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/

 

 

 

Daily Routines and Schedules

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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

https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/structure/

The Importance of Routines for Children

http://www.schoolsparks.com/blog/the-importance-of-routines-for-children

It’s the Little Things: Daily Routines

http://www.pbs.org/wholechild/providers/little.html

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!

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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!