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Resilience: How It’s Developed in Kids and How It Can Affect Their Adult Lives Positively

Resilience is the ability to overcome difficulties and return to a homeostatic state, i.e. return to a state of balance, in the face of adversities – and it can be developed from childhood. In our adult life, resilience is important to overcome life’s obstacles in a clever and kind way to yourself. 

The story Fatima, from Truth and Tales, tells the life of Fatima, the main character who goes through many hurdles but always picks herself up and dusts herself off to continue on her path. The story doesn’t talk about resilience in itself, but it’s one of Fatima’s predominant traits, showing how she handles hard times, tragedies and frustrations while persisting to pursue her goals at the same time.

Let’s understand more about resilience? We have based our article on several materials from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child.

What Is Resilience

Resilience can be defined as “a good outcome in the face of adversity”. Linda C. Mayes is a professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology in the Yale School of Medicine. Linda defines resilience as the “ability or set of capacities for positive adaptation, allowing you to keep in balance”.

We are all born with the ability to be resilient, but since it’s a skill, it needs to be developed. Resilience is built over time just like our brain’s architecture is formed. It’s an individual skill, but it requires interaction between people and the child and the overall community. Resilience needs several factors in order to be developed: responsive relationships, safe community, qualified parents or legal guardians, healthy diets, etc. 

:: Read Also: School Adaptation: How to Prepare Kids and Parents ::

How It Is Developed 

To understand the development of resilience in a more precise way, let’s imagine a seesaw whose base, which is usually fixed in the center, can now move and slide to the left or to the right. On one side of the seesaw, there are protective experiences and skills to face challenges (which help us overcome periods of stress); on the other side, there are adversities. 

Resilience is evident when the child’s health and development tend to yield positive outcomes, even when a load of factors is piled on top of the adversities side of the seesaw. Over time, the cumulative positive impacts of our life experiences and our ability to face challenges are able to move the position of the seesaw’s base, which starts to slide closer to the adversity side, making it easier to reach positive outcomes. 

The most common factor for kids to develop resilience is by having at least one stable and committed relationship with their parents, caregivers or other adults. These relationships provide the base, protection and everything that is necessary to develop the responsive ability  according to the moment’s need. This alleviates the kids’ halt in development. 

They also build key abilities – such as to plan, monitor and regulate behaviors – which allow children to respond adaptively to adversities and, still, prosper. This combination of supportive relationships, the development of adaptive skills and positive experiences are the foundations of resilience. 

Kids who handle difficulties well are usually resilient to adversity and have strong relationships with important adults in their family and in the community where they live. Resilience is the outcome of a combination of protection factors. Alone, not even individual traits or social environments can guarantee positive outcomes for children who go through long periods of toxic stress. It’s the interaction between biology and the environment that builds the kids’ ability to handle adversity and overcome threats and guides them towards a healthy development. 

Is Resilience Just for Kids?

The abilities related to resilience can be strengthened at any age. The brain and other biological systems are more adaptable in the beginning of life. While its development establishes the bases for a wide range of resilient behaviors, it’s never too late to build resilience. 

Activities that promote health and are age appropriate can significantly improve the chances of recovery of an individual whose experiences are stress-inducing. 

For example, regular physical exercise, stress-reducing practices, and activities that actively build executive functioning and self-regulating skills improve both children and adults’ ability to handle, adapt to, and even prevent the adversities that can happen throughout life. 

Adults who strengthen these skills in themselves may even serve as role models and show healthy behaviors in a more effective way to their kids, thus improving the next generation’s resilience. 

Fatima’s Resilience

In the face of the mishaps that occurred throughout Fatima’s life – which is a character from one of the Truth and Tales’ stories – many people can interpret that she is a poor thing persecuted by bad luck and a victim of so many tragedies. However, Fatima demonstrates a lot of power and wisdom by facing and overcoming these obstacles. Her ability to bounce back from all the challenges, despite the pain, exhaustion and adversity, is the result of resilience. 

Stories that are filled with challenges and frustrations are important for kids to have contact with adversity without living them in their own skin. This helps to prepare them to face challenging situations in the context of their own lives. 

Text: Luisa Scherer

Translation: Mariana Gruber

References:

Resilence – Center on the Developing Child – Harvard University

In Brief: What is Resilience? – Center on the Developing CHild – Harvard University

Stress and Resilience: How Toxic Stress Affects Us, and What We Can Do About It – Center on the Developing Child – Harvard University

School Adaptation: How to Prepare Kids and Parents

Many things we go through during our childhood mark our memories, and the first day of school can be one of them, to the kids as well as to the parents.

The school adaptation stage involves not only knowledge related to education and relationship building but also lots of learning and development for the kids. 

Everything is new and, to many families, their kids’ going to school means the experience of living in a context different from before, which used to be formed only by the small nuclear family and friends. 

Considering all this transformation, it’s not just the kids that go through the process of adaptation. Parents also face emotions they hadn’t experienced before. 

In this article, we are going to share a few essential tips on how to prepare for the first time going to school. Keep reading!

Parents Preparation

The pedagogue Paula Strano, one of the founders of the platform Read the World (freely translated from “Ler o Mundo”), talked about the importance of also understanding the adult side of school adaptation (more specifically the mother’s) in an article published by the magazine IstoÉ.

“The process brings great expectations, mainly because of the mothers, who we should strive to understand and be welcoming so that it all runs smoothly, in the best possible way. I mean the best possible way because each adaptation process is unique, each child has their own time and this is the first important issue of this reflection.”

Family therapist and co-owner of Blueprint Mental Health, Michele Levin, in an interview to Healthline, also explained this process for the parents. 

“It’s normal for parents to have a tough time transitioning themselves when their kids begin kindergarten. For a lot of families, this is the first time experiencing losing some control.”

Therefore, the difficulties may be relative to their worries about their kids facing this new reality or to their insecurities about how this process is going to be. The therapist explains that some parents may need more support than others to adjust to the change. In this sense, if you’re a parent or caretaker who’s experiencing this situation and relates to it, the first and foremost thing to do is talk about this subject before anything else. 

Talking to other parents who are going through the same thing and understanding how the school dynamics work are some measures that can make parents feel safer and calmer at this moment. 

:: You may also like: Empathy: What it Is, How it Manifests and How to Recognize it in Kids ::

School Adaptation for Younger Kids

With young kids, it’s worth taking them to the school before the first day of class so that you can participate by showing them around the place, playing with them and getting to know some of the school employees without the pressure of having other kids around and classes about to begin. 

When classes in fact start, keep in mind that your kids may still not have developed their notion of time completely. Sentences like “mommy is right here, we’ll see each other later” may mean nothing to little kids, due to the simple fact that they don’t understand the meaning of “later”. They can only understand that their parents aren’t with them, and that scares them. 

According to Luiza Elena L. Ribeiro do Valle, who is a psychologist and Master in School and Educational Psychology, “early childhood education is a stage of great learning skills development because, in this period, the emergence of neural connections speeds up a lot, creating the personality that is going to ineradicably keep impressions… Which can be good, right? Little kids absorb changes easily and repeat behaviors like social mirrors. We hope they see humanism, collaboration and mutual support, including between parents and the school,” she explains

We must also remember that children only start to understand the sequence of week days clearly between the ages of 4 and 5. Therefore, if your kids are younger than that, it’s not worth talking to them about school before it happens, because they probably won’t understand it. It could cause unnecessary anxiety and do more harm than good. 

Going to school is a big change in younger children’s routines. New relationships are created with their classmates, teachers and other school employees, relationships that didn’t exist before. 

Kids also start living in a new environment with very different rules from the ones they were used to and this transition can be different according to each child. 

Cisele Ortiz, psychologist and coordinator of the Avisa Lá Institute, in São Paulo, in an interview to the Portal Nova Escola (freely translated to “New School Portal”), suggested that there isn’t a set amount of time for this transition. “Overall, the initial period of adaptation lasts between one or two weeks, but it depends on the kid, the family and their previous experiences related to the separations we face in life.” 

Saying Goodbye During School Adaptation 

Saying goodbye in school is usually hard, both for the kids and the parents. Many adults wait for the kid to be distracted before leaving the place, but this can cause the little ones a lot of discomfort. 

Cisele even explains that saying goodbye is fundamental to the adaptation: 

“As hard and painful as it is for both, building a relationship with your children based on trust and honesty is always better. The clarity of saying goodbye is healthy and necessary.” 

The younger kids’ adaptation to school varies according to each one, but parents need to know that, at first, it may be necessary for them to stay with their kids in the classroom. It could be the whole day or just half of it: this need is going to be determined by the child. You let your presence peter out as your kid starts to feel more and more confident. 

“In preschool, children are eager to make friends, they can communicate well and have more autonomy,” explains Cisele. Their adaptation is usually smoother and it can be done in small groups of two to three kids to make their integration easier. All the same, the presence of their families shouldn’t be dismissed. On the first few days, they can help the little ones acquaint themselves with the place and with the pace of the activities. 

