The holidays are a time for family, friends, and togetherness. This often means lots of hugs and kisses! But what do you do when grandma wants a hug and your little one isn't feeling affectionate? It's important to ensure your children are able to create and maintain healthy boundaries that help them feel safe in their bodies. As parents, friends, and family of these special kids, there are ways you can help!
It is a caregiver's responsibility to ensure their children are educated on the importance of consent and healthy boundaries. Teaching children to recognize and respect their own boundaries, as well as those of other people, can help them create and maintain a sense of safety in their bodies. This is especially important for younger children, as they may not yet be aware of what type of touch is appropriate or not. It is essential for parents to provide clear guidance and support to make sure their children understand the importance of consent in all aspects of life.
Isn't Consent an Adult Topic?
We often hear about consent in adult relationships, but consent isn't just for grown up moments behind closed doors. Consent and bodily autonomy are always important. Think about being on a busy train or in a store. If someone touches you on the shoulder or arm to get your attention and you don't know them, that can feel very stressful - for adults and kids!
Asking permission to touch your child instills in them that they deserve this respect just like an adult does. This is why teaching consent and bodily autonomy to kids is such an important part of their development.
How to Teach Consent to Kids
It’s important for parents to start talking to their children about consent at a young age, so they can learn the basics of what it means and how to respect it. Teaching kids the importance of consent can help foster healthy relationships and ensure that everyone’s boundaries are respected.
It also helps them with the boundaries of their friends and classmates too! Even if they want to hug, tickle, or wrestle, they are learning to respect that their friends don't always want to. Teaching about consent helps us all set healthy boundaries.
Parents can begin by introducing the concept of consent in simple terms and then provide examples of how it applies to everyday activities. You don't have to use those words exactly. Many parents teach the phrase "No means no" or "I'm in charge of my body" as ways to encourage their children to name their boundaries.
It is also essential to emphasize that all people, regardless of age or gender, have the right to say no to touch that isn't comfortable for them. With early education, parents can help create an environment where their kids understand the importance of consent and learn how to practice it in all interactions.
Start by asking before and during touch activities. Ask if you can pick your toddler up, or if they want to snuggle during their bedtime story. Teaching them from an early age that they get to say yes or no to physical contact is a huge lesson that will be built up over a lifetime. It builds trust with you as their caregiver, and also builds their trust and connection with their own bodies.
Consent can also be taught during physical games like tickling. The Intentional Nanny has a great blog about this topic and says:
Tickling can be really fun. In fact, it’s one of my own child’s most requested games. It goes like this: My child says, “Tickle me!” I say, “Ok!” And I tickle. My child says, “Stop!” or “All done!” or “That’s too much!” I say, “Ok!” And I stop. Immediately. I don’t ask, “Are you sure?” and keep tickling. I don’t ignore it and tickle harder. I stop. If I am tickling and tickling and my child doesn’t ask me to stop, I stop after a few moments anyway so he can catch his breath. Chances are in either situation, my child will ask me to tickle him again. And I do. And the moment he asks me to stop, I stop. Because I know that if he’s asking me to stop, he’s asking if he can trust me. Can I trust that I am still in control of this game? Can I trust that I am still in control of my body? Can I trust that if I say stop, my voice will be heard and respected? You can see how this conversation starts out with tickling and can keep our children safe as they grow. When someone doesn’t stop when our child say no, it should be a major red flag for them. We as parents and care providers are responsible for teaching children that this is how a body should be respected. Their own body and others. So when our children inevitably hit, pinch, kick, or poke us without our consent, our response of, “I won’t let you hit me,” or, “Please stop, I don’t like that,” will be another layer of the conversation around consent. I am not consenting to this behavior, I will not let you do that to me. We want our children to respect our bodies, and in return, we must offer the same respect to their bodies. If we push the limit with tickling, we are teaching that “no”/“all done”/“stop” doesn’t really mean no, and pushing the limit is an acceptable practice. And that seems like a dangerous message.
