Daily Routines and Schedules



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Routines and schedules help give children a sense of security. Maintaining regular daily routines makes it easier for children to deal with stress or life changes.   Routines are especially important during particular times of the day from getting ready in the morning to bedtime. Stable routines help children to anticipate what will happen next, it’s actions and a guide to a specific goal. Routines should be regular, but flexible when needed.   Unexpected events may cause for a change of routine. The goal is to be constant, but make changes adaptable when necessary.  This helps prepare children to be flexible when unexpected events take place, and knowing that the routine will return the following day.

In the Article, Why Kids Need Routines, stated Seven Benefits of Using Routines with Your Kids:

  1. Routines eliminate power struggles.

Routines eliminate power struggles because you are not bossing the child around. This activity (brushing teeth, napping, turning off the TV to come to dinner) is just what we do at this time of day. The parent stops being the bad guy, and nagging is greatly reduced.

  1. Routines help kids cooperate.

Routines help kids cooperate by reducing stress and anxiety for everyone. We all know what comes next; we get fair warning for transitions, and no one feels pushed around, or like parents are being arbitrary.

  1. Routines help kids learn to take charge of their own activities.

Over time, kids learn to brush their teeth, pack their backpacks, etc., without constant reminders. Kids love being in charge of themselves. This feeling increases their sense of mastery and competence. Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves have less need to rebel and be oppositional.

  1. Kids learn the concept of “looking forward” to things they enjoy.

This is an important part of making a happy accommodation with the demands of a schedule. He may want to go to the playground now, but he can learn that we always go to the playground in the afternoon, and he can look forward to it then.

  1. Regular routines help kids get on a schedule.

Regular routines help kids get on a schedule, so that they fall asleep more easily at night.

  1. Routines help parents build in those precious connection moments.

We all know that we need to connect with our children every day, but when our focus is on moving kids through the schedule to get them to bed, we miss out on opportunities to connect. If we build little connection rituals into our routine, they become habit.

  1.      7. Schedules help parents maintain consistency in expectations.

If everything is a fight, parents end up settling: more TV, skip-brushing teeth for tonight, etc. With a routine, parents are more likely to stick to healthy expectations for everyone in the family, because that’s just the way we do things in our household. The result: a family with healthy habits, where everything runs more smoothly!

(Aha! Parenting.com, Copyright ©2017 Dr. Laura Markham)

I have found as a parent, the most important routines of the day are morning rituals, meal times and bedtime. These regular schedules provide the day with structure. The key is also being prepared.

Morning Rituals: For our morning rituals, we do some prep work the evening before by preparing lunches, setting out outfits and packing backpacks. This has eliminated stress in the morning and time. These tasks also help teach organizational skills and time management. A visual schedule can be used to show the routines of the day from: wake up, use the bathroom, eat breakfast, brush teeth, brush hair and get dressed. Pictures of each activity can be used to visually see the order and what they should do next.

Meal Time Routines: When children have a mealtime routine, they know what to expect when it is time for family meals. Dinnertime gives families the opportunity to talk about their day and share their feelings. There can be many routines from washing hands, setting the table, helping with the meal or clearing the dishes.

Bedtime Rituals: Bedtime rituals make it easier to get children to bed at night. For my daughter, we had a visual schedule of each activity she needed to do before bed. The schedule was pictures of her doing each ritual placed in order. Beginning with bath, pajamas, brush teeth, two stories, get tucked into bed, lights out and ending with sleep. We did the same routine each night and she could look at her schedule to know what came next and what was expected.

I have also found that giving children a 5-minute warning before a routine or ritual helps children to finish what they are doing and to become more prepared for their next tasks. Routines and rituals make it easier for families to become organized and get things done. Family life may be chaotic without these types of structure. There are no rules for what routines and rituals you need. It’s about finding what works best for your family.

Here are some great resources to get you started on establishing family routines and rituals:

Creating Structures and Rules


The Importance of Routines for Children


It’s the Little Things: Daily Routines


Here is a wonderful website that has many visual schedules and other tools you can use at home and in school: http://setbc.org/pictureset/

Healthy Nutrition For The New Year!



By: Cindy Nyquist (Guest Blog Writer – ECFE Teacher)

It is that time of the year when we try and make some positive changes! ECFE and School Readiness is trying to help our school snack be a much more healthy experience for our students. I am an ECFE teacher, not a dietitian, but here are some healthy suggestions that I have incorporated on my journey to better nutrition.

I think food is very complicated because it starts with how we were brought up. My parents grew up on farms where they did physical labor and ate 6 times a day. I don’t do physical labor, but unfortunately I grew up eating 3 meals and 3 sugary snacks. Eating healthy snacks was not done. I wasn’t exposed to raw vegetables with the exception of a carrot or even fresh vegetables. I don’t want to be offensive, but I don’t think anyone is going to jump up and down about a canned vegetable. When I see the kids that are exposed to fresh vegetables eating a piece of cucumber or a cherry tomato like it is the best thing ever, I have real regrets for not serving raw vegetables to my children. They say it takes 20 exposures to a new food to like it, so keep trying with those fresh vegetables!

If I could have a do over with my kids, I would swap out the orange juice they had with a green smoothie for breakfast. That way they are getting a vegetable even for breakfast. Spinach mixed with frozen fruit is very palatable! It is better for their blood sugar level also, and the increase in diabetes is definitely a motivator for wanting to have better nutrition! There are many inexpensive options for blending a smoothie. You can put beans in a smoothie and not even taste them, which is a good source of protein and fiber. I would also serve my children steel cut oatmeal or healthy multigrain pancakes instead of the high sugar, over-processed cereal they ate.

When I first started on a journey to better nutrition, I started with the goal of taking what I was already eating and adding more vegetables to it. Instead of tacos, I switched to chicken fajitas with peppers and onion; instead of spaghetti with just meat, I added zucchini, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. Now I look at a bunch of veggies and get excited. It has so much more texture and color than what I had been eating.

Next, I started to overhaul my starches. Out with the white bread and pasta, white rice, and potatoes. In with the multigrain foods you will prefer if you continue eating them! Yukon Gold’s or sweet potatoes are good! Grains like quinoa are now more easily available. You need to have the mindset that you will someday like this new choice.

Now I am working on getting more proteins. I try and add beans to dishes, eat almonds as a snack, and an avocado on my eggs instead of cheese.

Snacks can be a real downfall to good nutrition. Try and think swapping what you’re enjoying for something better. Try eating popcorn without butter instead of chips. Instead of fruit snacks, offer apple slices to dip in almond butter or yogurt. They have many healthy Popsicle recipes online and you can make them in a Dixie cup with a stick.

I hope that you implement some healthy choices that keep moving in the right direction in 2017!






Get Moving!



By:  Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

As a child, I never thought about exercise or even knew what that meant.  We would bike ride, roller skate, or run around the block or throughout our neighborhood.  We spent most of our playtime outside always moving.  Even in the winter, we were skating for hours on the outside ice rink or sliding up and down, “Monkey Hill.”  The great feat was trucking back up the big hill to slide back down again.  I rarely sat still, watching TV was something we only did on Saturday mornings, and computers and video games were not yet in the homes of American families.

Today, families are bombarded with social media and digital gadgets.  In fact, children spend an average of three hours a day watching television!  Children no longer run around the neighborhood all day returning home when the streetlights turn on.  Children spend more time in-doors, spending less time moving and more time sitting still.  Exercise is now something that needs to be planned or embedded into the day’s schedule.  From the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention states that, “Children should be getting at least one- hour of physical activity every day.”  In order for children to be healthy, physical activity is essential.

Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore or work . . . it should be fun!  Large motor development is significant for growing children.  Physical activity should be age-appropriate.  For young children, exercise is using their muscles and simply moving their bodies.  Parents play a significant part in helping their child become more physically active.  Listed below are 11 ways suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics to get started:

  1. Talk with your pediatrician.  Your pediatrician can help your child understand why physical activity is important.  Your pediatrician also can suggest a sports activity that is best for your child.
  2. Find a fun activity.  Help your child find a sport that she enjoys.  The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely it is that she will continue.  Get the entire family involved.  It is a great way to spend time together.
  3. Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate.  For example, a seven-year old in not ready for weight lifting or a three-mile run, but soccer, bike riding, and swimming are appropriate activities.
  4. Plan ahead.  Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
  5. Provide a safe environment.  Make sure your child’s equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe.  Make sure your child’s clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
  6. Provide active toys.  Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes and other active toys.
  7. Be a role model.  Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
  8. Play with your child.  Help her learn a new sport.
  9. Turn off the TV!   Limit television watching and computer or digital game use.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, computers, and video games each day.  Use the free time for more physical activities.
  10. Make time for exercise.  Some children are so over-scheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
  11. Do not overdo it.  When your child is ready to start, remember to tell her to listen to her body.  Exercise and physical activity should not hurt.  If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity.  As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it.

Source: Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics, Last updated 6/3/2013)

Physical activity begins as young as infancy from tummy time to crawling.   Physical activity should be enjoyment for children.  Physical activity promotes a healthy body and life style.  Just get your body moving and have your children involved by going for a bike ride, nature walk, or building a snowman.   There are many benefits to exercise from a better nights sleep, maintaining a healthier body, and improving motor coordination (just to name a few).

“Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”  ~Jim Ryan.  I hope you become motivated to incorporate exercise into your family life.    Physical activity doesn’t have to be labor; we just need to strive to find the time for physical play and enjoyment!  As famously put by Nike, “Just Do It!”

Here are some resources on physical activity for children:

Exercise For Kids


Kids Exercise: The 4 Types You Need


The Many Benefits of Exercise


25 Exercise Games and Activities


Physical Activity in Early Childhood













By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/Discovery Learning Teacher)

I love making lists and a bucket list is especially fun. Each month I make a list of ideas for the season. I get lots of inspiration from Pinterest and fun activities that we have done as a family each year. Here is a fun filled Bucket List for Fall:

• Go on a hayride
• Go to a pumpkin patch
• Make an apple or pumpkin pie
• Have a campfire
• Go to an apple orchard
• Stay up until dark and watch the stars and moon
• Drink apple cider hot or cold (depending on the weather)
• Make a pile of leaves and jump in it
• Go to your local high school football game
• Go through a corn maze
• Collect acorns and leaves
• Watch Halloween kids movies – My favorite is, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”
• Leaf rubbings with crayons
• Break out the fall wardrobe and jackets
• Fly a kite
• Run/walk a mini-marathon
• Go to the farmers market
• Decorate the house in fall colors and window decals
• Make homemade soup with the kids
• Go trick or treating
• Roast pumpkin seeds
• Carve pumpkins
• Make pinecone bird feeders
• Host a Halloween party
• Make a costume from scratch
• Send homemade Halloween cards
• Bob for apple
• Make Carmel apples
• Plant a tree
• Take family photos outside
• Visit a farm
• Go to a fall festival
• Take a hike
• Go on a leaf drive during the leaf color peak
• Read outside
• Picnic in the park
• Take a flashlight walk at night
• Plant fall flowers
• Make S’mores
• Ride Bikes
• Make a gratitude jar
• Photo shot in Halloween costumes
• Play outdoors whenever possible
• Go to the zoo
• Donate to the food bank
• Enjoy the weather!

What’s on your Fall Bucket List?

Quotes to Inspire Kids!



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

I love quotes. Often, I can find the words I am trying to express by starting with a famous quote. Here are a few I found that can help inspire the youngest of minds.

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it ‘The Present’.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

“The time is always right to do what is right.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself,
instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
-Judy Garland

“Don’t let what you can’t do
stop you from doing what you can do.”
-John Wooden

“If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”
-Dr. Seuss

“Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
-Dr. Seuss

“Anything can happen child, anything can be!”
-Shel Silverstein

“If you have good thoughts…they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
-Ronald Dahl

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
-Robert Munsh

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can!”
-Watty Pipper

“The more he gave away, the more delighted he became.”
-Marcus Pfister

“It is when we are most lost that we sometimes find our truest friends.”
-Brothers Grimm from Snow White

“When you know better you do better.”
-Maya Angelou

“No one is perfect – that’s why pencils have erasers.”
-Wolfgang Riebe

“Never waste a minute thinking of anyone you don’t like.”

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
-Dr. Suess

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
-Dr. Suess

“We must be the change we want to see.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
-Mark Twain

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”
-Helen Keller

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
-Dalai Lama

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
-Walt Disney

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
-Dr. Seuss

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
-Dr. Seuss

“Only surround yourself with people who will lift you higher.”
-Oprah Winfrey

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”
-Anthony Brandt

Helping Your Child Through Separation Anxiety




By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

When my daughter first started daycare as a toddler she suffered with separation anxiety. I remember each day dropping her off and she would cry and look at me with bewildered eyes. As soon as we got into the car each morning, the lower lip would drop and I could see the anxiety in her face as we drove to child- care. I dreaded each morning because I knew she would be sad when I left and sometimes would cry or pull on my leg; it broke my heart! This went on for over a month. Finally, my daughter made a new friend and looked forward to playing with her. She also started to have fun making art projects, playing on the playground and being with other children her age at daycare. We finally came to the day when I would drop her off, give her a hug, walk to the door and say good-bye without tears (from either of us). I remember how hopeless I felt until we came up with some strategies for her separation anxiety with her teacher that truly helped. One thing I also learned was that it helped to have a “Good-bye Routine” that was expected each day, which made it much easier for us both to separate. I must admit, it was hard for me to say good-bye too, but when she saw my happy face and enthusiasm at each drop-off, she began to smile as well!

Separation Anxiety in young children is a normal stage of development. One thing to keep in mind is that separation anxiety is also a good sign that healthy attachment has been developed between child and caregiver. It is important for children to realize that even when their parent separates from them, that they will return. Separation is a great time to develop coping strategies and independence.

Listed below are a few tips that can help you and your child at times of separations (especially the first day of school):

  • Role-play with your child what will happen at drop off time. Practice pretending to walk to the door, give each other a hug and wave good-bye. Make a good-bye routine and practice it with your child. Then when you need to separate, follow the same routine you practiced together. End with a special ritual whether it is a giving a high-five or hug, before you exit (never sneak away).
  • Practice separating from your child by having a caregiver watch your child for a few hours or plan a play date.
  • Read stories to your child about school and separation from parents. My daughter’s favorite book was, I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas

Other Helpful Books:

What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff

Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss

Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

  • Make good-byes short and sweet. It never helps your child if you linger. Even if they begin to cry, do your last good-bye ritual, smile and tell your child you’ll be back, and head out the door. Always keep a brave face, and if you need to cry do it when you’re out of sight of your child (I did this for months!). Keep in mind, your child is fine and there are teachers and other children that are with him/her.
  • Make sure to get up a little extra early the morning of the first day, so no one feels rushed!  The mornings we are not rushed tends to make for a better drop off.
  • Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep and is going to bed at the same time each night.
  • Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.
  • Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.
  • Drive by the school/daycare and point out, “There’s your new school!”
  • Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House). Show your child where you will be dropping off and where you will be saying good-bye. Let your child explore their new room making sure they know where their belongings go and where the bathroom is.
  • Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at preschool or daycare (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about school/childcare.
  • Go Shopping for school supplies with your child. Let them pick out their own backpack or folders. Make it a fun excursion just to get ready for school
  • The night before the big day, have all items laid out with their outfit and all school supplies needed. Let your child help too. They’ll enjoy picking out what they would like to wear.
  • Putting comfort items in your child’s backpack will help if they start to feel homesick. If it is a necklace they can wear, a picture of their family taped in their folder, or a special teddy bear can help children feel less anxious.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate with your child at pick-up time! Tell your child how proud you are of them!

It will generally take a few weeks before your child fully adjusts to a new school or childcare. Keep your morning routine consistent and your good-byes short, and your child will ultimately separate without tears or struggle and this will also build your child’s confidence.

Listed below are some other websites for more strategies on separation anxiety for young children:






Getting Ready For Those First Days of School!



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

Now that we’re coming to an end of the Dog Days of Summer, it is time to slowly switch our thoughts back to school. Summer days tend to be carefree, stress less, and relaxing. In just a few weeks, the busy bustle will begin again in full force. It can be quite a transition for children to switch from summer mode to school days. Now is a great opportunity to begin preparing your children for back to school!

Here are a few tips to help you gradually get back into the school groove.

• Go back to school shopping with your children. Let them help go through the list of what’s needed while letting them pick out the colors they like of certain items and their own backpack. Children will get more excited if they’re involved with the preparations and they will have ownership of their new items.