Time to Say Goodbye

The ideal is finding the middle ground between saying goodbye like it’s a big event and sneaking out during the adaptation period.

Marcia Tosin is a psychologist who specializes in behavioral psychotherapy and the founder of the “Neuro-compatible” Movement, an activist movement for child development that gathers parents and professionals interested in the ideal conditions for the human brains to develop and function.

It’s based on science: Evolutionary Psychology, Anthropology and Neurobiology. In her Instagram, which has more than 800 thousand followers, Márcia says we don’t need to trick kids, but it’s also not necessary to perform a farewell ritual. 

“… The helplessness reaction felt by the children is due to a really old brain’s answer which destabilizes without the reference figure, and not because they weren’t “warned” that you would leave.” 

Marcia proposes an exercise to better understand how our brain works: imagine that you, an adult, is going to have an invasive surgery. Despite knowing that only 0,9% of the people who undergo this surgery die, your brain says that you are going to be a part of this statistic. This happens because our brain’s compass is always pointing at risks. Your doctor may flood you with useful information and tell you many things to try to calm you down, but the limbic system works alone and leads you towards the worst result. 

Another example is when we are alone at home and hear a noise. It may be completely riskless, but our brains warn us that it could be a predator. 

“It prepares you for the worst: it takes blood away from the extremities so that if the predator rips out your hand you don’t bleed to death; it raises your hairs so that you look bigger; it increases your blood flow in the regions that you need it to fight or flight; it secretes sweat so that you’re more slippery and in order to stabilize your temperature; you’ll get more breathless to increase your oxygen disposal. We have a body that acts before you think. 

The first couple of times kids stay in the school alone, this system is triggered – therefore they cry. This system works regardless of what parents say. School adaptation exists to calm this state of response. There isn’t only one model of school adaptation, but it’s necessary to know that this system exists. It’s not “whining” or lack of frustration.”

In terms of the parents’ nerves or anxiety being a hindrance to their kids’ adaptation to school, Marcia explains that it does not in fact get in the way – quite on the contrary, it protects it. “We have to believe that parents suffer from leaving their kids and there’s nothing wrong with that.” 

Mind the Signs During School Adaptation 

If kids cry constantly when it’s time to go to school, or if there are other signs of extreme anguish, parents need to be cautious. Marcia Tosin used her Instagram account to talk about this issue. 

“You shouldn’t attribute ‘problem’ causes to these behaviors. It would increase parents’ guilt. They are simply little people who need more time to form attachment and feel safe in this transition.” 

Pedagogue Ana Paula Yazbek, writer of UOL’s Portal Papo de Mãe column, also wrote about the subject. 

“Each kid and family experience this period in their own way. There are children who get very excited on the first few days and that, as they realize that being in school means being away from home, start to refuse to go and feel strange. Others may seem unaware of their surroundings, as if they’re only waiting for the time to go home. There are also kids who display an eagerness for new experiences and who pay very little attention to their family when they have to say goodbye. 

Dubiousness is inherent to the adaptation process. On the same day there could be progress and setbacks in the safety felt by both the kids and their parents; it’s up to the institutions to offer support so that the trust bond is established progressively.” 

When it comes to bigger kids, the adaptation may also require some care since they feel insecure and miss their parents the same as the younger ones. 

Reminding children that you can go back to school to pick them up or call them so they hear your voice are measures that can be reassuring and calming for them during this adaptation period. Bringing an object to school that smells like their parents for when kids are missing them can also be helpful. 

When questioning about your kids’ school day, pay attention to the answer, because they may point towards issues your children are facing during the adaptation. 

The period of school adaptation is laden with challenges since it’s extremely important for kids’ learning and development. Both the parents and the school are fundamental to this process and, in this sense, must be aligned with each other and in constant conversation. 

:: Also Read: Inclusive Play: How to Include All Kids During Play Time ::

The Importance of Communication 

Kids can be both extremely excited and anxious at the beginning of school. To help the little ones handle these emotions, our main tip is a lot of conversations (for children older than 4) about the new routine. 

These talks may arise in spontaneous moments such as during parent-child play times, for example. 

Another tip is that parents visit the school before the first day of class to get to know the environment and which activities and timetables will be planned for the first day. It’s also important to meet the school’s team and not just the teachers, since many employees will be able to offer support to the kids during the adaptation process. 

And about communicating with your kids, the Ministry of Education Portal shared some tips for parents to deal with the experience of the first few days of school: 

What family members can check with their kids about the care they received in kindergarten:

•    Ask the names of the teachers and other employees;

•    Ask the names of their closest friends;

•    Ask them what they enjoyed doing the most that day;

•    Encourage them to tell and narrate some situations they went through there;

•    Which songs did they sing or listen to;

•    What did they do on the play time;

•    Which paintings, drawings, sculptures did they make;

•    Which book did the teacher read;

•    Which story did the teacher tell;

•    What are they learning, among others. 

What family members can observe directly in the child about the care they received in kindergarten:

•    Note the kids’ behavior when they arrive at the institution (joy, shyness, crying). 

•    Note daily and carefully while you’re talking to the kids – their looks, their gestures, their speaking and their reactions may help to evaluate their physical and emotional states. 

•    Note the kids’ reactions to seeing their classmates, this may show how they’re getting along with their class. 

•    Note the productions and the materials they bring from the institution. 

Give Your Kids Comfort During School Adaptation

Talking about school and how important this childhood experience is may help kids feel more comfortable on the first day of school. Try telling them how your first time going to school was, talk about other kids who are close to them and have lived through this moment. 

If possible, take your kids to get to know the school before the first day of class, because that way your kids will already know a little of the new environment. Explain that feeling insecure and fearful before going to school is common. 

Allowing the kids to be a part of the process involved in going to school, such as taking them to buy school supplies, may also be useful in order for the little ones to have a pleasurable moment that’s related to school. 

Arriving early on the first day of school and taking the kids to the classroom conveys security. Also, reassure them that within a few hours you are going to be together again. 

Many things can happen throughout the adaptation process or even after that. And that’s okay, it’s normal! Something very common is for the kids to start crying and screaming by the school entrance, refusing to go to class, when they were already adapted. If this happens, talk to the teachers and, if necessary, restart the school adaptation process. This gives your kids more confidence. 

Text: Débora Nazário

Translation: Mariana Gruber

Jataka Buddhist Tales for Kids

Oral tradition is part of many cultures around the world. It was through tales, legends, fables and stories that information was spread in the past – and that remains true today. Among Buddhists, it isn’t different. Today we are going to talk about Jataka, the Buddhist tales originally from India that narrate the past lives of Buda Shakyamuni, who lived from 563 BC to 483 BC. 

Jataka Buddhist Tales

The Jataka tales are a collection of 547 Buddhist stories of morality in which Buddha tells about some of his past lives and the path to enlightenment. The term Jataka means “narrative of birth” in the Pali language. Despite being part of the Pali Canon, the sacred Buddhist book, the tales lean more towards folklore than religion. In the Jatakas, the Buddhist stories, the Bodhisattva (someone determined to become enlightened, like a student before becoming Buddha) is usually born as an animal and overcomes difficulties or solves problems in a creative and funny way. 

The stories represent directly or indirectly the tireless improvement of the Bodhisattva throughout their countless rebirths, over which they practiced the Ten Perfections: generosity, virtue, renunciation, determination, energy, patience, loving kindness, wisdom, truthfulness, and equanimity. 

Each Jataka represents one of Buddha’s rebirths in different realms of the cyclic existence called Samsara and shows how the law of cause and effect, also known as karma, works. 

Going beyond “once upon a time” stories, the Jatakas were used due to their moral and spiritual teachings. 

Inside Buddhist Culture: Who Is Buddha

Buddha is a title given in Buddhism to beings who become fully awake to the true nature of phenomena and share such discovery with others. 

Such awakening consists of the understanding that all phenomena are impermanent, unsatisfying and impersonal, and those that become Buddha become aware of this reality, thus living to the fullest and free from mental conditioning. 

Buddha can also refer to Siddhartha Gautama, a prince from a Nepal region who renounced his throne to dedicate himself to the search of eradicating the causes of suffering of all beings. In this search, Siddhartha Gautama found the path to enlightenment and became a master and spiritual teacher, founding Buddhism. 

Three Jataka Buddhist Tales for Kids: 

The King’s White Elephant

Once upon a time, there lived a herd of eighty thousand elephants at the bottom of the majestic Himalayas. Their leader was a majestic white elephant who was extremely kind-hearted. He dearly loved his old and blind mother and took great care of her.

