Getting Ready For Those First Days of School!

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

Now that we’re coming to an end of the Dog Days of Summer, it is time to slowly switch our thoughts back to school. Summer days tend to be carefree, stress less, and relaxing. In just a few weeks, the busy bustle will begin again in full force. It can be quite a transition for children to switch from summer mode to school days. Now is a great opportunity to begin preparing your children for back to school!

Here are a few tips to help you gradually get back into the school groove.

• Go back to school shopping with your children. Let them help go through the list of what’s needed while letting them pick out the colors they like of certain items and their own backpack. Children will get more excited if they’re involved with the preparations and they will have ownership of their new items.

• School shopping for new clothes is always fun for kids. It is helpful to go through children’s clothes and shoes to make sure everything fits before the big shopping day. You can have special drawer or place in the closet that they can keep their new school clothes to wear for those first days. It helps to plan out which outfits they will wear that first week to help keep things stress free.

• Plan lunches. Make a list with your child of the types of foods they like to eat for lunch. I love all the ideas I have gotten on Pinterest for new ways to pack lunches. This is a great time to try some new foods, like hummus or cottage cheese. If your child likes them, you’ll have more options for lunchtime. It’s also helpful to copy off the first month’s lunch calendar so your children can pick out which days they will have hot or cold lunch in advance.

• Get the calendar ready. Have a calendar posted that the whole family can see with September events and schedules from music classes, football games, and don’t forget the first day of school. I use a big dry erase calendar that I switch each month. It’s easy to add and change events.

• Get organized! Make sure you have everything in order and ready to go from documentations needed or child well checks and immunizations. Check with the school’s website to make sure you have everything needed before the first day of school. It’s also helpful to get your house in order, cleaned and organized before school starts.

• Read books or watch movies about going back to school. Some fun movies for school-age children are: Matilda, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Harriet the Spy, Akeelah and the Bee, Freaky Friday, Nancy Drew, and High School Musical.

• Try to slowly get back into your regular routine. Begin by:
o Eating all meals similar to the times they will eat during the school year.
o Reestablishing regular bedtime routines from bathing, teeth brushing, story time and tucking in.
o Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night from 9 to 10 hours.
o Start to put your child down for bedtime a little earlier each week until the week before school so that they are going to bed at the time they will when school begins. Do the same for wake up times too.

Here are some helpful tips for those children who are going to school for the first time:

• Start reading books about going to school for the first time.
What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff
Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss
Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas

• Drive by the school and point out, “There’s your new school.” If possible walk around, check out the playground and show your child the entrance to the building.

• Watch movies about going to school. Some great movies for preschoolers are: Curious George Back to School, Daniel (Tiger) Goes to School, Sesame Street Ready for School, Caillou Goes to School, Nickelodeon: The First Day of School, Bubble Guppies: Get Ready for School, and Leap Frog Let’s Go To School.

• Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.

• Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House).

• Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at school (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about school.

• Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.

• Share memories with your child of some fun school recollections you had for our first day at school.

• Tell your child often and how much fun school is!!

And don’t forget there is still time to enjoy summer!

Let’s Take It Outside

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

One of the great advantages of our ECFE program is the Nature Explore Center at Handke.  It is a wondrous outdoor environment where children can experience the great outdoors first hand to explore and use their senses in a safe location.  Children and families can come and discover this natural wonderland of flowers, plants, and nature tools to play and learn in the fresh air and earthly abundance.  Living in Minnesota, we have numerous lakes, trails, forests and parks with nature all around us.   If you take a good look outside, you can find nature everywhere from a plant growing in a crack on the side walk, a bird flying in the sky, or a bug crawling in the grass.  We don’t have to go very far to experience nature and the outdoors with our children.  Here are a few tips to help get you started to exploring the great outdoors:

  • Go on a Nature Walk/Hike: You can find and observe different birds, insects, plants, animals, or water sources while looking at the sky, ground and all that is around you.  Bring a backpack on your walk to collect small treasures from rocks, leaves, acorns, or pinecones.  You can also take pictures of things you see and later make a picture book identifying or researching what was found.
  • Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt: Look for different items in nature and check off all the different items you can find. http://thebirdfeednyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Scavenger-Hunt-Nature-Walk.pdf
  • Nature Study: Take some time to study and research about different leaves, trees, bugs, or whatever interests your child.   Give your child a magnifying glass or binoculars and have them find something they would like to explore and learn more about.   If they find a worm on the sidewalk, this can be a great opportunity to learn about worms.
  • Nature Journal (Observe and Draw): Have a nature journal for your child. It could be a notebook or construction paper stapled together.  Have colored pencils or crayons available for your child to draw pictures of what they see or feel.  Children can also do tree or leaf rubbings and tape findings to the journal pages.
  • Sit, Watch and Listen: Take some time to go outside and just relax.  Lay or sit still in silence for 5 minutes or so helping your child to take in all they can see, hear or feel.  Then after, talk about the experience sharing and asking questions about these moments and what was witnessed, felt, smelt, or heard.
  • Play Outside: You can do almost anything outside!   You can read a book, do art projects, have a picnic, watch clouds, play a game, ride bikes, blow bubbles, fly a kite, plant a garden, search for bugs, run through the sprinkler, sing songs, dance to music, swing, bird watch, play ball, or take a nap!

