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Kids and their Questions!


So I’m attending the VAEYC conference once again, and our keynote was about the power of questions.  Dr. Lindsey Godwin from the Appreciative Inquiry Center, an internationally renowned speaker and author, shared her work and perspective on questions.

Did you ever notice that we, as adults, often get annoyed by kids asking us questions?  We are busy, and it takes time and energy to stop and explain things, and quite honestly, why is it important to answer a “silly” question that isn’t important to us?  

Well, it’s valuable to respond so to encourage more questions.  Why on earth would we want to do that?  To cultivate creative thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, and open minds!  Dr. Godwin states, “As children, we get messages from adults that they want answers, not questions.”  And she’s right, we are always asking kids to tell us things, when we should really invite them to find their own answers by asking more questions.  

Dr. Godwin has two lessons for us to take back to our classrooms:

1. Inquiry is intervention. Inquiry leads to change.  Our questions set the stage for what we find, they determine what we pay attention to, and ultimately the direction of what comes next, whether it is curriculum plans and activities, or your next fundraiser or parent meeting.  Inquiry has the power to inform and shape opportunities for all of us.


2. What we ask about “grows”.  If you ask a question based on a deficit, that will be the focus.  Instead, shift focus from your biggest challenge to your most unique assets to  “magnify and learn from moments of highest engagement and enthusiasm.”  

This is how we accelerate the positive changes that we need to grow and learn, and ultimately how we grow the curious minds of the youngest members of our communities.  

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Messy Play: not just for fun!

  
I used to detest messes…still do in my mommy brain.  My teacher brain loves it though!  The value in it is limitless and cannot be missed. Clothes and hands can be washed.  The house will get messy too, but with a little planning, you can minimize any lasting effects.

Fun is always important, after all, it makes learning meaningful to children and facilitates deeper connections.  But why is messy play so important?  It is essential to brain development! Every time a child touches wet paint or squishy goo, new connections are forming in the brain.  The stimulation provided by a mud pie or runny oobleck can’t be replicated by a computer game, flash cards, or stories.  The act of skin coming in contact with tactile discovery stimulates new connections and learning.

Children learn through their senses, and all areas of learning are impacted.  In my experience, the more messy play children get to do, the more relaxed they are.  They are also more flexible in routines and quite creative in their thinking. 

Here are some tips that may help you in your messy play adventures:

  • Take it outdoors
  • Get a vinyl tablecloth and tape it to the floor to contain the mess
  • Provide clear expectations for the children’s messy play
  • Use simple materials like snow, water, ice
  • Plan ahead to make sure you have enough materials for the number of children you have
  • Get in there and get messy! It’s more fun than trying to stay tidy and clean

  
Try this Simple Slime Recipe for lots of fun that’s edible and not sticky!

Enjoy!

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Not Your Typical Fundraiser

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 I am not trying to raise money, though it would appear that way.  I want to encourage people to think about childhood play differently.

I see children all the time on their phones, tablets, and computers.  The little ones play “TV” and set up a couch to sit on.  

I see parents who are working hard, keeping busy, and shuffling kids around in a hurry. Adults are always on their phones, myself included, and we’re often distracted.

I think back to my childhood, and times I spent playing in the woods.  I feel happy when I think of the fast sledding “track” we made, the big rocks we used to climb on, and the stream we used to wade in.

Let’s send our kids out to play!  It is critical to connect our children with nature in this hurried time in which we live.  Your child will feel more peaceful, in touch with the earth, and be a more creative thinker.

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New shirt design is available till November 12th!  Tees are $13 and the hoodies are so soft, you’ll want to wear them everyday!

Share the link and help me out if this is a message you believe in! Thank you! 

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What’s the big deal with play?

  So I’m attending my annual conference and I finally have time to write. Sorry it’s been so long, though thankfully I have lots of renewed energy tonight so let’s talk about play.  It’s such a popular word in early education these days, but what are they all talking about?  Isn’t just about kids using toys? 

No it’s not, it’s much much more. It’s the sun, the moon, and the stars in the sky.  It’s the method by which children are living their lives, their anchor, their work.  The definition of play in our field is usually described in a paragraph with so many terms and variations.  The common threads are enjoyment, participation and engagement.

Different types of play occur throughout a child’s development.  There’s no schedule or order, no wrong or right, though some patterns exist.  There are natural shifts in the kind of play as children’s environment, community, and minds take shape.

  • Solitary: a child plays alone
  • Parallel: a child plays alongside another child without interaction
  • Cooperative: children interact as they work toward a goal
  • Symbolic: a child uses one object to represent another
  • Sociodramatic: pretend play in which a child takes on a role
  • Games with rules: children follow guidelines dictated by an established game
  • Mature: a child will dive deeply into their play, staying with it for an extended period of time

Please keep in mind that each type of play serves a purpose, and has its own value.  For example, a child who pretends a ball is an apple will later be better equipped to visually represent quantity.  A child taking on a role is learning to self-regulate, practicing self-control.  

