We are a Minnesota Cup semifinalist!

Let’s Talk Kids is one of 10 semifinalists in the Minnesota Cup’s Social Entrepreneur category.  The Minnesota Cup is a premiere small business competition.

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Candi and Wendy Walz presented to a room full of judges and the public about Let’s Talk Kids’ learning kits.

2014 Minnesota Cup Semifinalist

The next step of the process is submitting a 10-page business plan and 15-slides about our business by the end of July 2014. The judges will choose 3 finalists from the 10 semifinalists to advance to the next round. We also will be given a business mentor. We are so humbled and honored to be at this point of the process. We will keep you posted as we learn more.

How do you communicate love?

Each of us has a special language that helps us communicate our love and gives us new opportunities to receive love. After decades of serving as a marriage counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman has boiled down love to five categories- words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.  He has shared these ideas in his book “The Five Love Languages.”

According to Chapman, we speak and receive love in these five ways.  Each of these languages can be present in our lives, but some languages are more prevalent to individuals than others. Applying this idea to children, you might have one child who speaks or communicates in one love language whereas your other children might speak in a different language.  This week, we encourage you to take the time to understand and discover the love languages your child speaks.  Then, give him the opportunities to receive and give love. It will pay off in huge dividends.
Here are the definitions of the five love languages and some ideas you can do to share love with your child in each language.  We have also included ideas to let your child speak love in the corresponding language.

 

  • Words of affirmation.  Adults can speak words of affirmation to their children by praising them for a job well done or encouraging them to do tasks.  Chapman points out that sometimes people don’t want to do a task if they are nagged but instead might do the task since others have encouraged them.  For instance, by telling your child he is a great dishwasher, you might get him to do the dishes more often than saying, “why don’t you ever help with the dishes?”Speaking words of affirmation can be done through words or by giving a card or note saying how special your child is.  Children communicate  in this language by giving a card, or speaking their love by saying, “You are the best mom, ever” or “Dad, I love when we play baseball together.”
  • Quality time.  Communicating love as quality time means spending time together and giving your child your undivided attention. This means shutting off  the TV or radio and really enjoying your time together.To speak this language, think of fun things you would like to do as a family.  Maybe your idea is to go on a hike, go to the library or have ice cream together. Quality time is an opportunity to unplug and focus on your company.  Children who speak this language might come across as needy when they want your continued time and attention.  Be aware of giving them time and asking them what they would like to do together.
  • Receiving gifts.  Speaking love through gift giving doesn’t have to be costly.  You can give your child a small toy, or something that reminds you of them.  You can also do cost free gifts like draw a picture for your child, writing a song or finding a special rock while you are out on a walk.  People who like to receive gifts find any thoughtful gesture to be an act of love.Children can speak this language by giving parents a feather, flowers she has picked or by coloring a picture for family members.
  • Acts of service. Sometimes, we just want children to do chores without asking. Children who speak in acts of service will be quick to jump in and lend a helping hand. They might keep their rooms organized or clean. They might love cleaning up toys since they know it is helpful to dad or mom.Parents continually speak in acts of service, especially when children are born. Parents have to change diapers, feed babies and rock their youngsters to sleep.  All of this is done as an act of love.
  • Physical touch.  Giving hugs or kisses, holding hands or cuddling on the couch are all examples of physical touch. Children that communicate in this language might like to sit close to family members or touch their hands.  To speak and receive in this language, be open to giving and receiving touch.

Stay in tune with your child and “listen” to the way that she communicates love. It might just help you relate to your child in a new way.  And, we can all use more love in our lives.  Someone wise said, “Love makes the world go around!”

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

 

Thank a teacher or two!

Take a moment to think of your favorite teacher.  Did she encourage you to learn by building you up or teaching you a new skill? Did he have interesting, engaging lessons?

We all have a special place in our hearts for the teachers that made a difference in our lives. Some say that teaching is a thankless job, but we disagree. There is nothing better than sharing your knowledge and seeing your students grasp a new idea or lesson.

Parents spend a lot of time and energy requesting good teachers. Each wants their child to learn from the best.

Involved parents also realize that their interactions with teachers support students better. You might think that teachers provide education, but instead, it is a two-way street. Parents also need to reinforce study skills and learning at home.

