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/

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

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!

Summer Fun Bucket List

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

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

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

What’s on your summer bucket list?

Learning Through Play

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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

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?