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/

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/

Outdoor Fun Around Town!

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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
https://www.fws.gov/refuge/sherburne/
Free Family Event Schedule 2016
https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/2016%20Event%20Schedule(2).pdf
Wildlife and nature viewing from sandhill cranes, eagles, plants, butterflies and the smallest of the animal species.

Elm Creek Park Reserve
https://www.threeriversparks.org/parks/elm-creek-park.aspx
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
http://www.elkrivermn.gov/DocumentCenter/View/469
Check out the Thursday night live concerts at downtown Elk River’s Rivers Edge Commons Park all summer long.

Oliver Kelly Farm
http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/oliver-h-kelley-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
http://www.arboretum.umn.edu/
Over 1,100 acres of gardens, woods and trails.

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

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. Blooming Butterflies opened on June 17th.

Minnehaha Regional Park
https://www.minneapolisparks.org/parks__destinations/parks__lakes/minnehaha_regional_park/
Minnehaha Regional Park covers 167 acres of nature, gardens and waterfalls.

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.

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

Lake Maria State Park – Monticello
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/lake_maria/index.html
The marshes, potholes, and lakes provide excellent habitat for wildlife.

Things to do in Elk River with the kids!
http://www.familydaysout.com/kids-things-to-do-usa/elk-river/mn
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
http://www.exploreminnesota.com/things-to-do/

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!

Learning Through Play

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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
http://www.childaction.org/families/publications/docs/guidance/PlayItstheWayYoungChildrenLearn_Eng.pdf

10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play
https://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/10-things-every-parent-should-know-about-play

Memorial Day – Let’s Not Forget

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

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“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/

http://kstp.com/article/stories/S4152266.shtml

Ways to celebrate Memorial Day with children:
http://fun.familyeducation.com/memorial-day/holidays/33548.html

Information about Memorial Day and Memorial Day activities:
http://www.theholidayzone.com/memorial/

How to celebrate Memorial Day in Minnesota:
http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/top-lists/how-to-celebrate-memorial-day-in-minnesota/

The Powerful Role of Music

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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

http://www.babycenter.com/0_music-and-your-baby-newborn-to-1-year_6548.bc

Learning of Music: The support of Brain Research

http://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/musicandmovement/learningthroughmusic.html

Music and Movement – Instrumental in Language Development

http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=601

Music and Young Children

http://www.theparentreport.com/2012/06/music-and-young-children/

Spring Bucket List

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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
99. EXPLORE
100. Make everyday, the BEST day!

What’s on your spring bucket list?