It's hard to say exactly why children with autism are some of the greatest devotees of Minecraft, the computer game in which you build endless worlds out of LEGO-like blocks. Stuart Duncan, a father of two, believes it's because it's a perfect union of two opposites. On one hand, Minecraft offers structure - everything from the water to the doors to the falling lava behaves with a certain predictability that they need. On the other hand, it gives the player infinite freedom. There's no story, no levels, no bosses presenting participants with quests to complete. Behind the shield of their computer screen, players can do whatever they want to do in a sensory-friendly space - recreate the Taj Mahal, light up a house with torches, or hide in a cave.
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With young kids, bedtime routines usually involve a precise checklist of putting on PJs, brushing teeth, reading stories, asking for water, getting tucked in, realising Bunny is missing, going on a mad search through the house for Bunny, getting tucked in again, saying oh wait! I have to use the potty, getting tucked in again, and giving goodnight kisses. And then, at long last, the lights finally go out.
Sure, you can tell your kid to bathe regularly, to never be late, to eat balanced meals, to thank customer service employees, to be a pure and utter delight. But you might just sound like a flight attendant announcing the aeroplane safety procedures with a broken microphone. To get kids to really think about their actions and make more thoughtful choices, one teacher shares this psychological technique: Have them think about how they can behave badly.
I learned how to play the piano the old-fashioned way -- by being dragged by my mother to weekly lessons taught by an elderly woman in the neighbourhood, and yawning at the sheet music as my kid-fingers played a clunky rendition of Für Elise. Since then, music instruction has evolved. There has been a crop of video game apps that introduce children to instruments such as the piano, guitar, drums and ukulele and through fun challenges, get them to practice -- willingly.
The old joke is that there's only one way to get rid of glitter: Move houses. I'm part of the rare breed of parents who don't despise glitter, but my husband groans every time I let our kid go wild with it in her art projects. "The herpes of craft supplies," he says, referencing a Demetri Martin bit. Yes, glitter is a pain to clean, especially when you think you've removed the most of it, and then for weeks later, find stray sparkles in your books, behind your ears, and on the cat. Luckily, there are some ways to get rid of it with items you probably have on hand.
New parents hear the advice often: You need to talk to your baby! A lot! The book SuperBaby proclaims 30,000 words a day is the magic number for optimal language success. One landmark study found that kids who heard 45 million words by age three later scored the highest in reading and maths. There's even a wearable word counter that you can clip onto your infant's onesie and see via an app whether you're meeting your daily word goals. Basically, a verbal Fitbit.
The PlayStation 4 just released a firmware update (5.50) that brought a ton of great features, such as comprehensive parental controls. Here's how you can set age restrictions for certain types of games and movies, set spending limits in the PlayStation Store, and regulate game time each day using the new Family Management feature.
With school-aged children, there is a period of gastrointestinal chaos, and that period is every weekday from 3 to 6PM. Around 3PM, when many kids get out of school, they're famished. The moment my daughter gets buckled up in the car, she looks at me like a sad pigeon and begs, "Snack. Do you have a snack?" (Nice to see you, too, child!)
When your kids are out of school, things can feel a little haphazard. A lot of parents I know are racing to cram the April school break with Family Days Out. But the assumption that you, the mum or dad, are solely responsible for planning activities doesn't really help anyone.
It puts the pressure on you, and it plops your children into the proverbial backseat. They shrug and assume that someone else is responsible for the joys and disappointments of their lives.
You may have heard of mums and dads giving their teenagers alcohol as a parenting tactic - rationales include 1) it's safer to buy it, serve it and monitor it in a controlled environment than to have them sneak off with their friends to scull goon in some sketchy parking lot, and 2) it normalises alcohol so they won't see it as something taboo and therefore something they must ingest in mass amounts as quickly as possible.
When I was 11, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Playing with animals all day seemed like a fun gig. Around this time, Billy Joel released the pop-rap song "We Didn't Start The Fire". In it, Mr Joel barks through a litany of horrible events that occurred in the 20th Century, at one point rhyming "foreign debts" and "Bernie Goetz" with "homeless vets". When I heard that, I thought, Oh no! I don't want to be a homeless veterinarian!
Getting kids out the door in the morning can go one of two ways: They wake up early and then dawdle, forcing a last-minute scramble, or they wake up late, forcing a last-minute scramble. I know very few people who get to school or day care on time and with serenity - maybe those folks who have a late start time and a short commute? But after a particularly spectacular late-fest in our household last week (late waking, breakfast eaten one crumb at a time, generic dawdling, forgotten backpacks), I decided to look around for some time-saving tips. Here are seven.
Mindfulness can be as powerful for children as it is for adults - it can help them regulate their emotions and respond more calmly when life gets stressful. But simply telling your kids to "clear your thoughts!" or "be present!" will probably just make them more confused (and therefore more stressed).
In my first post-university employed position, I worked for a boss who loved Excel spreadsheets. She thought nearly everything could be put into "boxes and rows", and after my first year working there, I was officially a convert. I'm big on organisation anyway, and those spreadsheet cells called to me, luring me in with their promises of order and clarity. Event planning logistics? I had a spreadsheet for that. Airline and hotel reservations for the office directors? Spreadsheet. Goals for the new fiscal year? Spreadsheet.