• School shopping for new clothes is always fun for kids. It is helpful to go through children’s clothes and shoes to make sure everything fits before the big shopping day. You can have special drawer or place in the closet that they can keep their new school clothes to wear for those first days. It helps to plan out which outfits they will wear that first week to help keep things stress free.

• Plan lunches. Make a list with your child of the types of foods they like to eat for lunch. I love all the ideas I have gotten on Pinterest for new ways to pack lunches. This is a great time to try some new foods, like hummus or cottage cheese. If your child likes them, you’ll have more options for lunchtime. It’s also helpful to copy off the first month’s lunch calendar so your children can pick out which days they will have hot or cold lunch in advance.

• Get the calendar ready. Have a calendar posted that the whole family can see with September events and schedules from music classes, football games, and don’t forget the first day of school. I use a big dry erase calendar that I switch each month. It’s easy to add and change events.

• Get organized! Make sure you have everything in order and ready to go from documentations needed or child well checks and immunizations. Check with the school’s website to make sure you have everything needed before the first day of school. It’s also helpful to get your house in order, cleaned and organized before school starts.

• Read books or watch movies about going back to school. Some fun movies for school-age children are: Matilda, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Harriet the Spy, Akeelah and the Bee, Freaky Friday, Nancy Drew, and High School Musical.

• Try to slowly get back into your regular routine. Begin by:
o Eating all meals similar to the times they will eat during the school year.
o Reestablishing regular bedtime routines from bathing, teeth brushing, story time and tucking in.
o Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night from 9 to 10 hours.
o Start to put your child down for bedtime a little earlier each week until the week before school so that they are going to bed at the time they will when school begins. Do the same for wake up times too.

Here are some helpful tips for those children who are going to school for the first time:

• Start reading books about going to school for the first time.
What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff
Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss
Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas

• Drive by the school and point out, “There’s your new school.” If possible walk around, check out the playground and show your child the entrance to the building.

• Watch movies about going to school. Some great movies for preschoolers are: Curious George Back to School, Daniel (Tiger) Goes to School, Sesame Street Ready for School, Caillou Goes to School, Nickelodeon: The First Day of School, Bubble Guppies: Get Ready for School, and Leap Frog Let’s Go To School.

• Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.

• Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House).

• Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at school (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about school.

• Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.

• Share memories with your child of some fun school recollections you had for our first day at school.

• Tell your child often and how much fun school is!!

And don’t forget there is still time to enjoy summer!

Outdoor Fun Around Town!



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Summer is the perfect time of year to enjoy all the fun places you can go in Minnesota with the kids! Listed below is a list of activities and places of interest around our state and town that you can do outdoors:

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
Free Family Event Schedule 2016
Wildlife and nature viewing from sandhill cranes, eagles, plants, butterflies and the smallest of the animal species.

Elm Creek Park Reserve
The park features more than 20 miles of paved hiking and biking trails, miles of turf hiking trails, a chlorinated swimming pond, children’s play area and more!

Downtown Elk River Riverfront Concerts
Check out the Thursday night live concerts at downtown Elk River’s Rivers Edge Commons Park all summer long.

Oliver Kelly Farm
Meet the animals in the barn and help work on the farm by picking vegetables or churning butter in the kitchen.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Over 1,100 acres of gardens, woods and trails.

Walker Arts Center Sculpture Garden
There are many free events including Free First Saturdays.

Como Zoo and Conservatory
Not only can you visit the animals and gardens, the zoo and conservatory offers many different activities, classes and programs. Blooming Butterflies opened on June 17th.

Minnehaha Regional Park
Minnehaha Regional Park covers 167 acres of nature, gardens and waterfalls.

Harriet Alexander Nature Center
The boardwalk and trails circulate through 52 acres of marsh, prairie and forest habitats.

Woodland Trails Park – Elk River
Bike, walk or hike the trails.

Lake Maria State Park – Monticello
The marshes, potholes, and lakes provide excellent habitat for wildlife.

Things to do in Elk River with the kids!
Many activities and attractions listed with detailed information and directions to each location.

There are so many ways to explore Minnesota and there is so much that our state has to offer. For even more events and activities go to:
Explore Minnesota

Time to put on the sunscreen and discover all that summer has to offer. See the sights and travel around! Minnesota summers sure fly by . . . so take pleasure in it while you can. We’ll be shoveling snow soon enough!

Summer Fun Bucket List



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Summer is the best time of year to enjoy fun and amusing activities with your children. Here is a fabulous summer bucket list to get the season started!

1. Make Snow Cones
2. Homemade Popsicles
3. Home Depot Kids Workshops
4. Wash Car In Swimsuits
5. Outdoor Movie
6. Backyard Camp-out
7. Local Outdoor Concert
8. Swim at Different Pools or Beaches in the Area
9. Build Blanket Forts
10. Tie-Die T-Shirts
11. Make Homemade Ice-Cream
12. Go Berry Picking
13. Water Balloon Fight
14. Local Library Events
15. Make Playdough
16. Go on Picnics
17. Stargaze
18. Paint Your Own Pottery
19. Plant a Garden
20. Plant Flowerpots
21. Visit a Museum
22. Go to The Zoo
23. Game Night
24. Read a Book in the Shade
25. Feed Ducks and Geese
26. Bean Bag or Washer Toss
27. Go Fishing
28. Go For a Walk or Hike
29. Garage Sales
30. Try New Recipes
31. Go to a Carnival
32. Make Homemade Lemonade
33. 4th of July Parade
34. Run Through the Sprinkler
35. Make a Summer Journal
36. Play an Outside Sport
37. Go to a TWINS or Saints Game
38. Hunt For Bugs
39. Fly a Kite
40. Go to Different Playgrounds
41. Bird Watch
42. Paint or Art Outside
43. Treasure Hunt
44. BBQ
45. Planetarium
46. Nature Center
47. Visit a Farm
48. Sidewalk Chalk
49. Badminton
50. Hopscotch
51. Farmer’s Market
52. Tour Fire or Police Station
53. Make Birdfeeders
54. Make Jewelry
55. Plant a Tree
56. De-Clutter House
57. Scrapbook Family Photos
58. Visit Historic Sights
59. Write and Mail a Letter to Someone Special
60. Go Mini-Golfing
61. Make Homemade Lip Balm
62. Watch Favorite Children’s Movies From Parent’s Childhood
63. Play an Instrument
64. Make Up a Dance
65. Learn to Crochet or Sew
66. Play Dates With School Friends
67. Swimming Lessons
68. Create a Book
69. Science Experiments
70. Spa Day
71. Exercise Together
72. Water Sponge Ball Fight
73. Go Camping
74. Eat Outside on the Deck Often
75. I’m Bored Jar with Lists of Activities
76. Roller Skate
77. Skip Rocks
78. Slumber Party
79. Start a Collection
80. Build a Wind Chime
81. Sharpie Plates and Cups
82. Trace Shadow
83. Go For a Drive With the Windows Down
84. Watch the Sunset
85. Watch the Sunrise
86. S’mores By the Fire
87. Make Homemade Pizza
88. Climb a Tree
89. Art Museum
90. Build Sand Castles
91. Go to a Play
92. Participate in ECFE or Community Ed Classes
93. Play I Spy Outside
94. Bake cupcakes
95. Eat watermelon and Corn on the Cob
96. Squirt Bottle Fight
97. Drive-In Movie
98. Canoe or Boat Ride
99. Run in the Rain
100. TAKE A NAP!

What’s on your summer bucket list?

Learning Through Play



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” ~Fred Rogers

Play is how children begin to comprehend and grasp all the many concepts of their surroundings. Play is the groundwork for knowledge for young children. Children need opportunities to play in an atmosphere that promotes learning in all the areas of child development (Social Emotional, Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Cognitive, Language, Literacy, and Math). Today children do not have as many play opportunities with the increased demands of academic success, structured activities and technology devices from computers, phones and television. Many toys sold are battery operated and don’t allow for the building of imagination or make believe play. Early childhood classrooms give children a unique educational play setting that fosters imagination and dramatic play. The early childhood classroom allows for social development for children to learn to play with other children of the same age with trained and responsive teachers that guide and coach children to play successfully with one another.
Our ECFE and Discovery Learning Preschool programs are prepared and enriched learning environments that allow for children to have opportunities to explore many different learning areas from blocks, dramatic play, art, sand, water, music, writing, literacy, math, sensory, science, puzzles, games, and outdoor play. Play is an effective and enjoyable way for children to develop many learning skills. “Play is an important vehicle for developing self regulation as well as for promoting language, cognition, and social competence. Children of all ages love to play, and it gives them opportunities to develop physical competence and enjoyment of the outdoors, understand and make sense of their world, interact with others, express and control emotions, develop their symbolic and problem solving abilities, and practice emerging skills. Research shows the links between play and foundational capacities such as memory, self regulation, oral language abilities, social skills, and success in school” (NAEYC position statement on play). Play is the basis of initial learning, which helps children to develop understanding of fundamental concepts and inquiry skills.
In addition to being linked to self-regulation skills, studies have found that purposeful and productive play is positively related to:
• Memory development (Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Symbolic thinking (Davidson, 1998; Kim, 1999)

• Positive approaches to learning (Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Positive social skills (Corsaro, 1988; Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Language and literacy skills (Berk, 2009; Kim, 1999; Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)

• Math skills (Berk, 2009; Kim, 1999; Levy, Wolfgang & Koorland, 1992)
(Research Foundation – Creative Curriculum)
Concepts are developed through activities that occur naturally during play, such as counting, sorting, sequencing, predicting, hypothesizing, and evaluating. They are engaged in things they’re interested in—so they have a natural motivation to learn (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). As a preschool teacher, I have seen first hand the differences in children who have opportunities to play. Children through play are learning academic concepts from the alphabet to math skills in a manner that is fun, enjoyable, and retainable. Many children come to school for the first time not having the ability to engage and cooperate with their peers. Play has given them the opportunities to learn to interact, share, take turns, and bond with their peers and to form relationships with adults other than their parents. Not only is play fun in preschool, it gives children the prospect to relate with others and learn many different concepts with hands-on materials by using their imagination and making abstract concepts become concrete.
“ Play is the highest form of research.” ~Albert Einstein

For more information on the benefits of play check out these informational articles:

It’s The Way Young Children Learn

10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play

Memorial Day – Let’s Not Forget


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)


“But the freedom that they fought for, and the country grand they wrought for, the greatest glory of free-born people is to transmit the freedom to their children.”
~ By William Havard
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have lost their lives in our nation’s military services. As a child, I remember that each year on Memorial Day going to Fort Snelling Memorial Cemetery where both my grandfathers were laid to rest. All the American flags I would see in front of each grave site amazed me. It was hard to understand what it meant to go to war or to serve your country. All I knew was that both of my grandfathers served in World War II and my father served in Vietnam. But what that really meant, I was not sure. My daughter’s experiences are similar to mine since both of her grandfathers served in the military and have both passed on. We take time each year on this day to remember those that have served our country, especially those we have loved and lost.
What is Memorial Day? “The holiday got started on May 30, 1868, when Union General John A. Logan declared the day an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. Twenty years later, the name was changed to Memorial Day. On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. President Richard M. Nixon declared Memorial Day a Federal holiday in 1971. Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of May. It is an occasion to honor the men and women who died in all wars” (Carolyn Bachanan, TIME for Kids, 2012). Memorial Day is a great opportunity to teach children about the history of the holiday and what that means. Get in touch with your parks and recreation department and local library to find out about local community events for families during Memorial Day weekend. Many cities often have Memorial Day ceremonies sponsored through their local VFW, American Legion, or the County Veteran’s Services.
Even though Memorial Day is a somber holiday in meaning, it is also a celebration that summer is finally here with family outings, picnics, backyard grilling, and parades! Let’s not forget to take a moment to give thanks for our freedom, our country, and show pride to be Americans! From the famous words of country singer Lee Greenwood, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men and women who died, who gave that right to me.”

Memorial Day Activities in the Twin Cities:

Memorial Day Celebration on Monday at Lion’s Park in Elk River at 10:00 am http://www.twincities.com/2016/05/25/memorial-day-events-for-2016/


Ways to celebrate Memorial Day with children:

Information about Memorial Day and Memorial Day activities:

How to celebrate Memorial Day in Minnesota:

The Powerful Role of Music



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” ~ Plato

Children benefit from being introduced to all different types of music. Music is all around us, in the home, and in society. There are many ways we incorporate music and movement into the Discovery classrooms. Whether listening to music from Raffi to classical, singing songs, playing instruments, or musical movement, music is incorporated and created daily in our environment. We teach the children how to sing a song. After practicing together, the children can sing the song as a class, and songs then can be used for transitioning from one activity to the next or in group or circle time. Children can also use their bodies as instruments by taping their feet, clapping their hands, and making different noises and sounds with their voices. Every classroom has various instruments that can be used individually during choice time and during circle time together as a group. Music is a tool we use throughout the day.

Music can play an important role in brain development. In the article, Why Music and Arts Education Is Important, Shari Black states, “According to a recent study done by neurologist Frank Wilson, when a musician plays he/she uses approximately 90 percent of the brain. Wilson could not find no other activity that uses the brain to this extent.” When a child plays a musical instrument or sings on a regular basis, it is exercising the entire brain while stimulating intelligence. Through singing and listening to music, children can learn new concepts. Singing helps children to understand meaning of words and repeating songs helps children to memorize phrases and strengthen memory.

Singing to your child is also an important element in music. Young children love to hear a calm singing voice while listening to patterns and recognizing the familiar sound of a caregiver’s tone. Each night before bedtime, I would rock my daughter to sleep while singing to her. I do not have the best singing voice, but she didn’t mind. I could see at an instant when I sang, she felt comforted and loved. As a toddler, we would sing nursery rhymes and children songs, which felt like all day long. In preschool, she would sing many songs in the Discovery classroom and repeat them in the car on our way home. Now that she is in elementary school, she still loves to sing. I can hear that sweet voice singing a tune while getting ready in the morning or when she is playing in her bedroom.

“Music plays a powerful role in the lives of young children. Through music, babies and toddlers can come to better understand themselves and their feelings, learn to decipher patterns and solve problems, and discover the world around them in rich, complex ways. Most important, sharing music experiences with the people they love makes very young children feel cherished and important.” (NAEYC). So don’t be shy and sing a song!

How do you integrate music with your children?

Below are a few websites on music:

Music and Your Baby


Learning of Music: The support of Brain Research


Music and Movement – Instrumental in Language Development


Music and Young Children


Spring Bucket List



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

There are so many fun activities to do in the spring. We have had a bucket list for every season except spring…until now! Spring is the time of year when we’re all ready to get outside and play. The spring season is always welcomed after the snow and cold. It’s exciting to see all the changes outside to the buds forming, flowers blooming and birds chirping. Children especially love to see the Earth transform right before their eyes. As stated by Robin Williams -“Spring is natures way of saying, let’s party!” Here is our bucket list to get the party started:
1. Plant Flowers
2. Blow Bubbles
3. Fly a Kite
4. Raise a caterpillar into a butterfly
5. Start a vegetable garden
6. Go mini-golfing
7. Paint a picture with watercolors outside
8. Go for a bike ride
9. Feed ducks or geese at a lake or pond
10. Have an outdoor family game night
11. Make a birdfeeder
12. Make pictures with sidewalk chalk on the driveway
13. Spend time cloud gazing
14. Pick lilacs or wild flowers
15. Go stargazing
16. Take a walk through a park
17. Dance in the rain
18. Visit a zoo
19. Go horseback riding
20. Have a picnic
21. Have a family photo shoot outside
22. Visit an Arboretum
23. Feed baby animals
24. Take a trip to the garden store
25. Shop at the Farmer’s Market
26. Visit a new park
27. Visit a Minnesota State Park
28. Measure the rain
29. Volunteer!
30. Plant seeds
31. Try a new lemonade recipe
32. Visit an animal shelter
33. Go to the museum on a rainy day
34. Hold a worm
35. Go barefoot in the grass
36. Go puddle jumping
37. Build a small fairy garden
38. Sleep with the windows open
39. Story time outside
40. Listen to the birds
41. Skip rocks
42. Take a trip somewhere you have never been before
43. Watch a sunset
44. Watch a sunrise
45. Send a family member a letter or postcard
46. Go fishing
47. Go camping
48. Have a bonfire
49. Make smoothies
50. Grill out
51. Smell the flowers
52. Plan an arts and crafts day inside or out
53. Read a book about spring
54. Have an ice-cream social
55. Wear sunglasses
56. Swing in a hammock
57. Nature scavenger hunt
58. Go to a TWINS game!
59. Plant flowers in flower pots
60. Play a game outside like kickball
61. Play badminton
62. Frisbee
63. Outdoor concert
64. Canoe
65. Spring cleaning
66. Change out winter clothes to spring wardrobes
67. Rollerblade or roller skate
68. Fill a sketchbook with sights outside
69. Go to the library
70. Visit a farm
71. Make spring play dough to play outside
72. Take photos in the rain
73. Wash the car
74. Shop at a Flea Market
75. Do Yoga
76. Plan your summer vacation and research sights and activities
77. Start a DIY project
78. Make a kid friendly salad
79. Eat strawberry shortcake
80. Have an outdoor tea party
81. Look for bugs
82. Play tag
83. Go bird watching
84. Play catch
85. Jump rope
86. Eat dirt pudding
87. Play hopscotch
88. Make a paper airplane
89. Visit a fire station
90. Find tadpoles
91. Go to garage sales
92. Try grilled fruit
93. Ride on a train
94. Climb a tree
95. Paint rocks
96. Make an outside fort
97. Have a dance party outside
98. Start a collection of nature items
100. Make everyday, the BEST day!