Each day, the white elephant would go deep into the forest in search the best of wild fruit to offer his mother. He used to send fruits for his mother through his messengers. The messengers were a bunch of greedy elephants. They used to eat the fruits themselves and never gave anything to the white elephant’s old mother. The white elephant was completely disappointed with his herd.

Then one day, he decided to abandon the herd and go with his mother to Mount Candorana to live in a cave beside a beautiful lake that had lovely pink lotuses.

It so happened that one day, a forester from Banaras lost his way in the forest and was absolutely terrified to find himself alone in the thick woods. He was weeping bitterly and desperately looking to find some help. The white elephant took pity on the man and promised to help him. He knew every inch of that dense forest and showed him the way out to Banaras city. The forester thanked the white elephant and happily went home.

Then after some days, the forester got to hear the news that king Brahmadutta’s personal elephant had died and he was looking for a new elephant. The forester thought that if he would tell the king about the majestic white elephant that he had seen on Mount Candorana, he would certainly get a reward. So, he went and told the king about the white elephant. The king decided to go in the search of that white elephant the very next day.

The forester then led the king and his men to the place where the white elephant lived. When the white elephant saw the forester, he realized that it was he who had led the king’s men to him. He was very upset at the man’s selfishness and ingratitude. He decided not to put up a fight because it would have led to unnecessary bloodshed. So, the white elephant went along with the king and his men to the Banaras city.

That night when the white elephant did not return home, his mother was very worried. She had heard all the commotion outside and had guessed that the king’s men must have taken away her son. She just lay down in her cave and cried bitterly.

Meanwhile, the white elephant was led in to the beautiful city of Banaras where he was given a grand reception in the royal elephant shed. The keepers had laid out a feast for him and decorated the stable with fragrant flowers. But, the elephant neither touched the food nor seemed to be impressed with the beautiful and comfortable shed. He just sat there with a sad expression on his face.

The matter was reported to the king. The king came to visit the white elephant and find out what ailed him. On questioning, the white elephant told the king about his blind old mother. He expressed a desire to go back to her as in his absence she would not be able to sustain herself and die.

The compassionate king was touched by the elephant’s story and asked him to return to his blind, old mother and take care of her as he had been doing all along. The happy elephant went running home as fast as he could. His mother could immediately recognise the scent of her son and was overjoyed to have him back. She blessed the kind king with peace, prosperity and joy till the end of his days.

The white elephant took good care of his mother till the day she died. The king often used to come and visit him in the forest. And when the white elephant died himself, the king erected a statue of him by the side of the lake and held an annual elephant festival there in his memory.

:: You can also read: Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Learn More About the World’s Most Famous Children’s Stories ::

The Wise Goat and the Wolf

Once upon a time, hundreds of wild goats lived in a cave situated upon a hill. A wolf also lived with his wife in another cave nearby. Just like all the other wolves, the wolf couple also liked the taste of goat-meat. So they caught the goats, one after another, and ate them all. But, there was one wise goat who always managed to outsmart the wolf couple. No matter how hard the wolf couple tried to catch the wise goat, she somehow always outsmarted them.

One day the wolf said to his wife, “My dear, let us play a trick on that wise goat. You go alone to her cave and tell her that I am dead. Try to win over her sympathy by looking sad and then seek her help in burying my body. I am sure that the goat will feel sorry for you and agree to come here with you. When she will come near me, I will bite her in the neck and kill her. Both of us will enjoy her delicious meat then.”

The wolf then lay down, and his wife went to meet the goat, saying what she had been told to say. The wise goat heard the she-wolf’s story but kept sitting inside the cave and said, “”My dear, you and your late husband have killed all my relatives and friends. I do not think I am too safe out there with you.”

“Do not be afraid! I am mourning the death of my husband and thus I have decided not to kill any animal for one week,” said the wolf. “And my husband is dead now. So, what harm can a dead wolf do to you?”

The she-wolf managed to convince the goat to accompany her. The wise goat set out to the wolf’s cave but as she was still unsure of the she-wolf’s intentions, she asked the she-wolf to stay ahead of her.

Meanwhile the he-wolf who was pretending to be dead since a long time in front of his cave, started to get impatient. He was hungry and he raised up his head a little to see whether the goat was coming with his wife or not. The goat saw him raise his head, and ran back to her cave.

“Why did you have to raise your head? We almost had the wise goat in our clutches,” the she-wolf scolded her husband. He had no good answer. The she-wolf said, “Though your foolishness has spoiled everything, I will still try once again to bring the goat back to our cave.”

The she-wolf went back to the wise goat’s cave and said, “My friend, your presence is divine! The moment you came near my husband, he sprung back to life. He is now very much better. I am indeed very thankful to you. Let us be friends and have a good time together.”

The wise goat knew that the she-wolf was again trying to pull a trick on her. She said, “My friend, I am glad to hear the good news. We must share it with as many animals as we can. I will bring some of my friends also to your cave. Then we can all have a good time together.”

The she-wolf had no idea who these friends were, so she asked the goat, “Who are your friends? Tell me their names.” The wise goat said, “I will bring the two hounds, Old Gray and Young Tan and a big bull-dog called Four-Eyes. I will also ask them to bring their mates.”

The she-wolf was scared of the dogs and fled to her cave. She told her husband about the ferocious friends of the wise goat. The wolf couple took to their heels and the wise goat never saw either of them again.

The Ox Who Envied The Pig

Once, a farmer had two big and strong oxen by the names of Big Red and Little Red on his farm. He also owned a little pig that used to live with the oxen. The oxen used to work very hard in the farmer’s field. The pig did nothing and just idled around.

One day, the farmer fixed his daughter’s wedding. He ordered his men to fatten the pig for the wedding feast. And since that day, the farmer’s men started feeding a rich diet to the pig.

Seeing this, Little Red said to Big Red, “Brother, just look at the good fortune of this lazy pig! He is getting to eat all the delicious dishes without doing anything. Despite working so hard in the fields, we get to eat only some straws and grass.”

Big Red replied, “Dear brother, do not envy the pig. He is eating the food of death. He is being fattened up for the wedding feast. He would soon be slaughtered by the farmer. It is better to eat dry grass and straws and live long rather than have a rich feast and get killed.”

Sources:

Text: Luisa Scherer

Translation: Mariana Gruber

Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Learn More About the World’s Most Famous Children’s Stories

You’ve certainly already heard the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and Thumbling. Many of them have become classical kids movies that charmed different generations and remain present in children’s lives. These stories, among many others, are part of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Since we have already talked about Aesop’s Fables, today we are going to discuss other popular kids stories: the Grimm’s Fairy Tales

What Are the Grimm’s Fairy Tales

The Grimm’s Fairy Tales are composed of fairy tales, fables and other stories published by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. There are 2 collections: the first, with 86 stories, was published in 1812; the second, with 70 stories, was published in 1814. Both collections had several editions and in each one some stories were added, while others were removed. In addition to these two volumes of short stories, the Brothers Grimm also published a small selection of 50 short kids stories in 1825. 

Initially, the Brothers Grimm published the stories with the intention of preserving the oral culture of the popular stories they heard in Germany, the country where they lived. Therefore, many stories weren’t appropriate for kids: there were evil characters, violence and sexual undertones. 

But all the stories were part of Germany’s collective imagination of the 19th Century and the oral culture that had survived until then. The stories helped people face challenges and transmitted the wisdom of that culture

The Brothers Grimm also recorded these stories with the purpose of organizing all the linguistic elements that would ground the philological studies of the German language. To sum it up, they wanted the German traditions, culture and language to be recorded and preserved, since back then the lands that today are part of Germany were constantly threatened by the Napoleonic wars. 

Moral of the Story

The most common tales that contain moral lessons are the Aesop’s Fables. The Grimm’s Fairy Tales don’t present moral lessons as openly, despite having something to teach. However, many adaptations of these stories add a moral lesson in order to make the teaching they are transmitting very clear.

As we explained in detail in the article about Greek Fables, we believe that giving a moral lesson to stories limits their teachings and what we can learn from them. After all, a story can yield countless interpretations and each person can see and absorb different wisdoms from the same tales. 

The Evolution of the Fairy Tales Over Time

Jacob and Wilhelm weren’t very concerned with the contents of the stories they were recording, after all, the purpose there was to keep the culture alive. It was common to find scenes of mutilation, mothers as villains, violent vengeances, terrorizing endings and a lot of tragedy. 

The problem is that the first edition was published in 1812 as “the Children’s and Household Tales”, and it wasn’t an immediate success – you can imagine why. In the last editions published by the brothers, they adapted and modified the plots in order to make the stories more appropriate for kids. 

The Grimm’s Fairy Tales Today

The Grimm’s Fairy Tales remained part of Germany’s cultural imagery and crossed borders by charming the whole world. Walt Disney’s classic films are adaptations of Grimm’s Fairy Tales; the theaters of many countries welcome plays and musicals based on the brothers’ stories, and many different books adapting or reinterpreting the stories were published. 

