Posted in Children's Literature Series

You’ve Read A Book: Now What? The Case for Open Ended Conversation with Children.

Reading Aloud.

How do we make the most of the precious moments after the last page of a book? In children’s literature, the author and illustrator open a window into another world. They share a perspective and a way of making sense of a moment in time. There is so much to learn, to notice and to digest. As adults, we interpret the story through our own lens, adding a layer of our beliefs to the discussion. The concept of utilizing open-ended questions removes the influence of grownup intentions or directives. It allows the child to express their understanding, to make sense, to play, to imagine and share thoughts freely. In addition, developmentally speaking, children have typical worries and sometimes challenging life experiences that are difficult to articulate or process. When the books selected reflect this, it is an invitation to express and explore thoughts and feelings, to synthesize the story and to decrease isolation and increase connection.

It’s not just a growth of vocabulary that matters here, but what those words convey about the nature of life, of hope, of crisis, of security, of love and of despair and of family. If we add the experiences of others, in other lands, in other family configurations, in other times, to what we experience in our own limited lives, we have the world’s wealth. The capacity to be human means to understand others, to satisfy curiosity, to recognize and express compassion, to see cause and effect, to wish for justice, to seek independence, to awaken empathy. All this, and much more, begins with the ideas gained through being read to. Nothing a parent or teacher does for a child’s intellectual and social growth is more important than talking to and – by extension reading aloud to a child.”

Rebecca J. Lukens. A Critical Handbook of Children’s Literature. New York: Penguin, 2007.

One way to capitalize on the content books offer and enrich children’s experience is to keep talking after the book is finished. These conversations vary by book, by child, by day and so much more. They provide an opportunity to model thinking aloud. Here are a few examples of what these questions might sound like:

  • What did you notice?
  • I wonder..
  • Do you have any questions?
  • Does that remind you of anything?
  • Why did that happen?
  • What is going on here?
  • Has that ever happened to you/to your friends? What did you do?
  • What do you think is going to happen? *making predictions
  • What would you do? *this question may be difficult for very young children.
  • How do you think he/she felt? *again this may be difficult for very young children as it requires ‘metacognition’ or thinking about thinking.

As readers we “create interpretations to enrich and deepen our experience in a text,” (Debbie Miller. Reading with Meaning. Ontario: Stenhouse Publishers. 2002. pg. 115.) Even as adults we read books that help us to learn or challenge our understanding. Books can be life-changing, eye-opening and even change our belief systems. These conversations, even for a few moments and in their simplest form can heighten a child’s experience of a book.

What questions do you use? Share a few in comments.

Posted in Children's Literature Series

Children’s Books as an Opening to Challenging Discussions.

A Child’s Bookshelf

Observing an active toddler at mealtime reveals a ritual of comings and goings. This process begins with a few nibbles snatched from an artfully arranged plate before rushing away to play with a coveted toy and then returning again. In many ways, a child’s readiness to digest discussions with grownups is similar. Children come to their grownups with questions and at times with heavy interrogation. Sometimes a simple phrase is enough. Sometimes they need more. When they continue to wonder, they return again and again to ask questions.

At times, life presents us with moments that are difficult but urgent to discuss. A child’s experience of these moments differs from adults. It can be linked to development, temperament, experience and so much more. So, how do we invite conversations in the bite sized nibbles they fancy? How do we garner an understanding of the child’s experience, emotion or readiness? How can we meet the child, right where they are and then scaffold to provide the support necessary?

Dewey’s age old reminder that we start “where the learner is in time, place, culture, and development,” the philosophy suggests that once children are exposed to reading, the decoding process has more meaning for them if they find what they read to be attractive.”

Rebeca J. Lukens. A Critical Handbook of Children’s Literature. New York: Pearson, 2007

This series, ‘Children’s Literature’ will introduce the practice of using literature as a provocation for conversation and as an window into a child’s understanding. The posts will cover the process from open-ended discussion tactics to the art of book selection. In addition, the series will review classic and new children’s literature as it relates to the challenging topics such as:

  • separation
  • illness
  • starting school
  • worries/anxiety
  • fire
  • poverty
  • diversity
  • death
  • darkness
  • emotion
  • new siblings
  • loneliness
  • being different
  • imagination
  • bullies
  • and so much more

A range of books will be introduced and discussion questions for children will be included. The books introduced here are by no means the only options available. Any book can be an invitation, simply read it and then ask: “what did you notice?” It’s is an incredible and non-directive way engage a child and open the door to their own story.