What About Being Polite?
Of course we want our children to be polite and not rude to guests, family members, and friends. But it's important to teach them how to be polite without touching. If your child doesn't want to hug or kiss, encourage them to say hello, or offer a different greeting like a high five or fist bump.
Most importantly, back them up if family members insist on a hug or kiss after your child says no. Your child is learning to stand firm in their boundaries, and you're their safe person.
At the end of the day, pressuring a child (or anyone, for that matter) into physical touch under the guise of politeness is very confusing as they figure out their boundaries and what's appropriate.
What About Hygiene and Safety?
Sometimes kids don't want to take a bath or wear a warm coat, but as their caregivers we have to help keep them clean and safe! When it comes to keeping their bodies clean, warm, and safe, it's still important to ask first. Sometimes offering your child a choice can help them feel a sense of autonomy in the decision.
Try asking questions like:
Even if it takes a few extra moments, allowing kids to get in and out of the car by themselves or put on their own shoes helps them develop motor skills and their bodily autonomy. (We know those moments can be agony, but it'll pay off when they're strong, independent kids later!)
This holiday season, you may want to have something prepared to say to relatives if you anticipate any issues. Let us know if you need any support making these plans or about how to help teach consent and boundaries to your kids. Our team is here to support you and your children!
The Benefits of Risky Play
One of the most important aspects of parenting is keeping your child safe from harm. But a little bit of risk is actually beneficial for your child's development. Though the idea of "risky play" seems counterintuitive, it's actually a great way for your child to learn critical thinking skills!
What is risky play?
Risky play is any activity that allows your child to experience some level of risk. This can include things like playing in the rain, climbing trees, and riding their bikes. This play offers thrill and excitement and invites children to test their limits and expand their comfort zones. At an age when their brains are making new connections every day, navigating and assessing risk is a great skill to incorporate early.
Risky play is important for young children because it helps them learn about risks and consequences and helps them develop their problem-solving skills, self-confidence, and creativity.
It's important to note that not all risk is good risk! A safe environment where your child never experiences any risk would be very limiting for their development, but it's important to step in before they're in actual danger.
Why is risky play important for child development?
The benefits of risky play for children go beyond just teaching them how to handle risks responsibly. Risky play actually helps children learn key skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and persistence.
Risky play helps children learn about their environment and the risks that are associated with it. It also helps them develop problem-solving skills and a sense of confidence. In addition, risky play can lead to the development of creativity and new ideas. They learn how to take care of themselves and manage their own emotions, as well as how to cooperate with others.
Example of risky play: Playing in the rain
When it's rainy outside, you might find yourself arguing with your child about putting on their boots or a raincoat. Letting them go play as they desire is a great way for them to learn the natural consequences you already know as an adult - soggy socks and clothes, and feeling chilly.
When your child is playing in the rain, they are having fun at first, but soon they also learn how water can cause them discomfort. Naturally, they'll start to think about how to avoid getting wet, which gives you a great way to bring up their boots and raincoat the next time they want to play. They'll learn how to avoid that negative consequence, but it sticks better after experiencing it rather than being told! This type of learning is critical for your child's development because it teaches them how to think critically and solve problems.
Your child may also use this risky play to start overcoming their fears of rain or water. This kind of confidence building can help build a strong foundation for later life.
How can you incorporate risk into your child's play?
There is no one perfect way to incorporate risk into your child's play. Introducing them to new situations and settings, like a park or local hiking trail, can be a great way to let them explore. According to Outside Play, there are multiple types of risky play: play at heights, play at speed, play with dangerous tools, play with dangerous elements, play with a chance of getting lost, and rough and tumble play.
To incorporate play at heights, your child may enjoy climbing trees, playground equipment, or large rocks on the nature trail. You can also play at heights on a swing set by pushing them higher!
To play at speed, your child might ride their bike down a hill at fast speeds, or you could spin them on playground equipment.
