The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Things I Have Found To Be True

CHILDREN ARE CONCRETE THINKERS.  They cannot figure out what is expected of them if we only tell them what they did wrong.  Catch them being right.

CHILDREN WHO ARE DISCOURAGED CANNOT LEARN.  Misbehaving children are deeply discouraged and do not feel they belong.

WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES.  Teaching styles should vary to accommodate to different styles.

SOME CHILDREN ARE VISUAL LEARNERS AND SOME ARE AUDITORY LEARNERS.  Some children are SEQUENTIAL LEARNERS and some are SYSTEMATIC.  Some are right-brain thinkers and some are left-brain.

WE CAN NOT CHANGE ANYBODY, we can only change ourselves.

WE CANNOT MAKE ANYBODY LEARN IF THEY CHOSE NOT TO.  We can only teach, it is a personal decision to learn what is being taught.

THE CLASSROOM IS A GROUP OF PEOPLE WORKING TOGETHER.  Everyone in that class is responsible for the successes and failures of that group.

COOPERATIVE LEARNING LESSONS foster group cohesiveness and teach concern and respect for others.

WE ARE ALL MODELS FOR THE CHILDREN.  We cannot say, “Do as I say not as I do.”  Adults who are not respectful of children, cannot expect respect from them.

ENCOURAGEMENT IF THE PRIME MOTIVATOR.  Praise is for the successes, and only a few are entitled to it.  Encouragement is for the effort and we all deserve and need it.


SEPARATE THE DEED FROM THE DOER.  Never say anything against the child’s person.


MISTAKES ARE NOT FAILURES. That is how we learn.


Add you own things you have found to be true.


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How to Avoid Summer School Next Year

Many students will have their vacations interrupted because

they have to attend summer school. These are the students who

failed one or more of their courses during the regular school

year. They can either moan and groan and make life miserable for

themselves and their parents or they can make good use of this

experience so that summer school will never be necessary again.  

The first thing to do is to figure out what went wrong

during the regular school year. The following are just some

possibilities to explore. Did the student decide not to do any

work in the class because he took a dislike to the teacher? Or,

even if he liked the teacher, did he decide to demonstrate

rebelliousness by talking back and thus become a hero to his

peers? If so, the student needs to understand clearly the

relationship between his behavior in school and loss of his

summer freedom.  

Another possibility is that the student does not know how to

make use of the teacher’s expertise to help him to succeed. 

Early in the semester the student should describe to the

teacher his learning style and what works best for him. This

step is especially important if the teacher’s style is very

different and perhaps incompatible with the student’s. For

example, if he cannot do long, written assignments but can orally

give a report, he should tell the teacher and try to reach a

compromise. The compromise for a student skilled in art might be

to employ that medium in his report. He should enlist the

teacher’s aid early so that he can use his strengths to succeed

and not always be penalized for his weaknesses.

If he cannot sit still for a long period of time, he should

tell the teacher this and work out some system whereby he can

move about either in the classroom or by going outside. If he is

taking medication which makes him seem tired and distracted , he

should inform the teacher so that she does not interpret his

yawns as disrespect.

The student who is easily distracted should ask to sit in

the front row preferably away from the door. The student who is

a poor test taker or does not do well on timed tests should tell

the teacher and ask for help. The student who has difficulty

finishing homework assignments because of poor study skills

should seek the teacher’s aid in learning better skills. 

In general, the student should always make the assumption

that the teacher’s job is to help him to succeed. That is why

they are paid and what they are trained to do. Most teachers

really want their students to succeed. However, the teacher can

only help if the student tells her why he is having difficulty.

Instead of asking for help, many students just give up or resort

to misbehavior when they are failing.

Summer school is an excellent opportunity to practice

teacher-pleasing behavior mainly because the classes are usually

smaller. The student can practice how to talk to the teacher in

such a way that he takes advantage of all the expertise she has

to offer. It is also an opportunity for the student to begin to

pin-point the basic problem that makes him unsuccessful in

school. The problem could run the gamut from his not knowing how

to study to a physical problem such as an auditory processing

deficit which would make it difficult for him to understand

classroom lectures. 

