Getting Ready For Those First Days of School!

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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

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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:

http://families.naeyc.org/content/11-reasons-take-kids-outside

http://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/music-math-more/explore-great-outdoors-your-child

Outside activities to do with your children:

http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2012/03/50-simple-outdoor-activities-for-kids.html

http://happyhooligans.ca/category/outdoor-play/

Getting outside in nature:

Sherburne County Wildlife Refuge

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/sherburne/

http://www.exploresherburne.org/

Sherburne County Parks and Recreation Attractions

https://www.co.sherburne.mn.us/parksRec/attractions.php

Minnesota State Parks

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/index.html

Nature Explore Classrooms

https://natureexplore.org/

Fun Summer Activities!

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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

http://www.comozooconservatory.org/

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

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.

Sherburne County Fair

http://sherburnecountyfair.org/

July 20th – July 23rd

Oliver Kelly Farm

http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/oliver-h-kelley-farm

Riverfront Concerts

http://www.elkrivermn.gov/index.aspx?NID=858

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

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

http://elkrivermn.gov/index.aspx?NID=888

Elk River Library

https://griver.org/

Many family events and story times

Music in the Park, Big Lake

http://www.aroundthecloud.org/org/detail/220185546/The_Legacy_Foundation_of_Big_Lake

Thursdays, 7:00 pm

Historical Fort Snelling

http://www.historicfortsnelling.org/

Free for children under 5 years old.

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.

Bunker Beach Water Park

http://www.bunkerbeach.com/

Minnesota’s largest outdoor water park

Anoka Aquatic Center

http://www.ci.anoka.mn.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={4EEF4901-5699-4217-818F-58ECC6E8B0EF}

Outdoor swimming, pool and water slide

Elk River YMCA

https://www.ymcamn.org/locations/elk_river_ymca?utm_source=google&utm_medium=local&utm_campaign=local%20search

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

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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

http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/what-to-expect-grade/preparing-kindergarten

33 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

https://www.icanteachmychild.com/33-ways-to-prepare-your-child-for-kindergarten/

How Can I Prepare My Child For Kindergarten?

https://www.babycenter.com/0_how-can-i-prepare-my-child-for-kindergarten_67245.bc

Kindergarten Readiness: Help Your Child Prepare – Mayo Clinic

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/kindergarten-readiness/art-20048432

How to Talk to Your Child About Interacting With Strangers

https://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-interacting-with-strangers_3657124.bc

What to Teach Your Kids About Strangers

http://www.ncpc.org/topics/violent-crime-and-personal-safety/strangers

Stranger Safety

http://www.parents.com/kids/safety/stranger-safety/

Developing Patience

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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

http://www.abundantmama.com/how-to-be-a-calm-parent/

Dinnertime!!!

By: Beth Thorson (Early Childhood Educator)

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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

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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

http://www.scholastic.com/resources/article/preparing-for-preschool-science

Science World

http://www.scienceworld.ca/preschool

Science Activities

http://www.jumpstart.com/parents/activities/science-activities

Helping your child learn science

www.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/science/science.pdf

Science Kids

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/

Science Games on PBS

http://pbskids.org/games/science/