It’s a new school year, and my son reports that his teacher seems a lot more strict than the one he had last year.
I reminded him that the teachers frequently seem more harsh for the first couple of weeks of the year because they are trying to set a precedent for the rest of the year, and they don’t want the kids to think they’re going to be pushovers.
Happily, some of my son’s old friends are in his class this year–ones that had been separated into different classes for the last couple of years. Of course I’ve always emphasized to him that a classroom of new kids is an opportunity to make brand new friends–and any of them could turn out to be best friends.
Although he faced the new week with a nod and a smile at my words, I am reminded how very serious these issues are to young kids. Being separated from their friends can cast a gloom over every day, especially in the stricter hold many schools have on the interactions between students these days. It’s always good to remember how it feels to be in the children’s shoes, and provide what understanding–direct and behind-the-scenes–we can.
One way kids can show they’re feeling stressed or upset is by acting up a bit. When I realize this, I stop and offer a hug–which I then follow up with an offer to do something with my son. I have found that this is tremendously effective in curtailing “off” behavior. Who among us doesn’t need some extra comfort sometimes? Kids just have less experience bottling up their needs and emotions.
Time to Play
At my house, one great thing I’ve found to do with my son that’s both spending time together and mentally stimulating is to play board games. Here are some of our current favorites:
UNO Attack! has been a favorite in my home for about three years now. It adds an electronic aspect in that, when it’s time for a player to draw, they push the Uno button on the electronic deck dealer. The deck dealer then shoots out a surprise number of cards for the player, from zero to a small stack (yikes!). It’s fun, and you never know how many cards you’ll get plastered with each time around. You might want to pick up an extra Uno Attack Refill Deck so that when the one supplied in the UNO Attack! game gets funky, you’ll already have another deck on hand to replace it with.
Connect 4 x 4 is the multi-player version of the longtime favorite Connect 4 by Milton Bradley. Connect 4 x 4 can be played by up to four people, and is awesome when played with a group. But it’s also fun playing with just 2 players. You can either have each player choose 1 color and play with standard rules, or you can give each player take 2 colors and play as 2 people. (This is my own method–I don’t think it’s mentioned in the official game rules.) The board for Connect 4 x 4 is fun to play with because it’s clear, allowing players to see through the double layers.
Chess is a great game for kids as they grow older, and is great for stimulating learning by requiring a child to imagine what will happen (ie, consequences) if he or she makes a certain move. The basic movements of the different figures are pretty easy to remember for a child, with a little practice, so simple games can be played for less experienced players. And in today’s marketplace, there is a wide variety of differently themed chess sets out there–so whatever your child’s interests, there’s sure to be something they like. One favorite in our household is the Super Mario Brothers Chess because my son loves Super Mario Brothers. These figures are super-cute. For kids with other interests, there are other themes out there–lots of them!
The new games Lego is coming out with are fun in that they are a novelty. There are lots of varieties coming out–from LEGO Hogwarts (3862) for Harry Potter fans to LEGO Ramses Pyramid (3843) , and many others. These games are cool, and having the added feature of being fun to build, even if your child isn’t in the mood to play. In general, I’d say the Lego games will be most popular with kids toward the younger end of Lego’s stated appropriate age range of 8-14 years.