Tag Archives: parenting

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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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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“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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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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Elementary School: what’s going on with my kiddo?

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Now that school is back in session, I hear a lot of parents asking what’s up with my child? Is it a phase? Ugh! Kids are still reaching new milestones all the time, and I’ll get to what those are shortly.

But I think we, as parents especially, forget that there is still so much going on for our children socially, cognitively, and physically. In the early years, we see infants and toddlers grow so quickly and reach new milestones often. It’s easy to forget that our 6 years olds are meeting them too. And just like with toddlers, it’s scary to grow and learn. When a child is struggling with autonomy, for instance. The push-pull relationship between a child and caregiver/parent is something I’m sure you all remember: “carry me, I can do it. Help me, I did it”. So it’s only natural that our 1st grader will give us some of that action as well.

So here’s a little list of some of the things going on for your elementary schoolers. Remember that becoming more independent and skilled can lead to some angst, but your kids still need your patience and understanding, even if it seems like they hate you. Besides, I always say if they hate you, you’re doing it right!

Kindergarten
Social: easy separation from adults, turn taking
Cognitive: re-telling a story, self-regulation
Physical: run, climb, skip

1st Grade
Social: seeing the point of view of others
Cognitive: seeing patterns in words, numbers, and the world around
Physical: greater muscle development, increased stamina

2nd Grade
Social: judging own strengths and weaknesses , offering opinion that contradicts peers
Cognitive: understanding concept of money, mental math
Physical: knowing your own body, increased ability for repetition

3rd Grade
Social: group work, independent work, peer pressure awareness
Cognitive: more abstract thinking, apply ideas across situations
Physical: overall fitness and health awareness, ability to assess gross and fine motor skills

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Let Your Kids Cry

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I’ve worked with young children for many years now, and the words of a mentor are still in my head: “it’s okay for a child to cry, there’s no reason to try to make them stop”.

In this particular situation, she was referring to a three year old child who just moved here from far away. New town, new home, new surroundings were all just too much for this little guy. I was speaking to my co-worker, asking her what else we could do to get him to stop crying.

My mentor, our boss, reminded me that the crying wasn’t just something he’s doing because he’s mad or sad, but that it is a way of expressing and releasing emotion. She recommended ways to support him as he struggled to find his way and navigate all of his emotions.

You see, when a child is crying, you have to ask yourself, “what is this child trying to tell me?”. There are times when that cry is to get attention, you know that fake cry that some kids can turn on, right? My kid can anyway… But really, young children cry to express anger, frustration, sadness, confusion, relief, and the occasional “I have no clue” cry. Letting go of the feelings is cathartic and provides relief to children, it’s how they work their way through to the other side of the conflict in their hearts.

Holding in tears, keeping emotions inward or stifling them can be harmful to self esteem, but also to our bodies. The nervous and cardiovascular systems are impacted greatly by stress, as many adults know very well. We want to instill the value of expressing your emotions early so young children develop healthy coping strategies now. (Seriously, crying can lower your blood pressure according to Dr. William H. Frye II PhD)

The other benefit to letting a child cry when they feel the need is the ability to inspire community. When children see that another child is crying, it creates an opportunity to empathize with their peer. Children will reach out to one another, offer hugs, stories, conversation even. It’s a tool that can enrich the classrooms emotional environment.

Please keep in mind that I’m not saying to ignore a crying child. I’m simply saying that trying to make a child stop crying or not allowing them to cry at all is unhealthy. This is something to keep in mind especially as children move out of infancy. Our expectations change as they have more skills and language, but the child will still feel sad. Crying is a natural way of expressing feelings at any age, and regardless of your gender. Remember, boys can cry too.

So the next time you have a sad child in front of you, give them a snuggle and let them cry it out.

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What I did on my summer vacation:

I visited family, swam in their pool and listened to my son laugh. I went for a lot of walks and ate really good food. I took my son to one of those indoor arcades that I really don’t enjoy, but he loves! I sent my husband and son off to the fair together. I went to the ocean with them next. We ate ice cream almost every night, went walking on the beach and looked at the sand and waves. We spent hours and hours in the water and on the beach. My husband and I got to have uninterrupted conversations. And we just spent time as a family.

In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, it’s more important than ever to take time as a family. Leave your house, chores, and worries behind. Just hanging out together helped us reconnect and remember all the good parts of our life together.

I also returned to my work feeling renewed and energized. Having that time out of my typical surroundings and spending time in nature gives me a lift. I hope everyone can take time to have a vacation now and then, even if it’s just a couple days to walk away from your worries and start fresh. It’s so worth it.

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Being honest with kids..,why is it so important?

When it comes to kids, it’s tempting to sugarcoat answers to their questions. Children are curious beings, and we want to nurture that curiosity. But guess what? If we give them cute answers or un-truths, we are doing them a disservice. If we give them answers that are simple so they can understand, but are based on fact, they will seek further answers as they grow. Being honest will actually nurture the critical thinking skills that are so important.

Some questions I’ve been asked over the years include:

Where do babies come from?
Why is that man sleeping on the bench?
How come that lady is acting silly?
How come that kid needs a wheelchair?

And the inspiration for this post, my son of course. A car full of teenagers was pulled over in front of our house tonight. There were 2 sheriffs, 1 town officer, and 1 state K-9 unit. Now he’s. 9, so I had to go into more detail than I would with a three or four year old, but basically I went with the truth. They broke the law and there are consequences. This led to a conversation about laws, police, drugs, and safety. What an amazing opportunity for him to learn about these things. Someone asked me why I would tell him about drugs, but I would rather he hear about the topic from his parents. Besides, it’s only a matter of time before he tunes us out!

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