Since the student is already going to summer school, in

addition to the course he is repeating, he should take skill

courses like typing and computers. These skills ease the

mechanics of completing assignments, yielding better and more

readable papers, resulting in improved grades. All in all,

summer school does not have to be viewed as a disaster. It could

be the saving or making of a future scholar.




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Parents Creatively Teaching Their Children

Many parents, who equate workbook activity with learning,

buy workbooks for their children to complete during the summer

months. In this way, the parents reason, their children will not

only keep up with their peers but may even be ahead of them the

next school year. This usually makes for a miserable summer for

the children and may result in their being turned off to all true

learning in the future. 

Parents can be much more creative than that. Schools are

not the only place where children learn and teachers are not the

only ones responsible for or capable of providing activities

which help develop young minds. Summer vacation is a wonderful

time for parents to expand on the school’s curriculum and in many

cases, supplement the curriculum where it is deficient. 

Science along with its tool subject, math, would be a good

place to start for summer learning. Mainly, because science

learning is best when it can be “hands on” and teachers sometimes

find this difficult to do with a large class. Also many schools

do not teach the science curriculum along with the math. This is

a mistake because math is a tool of science and children,being

concrete thinkers, understand math better when it is incorporated

with science.  

One way to begin, is to help children to become accurate

observers of the world around them and to keep records of what

they observe. You could begin in the backyard by having children

see the different leaves on the trees or plants on the ground.

You might buy a magnifying glass so that they can observe more

closely. They could draw pictures of what they observe. They

could then feel the different textures of things in the yard and

describe how they feel to the touch. You could help them with

more accurate words to describe what they are feeling.

Another activity is to put a bird feeder in the yard and

have the child keep a record of the various birds that come to

the feeder. He could then make a bar graph to record the birds’

activity. You could expand on this by taking a trip to the zoo

or natural history museum to learn more about the birds in his


Have the child draw a map of the backyard, or a room in the

house, or the neighborhood. He could pace the space off and draw

what he sees to scale. He could label locations of various

trees, bushes, fences, houses, fire hydrants, and everything and

anything that he observes. You could buy some graph paper to

make the drawing to scale easier–one pace equaling one square on

the paper. Your child will learn about measurement and graphs.

Planting a garden either flower or vegetable is also a great

activity. The child could find out which plants or flowers would

grow best in the soil available. He might keep a record of the

rainfall and sunshine needed to make his garden grow. This could

also be graphed on a chart. He might attempt to grow something

which is difficult or not recommended and see why or why not he

is successful.

Keeping track of the weather and temperature is another

activity that helps children become accurate observes. Put a

thermometer outside the window and have the child record the

temperature day by day. He could keep a chart and perhaps make

predictions on what is going to happen next and why. 

Starting a collection is also a possibility. What about a

rock collection or stamps? Magnets are also great fun. Do

experiments and keep records on what magnets can and cannot do.

The number and kinds of experiments children can do at home are

endless. There are many books in the library that can give you

ideas. A new program called TIMS (Teaching Integrated

Mathematics and Science) developed at the University of Illinois

at Chicago is another resource. 

The idea is to use the time in the summer for fun and

learning in a way that gets away from pre-programmed workbook

types of activity. I encourage you to enjoy this time with your

children and engage them in activities that will make them better

and more excited learners when they return to school in the fall. 


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Emergency Training

The headline in the paper stated: “Family Mourns Boys Killed

by Fire They Hid From”. The father could not find the boys aged

2 and 4 because they hid in the closet under a pile of clothes to

escape the blaze. The father walked right past them. It is too

late for this family but not for your family


Very young children are concrete thinkers. It is not enough

to tell them to get out of the house quickly in the event of a

fire. You need to show them. Try not to upset and frighten them

when you do this. Model the calm behavior you want them to

display in a crisis.

Start by showing them how to get out of the house quickly.

Take them through the routes they should follow from different

parts of the house. When they are out of the house, show them a

place where they should go to wait for you. This could be a big

tree in your yard or in a next-door neighbor’s yard. Tell them

they are to stay at that place and not to worry about finding

you. You will find them.