Stay tuned for posts on sourcing books, the art of book selection, using technology to engage readers and discussions about the value of unhappy or unfinished endings. These and more will be filed under the ‘Children’s Literature Series.’

*Requests for books related to specific topics can be left in the comments.

Posted in Mindfulness for Children, Tools

Quickly Calm an Anxious Child: Mindfulness for Children.

It is an unsettling time and there is so much change. Times like these can be difficult for young children to navigate. ‘5,4,3,2,1’ is a tool that can be used to help stop the out-of-control train of thoughts and worries. This can be done with very young children. It is a way to bring the mind back to the present moment and calm the visceral response that accompanies worry.

Let’s give it a try:

  • Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. Start anywhere: the car, bedtime, the playground, the grocery store.
  • Take a big breath in through the nose as if smelling a beautiful flower and blow it all out from the mouth as if blowing out birthday candles. Take (5) breaths like this. This will immediately begin to calm the body.
  • Now, look around the room.
  • Name (5) things you can see. Anything. Example: a teddy bear, a picture, my foot.
  • Name (4) things you can feel. Example: blanket, chair, sweater, teddy bear, cold air.
  • Name (3) things you can hear. Example: breathing, legs moving against the chair, the air conditioning, mom.
  • Name (2) things you can smell. Example: detergent on clothes, fresh air.
  • Name (1) thing you can taste. Example: toothpaste, air.

The mind cannot focus on two things at the same time. Focusing using the five senses and noticing items around the room takes the place of the upsetting train of thoughts and brings the mind to the present moment.

Give it a try and leave a comment on your experience.

Posted in The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

Fun Earth Day Tips your Preschooler Can Enjoy Throughout the Year!

“It seems to me that almost everything is a waste of time,” he remarked one day as he walked dejectedly home from school.  “I can’t see the point in learning to solve useless problems, or subtracting turnips from turnips, or knowing where Ethiopia is or how to spell February.”  And, since no one bothered to explain otherwise, he regarded the process of seeking knowledge as the greatest waste of time of all.

My brother, an accomplished teacher, gave me a book called ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ by Norton Juster.  The quote above is pulled from the first page.  The character Milo, doesn’t understand why he should have to learn because no one ever took the time to explain why it should be important to him.  How many of us remember sitting in math class saying “when am I ever going to use this?”

As parents and teachers, the responsibility is not only to give children the opportunity to participate and learn but to understand why we learn, why it is important and how it connects to their very own lives.  A science lesson on water for example could be a simple experiment in class OR it could be a walk down to the river to observe, experiments with the sink, bath or teeth brushing time.  It could be an art lesson, a language lesson a history lesson all tied back to the importance of clean water.

In honor of Earth Day, I pulled together some ‘why is this important to you’ facts to share with your children.  Instead of just celebrating one day a year, perhaps this will pique their interest to become good stewards of the environment everyday.

Three Fun Facts to Share with your Preschooler

 

  • Plastic – Encourage kids to find a re-usable water bottle they really love.  They can fill it with filtered water.  A Brita filter, for example, could replace close to 300 bottles of water.  Take your child to the super market and show them what 300 bottles looks like!  When they do use bottled water, make it their task to bring bottles to the recycle bin.  Please note: re-usable water bottles must be thoroughly washed after use and before being refilled especially during warm weather.
  • Water – Encourage children to turn off the water when they brush their teeth.  One evening, take a clean, empty milk gallon. Ask kids how much water they think is wasted when the faucet is on then do a test.  Leave the gallon under the faucet, with the water on and let them brush their teeth.  Put the water in the refrigerator and do an experiment to see how long it takes them to finish the ‘wasted’ water. 
  • Recycle – TV time!  In some studies, the energy saved recycling one aluminum can could power a TV for 3 hours.  Make a ‘reduce your carbon footprint’ chart.  For each item recycled add a little to their reading under a light time, their TV bank or other favorite activities.  For example – 1 can = 4 hours.  If your child gets 30 minutes of TV a day a can would be good for 8 days of television.  Here are a few more examples thanks to the EPA website:

1.)    Put one aluminum can in the recycling bin, and save enough energy to power your television for three hours.

