(Denver, CO.) – “Wow! Parenting just got a whole lot easier!” This is the feedback enthusiastic moms and dads are giving Mary and Tim Forsythe, founders of Affies4Kids.
In just five minutes a day, the parenting program teaches solid character traits and the language of positive self-talk. “Our daily program becomes a simple habit to develop a positive inner voice. Children begin to think of themselves as good and capable. They learn to value themselves and to work well with others,” says Mary Forsythe.
Mary and Tim remember how successful positive self-talk was with their own sons. “When our boys were little, I placed yellow sticky notes on our boys’ mirrors, and they developed the habit of saying affirmations in the mirror right after they brushed their teeth. Simple phrases like ‘I am good at taking turns’ or ‘I am a good friend’ or ‘I am helpful’ jump-started their character education.” Mary now calls these simple affirmations Affies!
“As a parent you can’t just demand that the child be kind, or be caring, or be a good friend. It must be part of who they are. These traits and the actions that accompany them become part of their self-talk,” she says. “Self-talk is the inner voice we all listen to. It defines us. It is a constant reminder that we are either good or not so good, smart or not so smart. We start listening to our inner voice when we are very young.”
From her own family’s experience, Mary knows how easy it can be for parents to make sure their child is listening to a supportive inner voice by using the five-minute program. She loves watching children develop confidence as well as a resilient mindset. Even little children soon deal with ups and downs with flexibility.
These days, her grandchildren are the ones saying their Affies every day. The Forsythes hope thousands of other kids across America will soon be saying them, too. On September 1, 2013, they will kick off Affies4Kids (www.affies4kids.com), a Web-based parenting and educational program that teaches young children the language of positive self-talk.
Affies4Kids is a subscription-based online Web site to be used in the home as well as in preschool and kindergarten. It is cross-screen, so it can be used wherever an Internet connection is available.
Mary and Tim Forsythe are passionate about making this program available to as many children as possible with an annual all-access family subscription cost of only $20. The classroom cost for preschools and kindergarten programs is $60 per year. Initially there will be six Affies4Kids stories available with each subscription and provided via the Affies4Kids Web site. They include: I Am A Good Listener, I Am Helpful, I Make Smart Choices, I Take Turns, I Am Kind, and I Am Dependable.
Each Affie story includes an e-Book, an audio book, a songbook video, activity sheets, and Finding Your 5 cards. The Finding Your 5 cards contain suggested five-minute options parents and teachers can use with their children to help build character and create a positive inner voice. Music CDs will also be available to purchase on the Web site.
Classrooms that subscribe will receive the added benefit of detailed weekly lesson plans with daily activities that enforce the Affie of the Week. Each lesson plan incorporates an Affies song, online book, or songbook video into each day. Teachers introduce the forest friend characters with cards and activity sheets that focus on early learning skills. The activity sheets encourage kids to recognize patterns and find differences. There are also matching games and mazes. Paper puppets are one of the activities, which will support interaction with the students through role-playing.
“In the initial subscription, parents and educators will have access to 35 separate offerings. A new story with all of the components will be added every three months,” says Tim Forsythe.
When the Forsythes made the decision to launch the project, they consulted with more than a dozen professionals, including Dr. Sally Carruthers, an education consultant with The Educated Child, in Denver. “I think Affies4Kids is just brilliant! I love the fables and the distinct characters that go with each Affie,” she says. “Kids can associate each of the characters with a certain trait like being a good listener and being dependable. Any time kids have a story or something they can relate to, the chances of them remembering a lesson are a lot higher.”
Dr. Carruthers created the structure for the program’s lesson plans. She worked with members of the Affies4Kids team to develop the educational materials tested by classroom teachers like Mary Ann Breer, who teaches kindergarteners at the Goddard School in Highlands Ranch, Colo. Affirmations are nothing new to Breer. Her mother believed in developing a positive inner voice when she was a child.
“With everything these kids have working against them in this day and age, it’s so important to have a program like this that’s fun and confirms for the children that they are good kids. Helping to build self-esteem is a very important aspect of a child’s character development,” says Breer.
Annetta Albrecht, Director of Bridge to Knowledge Montessori in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, especially likes the fact that all of the lesson plans are ready to implement and the materials needed for classroom activities provided. “We did ‘I Am A Good Listener,’ ‘I Am Kind,’ and ‘I Am A Good Friend’ in the pilot. I just loved it and so did the kids,” says Albrecht, who tested the program out on 3-to-5-year-old children and is still using it today.
Affies4Kids has been used successfully in homeschool settings as well. Melissa Blake of Sauk Rapids, Minn., tried the program out with her two older children, 7-year-old Lucy and 6-year- old, Blake, last fall. “My children still talk about Affies and love to listen to the CD. They give me instances when they were a good friend or dependable. They feel proud to tell me, and they also love the praise they get,” she said.
Wendy Forsythe, Mary and Tim Forsythe’s daughter-in-law, is a former elementary teacher who holds a Masters Degree. She tested the program with her three sons, Grady, 7, Gunnar, 6, and Graham, 4. “Saying their Affies has definitely had a good impact on my kids,” she says. “Helping them to think in a positive way at a young age is so important.”
Tamara Burris of Pensacola, Fla., says her 7-year-old son, Gavin, and 3-year-old daughter, Trinity, got a lot out of the program as well. “My kids were really responsive to it. Sometimes they say their Affies before I do,” says Burris, who started her kids on the program at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. Of those she tried out, the lesson she liked best was the one about being a good listener.
“The response we’re getting from parents is that Affie-time has become their favorite five minutes of the day,“ adds Tim Forsythe. “The relationship they are building with their child will be pivotal.”
In addition to a number of schools that have already signed up to use the Affies4Kids program, it will soon have an established presence on WKU-PBS in Bowling Green, Kentucky. In keeping with the Forsythes’ mission to make the content available to as many families as possible, four titles, I Am Good At Sharing, I Am Smart, I Am A Good Friend, and finally, I Am Important can be viewed on the WKU-PBS Web site, http://wkyu.lunchbox.pbs.org. The station is planning to run spots throughout the day letting children and families know they can watch Affies4Kids on the station’s Web site.
The Forsythes are hoping the program will be so successful here in the United States they will eventually be able to expand it internationally. To learn more about Affies4Kids, log onto www.affies4kids.com. The Web site has all the information parents and educators need to register for the program.