Go through the route a second time. This time point out the

places they should not go to hide from the fire. They should not

go under the bed. They should not go into the closet. They

should not hide in the basement and so forth. Point out these

places and tell them not to hide there. The only safe place to

be is outside the house by the designated meeting place.

Some children hide for fear of punishment because they think

they have or really may have started the fire by playing with

matches. Tell them they do not have to worry about how the fire

started, their only job is to get out of the house.

A third time through the routine should be to show them what

not to take with them. They are not to take any of the pets or

animals out of the house. They are not to take any of their

toys. All of these can be replaced, they cannot be replaced.

Repeat again: Their only task is to get out of the house as

quickly as possible. This might sound overly repetitious but it

is not for young concrete thinkers. 


In addition, before going on trips with young children, you

need to take them through the steps of what to do if they get

lost. If it is a museum, show them where the main desk is and

tell them what it is called. Say you will meet them there if

they get separated from you. That is where you will be. They

should go up to the guard and ask to be taken to the main desk or

whatever place you have designated.

Show them how to use the telephone to dial 911. They should

know their telephone number and address. You might also show

them the people they should go to for help. These are guards and

policemen and others who work at the places where they are lost.� 

If you are going on a hike or camping trip, take the young

children through the steps of what to do if they get separated

from you. In the mountains, show children how to Hug-a-Tree.

Hugging a tree gives them a feeling of security and comfort. It

also keeps them from wandering around and difficult to find.

Tell them they do not have to find you, you will find them. They

are to stay put. You might also indicate that being lost in the

woods is different from escaping from a fire in the house. In

the woods, you stay put. In a fire in the house, you get out

quickly and go to the designated safe place outside of the house. 

All of this may sound obvious and you may feel you have done

this with your children. Just to make sure, ask them. You may

be surprised to find that they know abstractly what to do but

when presented with concrete situations, they do not have the

solutions. In any case, it is a good idea to go over the

procedures periodically. Children sometimes forget.

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Learning from Other Age Groups

A retirement/nursing home once had to expand its building

in order to accommodate a growing older population. The owners

realized that by expanding they also would need to increase their

staff. A larger staff would also require more day care

facilities. They therefore added a day care center to the new

building. That proved to be a stroke of genius. The young

children loved the older people and being around young children

made the older people feel happy and useful. There is now a very

long waiting list for this home. 

A day care center in a retirement/nursing home is the ideal

choice. However, one could think of other combinations which

also would be good choices. What about an animal shelter? I

once read a bulletin board notice asking for volunteers to pet

the animals in the shelter so that the animals would continue to

be friendly. What better volunteers than retirement/nursing home

occupants? What about a working farm as part of a

retirement/nursing home? What about a greenhouse? What about a

toy store or a book store or an artist studio?� 

As a matter of fact, why not have a retirement/nursing home

with direct access to a mall? One director of a beautiful

retirement/nursing home isolated in the country said the

residents tended to congregate around the visitors’ parking lot

because it was the liveliest spot around.    

Of course, people may be encouraged to go to

retirement/nursing homes far from the hub of activity in order

that they not be seen. “Out of sight, out of mind” as the saying

goes. Separating people according to age is a pattern we need

to change.

The pattern begins in preschool. Most preschools have a two

year old group, a three year old group, and a four year old

group. Rarely are the groups combined into several groups with a

three year age spread. Such a grouping seems more desirable and

is like a family grouping. Children learn a great deal by being

with older and younger children. They learn how to nurture and

to help those younger and to look up to and to emulate the older

ones. The pattern continues into elementary school. Students

are placed into classes according to their date of birth. These

groupings do not take into account developmental differences in

children and the many advantages of cross-age grouping.

When we isolate and separate people because of age, we are

missing golden opportunities. As one gets older, one gets wiser

and more knowledgeable. Younger people do not look on those

older than themselves as sources of wisdom and support mainly

because they have little contact with them. Someone once defined

old age as the time when you know all the answers but people

stop asking you the questions. This concept needs revision. 

