them of all their powers. These kids might drag behind, complain, and, pardon the pun, experience “meltdowns.” Loose cool clothing, hats, beach umbrellas, water bottles and shade are extra important for these kids. Other enemies, like bugs, sand, even grass, can also get heightened in the summer Recognize what outdoor sensory elements trigger your child’s discomfort and come prepared. Find favorite things they can do to redirect their attention and calm them. Art supplies, special snacks, journals, or a favorite toy might do the trick. Special blankets to sit on, hand held fans, and bug spray are useful tools to keep ready for your bag of tricks.

New People & Places

Festivals, fairgrounds, vacations, family visits, cookouts and camp. So many fun things to do in the summer months! But interacting with different people, learning the social rules at new places, adjusting to a different schedule and routine, can feel disruptive and difficult. Help your child by preparing them for upcoming events and new situations. Create a visual or written schedule for the day, don’t force new friendships, and build downtime into your child’s day. In some cases it is helpful to create a code word or signal to use when your child feels overwhelmed or needs a break.

Less Structure

It’s great to not have the rigid schedule of school in place, but children still need a sense of their day to help them manage their time. Using a white board or notebook, make a schedule with things like free time, meals, chores, travel and screen time. Use pictures if your child is younger. Structure = security for most of us, so having routines in place makes a difference. And while bedtime might be later, make it consistent. Sleep is a priority for all of us! The whole family will manage summer activities and changes better if they are rested.

Summer is a wonderful season, especially in Rhode Island, but it’s okay if you don’t get to everything on your bucket list. Enjoy the little things every day. Give yourself and your child time to breath and enjoy each other. Your summer may not be 100% stress-free, but with a little planning, it can be full of special moments and family fun.

Anna Johnson, Head of School at The Wolf School, is a devoted, passionate educator with more than 17 years of classroom and leadership experience. She holds a BA and MAT from Brown University, and speaks locally and nationally on topics related to Complex Learners.

The Wolf School, located in East Providence Rhode Island, inspires Complex Learners to discover confidence, compassion, and a love of learning to reach their full academic and social potential. To learn more about Complex Learners and The Wolf School, visit www.thewolfschool.org.

Today's Contributing Writer: Anna Johnson, Head of School at The Wolf School

LacrosseAs parents and educators we understand that one size does not fit all. Your child might approach social situations slowly while someone else’s child jumps right in. One student learns best with verbal prompts while another does better with visual cues. Right out of the gate, children display preferences for how they take in and communicate information. Our brains are all “wired” differently.

But what happens when these differences are difficult to understand and interfere in a child’s ability to learn and negotiate his or her world?

Here are 5 areas where children’s behaviors may demonstrate underlying learning or sensory differences that create barriers to social and academic progress. Children who demonstrate difficulty in several or all of these areas may be complex learners, requiring systematic, individualized programs to support their engagement with learning.

Routines

Getting up and out of bed and ready to face the day is very challenging. Equally difficult may be a bedtime routine that allows for consistent and proper sleep. At the same time interruption of daily routine creates discomfort, anxiety and behavior issues. Transitions between one activity and the next, introducing new people and changing plans can all spark resistance and may even lead to “meltdowns.”

Friends

11752426_970117903050069_5449332426211018706_nChildren may not get invited to play dates or birthday parties, or may be frequently teased, even bullied. Not understanding the rules of games, talking too loudly or too quietly, misinterpreting social cues and exhibiting poor conflict resolution and coping strategies make it very hard to initiate and maintain friendships. Children may interrupt, display frustration, and generally “wear people down,” or they may retreat and become extremely shy and unresponsive.

Self-care

Bathing, combing hair, brushing teeth, and getting dressed create conflict and resistance. Children may be particularly bothered by the texture of a sweater, how certain socks feel, or a tag at the back of a shirt. They may be very sensitive to temperature, often feeling too hot or too cold. Children may also have an intense aversion to certain foods based on smell or texture, and be very picky eaters.

Organization

Initiating and completing tasks seems overwhelming, so there may be a lot of struggles with homework and household chores. Children may have very messy bedrooms, closets, and lockers. Following directions is problematic, and children have trouble remembering more than one direction at a time or remembering the order of a sequence of tasks. They may have trouble with focus, and get distracted by noise and visual information.

Academics

Reading, math and writing can all present significant challenges for complex learners. They may have trouble with specific concepts such as sounding out words, sequencing numbers, or understanding spelling rules. In addition there may be more general problems with retrieval and articulation of information. As a result, children may perform below grade level, or have gaps in their understanding and knowledge base.

