The Five Finger Test…And What I Do With My Fingers

If you find your kid sitting quietly in a corner, with a copy of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in hand, don’t be too quick to celebrate that your son- who previously couldn’t be unglued from his Nintendo DS- has suddenly become a voracious reader. It would be good to assess if a particular book is “just right” for your kid’s reading level.

If you’ll notice, some books which are more popularly known as “leveled readers” have the reading level indicated on the book cover. The truth is reading levels do vary among kids of different ages, so that’s not a reliable indicator if a certain book is just right for your kid. A more effective gauge would be the Five Finger Test. This is how it’s done:

  1. Turn your book to a page which has all text and no illustrations.
  2. Hold up 5 fingers on one hand.
  3. Start reading at the top of the page.
  4. If you stumble upon a word that you don’t know, put one finger down. Hold down one finger for every word you don’t understand.
  5. If you get all the way to the bottom of the page with at least one finger still up, that means the book is just right for your reading level.

As for what I do with my fingers, I’ll save that for another post… soon!

How to Teach Your Child Empathy

She prays for me.  She really does.  As my daughter and I say our bedtime prayers, instead of asking God for a new 3-storey Barbie dollhouse, she prays that God keeps me healthy and takes away my pain (that was on a night that I was having a massive headache).    I am left dumbfounded at the fact that at her age, she is able to display empathy- effortlessly, at that! 

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand how another one is feeling.  It’s being able to put yourself in another’s shoes.  It means, you’re aware that other people have feelings too, and react to certain situations in pretty much the same way you would.  It’s a learned skill which is borne out of constant practice. 

When a child reaches preschool age, that’s the best time to start teaching him the value of empathy.  This is the age when a child begins to connect his emotions with the feelings of other people.  He realizes that the world doesn’t revolve entirely around him.

Whether we like it or not, we parents are our kids’ best teachers of empathy.  We may not hold a master’s degree in empathy, but we are well-equipped to mentor our children in that department.  We should go easy, though, and not ram it down their throats. 

So, how do we exactly teach our kids empathy? We start with ourselves.  Teaching by example always works, doesn’t it?  We show our kids that we care about how other people feel.  We show them that we do not yell at the mailman or laugh at the old lady who tripped on the sidewalk.

Talk about hypothetical situations with your kid.  Say things like, “How would you feel if you had a physical disability and couldn’t hear, for instance?”  Let your kid talk about his feelings and how he would react if other kids laughed at him for his impairment.

Read books about empathy to your child.  There are tons of children’s books out there with empathy as the theme.  After reading with your kid, discuss how the characters showed empathy, and try relating the story to everyday life.

As sure as I look hot in this red tank top, so is empathy undoubtedly a skill children- and adults- should master.  Children who are empathic tend to excel in school, in social situations, and in their careers as adults.  Start them off young, and you’ll be paving the way for a lifetime of success for your kids.



Cultivating a Love of Reading and Language in your Child

This is a guest post by Emily Patterson (@epatt1062), submitted on behalf of Primrose Schools: child care aiming to deliver the best and most trusted early childhood education

Imparting a love of reading and learning in a child is perhaps the greatest gift a parent can give. Early literacy is associated with success in school. While reading difficulties, can lead to struggles in the classroom that increase the odds of future truancy, substance abuse, behavioral problems, and poor decision making skills.

Studies have shown that children’s books contain 50-percent more words that children are unlikely to encounter in spoken interactions, than television. In addition to a powerful increase in vocabulary, reading aloud to young children has been proven to increase motivation, curiosity, memory, and language and cognitive skills. [Read more…]

Teach Your Kids Respect

Respect begets respect. You more or less get from people what you give them. If you show other people respect, most likely they’ll do the same to you. It’s one of life’s important lessons which we just have to keep ramming down our children’s throats. Respect is such a big word which could be quite difficult for a young kid to digest. The challenge now lies in how we parents can chop it down to bite-size chunks, small enough for the average preschooler to understand and apply to everyday life. What simple lessons in respect can we teach them?