We could start by changing how schools are constituted. We

now separate age levels into separate buildings and label them

elementary, junior and high schools. Why not have several

buildings which house grades kindergarten to twelve? The

facilities like gym, kitchen, cafeteria, auditorium, computer

lab, library, and so forth could be in the middle of the building

available to all of the students and to all ages of citizens. As

it is now, most of these resources are now duplicated and are not

used to full capacity not only because schools are open only 185

days a year but also because all grade levels do not use them in

the same way.  

Senior citizens would have access to these facilities which

would also be available at night and for more days than the

school year. Senior citizens, in using the facilities, would

interact with all ages of students and could serve as aides to

the teachers and support for the students. At the same time,

children would come in contact with people of different ages who

have much to teach them. 

We need to get rid of the artificial age barriers we have

created which make it difficult for different age groups to

understand and to help each other. The advantages of these

interactions for all ages are too great to let them go untapped. 








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Bring Back the Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

The lazy, hazy days of summer are here–or are they?

Somehow we even have managed to make summer an anxious time for

ourselves and for our children. In former times, before air

conditioning that is, high humidity left us with no other choice

but to just loll around, dreaming the summer away. Now, we can

keep just as active in the summer as we are every other season of

the year. While we may survive the anxiety connected with over-

programming, our children do not fare so well. They are becoming

more and more anxious.


During the school year children become anxious about many

things. The following is just a short list. Will they miss the

bus and be so late that they fail the test? Will their parents

reject them if they fail the test? Will they have time to get

all of their homework done and still be able to play soccer?

Will the other kids hate them if they do not have time to

practice and they miss the winning goal? Will their parents

still love them if they are not accepted by the most important

peer group in the school? Will their siblings do so much better

in school and sports that their efforts are disregarded? Will

they ever get into the gifted and talented program that all of

their relatives are in? Will their parents get a divorce if they

are failures in school? Will they ever learn to play the piano

well enough to make their parents proud of them? The list goes

on and on.

Many of these concerns are legitimate and can cause anxiety

in children. Some children manage to keep these anxieties in

perspective and are able to function in spite of them. Other

children, because of their unique personalities and temperaments,

become over-anxious and are unable to function well or give up

and cease to function at all. These children need support and

summertime is a good time for parents to start helping them.

The first thing to do is to bring back the lazy, hazy, loll-

around days of summer. Summer does not need to be programmed.

It is okay to sleep until ten and maybe take another nap at

three. This advice holds true for adults as well as children.

When children observe that adults know how to relax, they can

give themselves permission to do the same. Of course, those

adults who cannot function without their laptops and cellular

phones will never be able to model how to relax for their

children. Their children are going to continue to be just as

anxious as they are. For all of their children’s sake but

especially for their over-anxious child’s sake, these adults

need to remove their laptops and cellular phones from the house

this summer. They might be surprised to learn that the world

continues to function in spite of their inability to be in

constant touch.  

During this lazy summer, parents will have more time

available just to be with their children. This time does not

have to be programmed with trips to festivals, camps, or

amusement parks. The time can be spent by the whole family

taking one maybe two hours instead of fifteen minutes to prepare

and to eat a meal. It can be spent just walking in the cool

woods and talking about “stuff”. Some parents need to reminded

that this time will never come again. Grab it while you can.

Over-anxious children are rarely helped by being told that

they should not be anxious. In many cases their fears are not

rational but they are real to the children. One solution,

especially for those parents who feel lost without some formal

programming for their children, might be to sign them up for a

course in relaxation techniques. Perhaps the whole family could

take a course in meditation and yoga this summer. Why not? It

will be more relaxing than taking that hot car trip to Disneyland

or wherever and the benefits will remain long after the summer is



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Dignified Junk Box for Creativity

Some parents survived this harsh winter when their children

were confined to the house better than others. The wise parents

were those who were prepared. The same preparation will help

with the long summer months about to come. This preparation

involves providing opportunities for children to be creative

rather than relying on computer games and television to fill the long


There are many ways to do this and the following are just a

few suggestions. Create a “dignified junk” box. This is a very

big cardboard box in which you put things you might ordinarily

throw away but save because they have the “potential” to be used

as something else or made into something wonderful. That would

include, among millions of other possibilities, string, ribbon,

colorful wrapping paper, rubber bands, egg boxes, tissue paper,

toilet paper rolls, pieces of toys that fell apart, broken

jewelry, left-handed glove, pieces of material, old picture

books, greeting cards, catalogues, boxes and on and on. When

you start doing this, you may never again throw anything away

because you get caught up with its potential. When the winds

blow, or it gets too hot or miserable to be outdoors, take out

the box and add scissors, paste, scotch tape, needle and thread

and whatever else creative children need and let them create

wonderful things to their hearts content.