The fairy tales from today are different from the originals and even from the adapted versions created by the Brothers Grimm themselves. The stories underwent several changes over time in order to fit the historical and cultural context of each period and country. 

In spite of that, Jacob and Wilhem managed to accomplish their initial goal: that the German oral tradition continue alive through generations. 

Teaching Stories x Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Teaching Stories are also ancient tales, just like the ones from the Brothers Grimm. However, while Teaching Stories pass on wisdom from one culture and people, the Grimm’s Fairy Tales aimed to disseminate the social customs and rules. This isn’t the only difference between the Teaching Stories and the Grimm’s Fairy Tales – as they have many. 

The main one is the need to adapt. Teaching Stories travel through generations without needing major adaptations, since the wisdom transmitted is connected to the structure of the story. In the Teaching Stories, it’s possible to switch the characters’ genders and change the animals in the stories, for example, without it losing its essence. The Teaching Stories’ adaptation need is in the details, since the transmission of wisdom transcends the characters and narrative details, making them more adequate throughout generations. 

The Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales, on the other hand, need more and more adaptations in order to adjust to each generation. The need to adapt is becoming necessary increasingly fast due to the changes in paradigms regarding misogyny, racism, and the search for equality, for example. It’s difficult to find an old tale that doesn’t require any adaptation for today’s kids, but the Grimm’s Fairy Tales are structured in a way that they lose their meaning in the face of too many narrative changes.

Many elements of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales are tied: from the characters and their physical and personality traits to the narrative and its structure. This makes it harder for the main goal of the tales to remain after the necessary tweaks have been made to adjust them to future generations, since the social customs and rules have changed a lot since the publication of these stories.

The Truth and Tales app has Teaching Stories for kids! They’re offered in two formats: interactive stories and audio books. In the interactive stories, kids can listen and read the story at the same time – and even have fun with the interactive aspects and mini games; the audio books, by contrast, allows kids to only listen to the story, which can be used in moments that require more peace and quiet, such as before going to bed or during car trips.

Text: Luisa Scherer

Translation: Mariana Gruber

Inclusive Play: How to Include All Kids During Play Time

When kids are playing games or taking part in play activities they are learning, in addition to having fun and practicing empathy. These activities promote the development of skills, improve their perception of their surroundings and stimulate their creativity a lot. Inclusive play activities and games can be great allies in the inclusion of children with disabilities in school and in society in general. Learn more about inclusive play and games in this article. 

Raimundo A. Dinello is a PhD in Psychology with a specialization in Educational Orientation and is also a former Sociology of Education professor from the Free University of Brussels. He states that “games play a role in psychomotor development and in the kid’s social domain’s process of learning. It is possible to exercise mental processes, language development and social habits through games”.

All these benefits can also stimulate inclusion, both in the classroom and in other environments. By means of playing games, kids with disabilities can exercise their autonomy and have fun at the same time while also learning. 

When kids whose disabilities are motor, cognitive, visual, hearing, speech or language play games or participate in play activities, they are overcoming extremely relevant challenges to their development, which also impacts their mental health. 

Inclusive Play and Games Promote More Interaction Among Kids 

The Guia do Brincar Inclusivo (freely translated to “Guide to Inclusive Play”), developed by the Unicef’s Project “Incluir Brincando” by Meire Cavalcante, a master and PhD student in Education and Inclusion from Unicamp, points out that “people are different – and that is what makes the world so rich. What should be “equals”, in fact, are the opportunities to survive and develop, to learn, to grow up without violence and to play (…)”.

By planning activities, games and educational materials, you need to ask yourself a key question: does what I’m going to offer allow everyone to play together, regardless of each student’s characteristics? 

In order to promote games and play activities which are inclusive to all the kids, you need to pay attention to some details and, if necessary, make a few tweaks that will make all the difference

Meire Cavalcante also wrote for the website “Nova Escola” about the theme. “Kids and teenagers with mental disabilities usually struggle to focus for a long period of time. In order to keep their attention, dynamic activities that involve lots of colors are recommended.” 

Examples of Inclusive Play and Games 

The Guide to Inclusive Play presents a series of inclusive activities and also offers adjustments for the games you already have at home. 

“To make games more accessible, some simple and inexpensive adjustments can be made: creating raised marks with string or plastic paint; using materials such as velcro or magnets; changing the rules; creating bigger cards and dice to facilitate reading to those with low sight; using big pieces with straps for kids with physical disabilities; using signs and subtitles written in braille; or using textures and colors”

Memory Game

The memory game’s a childhood classic. It stimulates attention and concentration and trains kids’ memories and logical thinking. To make a memory game inclusive, you just need a few simple adjustments.

The outline of the game pieces can be marked with plastic paint, which will dry up and form a raised shape. This raised shape makes it easier for kids who have some visual impairments to perceive and identify the game pieces. Another possibility is to glue tiny objects such as buttons, glitter, sandpaper, cotton balls or wool – due to their different textures. 

The introduction of adjustments like that, which add texture on top of the smooth surfaces of game pieces or toys, are also beneficial from the psychomotor perspective. By touching these textures, kids with disabilities will develop motor, cognitive and sensory skills at the same time.

Dominoes Game 

You can adapt the game of dominoes in a very simple manner, by simply putting hot glue into the dots of each piece. This creates raised shapes in the pieces, which makes them easier to be handled and identified by kids with visual impairment. In this case, kids who aren’t visually impaired can cover their eyes with a cloth, in order to increase their interactions during the game.  

Uno

Uno is a game created in the seventies and that has since then gained many fans around the world. It is estimated that, to this day, 200 million copies of the game have already been sold. 

One of Uno’s remarkable traits is the color of the cards, since each turn is made according to the colors and numbers on the cards. 

In 2017, a colorblind-friendly version of the game was released. This version’s cards are marked with the iconographic symbols of universal color codes for the colorblind, or ColorADD

The symbols are located next to the number of each card. All the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) have different symbols that, combined, form a different color. 

How it works in practice: the combination of the yellow card dash and the blue card triangle form the symbol present on a green card.

In addition to the cards being different for having color symbols, they can also be recreated by joining two cards. The fact that the green symbol is the combination of the yellow and the blue symbols, for example, makes it easier for kids to identify which color is which.

Everyone can play!

The Guide to Inclusive Play also offered some tips so that everyone can play: 

  • Encourage kids to help those with reduced mobility and other difficulties;
  • Use balls with rattles and audible objects; 
  • Ensure the ground of the environment is smooth enough to allow the circulation of wheelchairs;
  • Respect kids who are hypersensitive to touch and sight (carry out activities in their rhythm); 
  • Create toys to explore figures, colors, smells, textures and sounds;
  • Always ask their family or health professional whether there are any restrictions to play time; 
  • Teach the activities and games to the families so they can play them at home with their kids;
  • In game cards, get a card holder for kids with physical disabilities;
  • Interfere when someone is excluded from the games;
  • Don’t allow unequal treatment in the group;
  • Offer play activities that go against gender prejudices;
  • Prioritize activities that value each kid’s strength (not their struggles). 

:: You can also read: Empathy: What it Is, How it Manifests and How to Recognize it in Kids ::

Online Inclusive Play and Games

The Laboratório de Objetos de Aprendizagem (LOA) (freely translated to “Laboratory of Learning Objects”) from the Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar), has been developing games for visually-impaired kids since 2012. 

To this day, 5 games have been created:

Within each of these games’ rules and gameplay, it is possible to exercise concepts of math, Portuguese, chemistry, music, and health notions. 

Game Filters

Nvidia Corporation, a tech company based in Santa Clara, California, created a filter tool in 2018 that can be incorporated into several computer games. 

In order to gain access to this tool, you need to install the most recent version of Game Ready Driver. After that, NVIDIA Freestyle will allow the game user to change the appearance of their chosen game, through color adjustments or post-processing filter application.

Within the filters categories, there is the colorblind mode, which allows colorblind players to identify colors more easily. 

Written by Débora Nazário

Translated by Mariana Gruber

EDITOR’S NOTE

Technology has become more and more of an ally to digital inclusion. Voice assistants, Alt Text on Instagram and other similar measures embrace more people. Some of them are more complex and require more sophisticated programs and technologies, but many simple things can be taken into account when creating inclusive content. 

We can mention a few facilitators in kids games and kids apps that make them more inclusive: 

  • Captions in the content;
  • Audiobooks;
  • Activities with a voice-over feature;
  • Use of shapes and patterns to help the colorblind

But inclusion goes beyond physical disabilities. The app Domlexia, for example, has games that help kids with dyslexia learn how to read. Fun interactive games plus phonological exercises help kids with dyslexia develop what they need in order to learn letters and phonemes, thus aiding their literacy process. 