Staying involved in your child’s academic career will lay a foundation to a positive experience in school.

Here are important tips to follow to build that relationship with the teacher and/ or say thanks for the work that they do:

  • Say thanks with flowers. My sister and I have vivid memories of cutting lilies of the valley from our yard and bringing a vase full of these to school for our teachers. We always felt proud to bring something special to our teachers. We think it made the teacher feel special, too.
  • Think about the support staff. There are many workers at the school that encourage your child throughout the day- this might be the school nurse, the custodian or the lunch staff. Find ways to say thanks to these wonderful people as well. Perhaps have your child write a poem, draw a picture or give a thank you photo to these staff members.
  • Share a card of thanks.  Have your child write a note to say thank you to his teacher(s).  Let him share words from the heart.
  • Send electronic communications. As the parent of a child, tell your child’s teacher he is doing a great job through email.  Sometimes a simple thank you means the world to a teacher!
  • Go out of your way to call the teacher. I still recall getting a call at work about one of my students from her dad. He thanked me for being a positive influence on his daughter and went above and beyond to share about the joy that my class brought to his daughter.  These words of thanks will help keep any teacher going- from preschool to college!

As the school year winds down, we encourage you and your family to say thanks to the important teachers in your life. We also hope you will continue to stay involved in your child’s education career.  It will make a difference!

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

Activities to celebrate Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a day of love. Kids hug parents, partners give cards to express their feelings and children give gifts to classmates at preschool or school.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we ask you “What do you do to share your love? How do you show love to your child? How does your child express love?  Here are some ideas on how to share love on Valentine’s Day.

  • Make a hanging heart. Start by drawing a big heart on tag board or construction paper. Use ribbons, glue, markers and lace to decorate the heart with your children. Hang this above your kitchen table for others to enjoy.

  • Sort heart candies. Start with a muffin tin and a box of candy hearts. Label each tin with a different color. Have your child sort the hearts into the corresponding tin.
  • Play pin the heart on the person. This game is a mimic of pin the tail on the donkey. Start by drawing a person on a piece of tag board with a heart outlined in the center. Tape this to the wall. Then, cut out a heart for each person with tape on the back. Use a blindfold and cover each person’s eyes.  Spin them three times and have them “pin the heart on the person.”  The closest to the heart outline wins.
  • Fill Valentine bags. Take a paper lunch bag- white or brown – and decorate these with hearts, sayings for about love, handprints or drawings. Fill these with candy, fruit, pencils, trinkets or small toys for family members or friends. Give them to the people you love or have a scavenger hunt to find them.
  • Trace and cut hearts. Use empty heart candy boxes to trace hearts. If you don’t have any empty heart boxes, trace hearts on cardboard. Allow your children to trace these and cut them out.
  • Host an indoor heart search. Cut 20 hearts out of construction paper. Put these around your house while your children close their eyes or sit in another room. Let them dash around the house to see who can find the most hearts.
  • Create Valentine’s headbands. Start by cutting out 2-inch wide strips of paper. Measure these to your child’s head to make sure the strips are long enough. Glue on paper hearts, use heart stamps or foam heart stickers to decorate your headbands.  Staple these together when you are done decorating. Wear these for your Valentine’s Day supper.
  • Make Valentine’s Day magnets. Start with wooden hearts (you can usually find these at a craft store) and paint them in your favorite colors. Put a magnet on the back and place it on your refrigerator.
  • Host a Valentine’s Day dance party. Invite your friends over to dance with you to the music.
  • Create a Valentine’s Day coupon book. Include coupons that can be used throughout the year. Consider writing things like “a free hug,” “I will make my bed today” or “I will read a story to my sister/ brother.”

Enjoy spending time with your loved ones you love this Valentine’s Day by making special projects for them. Take time to share why you love all of the people in your life this season.

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

Join together for a play date

Some parents find hosting a play date to be complex since you need to coordinate many details. Other adults love when children get together and play. They say that having kids over helps keep the little ones engaged and entertained.

When hosting a play date, find activities all kids will enjoy!

When hosting a play date, find activities all kids will enjoy!

There is an important social aspect to hosting and attending play dates  – children learn how to share, behave at someone else’s home and also follow rules. A play date can also provide a new adventure!