Starting a scrapbook is also fun. This requires that you

save old magazines and newspapers in preparation. A young child

can make a book of all the things that start with the different

letters of the alphabet. If a child has a hobby, like collecting

airplanes, she could cut out all of the stories about airplanes.

If she likes sports, she could cut out pictures of her favorite


It helps to encourage your children to start a hobby.

Children can spend many happy hours pursuing it. Hobbies like

collecting stamps, baseball cards, coins, and on and on require a

great deal of time. Sometimes the only time the children have to

pursue a hobby is when they are forced by unforeseen

circumstances to stay in the house. If you are ready with the

suggestion and the materials, they might become interested, enjoy

themselves and learn a great deal at the same time.� 

If you have a camcorder, you might suggest that older

children write a script, dress the part, act in, and film their

own movie. In anticipation of this activity, you might get

another cardboard box in which to throw old clothes.� 

It is a good idea to stockpile materials for cooking. These

would include but not be limited to cake mixes, pie ingredients.

cookie mixes, jello, puddings and so on. The children could help

prepare a meal. Other materials you might want to have on hand

are puzzles, clay, crayons, and magic markers. Do not forget

board games, legos, blocks and cards. 

If you are given enough warning that the children will be

confined to the house for a period of time, go to the library as

quickly as possible and get out as many books as are permitted.

When you choose books for children’s pleasure reading, choose

those which are at least a year below their current reading level

at school. For younger children, choose those with no writing or

only one word per page. Provide a comfortable atmosphere for

reading. There should be comfortable chairs with good lighting

available. We tend to make the most comfortable room the one

that has the television in it. Close up the television and

declare that room off limits. Instead provide the atmosphere,

the opportunity and the encouragement for your children to make

creative choices. If done right, you and your children might

even begin to look forward to these periods of unforeseen


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How to Help Your Child to Make Friends

If  your child has difficulty making friends, summer may  be

the time to start to do something about it.  Some children, while

not rejected by their peers, are merely neglected by them.  There

are other children who are afraid of new adventures. They find it

difficult to take the risk to seek out a friend.  Both groups  of

children  often  become  solitary and look to  TV and

computer games as substitutes for real friends.  This can  become

a  problem  for parents and their children since most of  the  TV

programs are not helpful to the developing child.
Some  children  do  not have friends  because  they  do  not

recognize cues from other children that they are doing  something

that  is unacceptable.  One of these cues is facial  expressions.

If  your  child  seems  to have this  problem,  try  showing  him

pictures  of  different facial expressions and  what  they  mean.

Then  help your child not only to recognize them but  to  develop

more  appropriate  ways of responding to  different  expressions.

Parents  can  also supervise and encourage their  child  when  he

attempts to use this new skill.
Some  children  do  not  know how  to  reciprocate  when  an

overture to friendship is made.  There are other children who are

so  fearful  of  being rejected that they  do  not  recognize  an

overture  when  it occurs.  When you see this happening  to  your

child,  give him the words he could use or show him how he  could

offer to share some of his toys with the other child to make  the

child feel accepted as a friend.  You might want to role-play  an

actual  situation  you observed involving your child so  that  he

learns the skills needed to recognize a potential friend.
Very young children who are involved in antisocial  behavior

like hitting, biting and whining should be helped before they  go

to  school.   This behavior will inhibit their  ability  to  make

friends and might make them hate school.  Parents can help  these

children  be  being  very concrete in their  suggestions  and  by

taking  them through a series of steps to practice other ways  to

deal with their frustrations.
Parents can help by modeling behavior necessary to make  and