Another application with inclusive aspects is Truth and Tales. Every Truth and Tales activity is narrated, therefore kids who haven’t learnt how to read yet can use the app without missing out on the experience. The app also has audio books – stories with audio only – that can be listened to by kids who are visually impaired.

In some mini games within the interactive stories, colors are used to differentiate between one object and another, but we also use different shapes and patterns so that colorblind people can complete the challenges. 

At last, Truth and Tales offers physical exercises that return people to their natural, homeostatic state, helping everyone – not only kids – to become calmer and return to their body and mind’s balanced state. Our homeostatic exercises can help kids with attention deficit, hyperactivity and anxiety. Download it and try it out

Greek Fables as Stories for Kids

Fables exist in cultures all over the world and are used as an instrument of wisdom transmission. Greek fables are quite famous, mainly in Western culture, and have been present in many people’s lives since their early childhoods. They appear in kids books and educational materials and are transmitted orally in the classroom and at home.

Greek Fables Origin

The origin of Greek fables can’t be traced back exactly, but history mentions Aesop, a storyteller supposedly born in the sixth or seventh century B.C in Asia Minor, who was later brought to Greece as an enslaved man. 

One of the earliest known books printed in Guntenberg’s press in 1476 was Aesop’s Fables. French poet Jean de La Fontaine, who lived in the seventeenth century, was a great promoter of Aesop’s Fables. 

According to Theon of Alexandria (math and astronomy professor as well as scholar of books from classic authors, who lived from AD 335 to 400): “The Fable is an invented story that illustrates the truth”

What are fables?

Fables rely on animal characters with human traits.

According to InfoEscola, fables “make an analogy between human reality and the situation lived by the characters with the intent of teaching something or proving a well-established truth”, as Theon of Alexandria pointed out. Many call this well-established truth a moral lesson. 

Storytelling is an old and universal form of entertainment. For this reason, the fable’s purpose is to impact and clarify moral, ethical and social values in a pleasant, gentle, effective and non-threatening way. 

Greek fables are used as an educational tool in order to illustrate a society’s ethical, moral and social rules, so that people (usually kids) learn them without the need to live through a similar experience. 

Due to their ancient nature and to the fact that they have been spread orally throughout history, Greek fables suffered alterations and transformations with time. Its “moral lessons” at the end of the fables didn’t use to exist and people were free to interpret the story and reflect on it as they wished. 

The Moral Lesson in Greek Fables

The moral lesson might be the most popular aspect of the fables. The moral lesson is an item which is present in every single article published about fables, in every research website, information books, in how to create a fable, and so on and so forth. 

I can even remember some sentences that originate from the fables’ moral lessons: “Slow and steady wins the race”; “All actions have consequences”; “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”

In the book “A Companion to the Works of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing”, the author John Pizer brings up some important issues raised by Lessing, a German poet, playwright, philosopher and art critic who lived in the seventeenth century. 

According to Lessing, the fables’ moral teachings have to be intuitive. Describing a fox as astute, a dog as loyal and a rooster as proud, is for him part of the semiotics of allegory, which “presuppose a need for relatively overt narrative description in linking an animal’s moral attributes to its character”. 

Lessing says that, in a simple fable, in which there are no semiotics of allegory, “such associations are directly intuited”. In other words, there’s no need to label the character because the reader will perceive its traits. According to the author, the semiotics of allegory “would block the intuitive cognition of a moral truth by now allowing the reader’s imagination to do its own work. This process of intuitive cognition is at the core of Lessing’s famous summary definition of the fable”, which “presupposes the perceptions of the narrated event as real, a perception that detailed description, given its ‘inanimate’ quality, can only obscure”. 

Considering Lessing’s stance on the subject, we leave a few important questions here: 

  • Wouldn’t it be richer to let kids think for themselves about what the story is teaching?
  • Is there really only one moral lesson in a fable?
  • What if there are more things we’re not perceiving because we assume that the moral lesson taught to us is the right one? 

:: You may also like: Stories with Humor Are Beneficial to the Brain and to Cognitive Development ::

The effect of fables on kids:

According to Theda Detlor in the book “Aesop´s Fables – Reproducible Read-Aloud Tales With Instant Activities that Get Kids Discussing, Writing About & Acting on the Important Lessons in The Wise & Classic Stories”, fables help kids in many aspects: 

  • Develops their understanding of metaphors: kids are challenged to connect a series of concrete actions to a certain moral value, abstract from something specific to something more general, and understand figurative language. This promotes high-level thinking as kids develop their skills to interpret meanings and metaphors, make inferences and judgments, and create alternate solutions. 
  • Applies ethical issues to real life situations: kids develop critical thinking regarding story events and apply it to a range of ethical issues, using them in several events from the real world. 
  • Builsd a community in the classroom: through discussion and debate, kids learn to listen to one another and express their opinions about ethical behaviors. They learn to extract and expand the meaning of stories and discuss real life questions using moral reasoning. Such reflections give kids an ethical foundation in the classroom, as they explore themes and values which will create a solid ethical community. 
  • Facilitates the literacy process: the fable’s concise structure and language have an amazing effect on young readers and writers. Kids learn to recognize the structure of predictable narratives and their patterns and apply this to their own creations.
  • Fosters ethical and moral development: using the shared context of the stories, kids feel more comfortable about exploring the moral domain, developing critical thinking about ethical issues and reflecting on their own values. 

The Most Famous Greek Fables

The Ant and the Grasshopper:

The grasshopper liked to sing and enjoy life without worrying about the future. The ant, on the other hand, worked hard to store food, mainly during the summer, in order to have enough to eat throughout the winter. 

While the ant worked, the grasshopper sang. It also tried to persuade the ant to stop working and come sing with it. 

When winter came, the grasshopper had nothing to eat. The ant, however, since it had worked all summer long, was well-prepared to survive the winter. 

The Tortoise and the Hare:

The hare and the tortoise lived in the woods. The hare would always tease the tortoise for being slow and, one day, the tortoise said enough. It decided to challenge the hare to a race, who accepted, sure that it would win. 

Once the race started, both started running. The hare was way quicker than the tortoise, to the point it decided to lie down to rest right next to the finish line. However, the tortoise kept going at its slow pace and eventually reached the finish line before the hare, which woke up when it was already too late. 

The Fox and the Grapes:

Starving, the fox walked through an orchard until it spotted a bunch of grapes. It noticed the grapes were ripe and perfect to be eaten. Since the path was clear and no one was around, the fox decided to pick the grapes. 

The grapes were hanging high in the vines, but the fox spared no effort to try to catch them, despite its own limitations. It tried to reach the grapes through many ways. 

After several failed attempts, the fox was exhausted and disappointed, as well as still starving. Admitting defeat, it shrugged, turned around and left. It felt so frustrated by its unsuccessful attempts that it tried to comfort itself by saying, scornfully: “Actually, looking carefully, the grapes were rotten and not as ripe as they seemed to be when I saw them for the first time.” 

The Lion and the Mouse:

There was a lion who lived in a forest and who was feared by all the animals. One day, he was sleeping with a full belly under the shade of a tree when a little mouse woke him up as he tip-toed past him. 

Startled, the lion caught the mouse beneath his paw. The little mouse begged the lion not to eat him. He begged him so much, the lion let him go. 

Some time later, the lion was strolling through the forest. Suddenly, he got trapped in a hunter’s net. He roared in anger because he couldn’t escape. 

The little mouse, who was close by, went to check what was happening and spotted the lion stuck in the trap. He quickly gnawed at the ropes until the lion was free. 

Written by Luisa Scherer

Translated by Mariana Gruber

Editor’s Note

Knowing the fables are tools to develop many functions during childhood, we have brought them to Truth and Tales, our kids stories app that has many interactive stories for kids. 

Leo, the Lion is one of the stories available in the Truth and Tales Library, as an interactive story and in audiobook format as well. Leo, the Lion has many similarities to Rumi’s stories, to Aesop’s fables and to Indian and Afghan fables. The interactive story is an adaptation to technology in which kids can roar as lions, make music with flowers and even see themselves as a lion with the Augmented Reality tool.

There is no moral lesson in Truth and Tales’ stories because we believe that kids are free to perceive the teachings and wisdoms of the story, which can be infinite. 

Download the app and try out one of the interactive stories or audiobooks!

Stories with humor are beneficial to the brain and to cognitive development

Childhood is a time during which we learn a lot and cognitive development is being constantly stimulated when we are little. Stories with humor in them also have an important role in this development. 

Each new stimulus children receive makes them explore the world, their senses, and, therefore, learn and interact with their environment. Reading stories is a way to stimulate these learnings. 

In this article, we explained that reading stimulates the growth of white matter in the brain, which is a set of nervous fibers in the brain that help it to learn and function. 

The benefits of stories with humour for kids

Researchers Olufolake Orekoya, Edmund SS Chan and Maria PY Chik, all from Hong Kong Baptist University, wrote the article “Humor and Reading Motivation in Children: Does the Tickling Work?”. In this article, they explain how reading and, mainly, literature with elements of humor can be beneficial to children’s learning. 