2.)    Need to run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours? Recycling one glass container will do it.

3.)    Recycling one pound of #1 plastic saves enough energy to power a 13-watt CFL bulb left on continuously for a month and a half.

4.)    For each pound of paper you recycle, you save enough energy to run your insanely power-hungry Xbox360 for nearly a full day. Note the average household goes through about 7 pounds of paper a week (largely via their snail mail).

Tip for parents:  A 13w cfl gives light equivalent to a 40 – 60 w incandescent bulb and lasts 8 – 15 times as long.  A good source of info on cfl’s for those interested in more details is at the following url. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_fluorescent_lamp

Happy Earth Day to you and your children!  Let’s celebrate our beautiful earth everyday!

Posted in Teachable Moment Tuesday

Volcanoes, Earthquakes and the Anniversary of Oklahoma City – Ways to Keep your Family Safe During an Emergency

With the recent volcano eruptions in Iceland and stories of families stranded in airports, I began to think again about emergency preparation. Being in and around New York over the last decade has been amazing and unfortunately at some points terrifying.  Following September 11th, my company gave us all Go Bags in case of another attack/disaster.  It is important to be prepared, to have a plan and to share it.  As parents of toddlers responsibility grows to encompass your children and their safety.

I have learned that life can change forever…in just an instant.  I have learned how important it is to be prepared.  I am writing this post to share what I learned with parents in the hopes of helping in the preparation and perhaps avoidance of an accident or disaster.  Build your families plan here.

What can you do to prepare yourself and your family?

This is a list I created with some safety suggestions.  This is by no means all encompassing however these are a few items to start to prepare yourself and your family.

1.)    Have a plan, communicate it and practice it.

2.)    Have a ‘Go Bag’

3.)    Have a list of emergency numbers visible in your home

4.)    Have an ICE (In Case of Emergency) listed in your mobile phone book

5.)    Talk to local police or firemen to hear suggestions for making your home safer

6.)    Have fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home

7.)    Try to keep a charge on your mobile phone or carry an extra battery with a charge.

8.)    Have cash on hand and small bills in your home.

9.)    Have comfortable shoes (at home, at work, in the car)

Have a plan, communicate it and practice it:  During Sept 11th, I’m not sure I consciously thought about where I was walking, I just walked.  I went right to the stairwell and started walking down.  Our building had countless fire drills before that day.  It sunk in.  Practicing an emergency exit and communicating a meeting point is very important. 

According to ReadyNYC:  “Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations. Contact your household members’ workplaces, organizations, and schools for information on their emergency plans.

Start with a well-conceived plan:

  • Discuss with your household the types of emergencies that could occur in your area and what to do in each case.
  • Learn Work, School, and Community Plans
  • Establish responsibilities for each household member so you can work as a team.
  • Pick two places to meet: one near your home in case of a local emergency, like a fire, and the second outside your neighborhood in case of larger-scale emergencies.
  • Maintain an up-to-date emergency contact card with addresses and phone numbers.
  • Choose an out-of-area friend or relative as a contact for everyone to call. It’s often easier to call out-of-area during a large-scale emergency.
  • Include your pets in an evacuation plan. Have items for your pet in your disaster supplies kit and “Go Bag.”
  • Teach adult household members when and how to turn off electricity, water and gas.
  • Tell household members where emergency information and supplies are kept.
  • Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Take your planned evacuation route, and then map out alternative routes in case main roads are impassible.
  • Include your neighbors in your emergency plan”

 

Have a ‘go bag’.  According to the site ReadyNYC, families should have a ‘go bag.’