Play with dangerous tools could include using a hammer or saw (if age appropriate), or using a knife to chop veggies with you in the kitchen. Always supervise play with tools!
Play with dangerous elements includes fire or water. We already discussed playing in the rain, but swimming lessons could also be a great risky play option, with a trained instructor and a lifeguard of course. We also recently talked about fire in our fire safety lessons, so your child might feel ready to help build a campfire or help you cook on a gas stove.
Play with a chance of getting lost doesn't have to mean that children can roam the neighborhood without an adult - kids get the benefit of this "risk" even if their parents can see them hiding and pretending to be lost. A robust game of hide-and-seek is a great way to get children used to being "lost" and exploring the emotions that come with the territory.
Rough and tumble play is just what it sounds like. Children often play-fight and wrestle, which engages their need for risky play and helps them gain a sense of their body's balance.
Risky play tips for worried parents
The most important thing is to not panic! Remember when your child was learning to walk: falling and getting back up is a critical part of the process. If your child looks a bit stuck, they'll often find a way out of their predicament on their own with a little critical thinking. Pause for a moment (or a few moments) before intervening to give your child a chance to problem solve.
Be sure to talk about safety and risk with your child in an age-appropriate way, and encourage them to take risks in a safe and responsible way. For example, if you notice a potential danger (say, a rose bush with sharp thorns), you can look at the bush together and ask them what they think it would take to stay safe near it.
5 Expert Fire Safety Tips for Kids
In October, the local Fire Department visited Heights Cooperative Preschool for National Fire Prevention Week. Learning about fire safety is so important to start early, so kids know from a young age how to handle the dangers of fire. This year also marks 100 years since Fire Prevention Week was made official!
Here's what we learned when the fire department visited our school.
1: Create a Family Fire Safety Plan
Create an emergency fire plan with your family and friends, including where you would go if you had to evacuate. Be prepared for an emergency by having a disaster plan in place, having enough supplies on hand, and practicing evacuation drills with your family.
Everyone in your home should know the fire safety plan, and children should be taught how to use the fire alarm and exit safely. Set up emergency contacts in case of an emergency so your kids know who to call for help.
Make your home fire escape plan and safety action plan using these guides from the National Fire Prevention Association.
2: Teach Your Kids Age-Appropriate Fire Safety
Talk to your kids about fire safety as often as possible, including when you use the stove or if you are making a fire outside. Make sure they know what to do if they see a fire, and be sure they know the locations of the exits in their home.
Make sure your kids know how to respond to a fire alarm and how to use the fire escape routes.
As your kids grow older, teach them how to use a fire extinguisher and involve them in replacing the batteries in smoke alarms every year so they are more engaged with your fire safety practices.
Visit Sparky.org for lots of online games and resources for your kids to learn about fire safety!
3: Store and Use Household Items Properly
Make sure all materials that could create a fire are stored in a safe place, such as candles out of reach of children and cigarettes out of sight.
Store flammable materials in cool, dry places and away from heat sources.
Follow these simple tips for safe fire safety:
4: Install Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Fire safety is not only about knowing the fire safety rules - it's also about having the proper tools to detect fires and emergencies. Install smoke detectors in each room of your home, and install a carbon monoxide detector in case of an emergency. Make sure your smoke alarms are working properly by testing them monthly and replacing the batteries every year.
Smoke from any kind of fire can be dangerous, especially when it's dense or contains chemicals. Make sure your kids know the dangers of smoke, and keep them away from any fires that are burning.
As the National Fire Prevention Association says, "Fire is dark!" Though the flames start off bright, soon fires become very dark and smoky. It's important to stay low to the ground so that you aren't breathing or trying to see through the dark smoke.
How many smoke alarms do you need? According to the NFPA, "Smoke alarms need to be in every bedroom, outside of the sleeping areas (like a hallway), and on each level (including the basement) of your home. Do not put smoke alarms in your kitchen or bathrooms."
