Making the Most of Birthdays

Birthdays come once a year, and they are special days for everyone, especially young children. They look forward to a whole day dedicated to them, with lots of food and fun in store. If you want to make the most of your child’s birthday, here are some tips to prepare and throw a great party!

Plan ahead

Any good celebration takes some planning in advance. Even when a birthday party is  casual, party-goers need to know what time to show up, what to bring, and how they should dress. Take a look at your calendar, figure out how much time you might need to organize your ideas, and then get to planning.

You can go online to check out videos or parenting blogs about birthday parties that people have thrown for their children. It’s a great way to get inspired and track down resources that you might need. You can even go on party-store websites and just browse to see what themes you like.

Don’t forget, half of the party is the people who show up! When sending out invitations, make sure to send them early. That will give other parents plenty of time to mark down their calendars and make sure their child can attend your party!

Birthdays are for everyone

It’s your child’s special day, but he probably won’t have a good time if none of the other children are having fun. Make sure that when planning the event, theme or location of the birthday party, you take everyone into consideration.

You may be planning on one theme, but your child might want another. No matter how fantastic your idea might be, you should take a step back and think about what your child and his friends would like best. This will ensure that everyone has an enjoyable time.

It’s all about location

The biggest question when planning birthday parties is where should you throw it? There are several options, each with their own pros and cons, that you might want to consider based on the age of your child, her interests and the cost.

At-home parties make transportation a non-issue for you. You can set up everything and have it ready to your exact specifications. The main issue parents have with this is the clean-up afterwards. When the party is over there will be a mess, that you will have to clean up after the exhaustion of hosting everyone.

Parties at indoor locations, like trampoline gyms or museums, make for a memorable experience. They are different and exclusive, exactly what your child would want on a day dedicated to him. The organization, set-up and cleaning are all done by the venue, but the price for these parties tends to be more expensive. Between renting out the space and purchasing the food and supplies, the costs can add up.

 

Parties at Cranium

At Cranium Academy, we offer amazing party-planning and hosting services for children ages 2-8 years. Nearly exclusive use of our spacious indoor facility combined with two experienced party pros dedicated solely to your party make for a more worry-free experience for you! To learn more about our parties or book a reservation, visit our Birthday Parties page.

The Benefits of Sports

Sports, or any physical activity, are important for a child’s whole well-being. Whether playing with a club or just casually with a few friends, sports can offer many benefits for a child’s physical, social and emotional growth!

Sports, for the body

Staying active is especially important for children, because they are at a stage in life where physical development occurs quickly. Specifically, sports can help with physical growth in these ways:

Motor skills: Hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills come with practice. Sports are perfect for training both.

Developing muscles and bones: Resistance from exercising stimulates the growth and strengthening of muscles and bones. Too much resistance can stunt growth though, so make sure your child gets plenty of rest between activities.

Stronger vision: Sports are usually played outside in the sun. Taking in natural light has been shown to decrease the probability of developing vision problems. But on really sunny days, a hat or glasses should still be worn to protect your child’s eyesight.

Social benefits

Almost every organized sport is played with teams. The competition, and the team dynamic itself, comes with perks and lessons for your child:

Team skills: Communication and sharing are necessary for a team’s success. The more they play, the more your child can learn these vital skills.

Friend group: Your child doesn’t have to like every person on their team, but spending time with other children can lead to strong, lasting friendships.

Confidence: Making friends is not always easy, but being part of a team can offer opportunities for your child to feel like they are a part of the group.

The mind and sports

When it comes to developing emotional maturity, childhood is an important time in anyone’s life. Organized sports can offer a foundation for emotional growth in these areas:

Self-esteem: Being a part of a team can give your child a sense of importance, and going to practice to get better can offer a sense of accomplishment as well.

Lower stress: Sports can be a physical outlet for emotional stress, and can help clear the mind.

Emotional recognition: In order to keep a clear mind and perform well for the team, children will learn that they must control and recognize their emotions.

