Helping Your Child Through Separation Anxiety

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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:

http://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/e-family-news/2013-tips-for-reducing-separation-anxiety-in-young-children/

http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/starting-preschool/separation-anxiety/dealing-with-separation-anxiety/

http://moms.popsugar.com/5-Tips-Easing-Your-Baby-Separation-Anxiety-27330657

http://www.ounceofprevention.org/ready-to-learn/separation-anxiety-in-children.php

http://www.ahaparenting.com/ages-stages/toddlers/helping-your-toddler-with-separation-anxiety

Getting Ready For Back To School

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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

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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
http://exploresherburne.org/_index.php

Spring brook Nature Center
http://www.springbrooknaturecenter.org/

Elm Creek Park and Preserve
http://www.threeriversparks.org/parks/elm-creek-park.aspx

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

Tamarack Nature Center
https://parks.co.ramsey.mn.us/tamarack/Pages/tamarack.aspx

Oliver Kelly Farm
http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/oliver-h-kelley-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.

The Importance of Play

By Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

peek a boo Play is one significant way that children learn and play is important for children’s healthy development.  Through play, children explore and use their imagination by trying out new skills and bonding with others.  Play is an essential and critical part of all children’s development.  “Play starts in the child’s infancy, and ideally, continues throughout his or her life.  Play is how children learn to socialize, to think, to solve problems, to mature, and most importantly, to have fun.  Play connects children with their imagination, their environment, their parents and family, and the world (Play, Montana State).”  As parents, we can support our children’s play by initiating play activities and simply playing with our children.  As early as infancy, parents are their child’s first playmate.  When you engage with your baby by making silly faces or playing peek-a-boo, this is the beginning stage of play.   When a caregiver plays with an infant, there is a connection and bond that helps him or her feel secure, safe, and loved.  It’s important to try to spend as much time connecting and playing with your infant or toddler.

As children grow older, play becomes their “work.”  They begin to use materials and toys in their play to assist with their imagination.  As a preschool teacher, at least 40 minutes of our class time is “Free-Choice” where children have an opportunity to play in all areas of the room from dramatic play, blocks, art, books, writing, water, sand, discovery, math, science, computer, and games.  During play, not only are children learning with the various materials, they are learning to communicate with other children and adults.  Play helps preschoolers learn how to share, play together, problem solve, and use critical thinking skills.  There are many cognitive activities that take place in a Discovery Preschool Classroom from learning letter names to numbers.  Even though academics are important, children’s social well-being and the development of social skills through play should never be overlooked or undervalued.  Play is not only enjoyable; it is the building blocks toward children’s knowledge and their experiences for the future!

I would like to share a quote by Anita Wadley, “When you asked me what I did in school today and I say, ‘I just played.’  Please don’t misunderstand me.  For you see, I am learning as I play.  I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work.  Today I am a child and my work is play.”

The following websites promote creative play with ideas for activities you can do at home!

  • Public Broadcasting Service’s educational website for kids:

www.pbs.org/wholechild/parents/play.html

  • Art, science, architecture, history, ethnic studies, puzzles, games, activities

and much more, just for kids:   www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/home.htm

What are some ways you play with your child?

Planting a Garden

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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?

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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.”

 

 

Positive Thinking!

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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:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/128161-positive-thinking-children/

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?
http://leadingpersonality.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/what-is-positive-thinking/
Positive Thinking – CNN News
http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/13/health/positive-thinking-day-tips/
Use Positive Reinforcement – Family Education
http://life.familyeducation.com/parenting/discipline/45283.html
7 Steps for Practicing Positive Discipline – PBS Parents
http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/positive_discipline_tips.html
Positive Attitude – It’s power and benefits
http://www.successconsciousness.com/positive_attitude.htm