5: Know the School's Fire Safety Plan
In addition to knowing your home's fire safety rules, it's important to know the school's fire safety plan. Our classrooms have plans in place to evacuate students in case of a fire. Make sure you know where your child is in case of an emergency, and be sure to talk to your child's teacher about their fire safety plan.
Fire safety is not a one-time event - it's something that needs to be practiced regularly so your family is prepared in case of an emergency. Make sure you and your family members are familiar with fire safety tips, and practice evacuation drills on a regular basis.
Fall Reading: Our Favorite Books!
Our students and teachers all love to gather during Circle Time for a story, song, or other group activity. Here are some of our favorite books we've been reading to kick off the new school year!
Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller
It seems that wherever Aria goes, someone wants to touch her hair. In the street, strangers reach for her fluffy curls; and even under the sea, in the jungle, and in space, she's chased by a mermaid, monkeys, and poked by aliens . . . until, finally, Aria has had enough!
The World Needs More Purple People by Kristen Bell & Benjamin Heart
What is a purple person? Great question. I mean, really great! Because purple people always ask really great questions. They bring their family, friends, and communities together, and they speak up for what’s right. They are kind and hardworking, and they love to laugh (especially at Grandpa’s funny noises)! A purple person is an everyday superhero! How do you become one? That’s the fun part! Penny Purple will lead you through the steps. Get ready to be silly, exercise your curiosity, use your voice, and be inspired.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers'. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother's, and her little sister's. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.
You Are Not a Princess (and That’s Okay) by Mélanie Berliet
Watch as a little girl kicks a crown in the dust behind her to embark on her latest adventure. Our little girl is so many things, but she is most certainly NOT a princess. She's an explorer, a climber, a lover of blueberries, and an expert at make-believe. This book is an ode to spirited little girls who lead beautifully messy existences. Who say no to princess costumes and yes to daydreaming. Who understand that their worth resides within, and not in some damsel in distress fairytale ending.
Rainbow Hands by Mamita Nainy
When a young boy paints his nails with his mom’s nail polish, he discovers the most important thing of all: the magic of being his true self.
As the long late summer day stretches ahead of them, a young boy eagerly looks forward to his favorite time―painting-your-nails time. He know that when he dips into those magical bottles of nail polish, he will discover a color to express his every mood and feeling. Purple is the color of magic and mystery. White is the color of endless possibilities. At times, his papa frowns and says, "What have you done to your nails?" At other times, he says, "Why don’t you paint on paper instead?" But the little boy knows that painting his nails makes his hands look beautiful.
This color-filled story celebrates the joy of finding out who you are and embracing the courage to be yourself.
Peanut Goes For the Gold by Jonathan Van Ness
Peanut Goes for the Gold is a charming, funny, and heartfelt picture book that follows the adventures of Peanut, a gender nonbinary guinea pig who does everything with their own personal flair.
Peanut just has their own unique way of doing things. Whether it’s cartwheeling during basketball practice or cutting their own hair, this little guinea pig puts their own special twist on life. So when Peanut decides to be a rhythmic gymnast, they come up with a routine that they know is absolutely perfect, because it is absolutely, one hundred percent Peanut.
This upbeat and hilarious picture book, inspired by Jonathan’s own childhood guinea pig, encourages children to not just be themselves—but to boldly and unapologetically love being themselves.
Mixed (A Colorful Story) by Arree Chung
In the beginning, there were three colors . . . Reds, Yellows, and Blues.
All special in their own ways, all living in harmony―until one day, a Red says "Reds are the best!" and starts a color kerfuffle. When the colors decide to separate, is there anything that can change their minds?
A Yellow, a Blue, and a never-before-seen color might just save the day in this inspiring book about color, tolerance, and embracing differences.
What is a Refugee? by Elise Gravel
Who are refugees? Why are they called that word? Why do they need to leave their country?
In this simple, graphic and bold picture book for young children, author/illustrator Elise Gravel explores what it means to be a refugee. This book is the perfect tool to introduce an important and timely topic to children.