I’m interested in hearing what children say when asked, “what is play?” You probably wouldn’t hear words like problem-solving, achievement, creativity, imagination, identity, or persistence.  But if you observe carefully, you’ll see these qualities and more.  And they make for amazing adults; adults which will one day take care of us, our planet, and the children to come.  So next time you think play might just be a simple word with little meaning, think of all that is gained from it.

  
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Adventure Playgrounds

   
  

 What is an adventure playground anyway?  Well, it looks a little like a junkyard, with lots of loose parts. I recently attended a screening of “The Land” by Erin Davis.  This event was put together by a local group, MUD, encouraging discussions in our community. It explores the concept of an adventure playground in Wales.Click here for Erin Davis interview.

The idea is that children are free to take risks with a variety of materials and experiences, with limited guidance.  Play workers are there to remove hazards, but offer no interference or intervention unless there is a request or hazard. (A hazard refers to something that the children are unaware of like broken glass or nails).

After the film, there was a bit of discussion about this concept and how to make it work here. One of the questions that came up was how to circumvent legal issues that could arise.  The panel answered this by saying that the adventure playgrounds in use are offered primarily to children age 6-11.  There are fewer rules and restrictions in this age group.  A fence with a lock is also traditionally included so that play workers are there to prevent hazards from harming the children, and to encourage risk taking in a physically and emotionally safe space.

A large portion of the audience were families, and while there were a lot of great conversations among parents, the early educator perspective was not present. That’s why I’m writing this…I have something to say as always.

We want to encourage risk-taking too. Unfortunately, we have state regulations and insurance liability to worry about.  I’m speaking mostly as a home provider, because if our insurance company doesn’t like our space or practices, they will drop us as clients-not just the childcare policies, but home and auto as well.  So that means no fires, no water deeper than 24″, and no heights greater than 36″.  That’s just to please my insurance company, the state regulations aren’t as tough, but no standing water, all sand covered when not in use…so basically our play space has to be picked up every afternoon.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t adopt some basic concepts of the adventure playground: risks are encouraged with minimal redirection and interference, loose parts are offered, and children are able to experience and witness disappointment, failures, achievements, and successes. 

What do they gain from this type of play?

Freedom in their play

Ownership and pride

A deeper sense of self

Rich social environment

To be challenged everyday

Become better problem solvers

Children develop resilience factors

So think about your experiences with playgrounds in the future, and maybe adjust your thinking a little.  Children are capable of so much, let’s see how far they can go! And as always, I welcome your comments!

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Click here to see a recent article about adventure playgrounds

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“Is the Game Over Yet?” How to survive team sports with your athletes siblings

  

After spending the morning cheering for my son and his lacrosse team, while observing a mom struggling with two younger kids, I decided to write this post.  The mom kept her cool, but I could tell she was aggravated with her other two children.  She spent most of her time telling them not to go anywhere, stop fighting, and no, the game isn’t over.  In all fairness, they brought a blanket and that was it. I’d be bored too. 

Now, I can look at this a couple of ways: how irritating to have the constant disruption for those of us trying to enjoy the game, and then there is the perspective of the mom who is trying to support one child while the other two are bored and behaving in a way that makes mom feel like people are judging her.

Bottom line: it made the morning kind of miserable for everyone, especially the mom with the two bored kiddos.  So, as a child care provider who is trained to prevent behavior issues ahead of time, here’s my two cents (or 20 since I tend to ramble).

1) set the expectations before your arrival. Just make it very clear to the children what they are to expect for the outing and how you would like them to conduct themselves. 

2) be prepared. Have each child pack a small bag of things to do.  This can include a frisbee, coloring book, or deck of cards.  Even a pair of binoculars will provide engagement.  Remind them that the bag is theirs to carry and keep track of. This builds a sense of ownership, responsibility and pride.  (And don’t forget snacks!)

3) include the siblings in the athlete’s activity in some way. Encourage the siblings to make a banner to cheer on their athlete.  Give them jobs like gathering a water bottle or cleats.  Remind them why you’re there, and engage their interest: “did you see how she kicked the ball?” Or “look how fast he’s running!”

4) give them a little freedom. There are many other families at these games, and plenty of other bored siblings.  Set some limits, but let them go play together on an empty field when possible.  Just situate yourself so your kids are in your sight line, and let them roll around in the grass with other kids.

I hope this helps! 

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Start the Conversation Early

 

 When thinking about your two, three or four year old, I bet the last thing on your mind is talking to them about drug and alcohol use.  I’ve just blown you away, right?   Here’s the thing: if you talk to them in response to their questions or comments about it, it means more to them than a lecture 12 years later.  

