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Sharing Expertise on Child Development

Kristen Paral of Vienna helps parents master techniques that foster the growth of well-adjusted, confident children.

Kristen and Jason Paral and their children Jack, 5, and Lucy, 3, make Vienna home.

Kristen and Jason Paral and their children Jack, 5, and Lucy, 3, make Vienna home.

While feathering your nest may turn your house into a home, occasionally, de-feathering and shifting direction may transform your happy nest into a happy and serene haven for your family. The Intelligent Nest founder and child development specialist Kristen Paral of Vienna helps parents master techniques that foster the growth of well-adjusted, confident children. Parents show children their value by providing unconditional love, discipline, opportunities for mental and physical stimulation and safe shelter.

“I have a passion for the science of what goes on in a child’s mind,” said Paral. “I love giving seminars, teaching parents about child development.

“No two children are the same, so parenting techniques should be customized to the child’s development and interests.”

—The Intelligent Nest founder, Kristen Paral

“My goal is to create a happier ‘nest,’” said Paral, stressing that parenting is a partnership between parent and child. “No two children are the same, so parenting techniques should be customized to the child’s development and interests.”

Paral describes an “intelligent nest” as a reasonably informed home, led by parents who are experts in the development of their own child. “No two children are the same, and no parenting solution is universal,” says Paral. She encourages parents not to become experts in child development but experts in the personality and strengths of their own children.

Paral moved to Vienna from southern California about 10 years ago. She and her husband Jason are raising two children here, Jack, 5, and Lucy, 3. It was her own experience as a young mom that inspired her to start a business in the fall of 2011, blooming from her background in elementary education and child development.

Paral advises parents to ask their child, "What do you think," before responding with their own opinions when a child is looking to a parent for approval. Their children, she said, will gain self-analysis and critical thinking skills and the parent will learn about how their child sees the world. Young children learn differently than older children and adults, she adds.

When it comes to toys and playrooms, Paral offers unique guidelines. De-clutter your home and playroom by only displaying seven to 12 toys at a time in a given play area. “The toys will be more enticing, receive more play, and you'll enjoy less mess and chaos at home.”

Rather than dedicating a single space for play, Paral recommends offering small and simple activity centers in every room a child visits. “An engaged child is a happy child,” says Paral.

If a parent wants her child to really use the playroom, Paral recommends that she fill it full of gross-motor equipment, such as soft play equipment, balls, climbing sets and trampolines, instead of toys.

Paral and her husband love taking hikes, from park-style to urban hikes in Washington. She said they all like being outdoors and being active. She applies her knowledge and skills to her home life, something that precipitated the birth of The Intelligent Nest. “I always wanted to apply my skills and was always organized at home,” Paral said.

While driving home from a Vienna Moms meeting one day, she asked herself how she could turn those skills into something “beneficial” to families. The Intelligent Nest was born.

Paral gives seminars to area schools, preschools, church groups and mothers’ groups, focusing on child development attributes, as well as practical steps to create usable and functional playspaces for children. She specializes on the needs and development of children from birth to 5 years old. For families who feel they would benefit from a personal consultation, Paral is there to help, whether it’s discipline suggestions or de-cluttering advice.

“Parents are experts on their own children and it is their job to research and seek answers that work for their family,” says Paral.

http://intelligentnest.com/ is a goldmine of advice, from toy rotation to effective discipline. For details on seminars presented by The Intelligent Nest, go to http://intelligentnest.com/seminars-webinars/. Contact Kristen Paral at intelligentnest@gmail.com or by phone at 202-557-6147.

Parenting Tips From The Intelligent Nest

  • Children live in the moment. Learn from their unique approach to life by striving to be with them instead of doing for them.

  • Ask your child, "What do you think?" before responding with your opinion when they are looking for your approval. They will gain self-analysis and critical thinking skills and you will learn about how they see the world.

  • De-clutter your home and playroom by displaying only seven to 12 toys at a time in a given play area. The toys will be more enticing, receive more play and you'll enjoy less mess and chaos at home.

  • Young children learn differently than older children and adults. They need a minimum of 1 1/2 hours of free playtime each day for ideal development and learning.

  • Playrooms are often left unused unless an adult is present. Instead of restricting play to one area of the house, offer small and simple activity centers in every room that you frequent. An engaged child is a happy child.

  • Memorization is not as important as a child's ability to think critically. Instead of spending time doing alphabet flash cards, spend time enjoying a walk and talking about what you see.

  • Focus discipline on what children can do, as opposed to what they can't do, such as, "trucks are not for throwing, but you can throw this ball."

  • Children see people as either all good or all bad. If they have trouble admitting that they did something wrong, it is because they fear that makes them "all bad." Reassure children that you love them no matter what.

  • You are the expert on your own child. Research, seek to understand and make an informed and loving choice as the expert.

  • Ditch your toy box. Display toys in your home, just as you might see them in a store (enticing, touchable, ready to be used).

  • Aim to schedule a 30-minute play date with your child, daily. Turn off your phone, sit on the floor and offer your child your full attention.