IMG_1559[1].JPGAnna Johnson, Head of School at The Wolf School, is a devoted, passionate educator with more than 17 years of classroom and leadership experience. She holds a BA and MAT from Brown University, and speaks locally and nationally on topics related to Complex Learners. The Wolf School, located in East Providence Rhode Island, inspires Complex Learners to discover confidence, compassion, and a love of learning to reach their full academic and social potential.  To learn more about Complex Learners and The Wolf School, visit our website at www.thewolfschool.org

11039153_10205066684239121_30935655782435110_nJoin us today as we meet one of my favorite local Moms, Jamie Glowacki, an energetic, acrobatic, entrepreneur who happens to be a potty-training ninja! I first met Jamie when she opened up a kid consignment shop years ago in Hope Artiste Village before moving the shop to Hope Street and then selling the business (this amazing shop is still mom-owned, renamed Hope Returns) so Jamie could pursue new projects. She has never ceased to amaze me how she juggles parenthood and work, managing to find her own sense of balance amidst all of her creative endeavors. - Anisa


Briefly describe your business here…

Jamie: I am the author of Oh Crap! Potty Training, published by Touchstone, Simon and Schuster June 2016. I also consult with parents, run a Potty Coach business, and do a lot of public speaking about poop. A dubious honor, to be sure.

Kidoinfo: What inspired you to start your business?

Jamie: Oh Crap started very organically out of need. I can honestly say I never wanted to be a potty trainer when I grew up. I was a social worker in San Francisco and taught parenting classes. Part of this was teaching potty training. Fast forward many years and I had my son, moved to RI, and potty trained him at 22 months. My mom friends were shocked and amazed! I literally started holding potty parties at my house, walking my friends through the process. Then I started classes, which sold out and were in high demand. I decided to write all the information down and realized I had a book. So I put it on-line on the WORST website known to man and it started selling. I owned a local store at the time and potty training consulting took over my time. A few pediatricians used the book in their waiting rooms and BAM. I was on the map. I had to sell my other business in order to keep up with the potty training. It’s been my full time job ever since. Earlier this year, in a whirlwind of beautiful crazy, I made an incredible book deal with Simon and Schuster and the rest is potty history.

FullSizeRender-6Kidoinfo: How do you balance work and family?

Jamie: I think balance isn’t an end goal. As a former acrobat and current hand-stander-doer, I know balance is, at it’s core, fleeting. So I have no illusion of maintaining it.

The best and worst part of my business is that I work mostly from home. I also homeschool. And I’m also a single mom. When I first started homeschooling, I struggled with making time to do all I needed AND all he needed. Then one day it hit me: include my son in my business! He helps make my Youtube and Facebook videos; learning how to edit and add music. He loves giving a kid opinion to clients who are struggling and he helps me with the finances, which is great for homeschool math.

Kidoinfo: Please describe a typical day.

Jamie: I get up at 5 to do my writing and social media planning. I’m super grateful my son is now old enough to stay home alone for a couple of hours so I can hit a 6:30am yoga class or the gym. Bad things happen if I don’t move my body. I usually have a few networking meetings in the morning via phone or skype. Then we do Pascal’s sit down work. Most of the mid-day is spent with homeschool friends at either a class, field trip, or an outing. I schedule clients and working with the other Oh Crap experts in the late afternoon. I go to bed ridiculously early. I get more done in the early morning so I have to sleep sometime.

Kidoinfo: Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?

Jamie:
My biggest one right now is no multitasking. I find that I actually expand time when I do one thing at a time with my full attention. Everything gets done so much faster with so much less frustration.

Kidoinfo: If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?

Jamie:
Do it. Whatever it is in your heart, don’t make excuses, do it. Do it now. There’s endless excuses that are just fear in disguise. Make the mistakes, fix it as you go, and don’t worry at all of what anyone thinks of you.

Kidoinfo: Where do you find inspiration?

Jamie: Currently, other women who speak their full truth and do it with kindness.

Kidoinfo: What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?

Jamie: My cordless Dyson vacuum cleaner. How lame is that?

Kidoinfo: What is your favorite children's book or music CD?

Jamie: Jack Johnson, Curious George soundtrack. It’s so not annoying, I can still listen to it and sing along.

Kidoinfo: What do you do with your kids on a rainy day?

Jamie: Play in puddles and mud.

Kidoinfo: What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved? What made it so great?

Jamie: Chef. A fun film about following your dream, the incredible power of social media, and connecting with your kid(s). All rolled up with some outstanding actors.

IMG_0088Kidoinfo: Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Jamie: When the first season of the Serial podcast came out, I got a babysitter, so I could walk for hours listening to it.