They present a two-year investigation about learning and teaching children’s literature done by five universities with elementary school students. It reveals that most children prefer reading books that make them laugh

The results also showed that what makes children avid readers are books with funny stories. The study reported what were children’s preferences when it came to reading, which goes from funny stories to adventurous ones,  fantasy and others. 

Children are easily adaptable to the bond in humor and creativity, both of which help cognitive development. As children grow up and become more cognitively mature, they may appreciate different forms of humor present in the stories. 

Reading, humor and cognitive development

The article states that “humor appreciation is closely related to cognitive development”. “When a child is engaged in humour appreciation, he or she intends to finish a problem-solving exercise to identify and unfold the incongruity hidden beneath the humour stimuli.” (Zigler, Levine, & Gould, 1967)

“Literature confirms the benefits and significance of humour for school learning socially, cognitively, affectively and behaviorally since it facilitates playful learning environment, lessened learning anxiety, stimulated students’ learning motivation, and deepened teacher-student relationship (Davies & Apter, 1980).”

“When children read humourous texts, they engaged in a ‘cognitive play’, ‘where words and concepts are used in ways that are surprising, unusual, and incongruous, activating schemas with which they are not normally associated’ (Martin, 2007, p. 109; Shultz & Robillard, 1980).”

According to Rod A. Martin, reading as a cognitive activity possibly activates “positive emotion of mirth (i.e. enjoyment), leading to enhancement of creativity, memory and social virtues that include: sense of responsibility, helpfulness and generosity) (Martin, 2007).”  

Humor theories

John Morreall, who is a PhD in Philosophy and Emeritus Professor of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, evaluated three traditional theories regarding laughter and humor: the Theory of Superiority, the Theory of Relief and the Theory of Incongruity. Based on these theories, he put forward a new one which claims that humor is cognitive play

John explains that “not all laughter is about persons, and so there need be no comparison of persons”, as it was stated in the Theory of Superiority of humor. He says “we may be amused by a stage comedian doing a perfect impression of some movie star without comparing ourselves with that comedian or the movie star. And even if we do compare ourselves with persons about whom we are laughing, we need not judge ourselves superior to them. They may make us laugh by surprising us with unexpected skills that we lack.” 

“After two millennia in which the Superiority Theory was the only widely accepted account of laughter, the Relief Theory and the Incongruity Theory emerged in the 18th century. According to the Relief Theory, laughter operates like a safety valve in a steam pipe, releasing built-up nervous energy.”

This theory, however, started to be questioned. The act of speaking and the elements of humor in said speech didn’t seem to require emotions. In addition, some experiences of fun also rely solely on the element of surprise. The Theory of Incongruity was one of the most widely accepted in the twentieth century, since it stated that “humorous amusement is a reaction to something that violates our mental patterns and expectations.” 

Reflections on the theories of humor

After considering the theories of humor mentioned above, professor John Morreall wrote that there are four insights. “First, humor is a cognitive phenomenon – it involves perceptions, thoughts, mental patterns, and expectations. Secondly, humor involves a change of cognitive state. Thirdly, that cognitive change is sudden. And fourthly, amusement is pleasurable.” 

To these four insights he added others: 

“ 1) Humor is a nonserious activity in which we suspend practical concern and concern about what is true. 

2) Humor is primarily a social experience.

3) Humor is a form of play in which laughter serves as a play signal. Coining the term shift for a sudden change, we can say that humor involves the enjoyment of cognitive shifts.”

Putting all these ideas together, he presented the following theory of humorous amusement: 

Laughter makes people experience a cognitive shift and “their playful disengagement and their pleasure are expressed in laughter, which signals to others that they can relax and enjoy the cognitive shift too.”

How humor affects the brain

Brian David Boyd, professor from The University of Auckland in New Zealand, explains that laughter, although it is often triggered by words, is in itself pre-verbal and non-verbal

According to an excerpt from his article, “laughter and sobbing are ‘the first two social vocalizations that children make’; unlike speech, they are relatively involuntary, socially contagious, and with a consistent emotional valence; like other primate social calls they do not require fine articulation but only an ’alternation of the presence and absence of vocal sounds, superimposed on relatively more stable mouth postures,’ and their motor activity depends on mid-brain and brain stem circuits rather than the higher speech centers.”

Training for the unexpected

This confident sharing of expectations that happens in verbal communication is essential for social play. This also happens in games and activities, so that there is as much room as possible for the unexpected. 

Shared expectations that allow for surprises that catch us off guard, that simulate risk and stimulate recovery, are the key not only to play of all kinds but also to humor. In jokes we are often primed for surprise, but despite our actively seeking to anticipate an unexpected resolution, the punch line still takes us unawares, but in a way that allows the tripping up of our expectations to be followed by a swift regaining of balance.”

Laughter brings us together

The article also says that “our very recognition that we share such expectations makes our amusement socially binding in the way that physical play, through  its dependence on the less novel expectations of ritualized behavior, also serves to unite. 

If a would-be joke does not take us by surprise, if, as we say, we see the punch line a mile off, we will not find it funny. On the other hand, springing a joke with insufficient preparation can also ruin it.

But if our expectation has been primed, if we know a joke is coming, and we still find the punch line takes us by surprise, it will be even funnier: it resembles exactly the relationship between the keen general expectation of play, and the acute particular surprises animals, including humans, especially enjoy in play.”

At last, in his article, professor Brian brings up a question asked by the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett: “What advantage could Homo sapiens gain from laughing? Why would laughter and humor have evolved as behaviors that matter so much to us?”

His answer was the following: “Laughter, by signaling our pleasure in cognitive play, invites and encourages us to prepare playful surprises for one another. Playing socially with our expectations reinforces our sense of solidarity, our recognition of the huge body of expectations we share; it trains us to cope with and even seek out the unexpected that surrounds and can extend these expectations; and yet it can offer a first more or less playful warning to those who diverge from them in ways we reject.”

Written by Débora Nazário

Translated by Mariana Gruber

EDITOR’S NOTE

Now that we already know the role humor has in stories and children’s preferences for funny tales, here are some reading recommendations!

Truth and Tales, the app we developed, has many stories that are full of twists and humor! They are Teaching Stories, which you can learn more about here. The Teaching Stories usually make use of lots of humor in order to develop a certain level of preparedness to the unexpected as well as give the stories a special touch!

The Truth and Tales story called “The Child and the Dragon” presents several funny characters and dialogue, in addition to twists and turns the reader never sees coming!

Download the app and try reading, playing or listening to our stories! 

‘Fact or Opinion?’ Game Helps Kids Identify Fake News

Considering the huge amount of news shared every minute, how can we identify which ones are true and which ones are false? We present you the ‘Fact or opinion?’ Game that helps kids easily identify fake news!

Fake News are news that contain opinions passed as truths or simply false information. They are shared hundreds of times by many people, mainly through social media. Such data and information are sometimes interpreted by people who see them as an unquestionable fact. 

Samantha Diegoli, director of Avalon Evolutive School, from Florianópolis (Brazil), shared a simple but useful game for kids to develop their observation skills and mental judgment to identify fake news – as well as help to handle emotions. This game is also useful for adults, since fake news affects all of us. 

In a video published in Avalon’s YouTube channel, Samantha talks about the game:

“We teach kids not to take in information simply because someone important has said it, or because it’s from a website or from Wikipedia. We say: let’s search for the evidence. A is a fact and B is an opinion. Let’s find the A behind the B.” 

She also explains that the game is very interesting to work our emotions.

“When we talk about interpretations, normally our emotional state becomes much more active. Besides, the discussions we have, whether at work or at home, usually involve one person trying to convince another that their own opinion is true, but none of them are. So this affects our emotions, it triggers emotional states in us. When we reach a fact, our emotions calm down. So we use this a lot, including in order to work our emotions.” 

Before teaching the rules of this game specifically, we will introduce some definitions. 

What is a fact? 

A fact is something that is possible to visualize and the people around me can see the same thing. In other words, a fact can be seen by everyone equally. 

If I describe this fact or someone else describes it, theoretically, if it is a fact, the description will be the same. 

What is an opinion? 

An opinion is an interpretation. In other words, it’s a description with a “personal touch”. 

An opinion can be a description, but it contains a personal opinion on top of it. The interpretation or the opinion leaves room for another person to say “I don’t agree with it.” 

Example: “Today is very hot”. Is this information a fact or an interpretation/opinion? 

If you can reply with “I disagree”, it’s an interpretation. Therefore, “Today is very hot” is a personal opinion regarding someone’s feelings about the weather. 

What would be an example of a fact applied to this context?  

A fact would be if the thermometer read 35 degrees Celsius today. Therefore, we can conclude that a fact is when everyone can see the same thing. 