 Choosing a Sport

Choosing a sport should be up to your child, and you should accept and support their decision. However, in the times when your child may want to quit when things get hard, it’s up to you to think about what would be best for your child in the long run.

You can go online to find local clubs for age-appropriate sports, or find out what sports your child’s school offers after class to get started. You can also observe your child during playtime and see what they like to do!

 

Sports and Activities at Cranium

At Cranium Academy, our mission is to inspire creativity, character and leadership in every student through our unique curriculum as well as our afterschool programs. We offer indoor gym space, inflatables and our playground for every child to remain active and social outside the classroom.

 

Handling Anger

Anger is a difficult emotion for children to handle, and it sometimes leads to undesirable behaviors. But anger is a natural emotional response for everyone, especially for children who are learning to recognize and control their feelings. Here are a few tips you may keep in mind when teaching your child how to manage their anger.

Anger is natural, expect it

When your child gets angry, it doesn’t mean that is one of their personality traits. Children naturally have a lot to be angry about when they are taking their first developmental steps.

A lot of what they try to do ends in failure, because these are all new experiences for your child. Not being able to reach a goal is frustrating for most people, but almost every goal has so many obstacles for children.

Parents and teachers are bigger than them as well, so when they are told to do something they don’t want to, children have no option but to do it. Their innate passion for expression and discovery oftentimes are held back because of their age. As a result, children tend to hold more anger in their younger years.

If you can accept that your child will almost always have something to be mad about, handling the situation can be easier.

Showing emotions, not actions

Every person has the right to feel however they do; emotions are an extension of our thoughts and beliefs. You should not discount how your child feels, but how your child expresses their feelings is a different story.

Acting out, especially with violence, is not a positive behavior. You would not want your child to react in such a way every time they become frustrated. Therefore, it may help to teach your child to put a name and reason behind their emotions.

Taking a pause and using their words to express their anger is a much more constructive way for children to handle emotions. This brings clarity that can be used to find a solution.

Set clear boundaries

Children should understand at a very early stage that there are consequences to acting out of anger.

Explain to your child how you expect them to behave when they are dealing with anger, both in the house and in public, and that being violent is unacceptable. Reinforce the good behaviors and treat your child with respect, but also discourage the bad behaviors.

This principle should apply to you as well. Modeling control and using words will help show your children how they should handle their anger properly. Whenever your child is upset but explains their self appropriately, make sure to truly listen to their complaint and try to find a solution.

 

How Cranium Teaches Children to Handle Anger

At Cranium Academy, our mission is to ignite an educational revolution, which prepares our students to become the best critical thinkers and leaders of their generation. We do this by teaching students to reflect on their feelings and find positive solutions.

“Do as I Say, Not as I Do”: Does it Work?

“Do as I say, not as I do” is a typical parenting phrase that signals children not to copy negative behaviors they are about to witness. Some parents believe that simply telling their children what to do is enough to ensure positive development. But is that really the case?

How Children Learn

To understand how children learn, we must first look into how children absorb information.

Between the ages of 0-5, your child’s capacity for learning is at its peak. Your child is extremely sensitive to receiving and interpreting information at this stage. They can learn just about anything from anywhere.

However, studies have shown that young children learn mostly through observation. It stands to reason that if a child uses their eyes well before they begin to use their words, seeing would be the first way they interpret information.

Imitation then follows observation, where children copy the behaviors they have witnessed. In fact, children who imitate their parents’ behaviors have been shown to not only copy what they see, but also expand on them. This is evidence of concrete understanding and learning.

“Do as I Say, Not as I Do”

Does the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do” appear to work? For effective child development, not entirely.

Communication is important with your child, but that is not the only way they should learn. In your child’s growth into their full potential, a model for good behaviors can be very important.

If you ask your child to pick up their toys after playing with them, but you leave your book out on a random table where it does not belong, your child will most likely copy you and leave their toys where it’s most convenient for them. If you regularly leave the house without eating breakfast, your child might not want to eat in the morning as well.