I’m not saying to sit your two year old down for a substance talk-that wouldn’t be age appropriate and certainly not effective.  However, when you hear a toddler, a very verbal two year old, say, “I have cigarettes from the store,” you are presented with an opportunity.  This happened with my program kiddos the other day while engaging in dramatic play.  I didn’t want to give it too much attention and/or judgement so I was thoughtful in my provocation. I simply asked her to tell me about them.  She talked about the smoke, and came around to coughing.  I asked if cigarettes were okay for her to have: “I’m not a grown up yet, I’m still growing so I can’t have them.” 

Seems like the conversation has begun at her house.  As a mom of a ten year old son and the granddaughter, niece and daughter of family members with substance problems, I think it’s important to talk with kids early about things like drinking and driving.  For me, teaching my son about responsible consumption is as important as teaching him how to tie his shoe or zip his coat.  If these values are ingrained early, he will be better equipped to make decisions as an adolescent and adult.

Yesterday evening, while out for a bike ride with his wife, a man I’ve known for many years was killed after being struck by a drunk driver.  He left behind two children and his wife.  He was a valued colleague to many and he was committed to making the community a better place.

I wonder if that drivers family ever talked to him about drinking and driving?  Maybe they did, and he still wasn’t responsible with his choice.  But maybe they never got around to it…

Please feel free to provide feedback…

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When I was in college…

So when I was a college student, I worked three and four jobs to pay my tuition and buy my own books. I had student loans aplenty and even a small scholarship. I chose a private catholic women’s college close to home, though I’m not catholic. But I felt like it was a great place to figure out who I was and still have a safety net.

And I did find my niche in the world, at least started the journey. It was a place to deepen friendships and learn my strengths. But after my second year, I started getting letters in the mail from my college asking to donate to their endowment. I was shocked and ticked off-I was already working my butt off trying to pay for school and they wanted me to give them more?! I didn’t get it, why would anyone give money back to their school when we’ve just spent a fortune to go there?

Five years after I graduated, my college closed it’s doors forever. I attended the last commencement which was a bittersweet occasion for all.

So while their timing stunk, I finally understood why I was receiving letters asking for money…my college was $14 million in the hole and they were grasping at straws.

The message here: if we want something great to continue, we all have to do our part to support it. That doesn’t necessarily mean financially, though that is often what is needed most. Sharing the mission and stories and memories of an organization, school, or club can accomplish so much as well.

And while yes, I’m in the midst of a fundraiser, that I will shamelessly plug right here, this post has been on my mind for awhile. And yes, I would love your support, but this post speaks to anything in your life that you care about whether it is your local church or your child’s soccer team, your local fire department or your favorite non-profit. We all have to work together to make sure they continue at the high level we have come to expect.IMG_8773-0.JPG

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To all my loyal followers:

I’ve just launched my first fundraiser to improve my back yard. Please share this link and consider purchasing a shirt from the site below. Thank you in advance!

And for those of you providing childcare, who may be uncomfortable wearing a t-shirt with another providers name on it, I don’t see our businesses as competing. I feel like we are collaborators and your support is just another way of assisting a colleague. If you feel differently, I respect your decision. Thank you for your interest.

Click here to support our fund
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“I’m not happy with this childcare anymore” What to do next?

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So you’ve got this amazing child and you finally found a great childcare, your child is settling into the routine, and you feel like it is a safe and nurturing environment. You breathe easy after saying goodbye at the window and head off to work with no worries.

Then your child’s primary caregiver gives her notice. Then the co-teacher in your child’s classroom gives his notice. New providers are brought in, but you feel insecure about your child being in the classroom. You notice things that make you uncomfortable, like lots of gossip, personal phone calls, unprofessional behavior…

What do you do now?

1. Go to the source. Be direct and kind, matter of fact but compassionate. Be honest with your concerns, “I understand you are still getting to know my child, my concern is…”

2. Check in with the director or supervisor. Drop a call or an email if you don’t have time for a visit just saying that you had some concerns and spoke with the teachers. Be positive and open.

3. Be patient, but watchful. Change takes time and persistence. But that’s no excuse for providing poor care to your child.

4. Be direct. Be clear. Speak to teachers and directors, expressing your concerns in a calm and respectful manner. Though our children provoke passionate feelings, people will stop listening if you are too passionate.

5. Look for new care, keeping in mind that it takes time…keep communication lines open while you’re waiting for a new spot so your child is still able to be in a (hopefully) respectful environment.

If at any time you feel like your child is in danger, report it! This may sound harsh, but children can be harmed in childcare settings that are not following regulations, breach ethics, and/or lack the ability to provide adequate care. Your child is your most pressing concern, and if you feel there is a safety risk, you should report the provider. Each state has a department that deals with provider regulation and they are equipped to evaluate the possible safety concerns that arise.

As a provider, this can be a scary possibility, especially if something is misinterpreted or there is a conflict that could illicit a false report. But as a mom, I feel that your child and their spirit are the most valuable and irreplaceable commodities on the earth. If you’re not sure, talk to other resources out there, like your pediatrician, or local child care resource specialist.

But always, go to the source first. Many issues can be cleared up in a face to face conversation. You may hear how you can be supportive to them as they adjust.

 

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