If anyone says “I don’t think it’s hot”, we can check the temperature and notice what is a fact, which is the temperature, since it’s the same for everyone. The description of the temperature, in other words, whether it’s hot or not, it’s a sensation and a personal opinion, not a fact. People may be seeing the same temperature in the thermometer, but some may be hot while others, not. 

We can then say that, when an opinion is presented, we may disagree with what is said. 

:: Read Also: Children’s Games: How Wonderful Are They? ::

Let’s practice “Fact or Opinion?”  

Here are some sentences for you to identify as facts or opinions. 

Let’s imagine a cat lying on top of a wooden deck. Around the deck, there are some flowers, some trees and a lawn. This image will be useful for us to illustrate the following examples. 

Example #1:

“Look, guys, what a cute cat.” Fact or opinion?

“Cute cat” is an opinion. Even though many of us have imagined a cute cat, it still comes down to many similar opinions. 

Remember: similar opinions don’t make a fact – they remain only opinions. 

Example #2:

“There’s a really cute cat here next to me.” Fact or opinion? 

It is a fact that the cat is “next to me”. Whether it is cute or not, however, as we have seen above, is an opinion.  

Example #3:

“Look, guys, the cat is smelling the flowers and enjoying nature.” Fact or opinion? 

“Enjoying nature” is an absolute opinion, since there’s no way to tell what the cat is doing there, if it saw a beetle or another animal. Therefore, it’s an opinion.

Example #4:

“This cat named Moon climbed on top of my wooden deck.” Fact or opinion? 

This sentence can make us think: is this cat named Moon? If you want to prove it is a fact, you need to ask its name to its tutor or to someone who knows the cat. But yes, the cat is named Moon, so it is a fact. 

On to the second part of the sentence: “The cat climbed on top of my wooden deck.” It actually looks a lot like a fact, but no one knows if it climbed up there on its own or if someone put it there. The cat really did climb up there, that is a fact, but those who didn’t see it doing so won’t know how it ended up there. 

Example #5:

“The cat is lying on top of the wooden deck.” Fact or opinion? 

It is a fact, since everyone can see that the cat is lying on the wooden deck. 

Now, on to the game “Fact or Opinion?”

The game can be played with family or friends. The idea is that we speak sentences for the others to analyze and say whether they are facts or opinions. It can be played at home or in the car, since the things happening in our surroundings can be used as elements of the game. 

Sentences are spoken and kids guess whether they represent facts or opinions. An example: “Look, there’s a woman on a red T-shirt sitting on that bench.” Fact or opinion? Or it can also be said: “Look, what a skinny woman!” Is that a fact or opinion? And so it goes. 

At first, simpler sentences are recommended. You can start with five phrases that are facts and five that are opinions. 

As parents and kids get more experienced in the game, we start to speak opinions as though they are facts in order to trick the other players. We win points each time we get it right – and the others win points each time we don’t. That is what the game consists of. 

Fact or Opinion Game – Level 1 Example:

We’re in a car and I spot a person riding a bike. I say: “There’s a woman riding a bike on this street.” Fact or opinion? The answer is fact, because there is no opinion or interpretation in this sentence. 

Fact or Opinion Game – What does Level 2 look like?  

Example: “Look, this woman is riding a bike on this street in order to lose weight.” Fact or opinion? 

In this case, kids have to identify that there is a fact there, since a woman is in fact riding a bike, but after that an opinion was added. In other words, half of the sentence is a fact and the other half is an opinion – and that is why this level is more advanced. 

Important tip: there are certain words or expressions that, whenever they appear in a sentence, we can be sure it is not a fact. Some of these expressions are: always, never, everything, nothing, everyone, no one, something should/must be, etc. Every time these words are part of a sentence, it is an opinion. 

Have fun playing the game! 

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Written by Débora Nazário

Translated by Mariana Gruber

Is Doing Good Good for You? How Genuine Kindness Affects the Brain

When we offer to help someone or look at someone else with compassion and decide to do something about it, we are practicing genuine kindness

Such acts which can go unnoticed in our day-to-day lives are beneficial not only to others but also ourselves. Do you know that feeling that you feel after you do something kind? It’s part of the effects caused by genuine kindness in our brains

Selfless Kindness Activates Our Brain’s Rewards Regions

In 2018, a group of British researchers from the University of Sussex stated that acts of generosity activate brain regions associated with reward

The study analyzed 1,150 participants whose brains were scanned through  functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) throughout a 10-year period, but the analysis had a particular aspect: it compared between altruistic and strategic giving – i.e. attitudes aimed at getting something in return or receiving some kind of recognition.  

“This major study sparks questions about people having different motivations to give to others: clear self-interest versus the warm glow of altruism,” said the research leader Dr. Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn in a statement released right after the study was published. 

He continued, “The decision to share resources is a cornerstone of any cooperative society. We know that people can choose to be kind because they like feeling like they are a ‘good person’, but also that people can choose to be kind when they think there might be something ‘in it’ for them such as a returned favour or improved reputation.”

The Reward Is Bigger When We Give Non-Strategically 

The researchers found out that “strategic decisions showed greater activity in striatal regions than altruistic choices”, which are those from which nothing is expected in return. The striatum acts on nondeclarative or implicit memory, which is the subconscious memory and certain skills such as riding a bike or ice skating. In other words, activities we do “without thinking”. 

On the other hand, “altruistic giving, more than strategic, activated subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC). Studies showed that “the mean gray matter volume of this “subgenual” ACC (sgACC) cortex is abnormally reduced in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder, irrespective of mood state.

Ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is involved during generous decisions and is responsible for differentiating between these two types of kindness. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex participates in the processing of risk and fear, since it plays an important role in the regulation of amygdala activity. The vmPFC is also important to inhibit emotional responses and to the process of decision-making and self-control, in addition to being involved in our sense of morality. 

In other words, people who practice genuine kindness activate more of the part of the brain that regulates the amygdala – thus maintaining stress levels in balance. By practicing genuine kindness, the brain also operates in regions that, if rarely active, are related to depression and bipolar disorder. Therefore, after such analyses, the researchers concluded that it’s much more pleasurable when we act in a selflessly kind manner. 

The science of kindness 

By researching about the effects of kindness in our brains, we came across the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a non-profit organization that invests resources into turning kindness into something widely practiced by people, whether at home, in school or at work. This initiative is based on scientific research that proves we can live better by practicing kindness. 

Other proved functions that involve practicing kindness: 

Kindness Increases the Love Hormone: 

Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released when we practice acts of kindness. This release helps to reduce arterial pressure and to improve the heart’s overall health – Natalie Angier, The New York Times

Energy: 

Half the participants of one study felt strengthened and more energetic after helping others. Some reported that they also felt calmer and less depressed – Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center

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Practicing Kindness Can Reduce Anxiety 

A study by Dr. Lynn Alden, professor from the University of British Columbia and by the psychologist Dr. Jennifer Trew indicates that social anxiety can be reduced by practicing genuine kindness. 

The authors of the study recruited 115 undergraduate students who presented high levels of social anxiety. These participants were split randomly into three groups for an intervention that lasted four weeks. 

One of the groups was encouraged to carry out acts of kindness; another group was exposed to social interactions; and the third group got no instructions, all they were asked to do was to keep a record of their routines. The results showed that a greater reduction in the desire to avoid social interactions was observed amongst the individuals who were encouraged to do acts of kindness. 

What Professor Lynn Alden Says 

“The main goal of social anxiety treatment is to increase involvement in social situations, which socially anxious individuals tend to avoid. The exercises of social exposure may be improved by encouraging anxious individuals to focus on loving actions. Therefore, opening the door to a neighbor who’s pushing a baby stroller, thanking the cashiers at the grocery store for their help or offering coffee to a colleague can be good ways for them to start their social exposure,” reported the professor. 

Professor Lynn Alden also explained that acts of kindness may help someone who is socially anxious face the fear of being negatively assessed by others, promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of how people will react to them. 

“We discovered that any kind act seemed to have the same benefit, even small gestures such as opening the door to someone or saying “thank you” to the bus driver. Kindness doesn’t need to involve money or long efforts, although some of our participants did that. Kindness didn’t even need to be “face to face”. For example, acts of kindness can include donating to charity or adding a coin to someone else’s parking meter when you notice it is blinking. Studies by other researchers have suggested that it is important for the kind act to be done by and of itself, and that it doesn’t look coerced or for the giver’s own personal gain. Aside from that, everything counts”

Practicing Kindness Can Slow Aging

Oxytocin, a hormone produced through emotional heat, acts in the reduction of the body’s levels of free radicals and the inflammation of the cardiovascular system. This way, it slows aging at its root. Free radicals and the inflammation of the cardiovascular system play an important role and we can therefore say that kindness is also good for the heart. 