Sometimes, when your actions don’t align with what is said, contradictions can form in your child’s mind. Modeling one behavior and communicating the desire to carry out another causes mental tension for your child. To relieve that tension when making decisions, your child will make the choice that is easiest for them. Generally, this is the choice you don’t want your child to make.

“Do as I Do”

For the most efficient development for your children, you should try to become more mindful of what you do in front of them.

A good way to start is by writing down the behaviors you want your child to emulate. Think about how you realistically behave, then reflect on how you can adjust your own behaviors. Sometimes a behavior needs to stop, while other times it needs to be practiced more. Depending on your parenting goals, your own behaviors should serve as guidelines for your children.

Modeling desired behaviors, and still using constructive language, can make very positive and lasting impacts. Be mindful of how you behave, as your child is always learning!

 

How Cranium Shapes Positive Behavior

At Cranium Academy, we strive to help children reach their fullest potential through our revolutionary approach to learning that challenges them to think critically. By having our trained teachers ask them questions like “how” or “why,” children are shown a positive model for active thinking that encourages positive behavior and actions.

 

“No”, The Discussion on Negative Language

Keeping a positive learning environment for children at all times is a challenge, for parents and teachers alike. Children don’t have all the answers or know how to behave in every situation, and guiding them through the learning process often comes with some frustration. In these moments, it’s easy to use negative words, like the word “No”.

But is it harmful to a child’s development to use “No”? The discussion on positive vs. negative language has been around for years, and there are interesting insights from both sides on the effects of language on a child’s growth.

How language affects thought

In the early 1950’s, the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis began undergoing close scrutiny from language and psychology experts, and is still being studied today. It states that the structure and word-choice of languages affect one’s perception of the world to some degree. In short, the way one speaks affects the way one thinks.

This concept applies to all languages and to people of all ages, especially children. The capacity to learn is greatest in the early stages of childhood development. Children are most sensitive to words and their meanings, and the effects are lasting.

How this hypothesis applies to word usage with children is a hotly debated subject, which boils down to whether using certain words can either maximize development or hinder it.

Does “No” have an effect on children?

The answer is yes. “No” has as much of an effect on emotional and cognitive growth as any other word. “No” is universal across all languages and has particular influences on children’s perception of the world and themselves.

Using “No”, and other negative words, tends to be immediately impactful for children. Even in the early stages of life, infants analyze facial expressions that belong with certain sounds that their parents make. While negative language can be quite clear, it can also be emotionally compromising. Interestingly though, evidence points to the context of the situation having more of an effect than the word.

When parents are frustrated, “No” and other negative words tend to get used a lot more often.  The use of positive language with children tends to be in a more civil context, thus creating a more learning-conducive environment.

Conclusion for parents on using “No”

The word “No” is not naturally bad. If used with patience, compassion and a learning lesson in mind, “No” can be a helpful tool. However, parents who make the effort to utilize positive language more often don’t have to use “No” as much. Instead of telling their children what not to do, they ask them to do what is right, after showing them what they did was wrong.

Using positive words leads to a more positive learning environment. But if you can exercise patience with your children when teaching them, using “No” is fine. What matters most is having a safe, loving family dynamic and keeping your child’s development in mind.

 

What does Cranium do?

At Cranium Academy, we devote ourselves to creating a nurturing, warm environment that will help our students reach their full learning potential in the 21st century. Our teachers partner with parents to speak to each child in a way that will foster their emotional, cognitive, and social growth.

Building Cranium Character – Raising a Respectful Child

Parents (and school teachers) often focus on developing a child’s academic and cognitive skills. Sometimes we overlook the importance of social and emotional development, which can be equally important. While cultivating a child’s reading and math skills is essential, instilling a strong sense of values and character traits that improve social and emotional wellness can be key in helping children succeed.

This is where character education comes in. Character education helps build a moral foundation for children, teaching them valuable social-emotional skills that they will carry with them throughout life. One important element of character education is teaching respect, which can be a complex concept for kids to grasp. To put it in simple terms for your child, you can teach your child that having respect for someone means you should act in a way that shows you care for that person’s feelings and well-being.

Here are some simple ways you can teach your child about respect:

Give examples.