To ease the process of planning a play date, we have shared these ideas to help things run smoothly.

  • Plan in advance. If you are seeking to bring many children together, you might need to plan a date in advance. Since all families have different schedules, it might take awhile to find a date that works for everyone.
  • Age appropriateness. When you are determining who to invite, consider how old a child is or what development level they are at. Some children play really well with babies while others might find babies to be dull. A good rule of thumb is to invite children who attend preschool or school with your child. It will be fun to visit with friends outside of the classroom.  You can also find older children that like younger children and vice versa. If in doubt, ask your child what she prefers.
  • Make play fun. Seek to do a group activity like a treasure hunt or play bingo. Consider playing games or doing activities that you cannot complete with just your family members.
  • Coveted toys. You might want to put away your child’s favorite toy or game so it doesn’t break or pieces don’t go missing during the play date. Children might also become very possessive over their coveted toy.  To remove this potential barrier, put favorite toy away until after friends have left. (It might also help children cope when their friends leave.  You can say, “now you can play with your favorite doll”).
  • Open communication. Before the play date, make sure to speak with each child’s parents and ask about any pet or food allergies the child might have. You want to make sure you have a safe environment. You should also invite the family to send a few of their child’s toys along.  This way, everyone will have something new to play with.
  • Drop off and pick up.  Consider arranging a specific drop off and pick up time. Are you going to meet at school or preschool?  Will one parent drop off the child and another pick up the child? Will the child stay for supper? Make sure expectations are well communicated.
  • Plan ahead. Part of what makes a play date extra fun is doing things you wouldn’t normally do. Consider planning a craft project or making a fun snack. (This week’s activity and recipe can both be completed by many children at once, you can also find more activities at: www.letstalkkids.net/activities.  If you plan an activity, make sure to have all of the needed supplies on hand.  We also recommend having some go-to items set aside if kids get bored or don’t know what to do. Playing with bubbles, reading books, playing a game, painting a picture or drawing together are always fun options.
  • Clean up. Parents of all children should tell their child that it is expected that everyone helps with clean up. Before anyone can leave, toys should be put away, books should be on shelves and the house should look just as good as before the play date happened. Taking responsibility together helps lessen the burden of picking up when children leave. You can also make a game out of cleaning up and try to put everything away before you count to 30 or sing a song about cleaning up.

These are just a few ideas to help make your play date more successful and fun for everyone. We hope you and your child have many fun play dates.

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

But why?

All parents know that children are inquisitive. They ask many questions about the world around them, for instance: Why do we have to go to the store? Why do we eat dinner? Why does daddy have to go to work?

Hearing these questions may seem like a nuisance at times but children need to ask questions to learn how the world works. They also want to spend time exploring the world together with the loving adults in their lives.

Giving your child an opportunity to ask questions helps develop brainpower in a child. Being inquisitive at a young age also helps children become better students in school. They will be taught it is okay to ask questions and seek answers.  Curious children will already know the answer to some questions but will also be skilled in thinking through an answer.

Here are some tips on how to handle the all-important question of why.

  • When your child asks the question “Why?” direct it back to them. Turn the question around when they ask and state, “Why do you think it is cold in winter?” or “Why do you think the sky is blue or the grass is green?” Allow children the opportunity to brainstorm answers with you.
  • Children are seeking to understand the world whey they ask why. When your child asks why the sun is out in the day and the moon is out at night, feel free to tell them the true answers.  Start with the discussion of the planets and how the earth revolves around the sun. Explain that as the earth rotates, we see stars and the moon during the evening and the sun in the morning. Also explain how the sun rises and sets.
  • As an adult, try to answer the simple why questions – for instance why do we have to eat breakfast or why do we hold hands in the parking lot? On the flip side, guide your child to answer the more difficult questions like why do dolphins communicate?  If you cannot figure out the answer, feel free to research it together.  Use it as an opportunity to research the topic at the library or on the internet. You will be role-modeling good studying behavior.
  • Schedule discussion time into your daily routine. Set aside time to sit down together and answer the question of the day or to work on a project or problem.  For instance, maybe you want to freeze water and see how a liquid turns into a solid. You can also work together to drop a leaf and a ball of socks off the stairs. See which drops faster and how they fall differently. By conducting these experiments you can solve problems and answer the questions before they are asked.
  • Take why questions as an opportunity to learn about your child’s world. View the world from your child’s perspective. Think about why they are asking the questions and what the answer may provide. Slow down and take time to listen to your child.
  • A child may also ask you a why question when something is bothering her. She might ask why she has to go to school or sleep alone. Instead of jumping in with an answer to provide a solution, discuss the issue with your child.  Say you think she seems worried. Have her explain what is bothering her and take time to listen. Work together to create a list of potential solutions and then determine which option is the best.  This process will both open the line of communication, and also helps relieve your child’s stress.