“Every household should pack a Go Bag – a collection of items you may need in the event of an evacuation. A Go Bag should be packed in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels. A Go Bag should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry. Make sure it is ready to go at all times of the year.

  • Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.)
  • Extra set of car and house keys
  • Credit and ATM cards and cash, especially in small denominations
  • Bottled water and non-perishable food such as energy or granola bars
  • Flashlight (LED flashlights are more durable and last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs)
  • Battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries
  • Keep a list of the medications each member of your household takes, why they take them, and their dosages. Medication information and other essential personal items. If you store extra medication in your Go Bag, be sure to refill it before it expires
  • First-aid kit
  • Contact and meeting place information for your household, and a small regional map
  • Child care supplies or other special care items “

 

Have a list of emergency number’s in your home:  The list can have your work and mobile numbers, emergency contacts, Doctor’s, Hospitals, Poison Control and more.

Have an ICE – List ICE in your mobile phone address book.  It stands for In Case of Emergency.  List your emergency contact.

Talk to local law enforcement and firemen:  There is nothing more exciting to a child than to see a fire truck, police car or speak to law enforcement.  They may be willing to share some tips and tricks for your home and family.

Have fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors:  This speaks for itself.  Make sure the batteries are charged.

Keep your cell phone charged or a spare battery (fully charged.)  In this day of mobile phones, it is so helpful to be able to let family members or officials know where you are and how you are doing or if you need help!  A full charge in an emergency is indispensible. 

Have cash on hand.  In an emergency, there may not be time to get to a bank or atm.

Have comfortable shoes at home, at work, and in the car.  You never know when you may need to walk or run rather than ride.  It is best to have comfortable, sturdy shoes handy.

My intention in writing this post isn’t to sound like a doomsayer however it is to make sure we are all as prepared as we can be for what hopefully will never happen.  Little tasks and plans now can make all the difference if they are ever needed.  ReadyNYC has some great tips for families and alerts for New Yorkers.  Check your local government agencies and schools to see if they have similar services.

Posted in The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

Preventing Sports Related Injury in Young Children – Dance, Baseball, Football and More

As parents of young children, one of the most difficult moments is to watch your child get injured.  To see your child suffer in pain or rehab can be unbearable.  According to the American orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) many common sports injuries are preventable AND a large portion of the responsibility falls to parents.

AOSSM began a campaign to educate Parents, Coaches and others.  The campaign is called Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention (STOP.)  “The comprehensive public outreach program focuses on the importance of sports safety-specifically relating to overuse and trauma injuries. The initiative not only raises awareness and provides education on injury reduction, but also highlights how playing safe and smart can enhance and extend a child’s athletic career, improve teamwork, reduce obesity rates and create a lifelong love of exercise and healthy activity. Our message underscores the problems of overuse and trauma and emphasizes the expertise of our coalition of experts.”

Parent’s let’s test your knowledge!

  1. What age children’s feet and ankles gain enough strength to begin pointe training in ballet? 
  2. What are the maximum pitches per baseball game for your child? How many rest days they should take?  What age they are developed enough to learn to throw a fastball?
  3. What common football injury can effect a child’s long term involvement in sport?

 Parent’s can find the answers to these and many other questions in the PDF documents here:  http://stopsportsinjuries.org/SportsInjuryPrevention.aspx  

In order to encourage healthy behavior and a lifetime of sport, take some time to educate yourself now.  Empowered with proper sports information parents can be an advocate for their child in school physical activity program, during intramural sports and with their coaches over the years.  Each child develops differently.  This blog is not intended to provide medical advice.  Please consult your child’s physician for answers specific to the development of your child.

 Answers –

1.)    According to STOP age 12 is the generally accepted lower limit to begin pointe training in Ballet.

2.)    According to STOP, 50 pitches is the maximum per game for a 7-8 year old.

3.)    According to STOP knee injuries are the most common in football.  Injuries to the ACL/PCL and menisci can effect a child’s long term involvement in sport.

Check out Hometown Health TV for additional sports injury related information and a video on safe footwear: http://hometownhealthtv.com/main/index.php/childrens-foot-health

© 2010  All rights reserved.