What’s on your spring bucket list?

Chores and Allowance


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)


I wasn’t sure at what age was the right time for children to start chores and get an allowance. I took a Parent Education Class with Ada Alden and read her book, Parenting on Purpose: Red Yellow Green Framework for Respectful Discipline. We discussed in class the importance of children needing their own money to learn about money and the significance of contributing to the family by doing chores. The “chores” the children do should be work that they do just for being part of the family and they don’t get paid for that work, they are just expected to help out. Allowance is money you receive, but is not connected or linked to the chores. I learned it was important to let children gain knowledge of how to spend their own money and purchase what they want (in reason). I remember Ada telling me to make sure to give my daughter enough allowance so she can learn about the consequences and joys of spending, saving and giving. So I started with $2.00 a week. My daughter had a list of chores she needed to do each day and every Friday she got her two dollars. I began when she was 4 years old. In the beginning, she spent her money right away. Many of her purchases were from the dollar section at Target and ended up getting broke or lost. She then began to save her money and she got a wallet to put all her weekly earnings in. Before she knew it, she saved up enough money from her allowance and money gifts to buy a big purchase, which was a Nintendo DS on clearance. We have added a dollar to her allowance on the condition that she also needs to donate some of her allowance from her savings. Every family will have an amount that best fits them. Whatever it is, allowance will help give children the opportunity to understand the concept of money. Age two is a great time to begin chores, and as they grow older, you can begin the allowance. Some experts believe it is best to wait until they start school before giving an allowance, but toddlers can start to do easy chores to help around the house and begin to learn some independence.

Below is a list of some chores that a young child could do at home:

  • Water plants.
  • Fold and put away small articles of laundry like wash clothes, hand towels and their underwear.
  • Help clear and set the table.
  • Pick up their rooms.
  • Feed a pet.
  • Sweep small messes on floor with a hand broom.
  • Put their dirty clothes in the hamper.
  • Help wipe up messes.
  • Clean up after themselves (toys, meals, and belongings).

Keep in mind that young children will not do their chores perfectly. They need to first be shown and then they need to practice the tasks. Don’t forget to praise your child after they do their work. It also helps if you and your child make a picture chore chart of their chores so they can learn to do them themselves without being asked to do them. Chores help children learn responsibility and give children the opportunity to contribute to the family. Allowance helps teach children money management with the importance of giving and saving.

What do you do in your home for chores or allowance?

Below is a few websites that can help you decide on chores and allowance:

More about Ada Alden:


25 Chores Your 2-4 Year-Old Should Be Doing (And How To Get Him/Her To Work)


Children’s Allowance: How Much Is Enough


US News: Should You Give Your Child An Allowance


The New York Times: Age-Appropriate Chores for Children


Nick Jr. – Understanding Kids Allowances



Expression Through Art



By: Angy Talbot, ECFE Blog Writer

Art is more than something exquisite or interesting; art can be an expression of someone’s soul.  Art can tell a story, make you feel, and keep you guessing.  There are many ways an artist can express themselves through painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, and art can be produced from any media imaginable.  There are many types of art and numerous ways that one could present an art piece.  When you paint a picture, you need to decide the type of paint you will use, the type of material you will be painting on, and the images you would like to paint.  There are many different elements that one can express through their art.  Many people, who do not consider themselves artists, would even be surprised at what they are capable of producing.  It is about the experimentation and enjoyment of the process while making something with your own hands.

Children enjoy participating in art activities.  Children can express what they may not be able to say in words sometimes through the use of a painting or drawing.  Art gives children the ability and the chance for them to produce their own creations.  Art is different than crafts.  “Art is open-ended with no specific end-product in mind; children are allowed to use materials in any way they choose” (NAEYC).  In the Discovery Classrooms, children are given the opportunity to use art materials how they wish from watercolors, paints, crayons, glue, scissors, play-dough, stamps, collage, clay, constructing, just to name a few items used.  The child doesn’t copy what the adult has made, but creates what they desire.  The process that a child goes through in creating art is more important than the end artifact.  By giving children many different ways to express themselves, this will help unlock their hidden talents or help the little artist to explore.  Children need to be given the opportunity to discover through various art materials.  Art is not about all children making one particular project.  Art is about self-expression, creativity, imagination, critical thinking, and problem solving.  Art is a beautiful way to express ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

As stated from, The Creative Curriculum for Preschool in the chapter titled, ArtLetter To Families:

Art is an important part of our curriculum.  Every day, children find a variety of art materials available on our shelves.  Drawing, painting, pasting, molding, and constructing are not only enjoyable but also provide important opportunities for learning.  Children express their ideas and feelings, improve their coordination, learn to recognize colors and textures, and develop creativity and pride in their accomplishments by exploring and using art materials.

When children are engaged in art activities, we talk with them about what they are doing and ask questions that encourage them to think about their ideas and express feelings.

We are just as interested in the creative process as we are in what children make.

What are some ways you incorporate art with your child?

Here are some other resources on art:

The Creative Arts Curriculum


Art vs. Crafts


Preschool Process And Product Art Defined


Fine Motor Development



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

It is important that children develop their fine (small) motor skills. Fine motor skills are defined as the coordination of small muscle movements—usually involving the synchronization of hands and fingers. Fine motor skills involve writing, handling silverware, buttoning and grasping small objects. It is essential that children do activities that improve the muscles in the fingers and hands to strengthen handgrip and develop wrist movement. Children in today’s day of age are spending less time using fine motor manipulatives and toys while spending more time with technology. Underdeveloped fine motor muscles could make it difficult for children to write or cut in school. There are many different activities you can do to help strengthen and build your child’s fine motor skills.

• Cutting/Scissors Activities: Children can cut out coupons, magazines or greeting cards. Children can also cut out small pieces of paper and glue/paste into a collage. Making lines on paper with a ruler and having the child cut on the line. You can then change the line by adding a swirl or zigzag pattern.
• Jewelry Making: Using beads, macaroni or even fruit loops, children can make jewelry with a string or piece of yarn.
• Small Building Blocks: Toys like Lego’s or Tinker Toys to build with are great fine motor activities.
• Coloring and Drawing: Using crayons and coloring books or colored pencils with drawing paper.
• Tearing Paper: Tearing colored paper into small pieces to make a mosaic.
• Qtip Art: Painting pictures using paint and Q-tips instead of a paintbrush.
• Pick Up Small Objects: Use pennies and put them into a piggy bank or beans and placing into a small opening on a box or bag.
• Transfer with Tongs: Use tongs or spoons and have the child pick up beans or rice from one container or bowl to another.
• Play dough: Using different types of tools such as plastic knives and rolling pins or just their hands.
• Eyedroppers: Can be used in a sink, tub of water or bathtub.
• Getting Dressed: Zippers, buttons and snaps.
• Using Utensils: Holding spoons, forks and knives to eat.
• Pouring Water: Pouring their own water into a cup to drink.
• Puzzles: Puzzles of all sizes and difficulties.
• Containers: Opening and closing of container lids.
• Puppets: Playing with hand or finger puppets.
• Art Projects: Crafts and art of all kinds.

This is just a short list to help get you started. When children can practice fine motor skills they can learn to do more things independently. Fine motor skills are critical in every area of a child’s life from getting dressed, eating and picking up small objects. If your child appears to be having difficulties developing fine motor skills, please contact your child’s pediatrician or an occupational therapist.

The love of Valentine’s Day through childrens’ eyes


heartsBy Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

I remember as a child looking forward to Valentine’s Day.  I would prepare each valentine for my classmates with care and wake up every Valentine’s Day morning with a card and a yummy box of chocolates on my breakfast plate.  For months after, I would organize and sort through all those lovely cards.  Valentine’s Day has always had a special place in my heart . . . no pun intended!  On my daughter’s first Valentine’s Day in preschool we had so much fun making all her friends a special valentine.  She took such immense attention to detail in decorating each and every one.  I was relieved that we started weeks before the holiday or I don’t think we would have been done on time.  Each year since her first Valentine’s Day, we still make her Valentine’s.  This has become a tradition, one I enjoyed as a child that I can now share with my daughter.  In our preschool Discovery classrooms, the children decorate bags or boxes to prepare for their Valentine cards and treats.  It is so fun to see the Valentine’s they pick or make to pass out to their friends.  I especially enjoy the excitement they have opening their bags after being filled with cards and candies.  Looking and inspecting each valentine!

Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful occasion to express to others how much we care, love, and appreciate them!  It does not have to be a holiday where you need to buy cards or gifts, but instead an opportunity to make Valentines for others or spend quality time together as a family.  “It’s never too early to help children express love and friendship in ways that transcend materialism. Because young children are concrete thinkers, it’s hard for them to understand a concept that can’t be represented by objects.  However, by watching you give gifts of kindness, time, compassion, respect, and thoughtfulness to the people you love – not just on holidays but throughout the year – they will learn that “I love you” means so much more than three words inscribed on a candy heart” (Alvin Poussaint, M.D.).  Have fun this Valentine’s Day expressing your love to those that mean so much to you.  You don’t need to spend a cent, because love is free and is the best gift of all!

For some fun Valentine’s Day ideas for kids go to:

PBS KIDSValentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day: Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids – Martha Stewart

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids | Holiday Games and Activities

Winter Family Fun List



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Finally, we can enjoy the snow and have some winter excitement! There are so many great activities you can do with the family during the winter months. Here’s an entertaining list of ideas you can do with the kiddos indoors when the weather gets cold and ways to have a blast outside!
• Build a snowman or snow family
• Go sledding or tubing
• Go ice-skating
• Have a snowball fight
• Pajama day
• Movie marathon day
• Bake cookies
• Go through old photo albums of your childhood with the kids
• Look through family pictures or watch home movies
• Get up early and go out to breakfast
• Family game night
• Take a walk in the snow (especially when snowing)
• Sit by a fire indoors or out
• Go to the local community center for open swimming
• Go ice-fishing
• Catch snowflakes on your tongue
• Indoor or outdoor scavenger hunt
• Spa day at home
• Do arts and crafts
• Donate canned goods to a food shelf
• Have a dance contest
• Make funny home videos
• Sip homemade hot chocolate
• Take pictures in the snow
• Play with play dough
• Build an indoor fort with blankets and pillows
• Build a snow fort or igloo
• Make paper snowflakes
• Assemble a jigsaw puzzle
• Make bird feeders
• Snuggle under the blankets with a good book
• Make apple cider
• Play in the snow and make snow angels
• Take a bubble bath
• Draw self-portraits
• Go to the library
• Donate old clothes and toys to charity
• Go to a local hockey game
• See a play
• Go to the movies (don’t forget to get popcorn)
• Have an indoor picnic
• Create snow paintings (try water colors in the snow)
• Bake bread
• Find animal tracks
• Make different types of tracks in the snow
• Make popcorn and try different toppings
• Take a train ride
• Go to a museum
• Go to the zoo
• Have breakfast for dinner
• Blow bubbles outside
• Plan your summer family vacation
• Make homemade pizza
• Visit an indoor bounce house
• Go to the roller rink
• Make a meal from another country or culture
• Learn to say, “I love you” in different languages
• Go to a planetarium
• Give to those in need or volunteer together as a family
• Winter star gaze
• Shovel snow (let the kids help, small shovels work great)
• Go bowling
• Go play ball in an indoor gym
• Take a scenic drive
• Enjoy a sunset
• Make New Year’s Resolutions
• Take a family NAP

Family Connections



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

In our fast paced world it can be difficult to stay engaged and linked with our families. With technology at our fingertips, extra curricular activities and over loaded schedules, families are so busy that dedicated family time has become a challenge. Listed below are some tips and suggestions that you can do with your family to increase that bonding time with your loved ones:

  1. Family Meals: Dinnertime is a wonderful opportunity to stay connected and promotes togetherness. By sharing a meal, you also share conversations. It is also a good time to model table manners and mealtime rules. You can involve the children in the preparation of the meal and the clean up. Even if you can’t have dinner together every night, try to plan a few meals a week were everyone can attend.
  2. Family Movies: Rent a movie and watch it before bed, go out to a movie or watch movies that the family made. Make a big bowl of popcorn or a traditional family treat.
  3. Family Game Night: Board games to cards can be great fun. Each family member could have an opportunity to pick a game the family will play each week. You can share and teach new games or play traditional family favorites.
  4. Family Walk Or Bike Ride: Even if it’s a short brisk around the block or a hike in the woods, walking and biking promotes exercise and gets the family together.
  5. Volunteering: Volunteer as a family. There are so many organizations that could greatly use some extra hands. It can be a lot of fun packing food for those in need or helping shovel a neighbor’s driveway.
  6. Art and Crafts: Decorate mugs, paint or color together.
  7. Read A Book: Each night before bed cuddle up with a story. When your children get older, you can all sit next to each other under the covers reading your own book.
  8. Bake Or Cook: This can be an opportunity to share family recipes, teach basic cooking skills and create new dishes together. Children can also help look up new recipes to try. You can later make a cookbook of all the families favorite recipes.
  9. Go Somewhere: Go to a museum, zoo, bowling or roller-skating. There are many family public outings to enjoy from the arts to sport events.
  10. Family Meetings: Set a time in the week when the family gets together and meets to discuss upcoming events, family decisions and discussions while giving each family member an opportunity to share.

There are many ways you can incorporate family time into your weekly schedule. When it comes to family time, the most important element is to do activities that the whole family will take pleasure in and to plan that time where you can all just enjoy each others company. “Time to turn off the iPad, put away the smart phone and just enjoy being where you are when you are with your family!”


Parent-Child Time: The Heart of ECFE


By: Ms. Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)


I believe in the statement that parent-interaction time is, “The heart of Early Childhood Family Education programs in Minnesota’s programs for parents with young children”.  It is a wonderful time for parents to interact with their children in a prepared and safe environment.  This time is used for children to have an opportunity to socialize and interact with other children of similar ages.  It benefits the parents by giving them an opportunity to observe, interact, and learn more about their child.  The parents share quality time with their children, and on occasion, generate ideas that they can bring home to do with their child.  This valuable time enables them to learn new songs they can sing with their children, recreate art projects, and interact with their child through play activities.  When I attended ECFE with my child, I found it very beneficial having this chance to observe my child in a different setting with children her age.  I could see developmentally where the other children were and how this compared to typical development.  It helped me to observe how my child interacted with other children and how I could help her to learn social behaviors and skills.  My daughter loved the messy play that we could do in an ECFE classroom and I did not have to worry about the mess.  We painted many pictures together, played with silly putty called “Glurch,” and there were often many art activities that we explored and later tried out at home (I found the best play dough recipe from the Early Childhood Teacher).  The time we spent together in ECFE are moments in her lifetime that I will never forget.  I always looked forward to our days where we could just play together and forget about the outside world.