Remember the why questions are not asked to confuse you or frustrate you. Children ask why to learn about the world and situations around them.  Keep your answers simple and to the point. Children don’t need to know every specific detail but they do need a loving adult to support them as they learn about the world. Recall that answering the questions provides an opportunity to learn together and help develop your child.

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

A tribute to grandparents

Grandparents are special. They possess life wisdom and usually have more free time for their grandchildren.

Think back for a moment and recall what makes or made your grandparents special in your life. Did they provide unconditional love, attend your recitals or sporting events (no matter how bad or good you were) or teach you a new skill?

Grandparents provide love and life lessons.

Our grandma taught us how to bake while our grandpa always sang to us and told us jokes. We are lucky to have one living grandpa that shares his life experiences with us and tells us about growing up in rural Minnesota; he also taught Cinnamin tips to improve her golf game!

Here are some reasons that grandparents are unique and special. We encourage you to call and thank your grandparents for the love they provide!

  • Grandparents are instant friends. They are the ones that children flock to because they possess a special aura that children love. Grandparents usually have time to share. Most grandparents don’t judge children but instead give them freedom to explore and learn.
  • Grandparents know your family’s history. They know about past and present relatives, traditions of your family and about your culture. Grandparents can even tell funny stories about you (the parent) which you may not want your children to know. This helps children realize that you don’t always have all of the answers.
  • Grandparents have a knack for story telling. They can tell a story and make it come to life. They can share their favorite stories from when they were little or read a story that their children (you) loved to their grandkids.
  • Grandparents are great babysitters. Who is better to trust with your child than the people that raised you?
  • Grandparents love to spend extra time with their grandchildren. They also know the ins and outs of children since they raised you.
  • Grandparents are great teachers. When reading stories, they teach children the importance of reading and language. Some even teach grandchildren to read. Grandparents create an interest in writing when they ask their grandkids to write them letters. Creativity is taught when grandparents ask grandchildren to draw a picture, color or complete an art project. Grandparents teach about science and math when they bake with their grandchildren- by measuring and mixing. Music is taught when grandparents sing or share songs from when they were young.
  • Grandparents are healers and caregivers. They can nurture any “boo-boo” with hugs and kisses. They have a special touch or great tools like ice or band-aids which heal any sore. Grandparents have the warmest hearts and most generous smiles. There is something special about the way a grandparent smiles at a child to make her feel loved. Upon a visit, grandparents make each child feel like they have been waiting all day, or week, for a visit. When grandchildren arrive, life is grand!
  • Grandparents allow messes. Children view a day with grandma and grandpa as an escape. Some grandparents allow paint, glue or messy projects at their home. Grandparents understand that children need to create and make messes in order to learn. Some grandparents might allow kids to play with water, splash or make a mess in the yard. Usually there is more freedom at grandma and grandpa’s house.
  • Grandparents are givers. Some provide special treats or gifts that parents may or may not give their children. Don’t stress about this. Small treats are fine in moderation. Grandparents want to provide their grandchildren with the best so they spoil them just a little more. They like to say yes (within reason!).
  • Grandparents provide experiences. Most grandparents bring their grandchildren on an adventure. They might go to the park, the pool, a movie or a zoo. Grandparents have many fun ideas up their sleeves! Grandparents love unconditionally. They have the time and energy to play with their grandchildren until everyone is tuckered out. They will read many books. They will follow a child’s lead in play. They effortlessly move from activity to activity until the day is complete.
  • Grandparents are wise. They can answer nearly every baby and/or kid question that you or your child might ask. As the new parent, you can ask grandparents when to let your child cry it out, what to do when she is sick or how to encourage independence in your child. Likewise, grandparents can answer a child’s question on why the trees grow leaves or the dog barks.
  • Grandparents are helpers. When needed, grandparents will help with laundry, cleaning or cooking. They can also watch a new baby if you need a break. Just ask!