After you explain the concept of respect to your child, it’s important to give them real-world examples. For instance, you can tell them that being quiet in a library is a sign of respect because it shows that you care about others who are trying to read without noise or interruption. By being quiet in the library, you are acting in a positive way towards others which shows that you care about their well-being. This is respect.

Expect disrespect.

There are times when your child will be disrespectful, it’s a natural part of growing up. When these moments arise, it’s important that you have a plan for dealing with them. If you don’t respond properly and consistently to these initial moments of disrespect, the moments are likely to repeat themselves.

Stay calm and earn your child’s respect.

When moments of disrespectful behavior arise, it’s important to stay calm. Don’t overact to the behavior by lashing out and yelling, because you’ll be sending the wrong message and modeling more negative behavior. Instead, ask yourself if your child is even aware that this behavior is disrespectful.

Gauging how to respond to your child will help you with the next step, and give you time to breathe and calm down. Responding calmly during these moments is a good way for you to exercise control over the situation, and earn respect from your child.

Identify the cause of the disrespect.

Sometimes disrespectful behavior is the result of your child’s inability to articulate a specific need, which results in frustration. It’s important for you to ask your child questions to help them express their emotions with words, also helping them understand where their anger is coming from. These heated moments can be great opportunities to show your child how to deal with their emotions in a healthier way. Show your child that, even in difficult situations, you can keep calm and respond respectfully too.

Set a good example.

There’s no better way to teach your child a valuable character trait than by modeling it yourself. Being a respectful role model involves you showing respect to others you encounter throughout your day. You should also try to treat your child with the same respect that you would treat other adults. One way you can do this is by accepting their preferences and independence in little ways.  For example, you can accept their decision to wear an outfit that they put together on their own, even if it’s a little wacky!

Raising a Respectful Child at Cranium Academy

At Cranium Academy, we take character education seriously.  Our exclusive character education program is built around the idea that essential character traits can be developed during early childhood. We believe that respect is one of the core character traits that should be cultivated in each child. One of our goals at Cranium Academy is to find fun, real-world scenarios that help preschool or elementary school age children develop creative strategies surrounding the value of respect. Reinforcing respectful behaviors both at school and at home helps build your child’s character, which will serve them well throughout their life.

 

Building Cranium Character – Rearing a Responsible Child

From fairness and generosity to responsibility and respect, instilling good character traits is a high priority for most parents. Children learn about character through their relationships and interactions, and they learn to model the behavior that they see around them. We place a lot of emphasis on academics in education, but are we nurturing the development of life skills while encouraging ethical and responsible behaviors?  This is where character education comes in. Character education is about teaching children valuable life skills and values that they will carry with them throughout their life.

To help children understand what it really means to have good character, it’s best to keep it simple. Providing basic explanations and examples of what each trait looks like in their day-to-day life is key. One important element of our character is responsibility. Let your child know that being responsible means helping others and doing your part. It means always trying your best to follow the rules and do things the right way, even if no one is watching. Here are some simple ways to help teach your child how to be more responsible:

Work Together

Doing chores with your children is a great way to get them to warm up to the idea of responsibility. By inviting your daughter to join you in the housework next time, she may feel like she is being valued. Your child will take pride in being able to help you with your work and will most likely strive to maintain this feeling. Not only does this teach responsibility, but also teamwork.

Lead the Way

It’s important to demonstrate to your child how chores are done before you assign them any of their own. Start with the small tasks, such as showing your son where the hamper is and how to put his clothes in there when he is done wearing them. Then work your way up to larger tasks such as showing him how to clean up a mess when he spills his food or drink.

Give Age-Appropriate Chores/Tasks

If you give your child tasks that are too difficult for her to complete, then she may get frustrated and not want to do them. That’s why it’s important to assign your child chores and tasks that are age appropriate.

For example:

  • A toddler should be able to put the toys away when she is finished playing with them, or carry the dishes to the counter after she is finished eating.
  • A preschooler should be able to set the dinner table, feed a pet, and dust her own room.
  • An elementary aged child should be able to do the dishes, pack their own lunch, and vacuum the rooms.

