Past Parenting Articles

Interactive Play For Fun and Learning
Windows of Opportunity                  Ideas For Fun Family Outings

Interactive Play For Fun and Learning
By: Keith Crosby

Point and Name
I’ve got a great game for the parents of toddlers or preschool aged children. Try a game called Point and Name with your kids. This game can be a great tool to help your child in developing their vocabulary. During playtime in the yard point to the airplane passing overhead and tell your child what it’s called. As you sit at the stoplight point out the stoplight and the color of the light at the time. The key is to do it regularly and before long your child will be adding these words to their growing vocabulary. You will be surprised at how soon they will be pointing out these items to you with excitement as you are at home, driving in the car, or in the yard playing.

Sign ‘em up for the Band
Do your little ones enjoy making and listening to music? Most small children do because music and the distinction of sounds is something they really enjoy. Auditory discrimination is the ability to distinguish between tones and sounds. This skill is a building block to identifying the differences between letter and word sounds. Encourage your infants and toddlers to explore sound and music. Now I know a lot of you parents are going to want to kill me for this next suggestion. The next time you are trying to cook and your little one is tugging at both pants legs so that you’ll play with them, pull out 3 or 4 of your pots, pans, tops, and a wooden or plastic spoon and let them pretend they are in the band. They will begin to make beautiful melodies as you get your meal done. Both of you will be productive and they will be doing something that my kids enjoy most – making NOISE. Now that’s a win-win situation.

Teaching Them To Count
Teaching your children to count doesn’t have to be hard after all. I would like to share with you how my wife and I taught our two children to count to 10 while at the tender age of 1. Remember this one thing. It is never too early to teach your children. Even when they are infants believe me they are learning from the things they see and hear. So as your child begins to climb the stairs with your assistance you can begin counting the number of steps aloud – 1, 2, 3, … Do it every time you walk them up and down the stairs. After awhile my kids began say the numbers aloud after I would say them. Before long they were counting by themselves. These little tips are very simple things that new parents can easily incorporate into your daily schedule. While stacking blocks with your child, count the number of blocks as you stack them, 1, 2, 3, 4, …. Or while emptying the groceries from the bag you can count the number of canned goods. It’s a simple yet fun tool that you can use to get them learning early and often.

Saturday Outing for the Family
I’ve got a great family outing for you and the kids. I know that the perfect Saturday is being able to sleep late, and then have a good pancake breakfast to follow. However if the kids get you up early and your idea of a perfect Saturday is blown, there is no need to worry. I’ve got just the thing for you if don’t mind driving 45 miles to get there. Take the kids down Interstate 75 (I-75) South to Toledo, Ohio, to visit COSI (Columbus Ohio Science Institution). It is a great place for your children to explore the world of science. They have several floors of age-specific hands-on activities that will keep you and your children busy for hours. They have activities for kids as young as infants on up. Believe me there is something there for every age. This is a place you don’t want to miss. In my opinion it is one of the best science and hands-on museums in the area that I’ve visited. To find out more, visit their web site at

Windows of Opportunity
By Mary Lynne R. Crosby

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…
Psalm 139:14
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven Ecclesiastes 3:1

A 1996, Newsweek Article, Your Child’s Brain: How Kids Are Wired For Music, Math & Emotions, by Sharon Begley, states that, “Circuits in different regions of the brain mature at different times. As a result, different circuits are most sensitive to life’s experiences at different ages.”

Anyone with children (or even around children) knows that for better or worse, they soak up everything going on around them like little sponges. The Newsweek article is simply stating that there are certain windows of time when the soaking up is at its peak.

The following learning windows were identified for eight different skill sets. Some suggestions for Christian parents wishing to take advantage of these windows to encourage their children’s development are provided.

Skill: Motor Development
Window of Greatest Opportunity: Birth to 5 years of age
Suggested Activities: For heavens sake, get the kids out from in front of the TV! Yes, there is a time for educational television, but much of a child’s time should be spent exploring the world around him. When weather permits, the local playground is an excellent (and free) place for kids to burn off some energy and develop their motor skills. In the winter, you can enroll your child in a weekly soccer, skating, swimming, or other physical class. You can even put on your favorite gospel CD at home and dance with your child.

Skill: Emotional Control
Window of Greatest Opportunity: Birth to 2 years of age
Suggested Activities: Studies have found that care-givers should mirror a child’s feelings. For example, if your child is excited about something, when you mirror that excitement back to your child, it validates and reinforces that emotion. If, however, your response repeatedly is harsh annoyance, your child becomes confused and the circuits in the brain governing that emotion may not strengthen. The key word here is repeatedly. One annoyed response isn’t going to scar your child for life, but repeated conflicting and negative responses can’t be good for anyone. Stressful environments are also difficult on the emotional circuits in the brain. Studies show that your brain is basically on “high alert” in stressful situations and areas of your brain not used in this heightened state may fall behind in development.