We believe that grandparents are special in every way. It’s important for grandparents to love their grandchildren and for the grandchildren to spend time with their grandparents. A relationship with grandparents is a special bond that cannot be broken. We raise our glasses to you this week, grandparents!

© Let’s Talk Kids, LLC 2013

Speech: A developmental milestone for each baby

Speaking is one of the most thrilling steps in child development. It is fun for a parent when their child can begin to ask for things and communicate. Children also feel independence when they can communicate their needs.

As you probably know, language and literacy skills begin at birth. Children hear and respond to the adults and caregivers in their lives. Adults communicate with babies through everyday loving interactions—sharing books, telling stories, singing songs, and talking.

Adults can encourage babies to speak by getting close and listening.

Adults can encourage babies to speak by getting close and listening

Around babies, adults spend a lot of time watching, hearing and applauding the little one for each sound that is made. Research is now showing that how an adult responds to a child’s attempts to communicate makes a huge difference in how a child develops language.

The best tactic is to make communication a dance. Take time to get down on the floor with your baby and lay together. Make your communication like a waltz, with one partner leading the other. First, allow your baby to lead while you follow. Next, tell your baby something and listen for her response. The more you practice this dance, the more your child will open up. Even if you cannot fully understand your child’s babbles, encourage her to keep making the noises.

Loving adults should also watch for a child’s nonverbal skills. An attention parent can interpret what a child wants without saying a word. For instance, when a young boy points to the apple juice, his dad can respond by saying, “Oh, you want some juice?” while pouring him some.

By repeating what a child wants, you are giving him the gift of communication. Repetition of his needs provides good role modeling for developing and using language.

Each day, actively seek to introduce new words to your child. It is important to note that your daughter can comprehend many more words than she can say. Throughout the day, practice being a “sportscaster” and tell your child everything that is happening around her. During playtime, tell her you will throw the ball and you want her to catch it. Tell her the ball is squishy and red. Think of all of the things happening around you that you can share with her.

Likewise, if you child is playing with a farm set, tell her that she is putting the farmer in the barn by the cow. Make up a story about what is happening. Say the cow is getting hungry and needs some food. When the farmer is done working, he can put the tractor in the barn. Perhaps the cat and dog will follow him home. Have fun in describing what your child is doing through play.

Telling your child about the world around her and explaining her play gives her the opportunity to connect words, objects and activities. This will also help prepare her to communicate and have an interest in learning language.

Kindergarten teachers greatly appreciate parents who spend this important quality time with their children developing language. The teachers can also tell a noticeable difference between children that were loved and talked with every day verses children who did not have this time with adults.

This week, spend time talking with your child. It could make a world of difference in developing her communication skills.

© Let’s Talk Kids, LLC 2013

Doulas may make the birthing process easier

While it is a perfectly natural process, having a baby is very demanding on the body, child and mother. Birth doulas can help take some of the pain and angst out of birth and provide the couple with much needed emotional support and resources.

Birth doulas aid to mothers, partners and minimize pain during the birthing process.

“Families who work with doulas typically require less (if any) pain medication and  medical intervention,” said Nichi Hirsch Kuechle, a birth doula of 16 years. “When a doula is present, moms less frequently request pain medication and often see labors that are shorter than those where doula support is not present.”

A surprising aspect for many couples is that the birth doula supports both the partner and mother.

“Many dads think a birth doula is for the mother only,” Kuechle said, “but now dads request the doula support to make them more available for their partner.  We help keep the communication open and the partner empowered as well.”

Birth doulas work with the couple beforehand to educate them on comfort measures and birthing positions. Before the birth, couples may take private birthing classes together (Nichi is also a Bradley Natural Childbirth Educator) to learn about the labor process. The education provides parents with how to manage pain, explains what is happening to mom on a physiological and emotional level so they better understand how to meet her needs during labor and delivery and how to utilize nutrition as a foundation for staying healthy and low-risk.