keep  a friend.  Talk about how much you enjoy your  friends  and

the  effort  you make to keep them.  Encourage your  children  to

work at their friendships.  If they have a fallout with a friend,

help  them  to resolve the problem and to  reconcile  with  their

Children  who  are  cautious  and  have  difficulty  forming

friendships can be helped by joining established groups like  the

boy  or  girl scouts, theater or sport groups  like  soccer.   It

helps  if they can develop a skill that will be admired by  their

peers.   Having  your child join a biking group  formed  by  your

local  bike  store might be a good beginning.  Not  only  is  the

child  making friends, he is exercising his body and learning  to

use his time in active ways rather than being passive by watching

TV and playing computer games.
Children in today’s world need a least one friend who  gives

them emotional support.  Some  children have computer friends and

feel  that  is a satisfactory substitute.  It is  not  the  same.

They can cut off computer friends by the flick of a switch.  That

is  not  emotional  support.  It  is  passive  friendship.   True

friendship  requires commitment and give and take.  Children  who

have  acquired this skill live happier lives and seem to  thrive.

I encourage you to help your child to find and to keep a  friend.

It  may  take some effort on your part, but it is  worth  it  and

cannot be left to chance.

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Teaching your Child How to Make change

I recently went to a summer craft show and farmer’s  market.

One  father was selling homemade cakes and cookies.  He  had  his

eight year old son helping him.  He wanted his son to  handle the

money,  adding  up the purchases and making change.  It  was  not

very  complicated because nothing cost more than $2.75.  The  son

could not do it.  He did not know how to make change of $5.00  on

a  $2.75  purchase.  The boy seemed bright enough and  I  suspect

could  have  solve that problem if it had appeared  in  his  math

workbook  page at school.   The father must have understood  this

and  was taking advantage of a unique summer opportunity to  give

his  son this concrete experience.  It was an experience the  son

would not have in school.
Summertime  presents many opportunities for parents to  teach

math concepts.  One thing you can do is take your child  shopping

with   you.    Give  yourself  time  to   make   it   a  learning

experience.    Ask your child which box of cereal is the best  to

buy.    What are the ingredients?  How much does each  one  cost?

Which  one costs more?   Does the bigger box contain more cereal?

What   about  unit pricing.   Plan on  only  spending  a  certain

amount  of money shopping and let the child estimate  if you  are

keeping within your limit.   Let him or her count up  the change.

Obviously  this  takes more time than a quick  shopping trip   on

your own but it probably does not take as much  time  as  helping

a  child with a workbook page and there are more  fringe benefits.                
Driving  in  a car gives you the opportunity of having  your

child solve interesting math problems.   How long does it take to

go 90 miles at 55 miles an hour?   How much gas do we need and do

we save money if we buy premium rather than regular gas?  You can

have your child act as navigator and give you directions from the

map.   Children can be involved in all aspects of planning for  a

vacation  by  car.   Do  not lose  this  exceptional  educational

opportunity  because you feel it is too time consuming.   The pay

off is worth the time spent.
You can have a whole dinner conversation in which you do all

of  your mathematical figuring using base 8 instead of  base  l0.

You  can  also try some logic games.   A cup and saucer  together

weigh twelve ounces.  The cup weighs twice as much as the saucer.

How much does the saucer weigh?   Or a man owned 11 cars .   When

he  died  he asked that his 11 cars be divided  among  his  three

sons.  Half of the cars were to go to the eldest son, a fourth to

the  middle son,  and a sixth to the youngest.   How can this  be

One of the best teaching aids for beginners in math is  card

games.  Not only are they educational but they provide many hours

of pleasant interaction.   Card games help build language,  motor

skills,  social  skills,  visual  memory  ,  numerical  sequence,

computation and number concept.   I will name just a few that you

may have forgotten.   Slap Jack,  Spit, Casino, Black Jack, Fish,

Hearts, War, Concentration, Indian Poker, and Rummy.