Skill: Vision
Window of Greatest Opportunity: Birth to 2 years of age
Suggested Activities: A 1970 study on kittens (Wiesel and Hubel) found that if you sew one eye of a newborn kitten shut, even after the eye is open, the cat remains blind. If a baby is born with cataracts, despite cataract-removal surgery at age 2, the baby will be forever blind. These studies and more indicate that there is a finite window of about 2 years when the brain is wired for sight. There are many visual stimuli available for purchase at baby stores and toy stores, but the best stimuli for newborns are faces. Babies in particular should be held closely and allowed to just gaze into the eyes of their care-givers.

Skill: Social Attachment
Window of Greatest Opportunity: Birth to 2 years of age
Suggested Activities: The unfortunate state of Romanian orphanages in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s left many infants without physical contact for extended periods of time. Social development in these infants was stunted markedly and their later interactions with others were reportedly very difficult. Babies and children need interaction. They need to be held and talked to. Children need to be loved. Matthew 19:14-15 says, “But Jesus said, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.” Like Jesus, let’s always make time for our children.

Skill: Vocabulary
Window of Greatest Opportunity: Birth to 3 years of age
Suggested Activities: Circuits in the auditory cortex, representing the sounds that form words are wired by age 1. The more words a child hears by 2, the larger his vocabulary will grow. Hearing problems can impair the ability to match sounds to letters. In other words, talk to your child…a lot. And I don’t mean “baby talk.” Babies are trying desperately to learn our language, don’t hinder them by not letting them hear it. Also, make sure that any ear infections are treated promptly so that hearing is not impaired.

Skill: Second Language
Window of Greatest Opportunity: Birth to 10 years of age
Suggested Activities: It’s not clear why the U.S. educational system doesn’t introduce a second language until high school. It is much easier for children under the age of 10 to learn a second language than for a teenager. Parents interested in their children learning a 2nd language should start them along this path early. The earlier the better. Options include private tutors, foreign language immersion charter schools, and foreign language instruction CD-Rom’s/DVD’s for children.

Skill: Math/Logic
Window of Greatest Opportunity: 1 to 4 years of age
Suggested Activities: Circuits for math reside near those for music in the brain’s cortex. Toddlers taught simple concepts, like one and many, do better in math. Music lessons may help develop spatial skills. Parents can play counting games with their child, get their child to help them sort socks from the laundry, and help their child try to reason through life’s every day problems. A membership to the Detroit Science Center is a steal at only $75 a year and allows an entire family free entrance to the Science Center for a year.

Skill: Music
Window of Greatest Opportunity: 3 to 10 years of age
Suggested Activities: Very few concert-level performers begin playing later than the age of 10, so if you want your child to be able to play an instrument well, start early. Children love singing songs. Teach your children basic Bible songs and sing with them during a devotional time. Let your child sit near your church’s band or musicians during the service so they can see what the musicians are doing. In Detroit, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has a children’s series of concerts you can attend. Turn off the talk radio in the car when the kids are with you and put on a VeggieTales or Fruit of the Spirit CD.

Ideas for Fun Family Outings With Your Preschoolers
By Keith Crosby

As the proud parents of two preschool age children, ages 2 and 4, our family is always looking for ideas for outings. Outings are a great alternative to having the little ones sitting in front of the television or playing computer games. And if your little angels are anything like mine they begin to climb the walls if they don’t get out every few days other than preschool classes.

So, Detroit will be running this column over the next few months with ideas for fun outings for parents of preschool age children. Our prayer is that this column will be an informative and helpful source for moms, dads, stay-at-home moms or dads, or any caregivers of little ones who are looking for inexpensive, fun, educational, and stimulating things to do with your gang. We make it a habit to take our explorers out at least once each week on an outing and they have become quite accustomed to it.

Well, since it is winter, I have just the outing for you. A favorite of ours is The New Detroit Science Center. They have a pre-kindergarten area called the SBC Children’s Gallery which provides a 4,000-square-foot space that allows pre-kindergartners to form an interest in science as they play. My kids usually spend at least an hour there each visit. When they get tired of the Children’s Gallery we branch out to the other exhibits throughout the four-story building. And in case you think an outing like this can add up (especially after paying for admission, a couple of hot dogs, and soda), admission is free if you’re a Premium, Regular, or ASTC (Association of Science – Technology Centers) member. We have an annual ASTC membership that allows us free admission to more than 260 ASTC affiliated science museums around the world. So for $90 a year it’s well worth the investment. Happy exploring!

The New Detroit Science Center is located at 5020 John R. Street in Detroit’s Cultural Center. It is located at the corner of John R. and Warren. The Phone number is 313-577-8400 and the website address is