For more information on our ECFE classes and other programs go to:


Kindergarten Experiences


By: Angy Talbot – School Readiness Teacher/ECFE Blog Writerimages-2

I remember my very first day of Kindergarten.  On this day, my Mom walked me to the front door of a big building, the school that I could look down the road and see from my home.  As I said good-bye outside the front doors, my mother recalls that I did not cry, but smiled, waved, and took my bag and headed inside.  I remember making that long journey to the Kindergarten room.  Today, I can still recall the sights, sounds, and scents of my elementary school.  The lights so bright, the voices of children coming from every direction, and the smell of tempera paint, that I would have an opportunity to use on the easel (which became my favorite activity despite my lack of talent).   On that first day, my parents made sure I was prepared.  I could recite my ABC’s, count to 10, and buckle my shoes without assistance.   I remember feeling confident and excited on that day.  I also remember the feeling in my stomach that I could not explain, a knot that wouldn’t go away.  Looking back at pictures I can still recall sitting in a circle with my legs crossed and my hands in my lap, listening to a story.  There were lots of art activities from various paints, big thick crayons, and clay modeling.  But what I remember most was playing.  Playing in the kitchen pretending to make dinner and putting my dolls to bed.  Making friendships that lasted beyond grade school and trusting and caring about another adult, other than my parents.  I will never forget Kindergarten and my first teacher, Mrs. E.  She taught me that learning was fun and how to be a good friend.

I remember the experience of bringing my child to Kindergarten for the first time.  On this day, that very same feeling in my stomach reappeared, that knot that wouldn’t go away.  In fact, I was more nervous than she was.  I feel she was prepared for this day.  She went to preschool and was in Ms. Tiffany’s Discovery Learning School Readiness classroom.  In preschool, she learned how to interact with others, follow routines and rules, how to write her name, hang from the monkey bars, put on her snow pants and mittens by herself, how to count to 10 and recognize each numeral, and all the letters of the alphabet.    In her preschool experience, she grew so much in every area of development from social emotional to cognitive.  At home, we read to her each night before bed.  We began to sound out letters and she began to phonetically read.  We took time to practice skills like rhyming in natural settings, such as driving in the car or waiting our turn at the dentist office.   We would practice counting in the grocery store where she would count out 5 apples to put in the bag.    I felt secure that she had a great foundation and was ready to experience life in the outside world.  That day, my daughter, my baby, didn’t cry.  She gave hugs, smiled, walked to her new teacher, and waved good-bye.  When I left the building, I cried.  She did it!  She was able to face this new experience with confidence and elation.    That is what I want for every child that enters my school readiness classroom.  I want to give them every opportunity to grow, learn, and become independent.    My Kindergarten experiences help me to better understand the joys, concerns, and fears, of each child and family.  I am asked often, “What does my child need to know before kindergarten?”  Here is a kindergarten checklist from Family Education written by Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

·  Listen to stories without interrupting

·  Recognize rhyming sounds

·  Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks

·  Understand actions have both causes and effects

·  Show understanding of general times of day

·  Cut with scissors

·  Trace basic shapes

·  Begin to share with others

·  Start to follow rules

·  Be able to recognize authority

·  Manage bathroom needs

·  Button shirts, pants, coats, and zip up zippers

·  Begin to control oneself

·  Separate from parents without being upset

·  Speak understandably

·  Talk in complete sentences of five to six words

·  Look at pictures and then tell stories

·  Identify rhyming words

·  Identify the beginning sound of some words

·  Identify some alphabet letters

·  Recognize some common sight words like “stop”

·  Sort similar objects by color, size, and shape

·  Recognize groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects

·  Count to ten

·  Bounce a ball

Read more on FamilyEducation: http://school.familyeducation.com/kindergarten/school-readiness/38491.html#ixzz1F4migrDn

Also, you can go to Elk River Area School District ready for kindergarten checklist at:  http://www.elkriver.k12.mn.us/schools.cfm?subpage=31533

Getting Ready For Back To School



By: Angy Talbot

Now that we’re coming to an end of the Dog Days of Summer, it is time to slowly switch our thoughts back to school. Summer days tend to be carefree, stress less, and relaxing. In just a few weeks, the busy bustle will begin again in full force. It can be quite a transition for children to switch from summer mode to school days. Now is a great opportunity to begin preparing your children for back to school!

Here are a few tips to help you gradually get back into the school groove.

  • Go back to school shopping for school supplies with your children. Let them help go through the list of what’s needed while letting them pick out the colors they like of certain items and their own backpack. Children will get more excited if they’re involved with the preparations and they will have ownership of their new items.
  • School shopping for new clothes is always fun for kids. It is helpful to go through children’s clothes and shoes to make sure everything fits before the big shopping day. You can have special drawer or place in the closet that they can keep their new school clothes to wear for those first days. It helps to plan out which outfits they will wear that first week to help keep things stress free.
  • Plan lunches. Make a list with your child of the types of foods they like to eat for lunch. I love all the ideas I have gotten on Pinterest for new ways to pack lunches. This is a great time to try some new foods, like hummus or cottage cheese. If your child likes them, you’ll have more options for lunchtime. It’s also helpful to copy off the first month’s lunch calendar so your children can pick out which days they will have hot or cold lunch in advance.
  • Get the calendar ready. Have a calendar posted that the whole family can see with September events and schedules from music classes, football games, and don’t forget the first day of school. I use a big dry erase calendar that I switch each month. It’s easy to add and change events.
  • Get organized! Make sure you have everything in order and ready to go from documentations needed or child well checks and immunizations. Check with the school’s website to make sure you have everything needed before the first day of school. It’s also helpful to get your house in order, cleaned and organized before school starts.
  • Read books or watch movies about going back to school. Some fun movies for school-age children are: Matilda, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Harriet the Spy, Akeelah and the Bee, Freaky Friday, Nancy Drew, and High School Musical.
  • Try to slowly get back into your regular routine. Begin by:
    • Eating all meals similar to the times they will eat during the school year.
    • Reestablishing regular bedtime routines from bathing, teeth brushing, story time and tucking in.
    • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night from 9 to 10 hours.
    • Start to put your child down for bedtime a little earlier each week until the week before school so that they are going to bed at the time they will when school begins. Do the same for wake up times too.

Here are some helpful tips for those children who are going to school for the first time:

  • Start reading books about going to school for the first time.

What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff

Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss

Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas

  • Drive by the school and point out, “There’s your new school.” If possible walk around, check out the playground and show your child the entrance to the building.
  • Watch movies about going to school. Some great movies for preschoolers are: Curious George Back to School, Franklin Goes to School, Sesame Street Ready for School, Caillou Goes to School, and Barney Let’s Play School.
  • Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.
  • Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House).
  • Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at school (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about school.
  • Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.
  • Share memories with your child of some fun school recollections you had for our first day at school.
  • Tell your child often and how much fun school is!!

And don’t forget there is still time to enjoy what’s left of summer!


The Power of Nature



By: Angy Talbot

“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.” ~Valerie Andrews

When I was a child, I was exposed to and experienced nature in many ways. Each year we spent a week at Itasca State Park. During our visit, we would tent; make campfires, go swimming in the lake, hike, and fish. One of my favorite things to do was to bike ride the Wilderness Trail where we would stop to take hikes in the woods to see various natural landmarks along the way. We would witness so many beautiful species, plants, and trees along our path. I can still smell the fresh scent of cedar and lake water. Once my father and I stopped at the Pioneer Cemetery. We were the only visitors. I remember the moment, it was so peaceful and I could hear what seemed like every sound in the woods from the rustle of leaves to waves hitting the shore. As we sat in silence, little did we know that we had a visitor watching us. No more than a few feet away stood a fawn standing in the path looking at us with such an intense stare. I couldn’t help but stand and walk toward this stunning creature. At the time, I was just 8 years old. As I approached the deer, it too approached me. I was able to get close enough to pet this wild animal like it was a pet on a farm. My father who was in complete shock, grabbed his camera only to drop a roll of film on the ground which startled the young fawn to run back into the woods. I had no idea at the time what a great honor it was for me to have lived out that moment. My father was disappointed that he didn’t have the opportunity to snap a picture of this rare occurrence. I recall many other great memories of my childhood in those special moments experiencing nature with those I loved. As a parent, I have tried to recreate some cherished moments I had with my family. There are so many opportunities to engage and connect our children to nature! Children today do not spend as much time outdoors in the natural world. I feel fortunate as a teacher that we have a magnificent Nature Explore Center on our school grounds. It is a natural environment with gardens, trees, grass, flowers, and a hill. There are also different medians for the children to work and play with from instruments, sand, climbing, building, and relaxing. I see so much creativity, cooperation, and exploration in their play when they are outside in nature experiencing our Earth. The bugs are no longer scary and all they can see, hear, touch, and smell heightens the children’s senses. Giving children opportunities in nature will provide memories to cherish for a lifetime. This time can be spent at the park, beach, in the woods, and lets not forget about our own back yards! The cost is simply priceless.
Here is a list of places that you can take your children right here in Minnesota to explore the powers and wonders of nature:
Sherburne County National Wildlife Refuge

Spring brook Nature Center

Elm Creek Park and Preserve

Minnesota State Parks

Tamarack Nature Center

Oliver Kelly Farm

These are just a few places that you can go to discover nature. There are so many neighboring parks near and in every city of Minnesota. So take some time and enjoy this wonderful physical world we live in with your children.

Planting a Garden



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Children are such curious creatures with the love of learning and a natural desire to play in the dirt! Each year the Discovery Learning Preschool does some planting activities in the classrooms, and during the summer months, the children plant a garden in the Nature Explore Center. During the school year, we plant beans and flowers and take some time to watch them grow in our windowsills. Children get to see firsthand how nature works while they watch the cycle of life by observing a plant grow from seed to flower. Planting gives children an opportunity to take care of something in nature while learning the importance of caring for our environment. Children learn the valuable lesson of cause and effect while planting (plants die without enough water or sun light). Children gain knowledge of many new skills while planting from responsibly, discovery, and cooperation.

Gardening is the next step in planting. Children love to garden! Children take great pride when they can contribute and participate in the process. Gardening is one of those activities that children of all ages can take part in. It’s an excellent way to introduce nutrition to children. By planting different fruits and vegetables, children are more likely to eat them if they were part of the growing process. Gardening is exciting with the anticipation on watching your garden grow and the partaking in the weeding, watering, tending, and graphing each growth. It’s even more exhilarating when the opportunity arises when it’s time to pick and eat! If you don’t have space for a garden, you can always do some planting in containers that can sit on your porch, deck, or patio. Try planting vegetables that kids like to eat that are easy to grow from green beans, peas, or broccoli.

I found a great tip sheet for gardening: Top Ten Tips For Gardening With Children Compiled by Carol Burton from Urban Harvest Education http://www.urbanharvest.org:

1. Keep it simple.
2. Begin with good soil.
3. Keep it fun!
4. Plant easy plants at the right time of year to boost success.
5. Make a plan.
6. Eat what you grow.
7. Start gardening with children at an early age.
8. Offer help with visual and spatial reasoning skills.
9. Don’t use chemicals or pesticides in and around the garden.
10. Plant for wildlife.

If you need assistance in your garden or planting you can always contact your local nursery. They are always very helpful and they can also assist you in getting your garden started by giving advice and helping you put together and collect all you need for your garden. A wonderful article that will also be helpful is found at: http://www.babble.com/parenting/gardening-benefits/3/.

Gardening and planting with your children provides many opportunities for them to experience the process of planting, learn how to maintain a garden, and the joy of harvesting. The extended process would be preparing, tasting, and sharing the food you grow. Gardening can give your children such great satisfaction and is such a fantastic learning and teaching tool that can expand the understanding of bugs, worms, weather, and other natural experiences. Gardening is also good for your well-being. It is a peaceful experience and encompasses the body, mind, and soul. Happy Planting!

“The glory of gardening hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” ~ Alfred Austin

Screen Time: How much is too much?



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“Screen time” is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time is a sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time. Most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV. Added together, all types of screen time can total 5 to 7 hours a day. (MedicinePlus Medical Encyclopedia). I remember when my daughter was two years old, and before naptime every day, she would watch Dora on television. During dinnertime I would put on a DVD that she could watch so I could make dinner hands free and without any commotion. I asked her pediatrician how much television is all right and she told me no more than 2 hours a day after the age of two years old. My daughter is now nine years old, and when she was younger, there were no smart phones, hand devices or apps. I remember being so cautious to be sure she didn’t have too much screen time. I can’t image what it is like for parents today with so much technology at their fingertips. I often see young children playing on screens of all sizes everywhere from the grocery store to the park. I remember as a kid looking out the window when we drove in the car, now children look at video screens.

I understand how convenient it is to keep children entertained with our various devices, video games, and television, but how much screen time is too much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than age two and recommends limiting older children’s screen time to no more than 1 or 2 hours a day. Too much screen time has been linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Impaired academic performance
  • Violence.
  • Less time for play

How to limit screen time – Suggestions from the Mayo Clinic

Your child’s total screen time might be greater than you realize. Start monitoring it and talk to your child about the importance of sitting less and moving more. Also, explain screen time rules — and the consequences of breaking them. In the meantime, take simple steps to reduce screen time. For example:

  • Eliminate background TV. If the TV is turned on — even if it’s just in the background — it’s likely to draw your child’s attention. If you’re not actively watching a show, turn off the TV.
  • Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom. Children who have TVs in their bedrooms watch more TV than children who don’t have TVs in their bedrooms. Monitor your child’s screen time and the websites he or she is visiting by keeping TVs and computers in a common area in your house.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV. Allowing your child to eat or snack in front of the TV increases his or her screen time. The habit also encourages mindless munching, which can lead to weight gain.
  • Set school day rules. Most children have limited free time during the school week. Don’t let your child spend all of it in front of a screen. Also, avoid using screen time as a reward or punishment. This can make screen time seem even more important to children.
  • Talk to your child’s caregivers. Encourage other adults in your child’s life to limit your child’s screen time, too.
  • Suggest other activities. Rather than relying on screen time for entertainment, help your child find other things to do, such as reading, playing a sport, helping with cooking, or trying a board game.
  • Set a good example. Be a good role model by limiting your own screen time.
  • Unplug it. If screen time is becoming a source of tension in your family, unplug the TV, turn off the computer, or put away the smart phones or video games for a while. You might designate one day a week or month as a screen-free day for the whole family. To prevent unauthorized TV viewing, put a lock on your TV’s electrical plug. (Mayo Clinic, Children and TV: Limiting Your Child’s Screen Time. August, 2013)

With the use of so much technology, it can be a challenge to manage our children’s screen time. We need to do more planning when it comes to the use of media by giving children limits and have times set aside for their use. Try to cut down on your child’s screen time by:

  • Decide which programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over.
  • Suggest other activities, such as family board games, puzzles, or going for a walk.
  • Be a good role model as a parent. Decrease your own screen time to 2 hours a day.
  • Think of some activities you and your child can do instead using a device or screen. The more you turn the screen off, the easier it becomes to keep it off.

When Steve Jobs was asked by New York Times reporter Nick Bilton, “So your kids must love the iPad?” Jobs responded: “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”



Parent Involvement in the Classroom



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” ~ Jane D. Hull

It is well established that parental school involvement has a positive influence on school-related outcomes for children. Consistently, cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have demonstrated an association between higher levels of parental school involvement and greater academic success for children and adolescents. For young children, parental school involvement is associated with early school success, including academic and language skills, and social competence (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Hill, 2001; Hill & Craft, 2003). Parent involvement in schools promotes children’s early academic success, while supporting parents’ parenting skills. Parent involvement is a benefit factor, which promotes a partnership and relationship between schools and families while building positive educational and emotional environments at school and equally at home. Families have a major influence on their child’s achievement in school. When parents are involved in their child’s education, children do better in school. When schools encourage, engage, and support families, greater gains in improving learning is inevitable. Families benefit from guidance in learning how to engage their child at home with take-home materials, attending school events such as parent days, conferences, face-to-face interventions, and communication between teacher and parent.
A child’s first entry into school can be very stressful and scary for parents. School readiness not only prepares the child for school, it also helps prepare the parents. One of our parent involvement goals in our program is to help “coach” our parents. “Coaching is used to acknowledge and perhaps improve existing knowledge and practices, develop new skills, and promote continuous self-assessment and learning on the part of the coaches.” Rush & Sheldon, 2011. We provide insight and knowledge to our parents in areas of child development while working as role models in our classes.
Families have many opportunities to get involved in our Early Childhood and Discovery Learning Programs. Listed below are some ways we promote parent involvement in our schools and classrooms:
• Parents have the opportunity to regularly participate with their child in class on Family Days, which takes place daily, weekly or monthly depending on the program.
• Teachers help coach parents by setting goals and guiding the parents in parenting needs.
• Parent Educators are available for home visits and parent discussions to further promote parenting skills and knowledge.
• Parents and family members have the opportunity to volunteer and participate in their child’s classroom.
• Each teacher has a website with information of what is happening in the classroom and programs can be viewed by the families with downloads, pictures, classroom news, newsletters, and important parent information and resources.
• Families can participate in the classroom by presenting to the children about their career, special interest, or culture.
• Parents can come and read a story to the classroom as a special reader for the day.
• Special program activities from carnivals to 5k’s all promote family involvement and participation.
• Parents are informed and given information on the many curriculums, strategies, and resources that are used in the classroom that they can also be done at home from:
• TACSEI/High Five/ECTA (Social Emotional and behavior)
• Minnesota Reading Corps and SEEDS (Literacy)
• Creative Curriculum (Curriculum Used)
• LANA – Healthy eating and snack
• Learning Blocks Math
• Response to Intervention

This is just a short list of how our ECFE/SR program promotes, supports, and encourages family involvement and participation.