Teach Consequences

Sometimes your child might not do their chores. When this happens, you can use this as an opportunity to help your child develop a sense of responsibility for his actions. If your child leaves toys lying around the house, tell him that he won’t be able to play with those toys until the next day if he doesn’t pick up after himself.

You will have to put your foot down by taking those toys away. Although there might be some crocodile tears, your child will ultimately learn that if he doesn’t take his responsibilities seriously, then he will suffer the consequences.

Avoid Criticisms

Chances are your four-year-old won’t be making the bed perfectly. It’s important that we manage our own expectations when we start giving our children their own responsibilities. Instead of criticizing them when they don’t meet your expectations, offer them recognition and praise when they do a good job.

 

At Cranium Academy, we include character education as part of our curriculum. Our character education program integrates building good character traits with positive discipline techniques used throughout the day. Our fun character curriculum involves the use of real-world examples that rely on engaging the students’ cognitive abilities to develop creative strategies. Overall, the goal of our character education program is to encourage students to be ethical and responsible individuals.

More in the Cranium character series: Fairness, Generosity, Respect, Caring, Citizenship

The Benefits of Raising a Bilingual Child

In an increasingly interconnected world, where diversity is celebrated now more than ever, bilingualism has become a main topic in many family households. Some parents have even made raising a bilingual child a top priority. There are many benefits to raising a bilingual child, including cognitive and social benefits. Here are just a few:

Positive Effects on the Brain

According to pediatrician Dr. Gwendolyn Delaney, when an additional language is introduced before age 5, there is a more pronounced effect on the development of greater tissue density in the areas of the brain related to language, memory, and attention. Many research studies, such as the one funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), show that bilingual children can also multi-task better than monolingual children. Other studies have found that children as young as seven months have displayed that they are able to adjust better to changes in the environment when they are exposed to more than one language.

Social and Cultural Opportunities

Being bilingual can provide children with plenty of opportunities to meet new people, and open many doors in their lives. Bilingualism also gives children the chance to interact with people from other cultures, which is especially beneficial when traveling. By knowing the local language of the place your family visits, your children can truly immerse themselves in the language and culture of that place, making them appreciate the trip even more.

Long-Term Health Benefits

There is growing evidence that proves being bilingual can delay the onset of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Some other studies suggest that bilinguals are at a lower risk of having a stroke, and may recover faster after having one. Some research even links bilingualism to lower stress levels.

Educational Advantages

Being bilingual at a young age can give a child advantages in school. Studies have shown that bilingual students tend to be less distracted and more focused on tasks. According to the recent Millenium Cohort Study as referenced in Bilingual Kidspot, “children who are educated in their second language may initially lag behind around three, four and five years old, [but] they soon catch up and outperform their peers by age seven.”

Job Opportunities

Even though your child is still very young now, you want the best future for them when they grow up. Being bilingual can open up a world of job opportunities for your child when they finally enter the workforce. Many employers consider bilingualism a high priority. Since communication in the workplace is so important, your child could have a better chance of getting the job by being bilingual, even if the monolingual applicant is more qualified. In a competitive job market, being bilingual is an additional advantage that can help candidates stand out.

The Cranium Difference

At Cranium Academy, we recognize the benefits of teaching young children a foreign language. Our curriculum introduces children to several languages, including Spanish, Chinese, and American Sign Language (ASL). Our language programs take children on virtual journeys throughout the world. In our language classes, children learn about famous places and how children can use the powerful tool of language to live, learn, and play within various cultures.

Curing the School Day Blues

If you are a parent (and your child is not attending Cranium Academy), you have probably heard the dreaded words through pouty lips and clenched fists, “I don’t wanna go to school!” or worse yet, “I hate school!” But what exactly is it that gives children the school day blues just before getting out of the house to go to school?

Reason #1 – Your child might be bored.