Kidoinfo: If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?

Jamie: More yoga.

Kidoinfo: Can you share a story or anecdote that is symbolic of your dual life as a business owner and a mother?

Jamie: We were at Impact Skatepark for homeschool hours and my phone kept ringing. I ignored it for 3 times and then realized someone was really trying to reach me. It was the producer of a radio show that I was scheduled to give a live (and long) interview. I wrote it down wrong in the calendar. I called him back from inside the bathroom with 30 seconds to spare before going live. And I did the interview in the bathroom with my hand cupped over the mouth to eat up the bathroom sound. Yep. That’s a typical dual mom-business person story. Although, in hindsight, the bathroom stall isn’t all that odd when you’re a professional potty trainer.

Kidoinfo: What is next for you and your business?

Jamie: So many exciting things! We are working on a series of children’s books for potty training, each addressing some of the major problems families run into. We also working on a songs to accompany those books. There’s all different styles of learning, so we’re trying to help families with better tools for potty training. I’m also working with two therapists on a parenting program centered around grounded parenting through the noise of the internet.

Home Work: Lessons from Work-at-Home Parents. This series of Kidoinfo interviews with parents look at how they manage to squeeze in work time at home (whether working for someone else or running their own business) along with juggling kids, home life, and childcare (or lack of it).

By Megan Fischer, Interim Director, Providence Children’s Museum

This month at Providence Children’s Museum, invent creative contraptions with Rigamajig, an intriguing large-scale building kit featuring wooden planks, wheels and pulleys plus rope, nuts and bolts. Conceived by our friend and RISD Industrial Design professor Cas Holman, Rigamajig inspires kids’ imaginative hands-on play, encourages engineering exploration, and cultivates collaborative construction.

Rigamajig2Since we first introduced Rigamajig, we’ve seen kids tinker and build with tons of wonderful results, including countless forts, a mobile movie projector, small sleds and larger transport vehicles, and plenty of clever creations that defy definition!

See some great examples in this video of Rigamajig in action:

One of my favorite Rigamajig moments illustrates perfectly why we offer this activity especially for the Museum's older visitors. Last summer, when we took Rigamajig out to the Museum's annual play at the park events, an 11-year-old boy and his 10-year-old sister spent an hour constructing a wide cart, precisely placing each piece. When they were done, the boy pulled his sister a few feet in the cart – and one of the wheels popped off!

Rigamajig

The resilient duo regrouped and remedied the dilemma to ensure the rebuilt cart was even better than before. This time, they decided to add a few decorative touches. Choosing from a selection of interesting “loose parts,” they added fabric to pad the seat, long plastic strips to circle the steering column, and some puffballs for good measure! Working together cooperatively and seamlessly, they negotiated the different ideas each sibling introduced and solved engineering and aesthetic challenges to come to an end product they were both quite happy with. Throughout their design project, their mother watched with a smile but gave her focused engineers plenty of time and space to achieve their vision.

Join us at the Museum to devise your own Rigamajig creations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, March 17, 18, 24 and 25 from 1:00 to 4:00 PM; check the calendar for future dates and times.

Learn more about Rigamajig:

There are plenty of ways to teach kids to conquer boredom but first we need to provide an opportunity for them to get bored. Many of today's kids are over scheduled and have access to digital devices from morning til night–phones are not just phones but provide hours of entertainment, electronic reading tables often have games and other cool features to keep us distracted, computers attract kids like magnets in the library–allowing little if any time to be actually be "bored." Setting limits on electronics and planning unstructured time is the first step, what happens next may depend on the kid–some will amuse themselves for varying lengths of time while others may need some guidance in coping with the open space of time.

IMG_5927I recently spoke with Claire Nicogossian, licensed clinical psychologist and writer for her article, Here's how to teach R.I. kids to conquer boredom, in today's Providence Journal. We had a great time sharing our ideas on how to manage child boredom this summer and beyond. She put together a great list of tips on the topic including the Kidoinfo list of 100 things to do with kids as a great place to start. Thanks Claire!

Learn more about Claire Nicogossian on her blog, momswellbeing.com; find clinical contact information at cduarteandassociates.com

By Cathy Saunders, Director of Education, Providence Children’s Museum

Children in the U.S., for the most part, are not growing up in a “hands-on” society. Toys are bought, not made by hand, and are not designed to be fixed if they break. Classroom time is more focused on test preparation and less on project-based learning as this Washington Post article outlines. Cooking from scratch has largely been supplanted by microwavable meals and fast food. The list goes on.