During the actual birth, doulas will change the woman’s position to mitigate pain, support the woman in breathing and relaxation, advocate for the mother and continuously reassure and comfort the couple.

Research shows doulas help. According to the World Health Organization, women who use doulas will have shorter labor, less anxiety about the birth, fewer complications and an easier time breastfeeding. The American Pregnancy Association reports that having a doula decreases the cesarean rate by 50%, reduces the labor process by 25% and lessens the request of epidurals by 60%.

Here are some things for parents to consider if using birth doulas:

  • Do your research. Conduct a simple Google search to find doulas in your area. You can also ask for recommendations from your doctor or friends who have had babies.
  • Ask questions. When you contact a doula, consider asking what training the doula has, how long they have been working in this field and what made them want to become a doula.
  • Get recommendations. Ask your potential doula for recommendations of couples that had births with him/her.
  • Make sure the doula is available on your due date. Check what contingency plans the doula has if she/he is not available on your requested date.
  • Trust your instincts. Have a conversation with the doula to see if she/he matches your family’s needs to be loved and supported. Make sure you all feel comfortable with one another.
  • Find out what services are provided. Ask the potential doula what services are needed or provided before, during and after the birth.
  • Sign a contract.  Most doulas will meet with couples to go through the process and ask for a contract to be signed. This assures you will get the services you requested.

Prices will vary for doulas but expect to pay around $1,000. Some doulas may charge more or less depending on their experience. There are also options for free doulas or students who are finishing their training.

As an example, Kuechle charges $1,197. Her fees include an in-home visit, support of active labor through the actual birth and a few hours after. She also provides a postpartum visit and coaching calls with the family. For more information on the services Kuechle provides, contact her at (612) 418-3801 or by email.

“Our job is to help families feel supported and empowered during their birth no matter what kind of experience they are creating for themselves” Kuechle said.

© Let’s Talk Kids, LLC 2013

Produce much more than fruit and vegetables out of the family garden

Growing a garden can be both fruitful and educational. In the garden, children can learn many things.

First, when you start with tilling the land, children gain large motor skills because the tiller is a big machine to move around. Talk to your child about why the land should be tilled. Explain that the hard ground is not conducive to growth. Younger children can also help by using a small shovel to turn over some dirt.

Next, allow your child to participate in digging the rows for the garden. This will teach your child measurement and space. Planting the seeds will give your child an opportunity to practice fine motor skills while dropping the seeds into the ground. After you plant the sees, apply water and explain to your child that seeds will grow with both water and sun.

You can find many lessons in the garden as the seeds begin to sprout. Children can learn that some seeds sprout faster while others take a longer time. Some sprouts will be big and grow very fast, like beans, while other beans might take a bit longer or stay short like radishes. A fun idea might be to use this lesson as a comparison to people.  Some are tall, some are short, some seeds sprout faster just like some people learn faster. Some grow slower or learn differently. Then explain that all types of seeds (people) are needed to make a beautiful garden (world).

The garden also contains plenty of math lessons. How deep do the seeds need to be planted? How far apart should the rows be from one another? How many seeds should be in one row?

Weeding provides another opportunity to learn. Help your child determine what seedlings are plants and which are weeds. Explain why you pull weeds out.

As the plants grow, tell your child how the flowers will grow to become fruit or vegetables. Explain that some plants like watermelons or pumpkins have larger flowers than other plants like cherry tomatoes. Compare root plants like potatoes, onions, beets and carrots with flowering plants. Why do some grow above the ground while others grow below?

During harvest time, children will learn how to appreciate the fruits of their labor, literally. When a plant is watered and nurtured it will produce vegetables or fruit. Teach your child how to gently pick peas off the vine without taking apart the plant. Show your child how to pick or dig up the root vegetables.

Finally, allow your child to participate in cleaning the fruit or vegetable and trying the different flavors. Which items from the garden are sweet?  Which are crispy?  Which taste good? Which are juicy?

From math skills to motor skills and teaching patience, a garden can provide many lessons for your little one.  An added bonus is your family will eat healthy as you enjoy the fruits of your labor. Consider the importance of a growing a garden for your family.

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2013