It has been proven that family participation and involvement in school greatly benefits children and the family unit. Our ECFE/SR program is designed to help families become engaged in school together at the young ages. Even as your child grows older, there are still many ways to get involved with your child’s learning environment. When families continue classroom learning at home, learning and development is strongly reinforced and family involvement is inspired. When parents and care-givers are involved in the early years of education, they will more likely stay actively involved in the elementary years.

What are some ways you are involved with your child’s schooling?

Positive Thinking!



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)
“Change your thoughts, and you change your world!” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
Unfortunately, we live in a world were many negative images are all around us. From stories in the news, from words that are said, to feelings of guilt and shame. When we focus on the negative that is what will enter our mind and lives. A shift in our thought patterns from negative to positive can have a great impact on how we interact with and view the world. I think of a quote that pops into my head during times of tragedy, Mr. Roger said this best, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”  In order for our children and ourselves to create a positive and happy life we need to change our outlook and mind-set. To take all those negative thoughts, which are most often not intentional, and change them to a constructive point of view.  By encouraging optimism and positive thoughts with our children, we help them to develop resilience, motivation, incentive, and inspiration to keep trying even when things are, “hard” or difficult.
We can help kids to look on the bright side and encourage optimism.  I have seen firsthand how positive reinforcement affects children.  In the classroom, we use positive words when giving directions or expectations.  Instead of saying, “Don’t run,” we say, “Walk” instead of saying, and “Don’t touch” we say, “Look with your eyes.”  When we say, “Don’t run” the child only hears, “RUN!” By changing our phrases to positive words and telling them our expectations, the image of the positive will come into their minds.  I once had a professor demonstrate the power of images.  He said, “Don’t think of pink elephants!”  Of course, what image popped into our minds at that moment, pink elephants!  This has helped me as a teacher and mother to change how I verbalize and speak with children. By “catching” children being good, encouraging them when they become frustrated, and teaching them skills so that they can become independent are just a few positive ways we help them to gain confidence and support their growth in a positive manner.
Positive thinking is a mental attitude that perceives situations in a constructive manner. Positive thinking takes practice.  It’s developing a habit of seeing gratitude in what you have and by not ignoring the negative, but rather, looking at the situation productively.  By thinking positive you are also taking better care of your health. The Mayo Clinic states that there are many positive benefits of positive thinking:
• Increased life span
• Lower rates of depression
• Lower levels of distress
• Greater resistance to the common cold
• Better psychological and physical well-being
• Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
• Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
As you can see there can be many health improvements to a positive outlook and attitude. What are some ways we can demonstrate the positive with our children?  In the article, Positive Thinking for Children, By Mike McLaughlin gives suggestions on how we can shape children’s outlook on life by:
• Positive Words: Encourage the use of positive words
• Listening: Taking time to listen to your child
• Gratitude: Expression of being grateful
• Modeling: Being a role model for your child – let them see your reaction to a situation in a positive manner
• Activities: Ways to develop positive thinking in your child
• Benefits: The impact on their future                                                                               For more information go to:

Positive thinking is a valuable life skill that will enrich relationships, emotional and physical health, and our lives. How do you practice positive thinking or positive reinforcement?
Here are some wonderful articles I found on positive thinking and positive reinforcement:
What is Positive Thinking?
Positive Thinking – CNN News
Use Positive Reinforcement – Family Education
7 Steps for Practicing Positive Discipline – PBS Parents
Positive Attitude – It’s power and benefits

Fall Fun Activity Checklist



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)
“Autumn . . . the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullen Bryant

I love the season of autumn. The colors are beautiful, the weather is perfect, and Halloween is just around the corner. Everything begins to slow down. The garden begins to dwindle and the leaf foliage falls from the trees. We begin to honker down ourselves with warm sweatshirts, hot chili, and cozy nights by the fire. This time of year we want to enjoy it as much as we can, since it is such a short period. There are so many fun things you can do with your children during these autumn months.

Here is a fun checklist to get you started:

• Go for a family bike ride or walk
• Visit your local pumpkin patch
• Go to the library and check-out fall themed books
• Bake pies (pumpkin and apple)
• Roast pumpkin seeds
• Make apple cider (don’t forget a cinnamon stick)
• Jump in a big pile of leaves
• Fly a kite
• Watch Halloween and Thanksgiving movies (Charlie Brown is the best!)
• Bob for apples
• Make caramel apples or caramel corn
• Go for a drive looking at the fall changing colors
• Go on a hayride
• Go on a nature scavenger hunt
• Make pinecone birdfeeders
• Have a campfire
• Make orange pumpkin scented play dough
• Make different crock pot soups or chili
• Paint with corn cobs or apples
• Go apple picking
• Spend the day at the park
• Stop at the nature center (Sherburne County Refuge is a great place)
• Create outdoor art
• Go fall camping
• Visit the zoo
• Go canoeing
• Go mini-golfing
• Go to a football game (check out the local high school teams)
• Go to a farmers market
• Visit a museum
• Attend the Anoka Halloween Parade
• Take a family picture or fall photo shoot
• Make a fall garland or wreath
• Make popcorn balls (I loved these as a kid)
• Make or find Halloween costumes
• Drink pumpkin flavored hot chocolate
• Have a Halloween party
• Break out the blankets – make a fort
• Prepare for winter

These cool, crisp fall days always fly by. Be sure to make the most of it, we know that snow and cold will be upon us soon!

What is on your fall fun activity checklist?

Top Ten List of Children’s Musical Artists



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer and School Readiness Instructor)

In our early childhood classrooms we use music for transitions, circle time and group activities. As a parent, I often have music playing in our house and in the car. We dance and sing while we play and we work! As a preschool teacher, I am often asked about the various songs the children are singing in school. I have made a list of my top 10 favorite musical artists for children. Not only is this music entertaining to listen to, these songs help teach positive lessons and learning skills. There are many different children’s musical artists I am fond of, but these are my favorites.

1. The Okee Dokee Brothers: These Minnesota natives won the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album. The lyrics are clever and easy to sing to, entertaining folk style music.


2. The Laurie Berkner Band: Laurie’s music is fun to sing along to with her clear crisp voice and catchy tunes.


3. Go Fish: Their music is amusing and inspirational. My daughter still listens to these CD’s before bedtime.


4. Dr. Jean: All teachers love Dr. Jean. Children can learn so much from her music! She doesn’t have the greatest singing voice, but the children don’t mind!


5. Greg and Steve: They have lots of music that incorporates large motor movement and actions.


6. Jack Hartmann: Jack’s music is educational with catchy tunes and rhythmic beats!


7. Charlotte Diamond: Her music is lively and sing-able, inspiring children to care for each other and to celebrate diversity.


8. Shari Sloane: Shari has been a kindergarten teacher here in Minnesota for over 25 years. Her songs are inspired by her teaching experiences in the classroom.


9. Hap Palmer:  His music teaches learning skills while encouraging the use of the imagination. Rhythms on Parade has many songs you can use instruments with.


10. Ella Jenkins: Her interactive music incorporates world cultures and the joy of music. Ella’s voice is truly mesmerizing.


There are so many great songs and musicians for children. This is just a small list of music that I have used in my classroom and home over the past years.

What children’s musician is your favorite? What songs do your children like listening to?

The Importance of Infant Mental Health



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Infant Mental Health refers to infants developing the ability to form meaningful relationships, express and handle emotions, discover and learn, all within the infant’s environment, family, culture and community. Infant Mental Health is about the relationships between the caregivers and the infant. “The infant comes into the world totally dependent on her or his caregivers. It is through the relationship with the primary caregiver that a baby experiences the world. This relationship plays a vital role in the infant’s emotional well-being. When this relationship is nurturing and responsive, a baby develops the skills to learn, to regulate emotions, and to interact socially” (Healthy Minnesotans: Public Health Improvement Goals 2004, Goal Number 5, pg 5). Infants are dependent on their parents or primary caregivers; whatever affects the adult, has an effect on the child. “If an adult is experiencing a life situation that prevents them from parenting well, such as depression, poverty, family or community, violence, homelessness, chemical dependency, or social isolation, there can be a profound impact on the wellbeing of the infant” (CEED). When there are attachment or relationship concerns between the infant and their caregiver such as failure to respond to the baby’s needs in a nurturing manner, the child’s development can be compromised. The attachment relationship organizes the developing child’s since of fear and security. Infants are developing ways of responding to internal and external influences. They’re learning how to live in this world with others including how to regulate and relate to the responses of those in their lives.
Early intervention will help children learn to manage emotions and feelings, build meaningful relationships, increase social emotional skills, and giving children the support and guidance to develop health and mental health. Early intervention includes support, guidance, and resources for the parents or caregivers. “Infant mental health services are multidimensional and include providing emotional support for the parent and child, access to concrete resources such as food, clothing, transportation and housing, and developmental guidance and advocacy in order to allow the parent to understand their child’s needs and development” (Minnesota Department of Human Services). What parents need is to be aware of resources and connections in mental health. Services for mothers and pregnant women may help them receive referrals and treatment for maternal depression or mental health concerns. A few years ago I went to a staff development training where Dr. Terrie Rose was the speaker. Dr. Terrie Rose is a licensed child psychologist and a nationally recognized speaker in the areas of early childhood development and mental health. She told a story, which is called, The River, (a metaphor for early childhood mental health). “It’s a beautiful day. A villager is out walking along the grass and sees something unusual in the river. It is a child. She jumps in the river, saves the child and calls another villager to help. That villager looks in the river and sees another child. He jumps in to save the second child and calls for more help. The villagers soon see more and more children coming down the river. The prosperous village sets up a system to watch for children, and rescue and feed them. One day, a villager walks away from his post. Others say, ‘Hey, why are you going?’ The person says, ‘I am going to find out why the children are in the river in the first place.’ This is where we have been going for the past 30 years. We have been slowly moving up stream in terms of research and best practice, to better understand why children are in the river” (Dr. Terrie Rose). When I heard this story, it truly put into perspective for me how far we’ve come in terms of infant mental health and that we need to go to the source, the infant’s caregivers. When parents receive the help they need, the child will too.

For More information on Infant Mental Health go to:

Early Childhood Supports and Services

Center of Infant Mental Health and Development

Harvard University, National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Mental Health Problems in Early Childhood Can Impair Learning and Behavior for Life

Healthy Minnesotans: Public Health Improvement Goals 2004, Goal Number 5
MN Association for Children’s Mental Health

MN Dept. of Health

MN Dept. of Human Services

Minnesota Thrive Initiative

Terrie Rose – Children’s Mental Health

University of MN, CEED

Top 10 Healthy Sleep Habits


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)


I came across this list about healthy sleep habits from Sleep Education by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.  It’s a great “Top 10 List” to keep in mind when you are helping your children learn good sleep habits or in helping yourself get a better night’s sleep!

Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It helps you feel, think and perform your best. Therefore, it is critical for you to get a good night’s sleep every night. These top 10 healthy sleep habits will help your child (or yourself) fall asleep faster and sleep well.

  1. Only use your bed for sleeping.
  1. Avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon and at night.
  1. Avoid taking naps in the late afternoon or in the evening.
  1. Avoid large meals right before bedtime.
  1. Dim household lights at night and let in plenty of sunlight in the morning.
  1. Create a healthy sleep environment in your bedroom with:

Dim lighting

A comfortable temperature

Soothing sounds

No TV or computer

  1. Turn off all of these items at least 30 minutes before your bedtime:



Movies and videos

Video games

Cell phone

  1. Develop a bedtime routine that helps you relax by:

Eating a healthy snack or light dessert

Brushing your teeth

Taking a warm bath or shower


Listening to relaxing music

  1. Go to bed at or near the same time every night, even on weekends.

   10. Discuss any ongoing sleep problems with your doctor.

For more information on sleep habits go to:



Developmental Milestones – Is Your Child On Track?



By: Angy Talbot (EFCE Blog Writer)

All children go through developmental stages – typical and expected changes in the areas of language, cognitive, physical, and social and emotional development.  These stages build upon one another, and children progress through each phase.  A developmental milestone is a skill or ability that a child achieves by a certain age . For example, one developmental milestone is learning to crawl. Most children learn this skill or meet this developmental milestone between the ages of 7 and 10 months. Milestones develop in a sequential fashion. This means that a child will develop some skills before he or she can develop new skills. Children begin to babble or make sounds before they say their first word.  Each milestone that a child acquires builds on the last milestone developed.

Children develop skills in five main areas of development:
1. Cognitive Development
This skill is the child’s ability to learn and solve problems. For example, this includes a two-month old baby learning to explore the environment with hands or eyes or a five-year old learning how to do simple math problems.
2. Social and Emotional Development
This skill is the child’s ability to interact with others, including helping themselves and self-control. Examples of this type of development would include: a six-week old baby smiling, a ten-month old baby waving bye-bye, or a five-year old boy knowing how to take turns in games at school.
3. Speech and Language Development
This skill is the child’s ability to both understand and use language. For example, this includes a 12-month old baby saying his first words, a two-year old naming parts of her body, or a five-year old learning to say “feet” instead of “foots.”
4. Fine Motor Skill Development
This skill is the child’s ability to use small muscles, specifically their hands and fingers, to pick up small objects, hold a spoon, turn pages in a book, or use a crayon to draw.
5. Gross Motor Skill Development
This skill is the child’s ability to use large muscles. For example, a six-month old baby learns how to sit up with some support, a 12-month old baby learns to pull up to a stand holding onto furniture, and a five-year old learns to skip.  (Minnesota Department of Education)

Early years are the foundation for growth and development. Children are constantly learning, right from birth.

How can you help your child meet these developmental milestones?

• Give your child lots of love and attention. No matter what a child’s age, holding, hugging, and listening are important ways to show your child they matter.
• Interact with your child by talking, singing, playing, eating, and reading with your child. Your child will grow up feeling special and important to you. You will also learn a lot about your child’s interests and skills.
• Read, read, and read. Research has shown that children who are read to by their parents have a larger vocabulary than other children. Reading also provides children with new perspectives about the world we live in.
• Learn some simple parenting skills for helping your child to learn how to interact with others and manage feelings.
• Establish routines with your child from eating to bedtime.
• Limit TV time and video time to no more than 1-2 hours of educational viewing per day for children over 2 years old.
• Ask for help when you need it from your family, friends, partner and your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner. Parenting is wonderful but it is not always easy.

Does your child meet the developmental milestones?

Here is a list of Developmental Milestone resources including charts and websites, which can be used to track and check your child’s development:

Minnesota Department of Health

Center of Disease and Control

Help Me Grow – Is Your Child On Track?

PBS – The ABC’s of Child Development

Early Childhood Screening


By: Laura Orwoll (Early Childhood Screening Office – ISD 728)

The early childhood years from birth to the start of kindergarten are an important time of rapid learning and growth. Early Childhood Screening is a quick and simple check of how children are doing between the ages of 3 and 4 years. It identifies, at an early stage, possible learning or health concerns so that children can get needed help before starting school.

Having worked in the screening program for the past 4 years, I have seen many children and families benefit from this program. Below are some common questions regarding Early Childhood Screening. Please call to make an appointment if your child is age-eligible or if you have further questions.

Who is required to be screened?
All children living in School District 728 who are at least 3 years old need to participate in this FREE screening. Screening is required by the State of Minnesota prior to Kindergarten entrance. A health and developmental screening from Head Start, Child and Teen Checkups or your health care provider may meet the school requirements. Please call the screening office for more information.