This lack of hands-on experience with real stuff creates real deficits: children are not learning about materials. At 8 years old, I remember being surprised to learn how much easier it was to hammer a nail into a two-by-four than a piece of plywood, and discovering that honey does not make a good substitution for sugar in a frosting recipe. (What a gooey mess!) A recent study found that toddlers are more likely to correctly identify foods by name if they have been able handle them.

April2014-WoodWorking

Hands-on experiences also provide opportunities to develop important learning behaviors, like observation, experimentation, persistence and risk taking. I recently watched two children parallel playing in our Water Ways exhibit, working to connect the fountain pipes. The 5-year-old was alternating between watching the 7-year-old and working on her own construction. The children made adjustments to their fountains that didn’t work — sometimes bringing them crashing down — but both went back to building, trying new ways to connect the pipes and move the water.

In recent years there’s been a trend toward working with real stuff again, which goes by many names — DIY, crafting, tinkering and maker movement — all of which share the basic tenant of learning by doing while using real materials. They all provide great inspiration for creating a “hands-on” environment for your child.

For some easy activities to get kids experimenting with materials, see these recent posts from the Children’s Museum: Home Grown Fun, Celebrating Engineers Week and Cardboard Challenge. If you want to take it up a notch, our friends at the Exploratorium in San Francisco have developed the Tinkering Studio which has a terrific website — find instructions to make a wearable circuit and read bios of many interesting grown-up “tinkerers.”

Take a field trip! There are plenty of opportunities to create with and explore materials at the Children’s Museum. There are also events that showcase and celebrate making and tinkering such as Maker Faires held around the world, including in RI, MA and CT.

Providence Children’s Museum is the best place for April school vacation FUN! From April 18-25, meet bunnies, chicks, goats, lambs and ponies. Build with big blue Imagination Playground blocks. See a show and try activities celebrating Earth Day. Encounter lizards, snakes and other incredible creatures. And explore Mad Science in a mind-bending interactive show! Learn more at Providence Children's Museum.

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On Saturday March 22nd, Bradley Hospital hosts the annual Parenting Matters conference.  This conference is intended for anyone who raises or works with children.  The conference will be held at Barrington High School from 8:00am-12:40pm.

There are a large number of workshops lead by some amazing and insightful local minds - behavioral experts, child-rearing gurus and everyone in between.  Workshop topics range from Children's Behavior and Discipline to Talking to Kids about Sexting, Family Nutrition and Raising Happy Children.

More information about workshop topics can be found at the Parenting Matters website.

Registration Information

By Robin Meisner, Director of Exhibits, Providence Children’s Museum

For more than a decade, Providence Children’s Museum has opened its doors to developmental psychologists who explore how children think, learn and develop. Each week, researchers from The Causality and Mind Lab at Brown University and Kid Think at Providence College conduct controlled studies in the Museum’s Mind Lab to see how kids think about or react to certain games or situations. As scientists, the researchers make observations of many children and try to understand how they learn. They are not testing how “smart” an individual child is — they’re looking at how children (in general) think and what they can do at certain stages of development.

Jan2014-Blocks

In late 2012, the Museum expanded this work with researchers when we began a major three-year research project in collaboration with The Causality and Mind Lab, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (award #1223777). Researchers at Brown are looking at the development of scientific thinking in young children. At the Museum, we’re building on our interests in creating rich play environments and providing support for children, caregivers and Museum educators to notice and value the learning that happens through play. Specifically, we’re exploring how we might best support children’s metacognition — their ability to notice and reflect on their own thinking — and adults’ awareness and appreciation of kids’ thinking and learning through play, at the Museum and beyond.

Jan2014-SomaCubeDrawing from fields like developmental psychology, informal education and museum visitor studies, the Museum’s exhibits team has looked at studies on the types of learning that naturally occur through play, when children start to become aware of their own thinking, and how the design of museum environments encourages visitors to reflect on their learning. Last summer, we conducted observations in three of our exhibits — Play Power, ThinkSpace and Water Ways — and documented how children ages 3 to 11 interacted with exhibit materials and the people around them. We looked for indicators of children’s learning through play, such as critical thinking and problem solving. Next, we interviewed parents and caregivers about what they notice children doing in the exhibits, asking them to reflect on their children’s thinking.

Based on findings from our observations and interviews, we’ve begun to develop and test new tools and activities to make the learning that happens through play visible to adults and children. So don’t be surprised if you’re asked to test out new materials and share your thoughts when visiting the Museum this year — completely voluntary, of course, but we’d love your feedback.

Visit the Museum’s blog for Learning About Learning project updates.

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