Posted in The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

Deciphering and Limiting Children’s Television – An Extra 500 Hours with your Preschooler

Like a guest that overstays their welcome, the glow of the television shines from early morning to late in the evening in many America homes.  In many ways, T.V has replaced family game time, conversation and even babysitters.  According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), children in the U.S spend approximately three hours a day watching television.  Because of the influence that programs, characters and commercials can have on children, Congress requires broadcast television stations (commercial and non-commercial) to offer “educational and informational” (EI) children’s programming.  This Congressional requirement dubbed “Children’s Television Act” was instated in 1990.  The FCC created its own rules in order to comply with the CTA mandate.  Stations must:   

  • provide parents and consumers with advance information about core programs being aired;
  • define the type of programs that qualify as core programs; and
  • Air at least three hours per week of core programs.

According to the FCC:  “Core programming” is programming specifically designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children ages 16 and under. Core programming must be:

  • at least 30 minutes in length;
  • aired between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.; and
  • A regularly scheduled weekly program.

Parent’s can identify these programs by looking for the E/I icon displayed throughout the program.  The FCC limits commercial time to 10.5 minutes per hour.

If television is a must in your household, the E/I icon can serve as an initial guide for parents. 

That said, 3 hours per day X 7 days a week X 52 weeks/per = 1092 hours per year.  Consider limiting television time, if you take away 50% or 1.5 hours per day, you are giving your children over 500 extra hours of time to create their own show, art, read, dramatic play, play dates and whatever else they enjoy. 

Need some ideas?

  • You can find recipes to make with your kids here:
  1. What’s Cooking Blog – http://whatscookingblog.com/2010/03/01/whats-cooking-with-your-kids-sweet-potato-ice-cream/    
  2. Kid’s Health Recipes – http://kidshealth.org/kid/recipes/index.html
  • You can find book recommendations here:
  1. Reading is Fundamental Read List for Preschoolers:  http://www.udel.edu/ETL/RWN/ReadingLists.html#pk
  2. American Library Association List for Preschoolers: http://www.udel.edu/ETL/RWN/ReadingLists.html#p
  • You can find some children’s craft ideas here:
  1. Martha Stewart Kids – http://www.marthastewart.com/craft-techniques

 

Enjoy every moment!

© 2010  All rights reserved.

Posted in Ongoing Journey

The Next Step in My Journey…

As my readers know, I am on a journey from the world of finance to the world of early childhood education.  A few months ago I started the research process to determine the best road to take.  I spoke with Professors, graduates, visited schools, attended information sessions and even sat in on classes.  I narrowed down to my favorite which was not hard. 

Almost two decades after I first applied to schools, and a 13 year financial career, I once again began writing essays and requesting recommendation letters.  The process this time included an additional on the spot essay and interview. 

With humble intentions, I announce that I was accepted to the program of my dreams!  June 1, I begin work towards my Masters in Early Childhood Special Education and General Education at an amazing school in New York City.  My hopes are to be in a preschool classroom soaking up even more knowledge by September. 

Not only is this a huge step forward towards my goal to open a Preschool it will also impact the topics with which I blog about.  As I learn and study, I will report here on current research, my own findings and tactics used in progressive Preschools.

What has been almost a lifelong dream has now become tangible.  It is here, it is real and I am on my way.  I look forward to sharing this journey with you and I cannot wait for the day I can post from my own school.

Here we go!!!!

© 2010  All rights reserved.

Posted in The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

World Water Day – A Message and Action Steps for Preschoolers

The UN declared March 22, World Water Day starting in 1993.  The WHO has made 2005-2015 the International Decade for Action – Celebrating Water for Life.  Between the two organizations, there is plenty of reading and statistics available to parents on water.  It is important to educate ourselves so we can make decisions that positively effect water for our lifetime, our children’s and their children’s lives.  It is also important to understand the facts so we can raise our children to be good stewards of the earth in their time.

For  parents:

 For the children, it may help to ‘boil’ the information down into ‘easy to swallow’ tidbits and action items.  I have done so below.