What is the ideal age for screening?
The ideal age for screening your child is between 3 and 4 years old. Waiting until the year before school entry may be waiting too long. Screening can detect possible learning or health concerns that can be addressed before they start Kindergarten.

Is the program required?
Yes. Minnesota state law requires that your child be screened prior to enrollment in a public school. Children are not permitted to enter a public school without Early Childhood Screening and up-to-date immunizations.

If you are planning to send your child to a private or home school, the law does not require screening, however, we still encourage you to participate. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to find out how your child is developing.

What happens during screening?
A trained professional will check your child’s:
• Thinking, Language and Communication skills
• Social & Emotional Development
• Vision & Hearing
• Height & Weight
• Large & Small Muscles
• Immunization shots status
The parent(s) attends the entire screening process with their child. The parent(s) will then participate in a family factors interview to review the screening process and talk about any concerns that they may have and to learn about area resources. Please allow 1 to 1-1/2 hours for the screening process.

How do I make an appointment for Early Childhood Screening?
Contact the Early Childhood Screening office at (763) 241-3525 to set up an appointment.
You can also stop by the ECFE office Monday-Friday at The Handke Center, 1170 Main Street, Elk River, MN using Door 6.

Just Say It!


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)


I love quotes.  For almost anything in your life you can find a great quote to help motivate and reflect how you’re thinking or feeling.  Here is a list of some of my favorite quotes for parents, some serious and others humorous!

“When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen.  When they’re finished, I climb out.”  -Erma Bombeck

“You will always be your child’s favorite toy.” – Vicki Lansky

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.”  -Jesse Jackson

“”What good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best after all.”  -Benjamin Spock

“The solution to adult problems tomorrow depends in large measure upon how our children grow today. “ – Margaret Mead

“Concentrate on: What you have, not what you don’t have.”  -Unknown

“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.”  -Roger Lewin

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  – Mahatma Ghandi

“Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” –H. Jackson Brown

“Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry.”  -Alvin Price

“If your kids are giving you a headache, follow the directions on the aspirin bottle, especially the part that says, ‘keep away from children.” – Susan Savannah

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”  –Anne Frank

“It is time for parents to teach young people that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” –Maya Angelou

“Most things are good, and they are the strongest things; but there are evil things too, and you are not doing a child a favor by trying to shield him from reality. The important thing is to teach a child that good can always triumph over evil.” –Walt Disney

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Ben Franklin

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”  – Emilie Buchwald

“No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I’m not talking about the kids. Their behavior is always normal.”  – Bill Cosby

“Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home.” – Phyllis Diller

What would your quote be about parenting?

Building Good Sibling Relationships


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)


As a child, my brother and I would fight a lot.    He was younger and I always found myself trying to mother him…and believe me, he needed it!     My father would say, “One day, you two will get along.”  I never thought that day would come; now as adults we get along great, so my Dad was right!    As a big sister, I often felt that since I was older and wiser, I was always right.  I think siblings may struggle because of the need to want each other’s attention or to compete with one another.    At one moment, siblings are best friends and the next moment, rivals.    This can get frustrating for all involved.  I came across a list generated from experienced parents on how to handle sibling situations.  I am uncertain who the authors are, but these tips are still a great resource worth sharing.

Start Young:

From the beginning, let children know what they are expected to treat each other fairly.  Let your kids know that hurting each other is not okay.

Take 30 seconds to stop, look and listen:

This definitely helps you get a better idea of what kids are fighting over.  Take the next 30 seconds to think about how you should respond to the situation.  Thirty seconds doesn’t seem like very long, but you will be amazed at how it helps you to keep your cool and take charge in an effective way.

It is OK to treat children differently:

The important thing is not to devalue one child over the other.  Focus on the positives of each child’s personality and interests.

Think cooperation instead of competition:

For example, rather than having children race each other to pick up toys, set a timer and have them race together to beat the clock.  Try to find at least one thing every day that kids can work together to accomplish.

Teach your children what to do when they are angry:

Walk away from the situation, count to ten, go hug a stuffed animal, or ask an adult for help.

Consult with children:

When older children continue to fight, sit down with them and ask their advice.  Sometimes kids can come up with very good suggestions for resolving a persistent problem.

Help children to problem solve:

Take the time to help them discuss the problem, brainstorm solutions, and try to work things out.  The time you invest early on will save a great deal of time years later because they will become so good at it, they will be able to solve most problems themselves.

Remember to thank your children for getting along:

“It’s great to see you two working together to rake leaves” or “Thanks for helping your sister pick up her toys.”  Remember also to remind your children to thank each other. “ I bet Mary would feel good if she heard a thank you for helping you set the table.”

Have regular rules and routines so children know what to expect:

Children should know that they are always expected to clean up their toys before bedtime or feed the pet right before dinner.  If parents are consistent, kids have a better idea about what is needed from them in everyday family life.

Develop a family motto or slogan:

Hearing a family motto helps small children feel the security of belonging to a strong family.  Say your motto during everyday routine times such as eating, dinner, and say it to children when conflict arises.

Look for opportunities for children to help each other:

Every very young child can bring diapers, help feed the baby, or push the stroller.  Make at least one weekly chore a team effort.  Setting the table, feeding the birds, or emptying the dishwasher is good jobs for leaning how to work together.

Siblings have a unique relationship.  It is important to foster positive sibling interactions and to help them to enjoy each other!    “The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose.”  –  Garrison Keillor

Here are some great resources/websites to help with those sibling relationships:

The Sibling Relationship: Challenging But Powerful


Sibling Relationships


Nurturing Sibling Relationships


New Year’s Resolutions!



By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

It is hard to believe that the year 2013 is coming to an end!  As we begin to celebrate the New Year, many of us set out to achieve goals for our New Year’s resolutions.  A New Year’s resolution is a commitment or a pledge to reform a habit or make a life style change.  “A key element to a New Year’s resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year and new beginnings” (Wikipedia).  Why not this year have your children set a New Year’s resolution?  For individual children’s goals, you and your child can come up with a resolution that will also help them increase independent skills.  Some suggestions are:

  • I will clean up my toys after I play with them.
  • I will always try a bite of a new food.
  • I will put on my jacket by myself.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day.
  • I will feed our pet each day.
  • I will make my bed each morning.
  • I will get dressed by myself.
  • I will watch less TV.
  • I will read for 20 minutes each night before bed.
  • I will stay in my bed when it is bedtime.

Children’s resolutions should be age appropriate and a goal that they can achieve with guidance or on their own.

Families can even come up with a family resolution to do together.  New Year’s resolutions are a great way to bring the family closer.  Some fun family resolutions could be:

  • Plan a family night each week from game night to bowling.
  • Eat together as a family at least twice a week for dinner.
  • Have a monthly or weekly family meeting to discuss family concerns or upcoming events.
  • Exercise as a family from going for walks to bike rides.
  • Less screen time and more family time.
  • Go outside more and plan a camping trip or weekly events in nature.
  • Slow down your schedule and do less running from one activity to the next.

One entertaining New Year’s resolution activity is to make a time capsule each year and put in the capsule items that will represent the year along with your written family resolution.  You can look through the capsules each year before making a new one!  Whatever the resolution your family decides on should help make the family bond stronger, and every goal should be realistic and obtainable.  Keep in mind that the best family resolutions are those you can do together!  Happy New Year and all the best for you and in your family in 2014!

For more ideas in family New Year’s resolutions go to PBS parents at:


Or Disney Family at:


What other New Year’s Resolutions do you think would be good for a child or family?

My Top 10 Books For Young Children!


By: Angy Talbot/ECFE Blog Writer

Often parents ask me what books do I like to read to the children at story time in my classroom. Below is a list of my top 10 favorite children’s books. It was hard to pick just 10 books, since I have a great love of books and reading! These books, I have read to my daughter and to my students. My favorite author is Ezra Jack Keats, which my Mom read to me in the 70’s when I was a child from The Snowy Day to Peter’s Chair. My daughter’s favorite book was Goodnight Moon, which we read before bedtime for years! If I had to pick a classroom favorite, the children greatly enjoyed The Napping House with great laughter! What children’s book is your favorite?

1. The Snowy Day: 50th Anniversary Edition By: Ezra Jack Keats


2. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes By: James Dean


3. The Napping House By: Audrey and Don Wood


4. The Mitten, 20th Anniversary Edition By: Jan Brett


5. Llama Llama Misses Mama By: Anna Dewdney


6. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear By: Audrey and Don Wood


7. Louella Mae, She’s Run Away! By: Karen Beaumont Alarcón


8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar By: Eric Carle


9. Planting a Rainbow By: Lois Ehlert


10. Goodnight Moon By: Margaret Wise Brown


Tummy Time!


By: Angy Talbot – ECFE Blog Writer


            When my daughter was an infant she spent a lot of time on her back and I needed to make time for her to play on her tummy.  Today, we put children to bed on their backs (prevention of S.I.D.S), and we have all different kinds of seats, swings, and Exersaucers, which do not allow children to play on their tummies.  The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that babies sleep on their backs but spend wakeful time on their tummies.  “Back to sleep and tummy to play.”  Tummy Time is time that infants spend awake and playing on their tummies.  Tummy time allows for the strengthening of the infant’s head, neck, and arm muscles.  It also helps prevent infants from developing a flat head called positional plagiocephaly.  Infants can begin tummy time early.  As stated by Dr. Jay L. Hoecker, M.D. from the Mayo Clinic, “Start by laying your newborn on his or her tummy across your lap two or three times a day for short periods of time.  As your baby grows stronger, place him or her on a blanket on the floor (around one month old).  Arrange age-appropriate toys within his or her reach.  As your baby gets used to tummy time, place your baby on his or her stomach more frequently or for longer periods of time.  For a 3 to 4-month-old baby, some research suggests aiming for at least 20 minutes of tummy time a day. “Your baby should always be supervised during tummy time, and if they become fussy, change his or her activity by interacting with them and providing entertainment with toys, singing, books, or massage.  If your child becomes sleepy on their tummies, put them on their backs in their crib.
            For the best results for tummy time, make sure your child isn’t hungry or tired.    It is also best to wait awhile after eating or drinking.  It is not as comfortable on a full stomach.  Ideally, build tummy time into your daily routine.  It worked best for my daughter’s tummy time each morning around 10:30 am, an hour after she ate and had her morning nap.  I would lay her on the blanket on the floor and on her tummy for about 15 minutes while playing with her.  When she got stronger, we had tummy time twice a day totaling about half an hour a day.  If your child is enjoying time on their tummies they can always play a little longer.  If your baby starts to cry or gets upset it’s a good time to pick them up.  The more practice infant’s get on their tummies the more they will enjoy it!
If you have any questions or concerns regarding Tummy Time it is always best to talk to your child’s health care provider.
Here are some wonderful resources on Tummy Time:
Baby Zone – Q&A Tummy Time: When do I start?  How Do I Do It?
March of Dimes: Tummy Time
Baby Center – Top Five Reasons for Tummy Time

The Meaning Of Reading


By: Angy Talbot (Discovery Teacher and ECFE Blog Writer)


I remember in school learning how to read.  It was challenging to make since of words that sometimes I could sound out and other times I needed to remember by sight.    Learning to read did not come easy for me.  I had to work hard at it and needed extra help.     My third grade and favorite teacher, Mrs. Bramhall, did an excellent job at taking literacy concepts and making them understandable.  She made reading fun!  I was afraid to read out loud in school because I might pronounce a word incorrectly.  Mrs. Bramhall taught me to put aside those fears and that it does not matter if I said a word wrong.  If I came across a word that I didn’t know, I needed to learn the word and the meaning of it (I got a lot of use out of an old dictionary that year).  She taught me that reading is really about total comprehension and understanding what is read.  I began to actually read books for pleasure in the third grade.  I learned to love reading and not fear it.  I found out that reading is almost like an out of body experience.  Your imagination can transform you into another place or time, and where you can meet and get to know many different types of people.  After third grade, I no longer struggled in reading.  I began to excel not only reading, but in other subjects from writing, social studies, and all areas of English.  I still love to read and read leisurely, daily.  I think in order to help children love to read, adults need to demonstrate how much fun reading really is.  When you read a book, your imagination can take you anywhere.  You can be and do anything!  Not only do we need to read to our children, we need to read ourselves.  One of my favorite quotes is from Jacqueline Kennedy, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world.  Love of books is the best of all.”  What was the last story you read for yourself?  It’s time to turn off that TV or computer and read!

The Wonders Of The Nature Classroom


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By: Angy  Talbot – ECFE Blog Writer

As I look outside and see my daughter playing, as a mother I am thankful that she has a place to discover with the grass beneath her feet and the sun shining on her face. There are many wonders of nature in our backyard, but I want to continue to give her more experiences with nature from camping adventures to walking in the woods. As I look out onto our Nature Classroom, as a teacher I am thankful that every child will have an opportunity in our program to explore the world outside a school building. The children play while absorbing and using each sense. From seeing an insect fly by and watching a flower grow, hearing the birds chirp and the sounds of the leaves moving in the wind, feeling the dirt on the ground or the rough grooves of bark from a tree on their fingertips, tasting a freshly picked tomato or a floating snow flake touching their tongue, smelling the lilac bush or the scent of a newly fallen pinecone, while being with the earth in outdoor life. The Nature Classroom is a whole body experience. When the children play in the sandbox, their entire body is emerged and they can use their arms and legs, besides their hands. In the Messy Materials Area, children are picking up logs and sticks building creations and using their imagination to construct life like forms big and small. The children explore without reservation and can touch and feel all that they see. In our Nature Classroom, children not only encounter what the physical world has to offer, they also experience activities that have been done traditionally inside, behind four walls. Many activities from reading, writing, science, math, and circle time can now be done outside. The children can play musical instruments, go on scavenger hunts, eat snack, or just relax and watch the clouds go by. From structured activities to children exploring on their own, there is no limitations to what can be done outside. What I take pleasure in most about the Nature Classroom is the freedom the children have. I no longer see the fear of bugs or worms. The children are excited when a little trespasser, such as a Ladybug is on their shirt or a worm has just come to the surface after a rain shower. In every season and any weather condition, the Nature Classroom brings about many opportunities for children to understand and gain knowledge of the great outdoors. To learn more about Outdoor Nature Explore Classrooms please go to:
What kinds of things do you like to do with your children outdoors? What experiences has your child had with the Nature Classroom?

Discovery Learning Extra – “An Extra Helping of Learning”


By: Ms. Becca – DLX Teacher


Discovery Learning Extra is a Pilot program that was launched in the Fall of 2012 in hopes of adding to the District 728’s mission to educate, inspire, and empower all learners starting at the very beginning.

Many surrounding districts, especially in the metro area have had similar programs in place, and were getting great results, so it was important for ISD 728 to give it a try. We have already had so much success in our existing Discovery Learning Preschool Programs, so we wanted to broaden our outreach.

Discovery Learning Extra is intended to give the children and families that are enrolled “an extra helping” of school readiness time and instruction before they enter Kindergarten.

Families and children were referred from Early Childhood Screening, ECFE home visitors, school social workers, principals, early childhood special education, and those identified as English Language Learners, siblings of Title I students, families with income or behavior challenges, or other circumstances.

Three classes were created, two at Handke Family Center in Elk River, and one in Zimmerman. The families were offered transportation to class five mornings, or four afternoons a week. (In comparison to a two or three day a week class for most Discovery Learning classes).  They also attended once a month family nights, participated in a family reading program, and were required to volunteer in class at least once throughout the school year.

Formal literacy assessments, and social-emotional growth tracking were completed three times throughout the school year. The amount of progress was incredible. Most of the students started behind peers in other classes, and ended on target or beyond in Spring time testing. Four and Five day a week classes helped kids to have consistency in their learning and lives, but also gain independence and grow in essential skills to be successful in the future. Skills including children’s ability to form relationships and interact with others and to attend and engage at group learning times.

In our second year, we hope to empower more children and families, and to get the word out about the idea of intensive early childhood education. It is our hope that the district will expand funding and space for early childhood throughout the entire district. We hope to have our preschool programs as a permanent and serious fixture in ISD 728. We hope to give more children the “extra helping” that all young kids deserve.