Use the magic words. When your kid turns 3 or 4, you can start teaching him to say “Please” and “Thank You”. If he uses these magic words often enough, they soon become a habit which will stick to him like a moth to a flame.

Don’t interrupt. Remind your kids not to but in when you are speaking with another adult. Sure he can bug you as you watch Ferris Beuller’s Day Off for the nth time, but not when you’re discussing something important with someone.

Be nice to the lady at the supermarket checkout counter. Same goes for the mailman and that guy who drives the ice cream truck. Tell your kid to treat people with respect, whether they have a five-figure salary or earn their keep on a daily basis. It may be their job to provide some sort of service, but they still very much deserve pleasantries from your kid. Ask your kid to talk to them nicely.

Remember your table manners. The dining table is the perfect place to practice respect for others. Make your child get used to saying “Excuse me!” if he has to get up and leave the table while others are still finishing their meal. Remind him not to talk when his mouth is full, and not to verbalize his disgust if he’s not a huge fan of lima beans.

Practice makes perfect, so let’s be relentless in our pursuit at training our kids to be stewards of respect. There should be absolutely no room for rudeness in your home.

Now this is my cue to sing R-E-S-P-E-C-T in my best Aretha Franklin impression…

When Your Kid Is The Bully

You can still vividly remember that day when you first dropped off your kid at school.  He was clinging to you like compression hosiery to a woman’s leg.  He was holding on to you for dear life, while wiping away the tears trickling down his chubby cheeks. 

Fast forward to today, you receive a call from his school guidance counselor, giving you not-so-pleasant news that your boy has just punched another kid in the nose.  You feel your entire world cave in as you try to make sense of that incredulous thing you’ve just heard.  Your precious kid has turned into something you’ve never dreamed of- a bully. [Read more…]

First Day of School: Books to Help Your Kid Cope

Seems like only yesterday when you and your kid were chanting “No more classes, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks!”   Now, with summer coming to an end and only a few days to go before school starts, you feel the dire need to relax at hot tubs and spas just to help ease some of the tension out of all the back-to-school preparations.   More than fretting over miscellaneous fees and your daughter’s request for that Tinkerbell school bag, you worry about how your kid will cope with the underlying stress which is often part of the first day of school.  As a mom, you can help your child feel less jittery by reading the following books to him: [Read more…]

How to Teach your Kids Honesty

However which way you turn the tables, honesty really still IS the best policy.  It’s the root of all things good.  Honesty is the manifestation of a pure heart, because when one is honest, he has a conscience which knows how to effectively discern right from wrong.  The honest person finds that deceiving other people is as uncomfortable as a wedgie on a hot summer day.  [Read more…]

How to Find Playmates for Your Solitary Kid

My daughter has no playmates.  When there’s no school, that is.  Since she’s an only child in a single parent home, she has no brothers or sisters to fight with over who gets the last Krispy Kreme donut.  Sure, it makes for a quiet home, but when you’re a kid, it’s all about play.  And I sometimes feel for my daughter when she has nobody to play with.  She goes through the entire roll call of classmates and rants on about how she misses them.

I do play with her sometimes, but I have only so much energy.  The years are taking their toll on my stamina that I am no longer as agile as I once was (or hoped I was!). [Read more…]

Media and Your Kid’s Loneliness

It’s always tempting to leave our kids to spend hours playing Plants vs. Zombies in front of the computer, or to just leave them on the living room couch with eyes glued to episodes of Spongebob Squarepants.  All along, we are mindlessly under the impression that our kids are fine, as they uncontrollably chuckle over Patrick Starfish’s usual stupidity.  Little do we know that struggling from within them is a cry for help masked as seemingly innocent laughter. [Read more…]

Hell Hath No Fury Like That Of A Child Scorned

My 5-year old daughter has just recently learned a new skill, but it’s something I’m not at all proud of.  She has mastered the art of pushing my buttons.  On more than one occasion, I find myself wanting to scream my head off and shave my head out of sheer frustration and exhaustion from having to deal with my daughter’s temper. [Read more…]