Some scientific journals have already published studies about the strong link between compassion and vagus nerve activity. The vagus nerve, in addition to regulating the heart rate, is also responsible for controlling the body’s inflammation levels. 

One study analyzed the Tibetan buddhists’ meditation and found that kindness and compassion help reduce body inflammation, probably due to their effects on the vagus nerve. 

These analyzes are present in the book “The Five Side Effects of Kindness: This Book Will Make You Feel Better, Be Happier & Live Longer” written by  Dr. David R. Hamilton, who has a PhD in Organic Chemistry and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for several years developing drugs for treating cardiovascular diseases. 

Written by Débora Nazário

Translated by Mariana Gruber

EDITOR’S NOTE 

All this information refers to genuine kindness. “Genuine” means pure, real, true. It’s important to take this into consideration because no one can demand acts of genuine kindness from others. These actions happen spontaneously, from the heart. 

⚠️ Dear parents: being an example really is a way to show kids how doing good is good for you – however, forcing this type of situation is not the solution.

If you are not having a good day, don’t force yourself to do anything that you don’t want to do in order to “be a good example for your kids”. 

This won’t be good neither to you nor to your little ones. In addition, avoid demanding good deeds from your kids. No one is going to stop being a good person just because they didn’t hold the door to let someone in. 

Allow these qualities to manifest of their own accord, without effort or encouragement. The beauty and the benefits of genuine kindness are in letting it manifest itself spontaneously. Don’t worry about “being kind” or “teaching your kids to be kind”. There is kindness inside everyone, you must simply perceive it and allow it to manifest. 

The importance of make-believe, lies and imagination in childhood

Have you ever been surprised by a kids story? A whimsical, creative narrative full of details and plot laden with almost unimaginable elements? The answer is probably yes. It’s very common for kids to tell stories in great detail to those who live with them. And to do so, we need to experience some lies so we can create stories.

Stories and their perspectives change according to kids’ ages, as they keep up with the little ones’ development. The ability to create these narratives changes and gains new shapes and layers. 

Childhood is a favourable time for the imagination because it is the phase of life in which we learn, observe everything and notice others as well as the world around us. When we are kids, we perceive and feel frustration, joy, sadness and several other feelings we don’t even know how to name. 

The questions that remain are: should these behaviors — which are quite common to kids’ daily routine — be encouraged? What is their importance to childhood? Can they contribute to the process of learning and becoming autonomous? We’ll talk about all of this and more down below! 

Make-believe as self-expression 

It’s nice to see in which moments the narratives full of imagination are constructed by children and to notice what makes them comfortable. This way, it is easier to understand what is the “message” they want to convey. Sometimes there is no message, instead being simply an expression of what they see and how they manage to externalize their perceptions

According to Deborah Moss, a neuropsychologist specialized in child behavior and a Master in development psychology, in an interview given to UOL’s Portal Bem Viver (freely translated to “Good Living Portal”), claimed that “children can use their imagination to create one or more playmates and conceive each one in very particular ways, in order to externalize their relationships, what they feel, or what they learn every day. These representations concern getting in contact with yourself. 

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Making up dialogues: 

In many situations, kids repeat what they hear from adults. They give voice to objects and reproduce discourses they overhear. They use their imagination and create dialogues between these objects, make up situations and also end up finding solutions to conflicts they themselves created. 

This type of play is extremely positive and enriching to their vocabulary, it allows them to practice their speech and encourages their ability to handle conflicts, even if it’s all just pretend. 

Imaginary Friends: 

It’s common for kids to have imaginary friends that join them throughout their day-to-day activities. 

For many years, imaginary friends were associated with a lack of social skills, but that is a big mistake according to the opinion of emeritus professor Marjorie Taylor, from Oregon University—located in Eugene, Oregon, in the US. 

According to Marjorie, these friends can vary in terms of personality and level of connection to the kids’ routines. Some are characters from movies, real toys, their own image in the mirror, parts of the body, drawings and others, brought to life by their own imagination. Their period of existence is variable, lasting from a few days up to many years. 

The professor has stated imaginary friends can help kids handle emotional issues or fears. She has also discussed how kids who have imaginary friends present no disadvantages concerning social cognition, differently than what many believed years ago. 

In her Master’s thesis, “The creation of imaginary friends: a study with Brazilian children”, Natália Benincasa Velludo brings evidence that the “creation of imaginary friends isn’t associated with developmental shortfalls and can even be a predictor of more sophisticated skills, such as a more developed vocabulary, for example.” 

In other words, unlike what our culture preaches, kids who have imaginary friends don’t have attention problems or cognitive deficits, and they may present more robust vocabulary. 

Self-confidence development

By means of stories and their creativity, kids can create imaginary characters who are strong, brave, and can handle different situations. When the little ones are in contact with these characters, they may “mirror” these stories and overcome their own fears and anguishes with the help of this incentive. 

Psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe, author of the book The Genius of Natural Childhood: Secrets of Thriving Children, states that “the imagination is able to create visual images in the mind’s eye, which allows us to explore all kinds of images and ideas without being restricted by the boundaries of the physical world. That is how children start to develop problem-solving skills, coming up with new possibilities, new ways of seeing and being, which develop important critical thinking perceptions which will help them throughout their lives.”  

Kids and lies

Children lie, regardless of their upbringing or their parents’ example. Many argue that kids lie to defend themselves, to flee from a situation they don’t want to face or in order to get what they desire. Yes, that happens, but it’s not the only reason they do this.  The reasons kids lie go beyond that and are part of kids’ cognitive and language development and their notion of reality. 

There is evidence that children’s lying behavior is connected to executive functioning. According to the study Social and Cognitive Correlates of Children’s Lying Behavior published in 2008, executive functioning skills are first expressed at the end of early childhood and develop throughout its entirety, a time in which researchers have noticed an increase in the ability to tell lies. 

It was suggested that inhibitory control (the ability to suppress thought processes or interfering actions) and working memory (a system that retains and processes temporary information in the mind) can be linked directly to kids’ lies. When they lie, kids need to suppress the story of the transgression they intend to conceive while representing and expressing the false information that differs from reality. 

In order to sustain their lies, children have to inhibit thoughts and statements which are contrary to their story and would reveal their transgressions, thus storing the content of the lie in the memory. Therefore, in order to tell lies successfully, kids must be able to juggle conflicting alternatives in their minds (in other words, what they really did/thought and what they say they did/thought). 

Many lies told by kids have no apparent motive. In other words: there is no underlying goal to achieve something, escape from a situation or call out attention. They lie because that is part of the process of growing up. Kids aren’t familiar with the concept of morality and it is during childhood that they experiment things related to it for the first time. Lying is one of the ways children naturally find in order to experience these social concepts. It appears in different aspects at different childhood stages: 

2-4 year-olds

At this age, language skills are arising and kids still don’t know exactly where truth begins and ends. During this period, they are unable to keep the lies they tell. 

Younger kids also have a pretty unstable understanding of the difference between reality, daydreaming, desires and urges, fantasies and fears. 

In other words, when kids are confronted for having something they got without permission and they deny doing so, they can express their wish that they had not taken it by saying they didn’t take it, due to a language limitation. 

5-8 year-olds 

Between the ages of 5 and 8, children tell more lies in order to test what they can do, especially lies related to school – classes, homework, teachers and friends. Keeping lies may still be difficult, although they start to become more and more skilled at hiding them.  

According to pediatric psychiatrist Elizabth Berger, “the regulations and responsibilities present at this age are usually too much for kids. As a result, kids often lie in order to appease the forces that seem to demand more from their performances than what they can offer.” 

9-12 year-olds

Most kids this age are on the right path to establish an identity of being dedicated, trustworthy and mindful. However, they are also becoming more skilled at keeping lies and more sensitive to the repercussions of their actions, and may have strong feelings of guilt after lying

Direct and long conversations about honesty are definitely necessary, since there will be a few rare “little white lies” moments in which dishonesty is acceptable in order to be polite or to spare someone else’s feelings. 

How to deal with kids’ lies? 

Although lying is a normal part of kids’ development, parents and educators can give them support in three different ways, according to an article from Neuroscience

“First, avoid excessive or over-the-top punishments. In a study comparing a West African school that used punitive punishments (such as hitting with a stick, slapping, and pinching) and a school that used non-punitive reprimands (such as time outs or scolding), students at the school with punitive punishments were more likely to be effective liars. Children from families that place a strong emphasis on following the rules and not open dialogue also report lying more frequently.

Second, discuss emotional and moral scenarios with children. This “emotion coaching” supports children’s understanding of when lies are most harmful, how they affect others, and how they themselves might feel when they lie. (…)

Third, ensure the lie really is a lie. Very young children are prone to blend real life and imagination, while older children and adults frequently remember arguments differently to one another.”

Written by Débora Nazário and Luisa Scherer

Translated by Mariana Gruber