Exploring Autumn



By: Angy Talbot –  ECFE Blog Writer/ School Readiness Teacher

There is so much to see and explore in the autumn months.  The leaves begin to change, the weather starts to cool, and our days begin to shorten.  There are many entertaining activities you can do this time of year with your children.  One of my favorite things to do with my daughter is to go to the pumpkin patch.  She always takes great care in choosing just the right pumpkins that we will carve.  At the pumpkin patch they often have corn mazes and hay rides.  I must admit I am always the first one to make it out of the maze!  Here is a wonderful website, Pumpkin Patches and More, to find pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and farms in your area:

www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/MNpumpkins.php.  This site also has great resources from how to choose pumpkins, pumpkin recipes, and the history of Halloween!

Not only do we think of pumpkins, apples are also at their best this time of year.  It is so fun to go to an apple orchard to pick your own apples or to taste all the different types of variations of apples.  My daughter was surprised how different each apple tasted.  Pink Ladies are her favorite!  To find an apple orchard go to the Minnesota Department of Agricultural website at: Minnesota Grown.Com  http://www3.mda.state.mn.us/mngrown/?gclid=CKOwzcfPjLkCFWNgMgod8HgARg

On this website you can also find:

  • Farmers Markets
  • Berries
  • Garden Produce
  • Sweet Corn

There are many various fall festivals and events throughout Minnesota.  To find where and when they are, just go Explore Minnesota at:  http://www.exploreminnesota.com/events/festivals-events/index.aspx.  Not only do they have a list of the many events, you can look up events by city.  You can even pick dates of events so you can find and search for fun activities throughout the year!

The Sherburne County National Wildlife has many wonderful opportunities for fall tours; their website is:  http://www.fws.gov/refuge/sherburne/.  The Fall Wildlife Festival is on Saturday, October 5th from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.  This annual fall celebration of wildlife includes live birds, horse-drawn wagon rides, bonfire, nature crafts, wildlife discovery, food, silent auction, and more!  For more information, call 763-389-3323.

Now we can’t forget all those simple pleasures of the season.  This is a great time to be outside going on bike rides, walks, or just exploring the great outdoors.  There is so much for children to hear, smell, touch, and see.  All their senses can be used exploring the outside world.  Indoors activities such as decorating for the season, making apple pie or preparing that perfect Halloween costume are all things that can bring joy in Autumn.  Children love to help, and making them part of all the activities helps them to appreciate and enjoy them with you.  Children enjoy the simple activities of finding leaves, acorns, and pinecones or going on a scavenger hunt.  Raking a big pile of leaves and letting them play in it or letting them rake leaves is always a big hit for kids.  I found a website with fun autumn ideas, including over 150 autumn downloads!  Go to Woodland Trust at:  http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/autumn/

As stated by William Allingham, “Autumn’s the mellow time.”  So take this time as an opportunity to relax and enjoy the uncomplicated fall season.

Preparing Your Child for Preschool: Tips From a Teacher



By: Becca Dey – Discovery Learning Extra Teacher

Preschool is a great experience for both children and adults. It gives young children the opportunity to interact with other children their age, gain independence by completing tasks of their own choice and carving out their own way through the classroom. It also gives them the chance to work with a teacher and get a first impression of their school years to come.

A good place to start is to get your child mentally ready; “School” is a very abstract concept to a child who has never been before. So, give your child some details about the experience. Tell him about the games that he will play, or the new friends and toys he will get to play with.

Be positive. Children take cues from their parents, so be calm and confident that everything will go well. Also, take this time to start congratulating your child’s “school-ready skills” by noticing them share with a sibling or a friend, by saying “ I noticed you shared your trucks with Lynne. That made her very happy. Your new friends at school are really going to like how well you share.” School should always be talked of in a positive manner to keep kids excited.

Take a visit to the school before classes start if possible. Visit your child’s classroom, meet the teacher, and find their cubby so they feel some ownership to this new place. Look for specific toys or books that your child will enjoy, and remind her about them as school approaches. “Remember Laura, next week you get to go to your school and play with that neat train set.”

Incorporate school into your life by using some “school language.” Talk about art time, rest time, snack time etc. Pretend play school with siblings or furry friends. Go on a mini “school shopping spree”. Your child can pick out a backpack and a few small supplies. This will make him feel like a big kid. Let your child play with the supplies before class starts to keep the excitement going.

Finally, reading books about starting school is a great way to approach the topic from another person’s viewpoint; these are some of my favorites:

  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  • Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Appelt
  • Don’t Go! By Janet Breskin Zalben
  • Owen by Kevin Henkes
  • I am too absolutely small for School by Lauren Child
  • Do you want to be my friend?  By Eric Carle
  • Wemberley Worried By Kevin Henkes
  • Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

First Days of Preschool



By: Angy Talbot – ECFE Blog Writer

I was nervous when my daughter began preschool. I was worried that the teacher wouldn’t give her attention she needed or that she would be scared or maybe even cry. When I dropped her off that first day, she latched on so tight to me. I wasn’t sure she would ever let go. Deep down inside I wanted to stay with her; I was afraid what would happen when I left. The teacher sweetly came over to us and began to talk to my daughter, showing her a few things in the room while also introducing her to some other girls standing near by. My daughter took the teacher’s hand, tearfully giving me the opportunity to say, “Good-bye” and run out the door (wanting to carry her out the door with me). Even as I drove off, I was wondering how she was getting on and if she was scared or sad. My heart was breaking because she was on her own. Also on this day, I began my 12th year of teaching preschool. You would think with my experience that I would not have these types of feelings or concerns.

As a teacher, I have seen many children having a hard time separating from their parents those first couple of weeks or even months that they begin preschool. All of which is normal behavior. I have learned from personal and professional experience that when you drop off your child at school, it is best to say your good-byes outside the classroom door and let your child walk into the room alone. The longer you stay, the harder it is. One of the main concepts of preschool is to help your child become more independent. I remember once when my daughter cried and the teacher had to come over to us at the door to help her come into the classroom. My daughter became upset and did not want to be there. I stayed near the door, smiled at her, waved, and said, “I love you and I will pick you up after school today. Have fun!” and I left. I wanted to hold her and comfort her, but I knew no matter how difficult it was for me, I needed to leave because it was the best thing to do for her. When I drove to work, I couldn’t get the image of her sad little face out of my mind. About 20 minutes later, her teacher called to tell me my daughter was doing wonderful and was coloring with the girls at the table. Each drop off got easier, and I made sure I said my good-byes and let her go off into her new world without me. My daughter since has not cried when I dropped her off at school. She loves school and cries if she has to miss it. So parents, when your child is upset at drop off time, a teacher can help guide and console him/her if needed. But remember as you say, “good-bye” or “I’ll be back to get you after school” to leave no matter how hard it may be, and usually about five minutes after you walk out the door, they’re just fine and often having fun! Most children, after a few months of school will walk into the classroom on their own, self-reliant and confidant. I’ve heard the voice of the parent‘s saying to their child, “Aren’t you going to say goodbye?”

Below are a few suggested tips to help your child prepare for their first day of preschool:

• Drive by the school and point out, “There’s your new school!”

• Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House).

• Read stories to your child about school and separation from parents. My daughter’s favorite book was, I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas.
Other Helpful Books:
What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff
Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss
Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

• Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.

• Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at preschool (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about preschool.

• Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.

• Share with your child some fun preschool memories you have of your first day at preschool.

• Tell your child often how much fun school is!!!

Car Seat Safety!


By: Angy Talbot – ECFE Blog Writer


I was surprised to read that 9 out of 10 car seats are used INCORRECTLY and that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and disability among children.  This is why it is so important to make sure your child is in a correctly secured child passenger seat.   Minnesota law requires all children age 8 and under to ride in a federally approved child safety seat or booster seat, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller.   Infants under one and weighing less than 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing car seat.   Minnesota law requires drivers and all passengers to be buckled up or in the correct child restraint.    Here is a quick reference on car seat safety from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety buckleupkids.mn.gov:

Rear-Facing Seat

Infant restraints are for newborns to at least age 1 and 20-30 pounds, depending on the seat. It is recommended to keep a baby rear-facing as long as possible.  Most babies will outgrow an infant seat (designed for babies 20–22 pounds) before age 1. Change to a convertible seat with a higher rear-facing weight limit.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping children rear-facing until age 2.  Children may stay rear-facing longer in convertible seat up to 30 or 35 pounds, or based on the seat’s weight limits.

Forward-Facing Seat (with a harness)

Types of forward facing seats with a harness convertible or combination seat.  For children who have outgrown a rear-facing seat (recommended to keep children rear-facing until age 2). Children should use a forward facing harnessed seat until they outgrow the weight limit (typically 40-60 pounds, depending on seat).

Booster Seats

Booster seats are for kids who have outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint, usually after turning age 4. Booster seats help adult safety belts fit correctly on a child’s body. Booster’s keep the lap belt low on the hips and the shoulder belt across the chest.  Minnesota law requires booster seat use. A child cannot ride in just a seat belt until they are age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches tall, whichever comes first.  It is recommended, however, to keep a child in a booster based on their size rather than age.

Child Passenger Safety

  • Safety seats must meet federal safety standards and be installed properly to prevent injuries.
  •  Read the manufacturer’s instructions and the motor vehicle owner’s manual to ensure the safety seat is being used correctly. Follow instructions carefully.
  • Check the instruction manual for the weight and height restrictions for each child safety seat.
  • Children under age 13 should ride in the rear seat.

Common Child Passenger Safety Mistakes

  • Turning a child from a rear-facing safety seat to a forward-facing safety seat too soon.
  • Safety seat is not secured tight enough —should not shift more than one inch side-to-side or out from the seat.
  • Harness on the child is not tight enough —if you can pinch harness material, it’s too loose.
  • Retainer clip is up too high or too low —should be at the child’s armpit level.
  • The child is in the wrong safety seat —don’t rush your child into a seat belt. (Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety buckleupkids.mn.gov)

When purchasing a car seat, be sure the car seat matches your child’s height, weight and age.  For those that qualify, reduced-cost car seats are available for Sherburne County residents.   For more information and to see if you qualify call Sherburne County Public Health at: 1-800-433-5237 or 763-765-4000.  It is best to use a newly purchased car seat.  Second-Hand Child Restraints may be OK to use if:

  • It’s not more than six years old.
  • It’s free of any recalls.
  • It has not been involved in a crash.
  • All labels are on the child restraint.
  • The instruction manual is present.
  • You know the individual who previously owned the restraint and you know the history of the restraint. (buckleupkids.mn.gov)

For more detailed information and guidelines on car seat safety visit the following websites:

Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety: Child Passenger Safety Program


Sherburne County Public Health – Healthy Children Car Seat Safety


Rear Facing Car Seat Guidelines – Parting.com


Law enforcement will stop and ticket unbelted motorists or passengers so buckle up!

Summer Fun Destinations!


By: Angy Talbot 


Summer is the perfect time to enjoy all the fun places you can go in Minnesota with the kids! Listed below is a list of activities and places of interest around our state and town:

Sherburne County Fair   http://sherburnecountyfair.org/ July 18th – July 21st

Walker Arts Center Sculpture Garden  http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2008/walker-on-the-green-artist-designed-mini-golf  There are many free events from Target Thursday Nights and Free First Saturdays.

Science Museum  http://www.smm.org/bigbackyard  Play mini-golf after 5 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for only $5 without the purchase of museum admission.  You can also explore the Prairie Maze and Gardens.

St. Paul Saints Baseball  http://saintsbaseball.com/  Join them at 12:15 p.m. before EVERY Sunday home game for reading with a Saints player and a local author or illustrator.  Game tickets as low as $7 per person.

Historical Fort Snelling  http://www.historicfortsnelling.org/  Free for children under 5 years old.

Como Zoo and Conservatory  http://www.comozooconservatory.org/ Not only can you visit the animals and gardens, the zoo and conservatory offers many different activities, classes and programs.

The Works Museum  http://www.theworks.org/ The exhibits challenge and engage kids in fun hands-on experiments in science, technology and engineering.

Harriet Alexander Nature Center  http://www.ci.roseville.mn.us/index.aspx?nid=183 The boardwalk and trails circulate through 52 acres of marsh, prairie and forest habitats.

Oliver Kelly Farm  http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/oliver-h-kelley-farm Right in Elk River on Highway 10.

Riverfront Concerts  Check out the Thursday night downtown Elk River Riverfront Concert Series all summer long.

Woodland Trails Park  http://www.elkrivermn.gov/facilities/Facility/Details/31 Bike, walk or hike the trails.

Family Days  http://www.familydaysout.com/kids-things-to-do-usa/elk-river/mn/ List of LOTS of family days and places to go throughout the state.

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge  http://www.exploresherburne.org/ Many free events/programs throughout the year from butterfly to bird tours.

Explore Minnesota  http://www.exploreminnesota.com/index.aspx There are so many ways to explore Minnesota!

Time to put on the sunscreen and discover all that summer has to offer.  See the sights and travel around!  Minnesota summers sure fly by . . . so take pleasure in it while you can.  We’ll be shoveling snow soon enough!

The Importance of Family Time


familyBy: Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

Today, many families struggle to find quality time to spend with their families because of the demands of work and home.   There just seems to never be enough time.  Families want positive and meaningful moments with their families that will produce happy memories for the future.  In history, families naturally spent time together.   Historically, families would work, harvest, celebrate, grieve, play and rest together.   The process was natural life experiences.  Our society today is very focused on measuring time by the clock and technology.   Many parents want to re-create the family time that they had as a child and pass along family traditions while creating their own.  The main goal for these parents in regards to family time is to create positive childhood memories.    I still remember camping trips, family dinners, days at the park and long bike rides with my family as a child.  I try to give my daughter some of the same, wonderful experiences that I had as a child while intertwining her father’s childhood experiences and creating our own family experiences.

Another aspect of family time is togetherness.  By spending time together as a family, promotes interactions, supports communication and fosters bonding time with one another, thus, building trust and connections.   Penn State has designed packets called, Family Time – Strengthening Your Family, broken into age groups from ages 2 – 3 through ages 7 – 8 and are categorized by the season:  summer, fall, winter, and spring.  These packets give parents many ideas and examples of family time activities as well as suggestions on how to strengthen family connections.   They can be found and downloaded for free online at: http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/PubTitle.asp?varTitle=family+time.

Many parents (including myself) are trying to find the balance between the demands of living in a fast pace world and trying to find quality time to spend with our family.  By making an effort to set time aside for the family (eating meals together, planning family meetings or a game night), is a necessity for strengthening and nourishing family unity.





Getting Ready For Those First Days of School!


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

Now that we’re coming to an end of the Dog Days of Summer, it is time to slowly switch our thoughts back to school. Summer days tend to be carefree, stress less, and relaxing. In just a few weeks, the busy bustle will begin again in full force. It can be quite a transition for children to switch from summer mode to school days. Now is a great opportunity to begin preparing your children for back to school!

Here are a few tips to help you gradually get back into the school groove.

• Go back to school shopping with your children. Let them help go through the list of what’s needed while letting them pick out the colors they like of certain items and their own backpack. Children will get more excited if they’re involved with the preparations and they will have ownership of their new items.

• School shopping for new clothes is always fun for kids. It is helpful to go through children’s clothes and shoes to make sure everything fits before the big shopping day. You can have special drawer or place in the closet that they can keep their new school clothes to wear for those first days. It helps to plan out which outfits they will wear that first week to help keep things stress free.

• Plan lunches. Make a list with your child of the types of foods they like to eat for lunch. I love all the ideas I have gotten on Pinterest for new ways to pack lunches. This is a great time to try some new foods, like hummus or cottage cheese. If your child likes them, you’ll have more options for lunchtime. It’s also helpful to copy off the first month’s lunch calendar so your children can pick out which days they will have hot or cold lunch in advance.

• Get the calendar ready. Have a calendar posted that the whole family can see with September events and schedules from music classes, football games, and don’t forget the first day of school. I use a big dry erase calendar that I switch each month. It’s easy to add and change events.

• Get organized! Make sure you have everything in order and ready to go from documentations needed or child well checks and immunizations. Check with the school’s website to make sure you have everything needed before the first day of school. It’s also helpful to get your house in order, cleaned and organized before school starts.

• Read books or watch movies about going back to school. Some fun movies for school-age children are: Matilda, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Harriet the Spy, Akeelah and the Bee, Freaky Friday, Nancy Drew, and High School Musical.

• Try to slowly get back into your regular routine. Begin by:
o Eating all meals similar to the times they will eat during the school year.
o Reestablishing regular bedtime routines from bathing, teeth brushing, story time and tucking in.
o Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night from 9 to 10 hours.
o Start to put your child down for bedtime a little earlier each week until the week before school so that they are going to bed at the time they will when school begins. Do the same for wake up times too.