 Basic tidbits to relate the importance of a large and clean water supply to your Preschooler:

  1. Our body is mostly made of water (70% according to the Nature Conservancy.)  We need water for energy, muscles, immune system, and our brain, even to get old or bad stuff out of bodies.
  2. Dirty water can contain garbage or illness.  It is bad for us to drink.  It is also bad for the fish, the animals and the plants that can also get sick from dirty water.  We need healthy plants, fish and animals as these are part of our ecosystem (more simply put we need to eat to survive.)

3.  We need clean water to play!  A lot of us visit the coastal areas every year (according to the EPA, 1/3 of all Americans).  Dirty water causes the beaches to close.

 Action items for Preschoolers:

  1. Understand some of the basic facts (listed above on why water is important.)
  2. Understand how much water we use and with little changes how much we can save.
    • Next time you fill a bath, explain that is how much water is fresh clean water is wasted in a week if the sink is left on when they are brushing their teeth.  For parents – the average faucet gives water at 2 gallons per minute.  Brushing teeth takes about 90 seconds, 2 times per day.
    • Have them remind you to take the car to the car wash!  According to the Nature Conservancy a car wash uses 32 gallons of water versus 500 gallons on average to wash the car at home.
  3. Take a trip to a lake, river or ocean.  Enjoy the day and the recreation.  Talk about all the living things in and around the water and what would happen if the water was dirty.
  4. Take your child to a nature center.  Even at this young age they can get involved in monitoring and clean up activities.

 We can all do our part to impact our water supply.  Beginning the conversation with children early can be a great way to encourage a sense of stewardship for our water and our environment.

© 2010  All rights reserved.

Posted in Well Rounded Wednesday

Celebrating St Patrick’s Day with your Preschooler

Have Fun with Your Little Leprechauns!, Artwork by Tamiko NicholsonSpring brings such excitement into little lives.  Once again, children can spend time outdoors and beautiful things begin to grow.  Along with Spring comes St Patrick’s Day.  This is a great opportunity to have a little fun with your kids and help them enjoy the holiday.  I heard from some of my Mom friend’s and they had great ideas.  I have added a few of my own and listed them below.

1.)  Explain the meaning of the day – Wikipedia has a great explanation (that can be abbreviated for preschoolers.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick’s_Day.  You can talk about Ireland, find it on a map and discuss the culture and foods.

2.)  Leave evidence of Leprechauns – Put green food dye in the toilet bowl, green eggs for breakfast, finger prints and some chocolate gold coins for lunch, introduce some traditional Irish foods at dinner or try green mashed potatoes! (Thanks to my Mom friend’s for some great creative ideas!)

3.)  Make some St Patty’s Day CraftsDraw four-leaf clovers, talk about what your kids feel lucky about and help write it on the leaves.  Have your kids help decorate green or gold cookies.  They can even help baking.  Make a Leprechaun mask – use a paper plate, green construction paper for a hat, and orange crepe paper for the beard and eye brows (http://familycrafts.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ/Ya&zTi=1&sdn=familycrafts&cdn=parenting&tm=39&gps=54_1621_1260_624&f=20&tt=14&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.thebestkidsbooksite.com/craftdetails.cfm%3FTopicID%3D484)

4.)  Play some St Patty’s Day Games – On the following website I found some great ideas (http://kids-outdoor-activities.suite101.com/article.cfm/st_patricks_day_outdoor_activities_for_kidsPlay Green Clover – It’s the same as Red Rover Red Rover just say Green Clover Green Clover.  This game is played by making two lines of kids.  One line calls ‘Green Clover Green Clover send Suzy over.’  Suzy runs towards the other line and tries to break through.  If she cannot she must join the enemy team!  Have a treasure hunt!  Hide Leprechaun loot around the yard (for example chocolate gold coins.)  Have your kids find them.  You can then have then sort or count the different treats they find.  Play  Leprechaun hide and seek. Take a green hat or scarf.  The Leprechaun gets to wear it and hide.  Everyone else ‘seeks’.  Whoever finds the Leprechaun then becomes the one to hide.

Most importantly – enjoy the day and the luck of the Irish.

© 2010  All rights reserved.