In traditional schools where teachers must remain focused on preparing kids for standardized assessment tests and state exams, the magic of learning can get lost in having to memorize lists of vocabulary words, such as “mellifluous.” Needless to say, research often shows that children learn better and retain more information when they are having fun! In many of today’s classrooms, fun is the key element that is missing, and that can be one of the main reasons why kids don’t like going to school. At Cranium Academy, we balance gifted level academics with imaginative social and play experiences. We move beyond the memorization of facts and figures, into active critical thinking.  We seek to create an environment where students can’t wait to come learn!

Reason #2 – Freedom may be limited.

In many schools, educators offer students very few choices. Children are forced to learn and memorize a mountain of facts that may not interest them. According to Doctor Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College, “Children come into the world with instinctive drives to educate themselves. These include the drives to play and explore.” Many school learning environments are not created with the idea of optimizing these natural desires to learn and therefore unintentionally end up suppressing them by not giving children any freedom to choose their learning paths. At Cranium Academy, we encourage young minds to explore ‘how’ and ‘why,’ as we seek to engage children’s natural curiosity and develop a true love of learning.

Reason #3 – The learning tools may be outdated.

Although technology is becoming more widely accepted in the classroom, some teachers still see it as a distraction or even a threat to learning. However, this perspective doesn’t align with how kids learn today. A balance of hands-on learning and technology can help children become excited about learning and provide a more engaging way to teach new lessons. At Cranium Academy, we incorporate both hands-on exploration with the use of the latest technology in our classrooms to prepare children for success in the 21st century. From state-of-the-art smartboards, to laptops and iPad, our teachers balance technology-based learning with multi-sensory play and discovery.

So, what is the solution?

Teachers and parents can work together to find ways to keep education engaging and inspiring for children. Look for schools that place a high priority on instilling a love for learning in their students. Some hesitation about going to school is normal. However, if your child is consistently complaining about going to school, try to find out from them what it is about school that they do not like. Then ask to speak with their teacher to see if you can work together to find ways to help.

At Cranium Academy, our mission is to make learning fun! In our classrooms, we encourage each child to learn through play and exploration. We combine advanced learning with creative play and imagination. Our revolutionary approach to education builds critical thinking skills and fosters a lifetime love of learning.

Parents should not give up hope!  Sometimes children go through phases where they are less excited about school.  Try to stay positive and find ways to help make learning fun and exciting for you and your child!

How to Avoid Spoiling and Build Gratitude During the Holiday Season

With the holiday season in full swing and the wish lists getting longer each day, we often get carried away with presents. We all want our kids to feel special, but many parents worry about spoiling their children during the holidays. Sharing our time, values and traditions with them can often be more meaningful. The holidays are a great time to teach our children lessons in gratitude, setting limits and giving to others.

Here are some ways to give your kids gifts without overindulging them this holiday season:

Share Traditions.

Holidays aren’t all about the gifts! Remind your family of this by passing on traditions from your childhood, or starting your own “no gift related” traditions. For example, you could create holiday crafts together, drive through your community to see the lights, or bake and decorate some tasty holiday treats.

Build Gratitude.

Children tend to become more aware of gratitude when they see and hear their parents being thankful. You can model gratitude by regularly expressing your appreciation for the people or things you have in your life.

Give Back.

One of the best gifts you can give your children is one of service. Explain to your children the importance of generosity. Let them know that some families aren’t as fortunate as yours, so they need a little extra help this holiday season. You can teach your children how to serve others by going to the store with them and having them pick out toys or clothing that they think other kids would like. Have them help you wrap the gifts and deliver it to a family in need or a local charity. This is also a great time to go through toys and clothing in your home with your child to find things that may not be used anymore, and donate them to families in need.

Set Limits.

One of the easiest ways we can avoid spoiling our children with too many gifts this year is to set realistic financial limits and stick to them.  A great way to stay on budget is to make a specific list or have your child make their wish list with their most wanted items at the top. You can cross out the rest of the items that you know won’t fit into your budget.

At Cranium Academy, we believe in developing character, social skills, and good values. Taking the focus away from gifts alone will help to develop your child’s grateful spirit and build character while enjoying the holiday season!