One   card   game   I   enjoy is   called   “The   Earl   of

Coventry”. Children from five to twelve enjoy playing it.  All of

the cards are dealt out.   The first player plays any card.  Each

player must play a card of the same denomination or pass.  As the

first   player   plays   his   card,    he   says,   “Here’s    a

“_________”(naming  the card) as good as can be.” The next player

says,  “Here’s another as good as he” The third says, “Here’s the

best of all the three” And the last says, “And here’s the Earl of

Coventry. The player who plays the fourth card takes in the cards

and leads the next card beginning the rhyme again.   You can make

up  your  own rhyme.  For example:  “I’m giving you  my  favorite

three.”   “Here’s another for you from me” “Here is mine  as  you

can see” “And here’s the Earl of Coventry.”
There  are  many books available to make learning fun and  a

family  affair.   The books by Martin Gardner are good  and  your

librarian  can help you with other titles.   The book for the use

of playing cards in teaching and learning is by Margie Golick and

is entitled,  “Deal Me In.”
I   encourage  you  to try  these  and  other creative  ways

to  interact  with  your children this summer.    Keep  in  mind,

however, that some of the best times are just quiet moments  with

your children.  Relax and enjoy them and your summer.

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Teaching your Child Empathy

Being  able to put oneself in another’s place, to feel  what

he  feels and to understand what he understands is  an  attribute

necessary for the survival of the human race.  Its development is

so  important  that it cannot be left to chance.  It  has  to  be

consciously    modeled  and taught.   Empathetic  adults  produce

empathetic children.

Parents  can   help their child to develop this  trait    by

first  providing  opportunities  for  him to  understand  and  to

practice using  the  words which express feelings.    Words  like

angry,  happy,  sad can  be displayed  on the  refrigerator  door

with  the appropriate pictures beside them.  The child  can  help

pick out these  pictures which express emotion from magazines  or

he can draw them himself.

Once the concrete-thinking child understands what the  words

mean, parents can begin to use them in order to help the child to

understand  how  his actions  affect others. “When you  hit  your

brother, he gets upset and crys because it hurts.”  “Taking  your

friend’s  toy without asking makes him feel sad.”  “I feel  happy

because you helped me by picking up your toys.”

These  concepts can be reinforced through stories  in  books

and  on television.  As you read the story, ask your child how he

thinks   the character in the story feels and why.  If   he  says

the character is sad, ask your child what he would do to make him

happy.  If one of the characters is mean, ask what he could do to           

help  the mean child not feel so bad.  Ask how he would  feel  if

somebody did that to him.  Use the breaks provided by commercials

to  ask  the  same questions regarding the  TV  program  you  are

watching.   Using  TV  this way, makes it an  active  and  not  a

passive activity.

If possible, it helps to have a family pet like a cat or dog

that  the child can relate to and perhaps be responsible for.   A

pet responds to kindness with affection.  A mistreated animal, on

the  other  hand,  responds by becoming  withdrawn  or  by  being

aggressive.  These  responses   give  children  concrete,  almost

instantaneous  feedback,  that  all actions,  both  positive  and

negative have  consequences.

Cruelty to animals, especially in young children, needs   to

be  given immediate, serious attention.   These are the  children

who  are on their way to becoming  bullies and  murderers.   They

either do not understand that the animal is suffering or they  do

understand and that gives them pleasure.  These are the  children

who  have  been abused themselves or  have never been  given  the

opportunity to experience empathy in their own lives.

On the other hand, it tells you a great deal about a  person

when he is kind to an animal.  Movies use this fact to develop  a

character’s  personality quickly.  If they want the macho man  to

have tender side, they show him taking care of his cat.

Schools  can  help children by providing  opportunities  for

them not only to experience empathy but to practice it.  This can 

be  done through cooperative learning lessons,  school  counsels,

older children reading to younger ones, food and clothing drives,

visiting nursing homes, and so on.

Parents can tell their own stories about how somebody helped

them  that  day or how they helped or understood  somebody  else.

Children should be noticed and encouraged everytime they give the

empathetic  response rather than  the  negative, mean one.   They

should  be  encouraged to tell how it makes them feel  when  they

respond positively to another.   

It  is  never  too  early to begin  to  develop  empathy  in

children.   Professor  Alan  Leslie  of  Rutgers  University,  in

studying  the  development of perception  in  infants  and  young

children, found that what can be observed developing  in infants,

becomes  a recognizable trait by three to four years of age.   By

even  that  young  age,  a child can  infer  what  another  child

perceives even though that perception is different from his own.   

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