Here are some helpful tips for those children who are going to school for the first time:

• Start reading books about going to school for the first time.
What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff
Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss
Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas

• Drive by the school and point out, “There’s your new school.” If possible walk around, check out the playground and show your child the entrance to the building.

• Watch movies about going to school. Some great movies for preschoolers are: Curious George Back to School, Daniel (Tiger) Goes to School, Sesame Street Ready for School, Caillou Goes to School, Nickelodeon: The First Day of School, Bubble Guppies: Get Ready for School, and Leap Frog Let’s Go To School.

• Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.

• Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House).

• Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at school (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about school.

• Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.

• Share memories with your child of some fun school recollections you had for our first day at school.

• Tell your child often and how much fun school is!!

And don’t forget there is still time to enjoy summer!

Let’s Take It Outside


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

One of the great advantages of our ECFE program is the Nature Explore Center at Handke.  It is a wondrous outdoor environment where children can experience the great outdoors first hand to explore and use their senses in a safe location.  Children and families can come and discover this natural wonderland of flowers, plants, and nature tools to play and learn in the fresh air and earthly abundance.  Living in Minnesota, we have numerous lakes, trails, forests and parks with nature all around us.   If you take a good look outside, you can find nature everywhere from a plant growing in a crack on the side walk, a bird flying in the sky, or a bug crawling in the grass.  We don’t have to go very far to experience nature and the outdoors with our children.  Here are a few tips to help get you started to exploring the great outdoors:

  • Go on a Nature Walk/Hike: You can find and observe different birds, insects, plants, animals, or water sources while looking at the sky, ground and all that is around you.  Bring a backpack on your walk to collect small treasures from rocks, leaves, acorns, or pinecones.  You can also take pictures of things you see and later make a picture book identifying or researching what was found.
  • Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt: Look for different items in nature and check off all the different items you can find. http://thebirdfeednyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Scavenger-Hunt-Nature-Walk.pdf
  • Nature Study: Take some time to study and research about different leaves, trees, bugs, or whatever interests your child.   Give your child a magnifying glass or binoculars and have them find something they would like to explore and learn more about.   If they find a worm on the sidewalk, this can be a great opportunity to learn about worms.
  • Nature Journal (Observe and Draw): Have a nature journal for your child. It could be a notebook or construction paper stapled together.  Have colored pencils or crayons available for your child to draw pictures of what they see or feel.  Children can also do tree or leaf rubbings and tape findings to the journal pages.
  • Sit, Watch and Listen: Take some time to go outside and just relax.  Lay or sit still in silence for 5 minutes or so helping your child to take in all they can see, hear or feel.  Then after, talk about the experience sharing and asking questions about these moments and what was witnessed, felt, smelt, or heard.
  • Play Outside: You can do almost anything outside!   You can read a book, do art projects, have a picnic, watch clouds, play a game, ride bikes, blow bubbles, fly a kite, plant a garden, search for bugs, run through the sprinkler, sing songs, dance to music, swing, bird watch, play ball, or take a nap!

Playing outdoors gives children the opportunity to explore and take risk.  It exposes children to nature and helps them to learn about the world.  It let’s children be kids by running, rolling, jumping and climbing.   It gets them off the coach and the devices and guides them to use their bodies, mind and soul.   “I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.”  -Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder

Below are some great outdoor fun resources:

NAEYC for Families:



Outside activities to do with your children:



Getting outside in nature:

Sherburne County Wildlife Refuge



Sherburne County Parks and Recreation Attractions


Minnesota State Parks


Nature Explore Classrooms


Fun Summer Activities!


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy all the fun places you can go in Minnesota with the kids! Listed below is a list of activities and places of interest around our state and town:

Como Zoo and Conservatory


Not only can you visit the animals and gardens, the zoo and conservatory offers many different activities, classes and programs.

Harriet Alexander Nature Center


The boardwalk and trails circulate through 52 acres of marsh, prairie and forest habitats.

Sherburne County Fair


July 20th – July 23rd

Oliver Kelly Farm


Riverfront Concerts


Check out the Thursday night downtown Elk River Riverfront Concert Series all summer long.

Parks in our community (bike, hike, walk, picnic)


Elk River Library


Many family events and story times

Music in the Park, Big Lake


Thursdays, 7:00 pm

Historical Fort Snelling


Free for children under 5 years old.

Family Days


List of LOTS of family days and places to go throughout the state.

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge


Many free events/programs throughout the year from butterfly to bird tours.

Bunker Beach Water Park


Minnesota’s largest outdoor water park

Anoka Aquatic Center


Outdoor swimming, pool and water slide

Elk River YMCA


Elk River Residents can get 4 free passes a year!

Hope you can get to some of these entertaining places this summer. As we all know, Minnesota summers are short!   Summer time is one the best times to spend with family enjoying these carefree moments and the warm weather. We can’t forget that school days are just around the corner!





Summer Learning Before Kindergarten


By: Angy Talbot (School Readiness Instructor/ECFE Blog Writer)

There are so many ways you can continue summer learning for your little ones when school is no longer in session. As a preschool teacher, I am often asked what types of things can be done over the summer to prepare children for kindergarten?

Here is a list of some things you can practice over the summer to help make your child’s kindergarten experiences more successful.

Practice Letter Names and Sounds: Learn letters in fun ways by playing alphabet games, letter match games, reading books with letter names and sounds, point out letters everywhere, play ABC Bingo, make letter flashcards and have a letter search, listen to alphabet songs or play ABC puzzles.

Writing Name: Your child should know the letters in his/her name and be able to identify their name. They will need to write their name in kindergarten. Get a notebook or writing paper that they can practice printing their name with a pencil. It is helpful to guide them in the proper way to hold a pencil. They don’t have to write their name perfectly, but it should be legible.

Numbers and Counting: It’s helpful if your child can count to 10 and recognize numerals 1-10. Practice counting to 20, put written numbers in order from 1-10, and count objects. Read and sing songs with numbers and count whenever possible. Your child can count how many goldfish they have in their snack bowl or they can count the apples while putting into a bag at the grocery store.

Practice Self-Help Skills: Practice tying shoes, putting on a jacket, zipping, buttoning and bathroom needs. Give your child opportunities to do these types of activities by themselves.

Memorize Full Name, Telephone Number and Address: Children should be able to recognize their full name in print and recite their phone number and address in case of an emergency.

Chores or Household Tasks: Give your child some chores that they can help around the house with from watering plants, setting the dinner table, helping at meal time, feeding the pet, helping with wiping up messes, putting their dirty clothes in the hamper, folding laundry, picking up their room or cleaning up after themselves (putting away supplies or toys after each use).

Time With Friends: Plan play dates or take a summer preschool or ECFE class, so your child can have social experiences with other children. It gives them opportunities that will teach them how to get along with others, share, express themselves, build friendship skills, and to encourage positive interactions with other kids.

Practice Fine Motor Skills: Let your child cut with scissors or draw. Give your child opportunities to use scissors to cut out magazine pictures or written shapes. Have your child use many school tools from pencils, markers, crayons, glue sticks, to explore drawing and art materials.

Practice Physical Development Skills: Engage your child to do many large motor skills from hopping, balancing, pedaling bike/tricycle, throwing and catching a ball. Join your child in active play, especially outdoors.

Practice Eating Out Of A Lunch Box: Let your child pick out a lunch box that they would like to use for school. A few times this summer, go for a picnic and have your child use their new lunch box to practice eating from their lunch box.

Give Your Child Some Independent Space: Give your child some time to do things on their own, to play in their room by themselves, and to have some free time to let them play whatever they like without a schedule.

Talk About Strangers And Safety: Discuss with your child the concept of strangers, people they can trust, and teach body safety.

Read, Read, And Read: It’s still important to read to your child daily. A wonderful time is before bed. During story, ask your child questions about the theme, characters or predictions of the book. You can always go to the library and pick out books for story time. Also, let your child see you reading books, newspaper, or even cereal boxes. Read as much as you can out loud so your child can hear you reading.

Talk To Your Child About Kindergarten: Talk to your child about what they should expect at kindergarten. Keep it light and breezy. Share your favorite memories about your days in school. You can also drive by your child’s school pointing it out to them.

Summer is a fun time to spend with your child enjoying all the joys of the season. Summer is for playing outside, baseball games, swimming, camping, and lazy days. These months can also be used to help guide your child and give them a little head start before their first day of kindergarten.

Here are some great resources and articles to help get your child ready for kindergarten:

Preparing for Kindergarten – Scholastic/Parent and Child Magazine


33 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten


How Can I Prepare My Child For Kindergarten?


Kindergarten Readiness: Help Your Child Prepare – Mayo Clinic


How to Talk to Your Child About Interacting With Strangers


What to Teach Your Kids About Strangers


Stranger Safety


Developing Patience


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Patience takes practice. Just practice a little every day – practice being calm, slowing down, being present…with yourself. Practice being kind, loving and forgiving with you first. Because you deserve it and it all begins with you.

~ Shel Dougherty

We all heard the saying, “Patience is a virtue” but what does that exactly mean. The word patience means to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without anger or upset. Virtue is defined as a quality desirable in a person and a behavior showing high moral standards. As parents, we can see the importance of having patience and strive to achieve those enviable actions with our children. But, sometimes it is a challenge to stay calm and our reactions are not always tolerant. Patience can be used as a tool to slow down and give us an opportunity to reflect and enjoy the process of our daily experiences. Patience is a skill that can be developed over time. Like any skill, the more you practice the better you get. The more you use the skill the more it will becomes a habit. When you feel yourself start to lose your patience, take a deep breath and remind yourself to react in love instead of anger.

Often we lose our patience because we’re in a hurry or rushed. I have learned to always allow extra time for my child especially in the morning before school. That extra 10 minutes can have a huge impact on your day. Being prepared has also helped me by having clothes, backpack and lunches ready the night before.   Children need warning time. I always tell my daughter when there is 5 minutes left before we need to leave or if she needs to end an activity. These warnings help children to transition. There are many different strategies you can implement that will help you and your child not feel rushed by giving you the opportunity to slow down. With children you should always anticipate delays.

Being calm is the key to patience. When you feel yourself getting angry, take a deep breath, or two. Relax your muscles and let it go. Try to calm yourself before you react. Finding coping strategies when you start to lose your cool are the most successful ways to develop patience. As parents, it can be hard to see things from your child’s point of view. Try not to focus on reacting to their behavior. Children often want to please us, but when they feel stressed they often shut down or struggle. Sometimes it is not only stress but they may feel hungry, tired or unsure of our requests. By trying to see the perspective of your child, will help better understand the situation. When you are more patient with your child they will be a better listener and learner. As parents, we are our children’s role models. When they see us react calmly they too will learn from this skill.

I came across a book called, Yell Less, Love More by Sheila Mc Craith. Here is a list from Sheila entitled, 10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling and Started Loving More:

  1. Yelling isn’t the only thing I haven’t done in a year (399 days to be exact!).
  2. My kids are my most important audience.
  3. Kids are just kids; and not just kids, but people too.
  4. I can’t always control my kids’ actions, but I can always control my reaction.
  5. Yelling doesn’t work.
  6. Incredible moments can happen when you don’t yell.
  7. Not yelling is challenging, but it can be done!
  8. Often times, I am the problem, not my kids.
  9. Taking care of me helps me to not yell.
  10. Not yelling feels awesome.

For a more detailed descriptions and information go to The Orange Rhino Challenge at: http://theorangerhino.com/10-things-i-learned-when-i-stopped-yelling-at-my-kids-and-started-loving-more

As parents, we also need to take time for ourselves. We need to be sure we’re eating and getting enough sleep. We also need to ask for help when we need it. It’s okay to take a break and refuel ourselves. When your running on empty it is easy to lose patience or get frustrated easily. You need to take care of yourself in order to take better care of others. Be patient with yourself. Think positive and make your life simpler. Try to reduce stress and slow down. Be grateful for all you have and enjoy life!

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.”   ~ Joyce Meyer

Here’s a great article about patience:

How To Be A Calm Parent



By: Beth Thorson (Early Childhood Educator)


Dinnertime is a crazy time for families with small children.  How do we keep them safe and occupied while getting a healthy meal on the table that the kids will actually eat?  My best advice to parents is, train your little sous chefs to be your right hand in the kitchen!

Young children are curious and creative.  They love nothing more than to spend time with the special adults in their lives.  Turn this to your advantage.

  • Before meals, ask children to help with menu planning.  There are many great cookbooks with beautiful photos of the recipes that will allow children to choose wisely.  Begin with a couple of choices and you’ll soon have a great repertoire of sure-fire hits.
  • During meal prep, give your child the job of washing veggies, cutting soft veggies with a butter knife, setting the table, etc.  This is the time when your mise en place (everything in its place) will come in handy.  Have a plan!
  • Serve meals family style.  Allow children to choose how much will go on their plates and to serve themselves more when they’ve finished.  Children love the control this gives them and are more likely to try new things when the power is theirs.
  • Encourage children to critique the meal with more than a thumbs up or down.  Was it too spicy?  Did the texture throw them off? Did it need more salt?  A little lemon juice?  Everyone has food preferences.  Respect your child’s right to not like something, though that doesn’t mean it won’t be served now and then.
  • Recruit help with cleanup as well!  Have your child scrape plates, bring them to the dishwasher or sink.  Really little ones can sort the clean silverware into the drawer and wipe the table.


One of the biggest hits from my Winter Cooking class is a broccoli pasta salad.

Boulders, Trees and Trunks

Adapted from LANA

Approximately 8 servings

½  pound uncooked pasta, cooked

2-cups broccoli florets

1-cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup cubed semi-soft cheese, like Monterey Jack, Mozzarella or Muenster

¼ c olive oil

¼ c vinegar (cider or balsamic)

Italian seasoning

Place ingredients in individual bowls with tongs.  Give each child a quart size baggies. Children will take a pinch each of pasta, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and cheese cubes. They can add a pipette of oil and one of vinegar, then a sprinkle of seasoning.  Children then seal the bags and shake vigorously.

Exploring Science With Children


By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/Discovery Learning Instructor)

Science gives children the opportunity to explore, discover, experience, observe, and problem solve. Science stimulates curiosity and increases the child’s knowledge by providing answers to their questions. It is important that adults give accurate information to children and use scientific terms in order to increase not only knowledge, but also vocabulary. In today’s society, children spend more time behind a computer screen or watching television. Children are spending less time in nature and less time outdoors. In the Discovery classrooms, one way we bring science and nature together is by planting. We plant beans each year and we garden in the summer outside in the Nature Explore Classroom. The children learn what a plant needs to survive from sunlight, water, and soil while watching the bean turn into a sprout and seeing the growing process firsthand. We also do many different types of science experiments. Science experiments help grab the attention of young children when studying science. Not only are the science experiments interesting and fun, they help to answer questions the children may have. Science experiments make science “hands on” and the children are able to observe the results and associate abstract concepts to understanding.

Science plays an important role in the Discovery classrooms. The children are able to make discoveries on their own, learn about plants, animals, nature, and life. Outside in the Nature Explore Classroom, children see first hand nature and the children often bring in specimens by collecting leaves, rocks, and other natural habitat found in the natural environment. The children are experiencing and touching the wonders of our earth. The children are given the opportunity to find and discover while exercising their senses. It can be simple to incorporate science at home. Here are some tips I found below:

  • Natural object collections (rocks, feathers, flowers, leaves)
  • Observe animals or plants
  • Using magnifying glasses
  • Science themed books and games
  • Bug collection activities
  • Life cycles from tadpoles to butterflies
  • Garden or plant
  • Observe ant farms, spider webs, and bird’s nest and other animal homes
  • Learn the names of baby animals
  • Watch and feed the birds
  • Learn the parts of an animal or plant
  • Discuss the different tastes of food from sour, sweet, salty, and bitter
  • Play with water (floating, sinking, and moving objects).
  • Weigh objects
  • Discover the uses of magnets
  • Perform simple experiments
  • Freeze water into ice and then watch it melt
  • Take a field trip to the Science or Children’s Museum

Children are very curious and they are always trying to figure out how things work or why things happen. “Exploring scientific concepts with young children can be as natural and easy as asking questions, making predictions, and trying to figure out the answers together (The Children’s Museum).” How do you explore science with your child?

Here are some websites related to science and children:

Preparing For Preschool: Science


Science World


Science Activities


Helping your child learn science


Science Kids


Science Games on PBS