Playing outdoors gives children the opportunity to explore and take risk.  It exposes children to nature and helps them to learn about the world.  It let’s children be kids by running, rolling, jumping and climbing.   It gets them off the coach and the devices and guides them to use their bodies, mind and soul.   “I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.”  -Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder

Below are some great outdoor fun resources:

NAEYC for Families:

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

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

Outside activities to do with your children:

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

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

Getting outside in nature:

Sherburne County Wildlife Refuge

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

http://www.exploresherburne.org/

Sherburne County Parks and Recreation Attractions

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

Minnesota State Parks

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

Nature Explore Classrooms

https://natureexplore.org/

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/

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/

Quotes to Inspire Kids!

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

I love quotes. Often, I can find the words I am trying to express by starting with a famous quote. Here are a few I found that can help inspire the youngest of minds.

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it ‘The Present’.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

“The time is always right to do what is right.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself,
instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
-Judy Garland

“Don’t let what you can’t do
stop you from doing what you can do.”
-John Wooden

“If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”
-Dr. Seuss

“Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
-Dr. Seuss

“Anything can happen child, anything can be!”
-Shel Silverstein

“If you have good thoughts…they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
-Ronald Dahl

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
-Robert Munsh

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can!”
-Watty Pipper

“The more he gave away, the more delighted he became.”
-Marcus Pfister

“It is when we are most lost that we sometimes find our truest friends.”
-Brothers Grimm from Snow White

“When you know better you do better.”
-Maya Angelou

“No one is perfect – that’s why pencils have erasers.”
-Wolfgang Riebe

“Never waste a minute thinking of anyone you don’t like.”
-Eisenhower

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
-Dr. Suess

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
-Dr. Suess

“We must be the change we want to see.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
-Mark Twain

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”
-Helen Keller

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
-Dalai Lama

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
-Walt Disney

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
-Dr. Seuss

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
-Dr. Seuss

“Only surround yourself with people who will lift you higher.”
-Oprah Winfrey

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”
-Anthony Brandt

Getting Ready For Those First Days of School!

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer/School Readiness Instructor)

Now that we’re coming to an end of the Dog Days of Summer, it is time to slowly switch our thoughts back to school. Summer days tend to be carefree, stress less, and relaxing. In just a few weeks, the busy bustle will begin again in full force. It can be quite a transition for children to switch from summer mode to school days. Now is a great opportunity to begin preparing your children for back to school!

Here are a few tips to help you gradually get back into the school groove.

• Go back to school shopping with your children. Let them help go through the list of what’s needed while letting them pick out the colors they like of certain items and their own backpack. Children will get more excited if they’re involved with the preparations and they will have ownership of their new items.

• School shopping for new clothes is always fun for kids. It is helpful to go through children’s clothes and shoes to make sure everything fits before the big shopping day. You can have special drawer or place in the closet that they can keep their new school clothes to wear for those first days. It helps to plan out which outfits they will wear that first week to help keep things stress free.

• Plan lunches. Make a list with your child of the types of foods they like to eat for lunch. I love all the ideas I have gotten on Pinterest for new ways to pack lunches. This is a great time to try some new foods, like hummus or cottage cheese. If your child likes them, you’ll have more options for lunchtime. It’s also helpful to copy off the first month’s lunch calendar so your children can pick out which days they will have hot or cold lunch in advance.

• Get the calendar ready. Have a calendar posted that the whole family can see with September events and schedules from music classes, football games, and don’t forget the first day of school. I use a big dry erase calendar that I switch each month. It’s easy to add and change events.

• Get organized! Make sure you have everything in order and ready to go from documentations needed or child well checks and immunizations. Check with the school’s website to make sure you have everything needed before the first day of school. It’s also helpful to get your house in order, cleaned and organized before school starts.

• Read books or watch movies about going back to school. Some fun movies for school-age children are: Matilda, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Harriet the Spy, Akeelah and the Bee, Freaky Friday, Nancy Drew, and High School Musical.

• Try to slowly get back into your regular routine. Begin by:
o Eating all meals similar to the times they will eat during the school year.
o Reestablishing regular bedtime routines from bathing, teeth brushing, story time and tucking in.
o Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night from 9 to 10 hours.
o Start to put your child down for bedtime a little earlier each week until the week before school so that they are going to bed at the time they will when school begins. Do the same for wake up times too.

Here are some helpful tips for those children who are going to school for the first time:

• Start reading books about going to school for the first time.
What to Expect at Preschool (What to Expect Kids) by Heidi Murkoff
Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss
Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experience by Lucy Cousins
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas

• Drive by the school and point out, “There’s your new school.” If possible walk around, check out the playground and show your child the entrance to the building.

• Watch movies about going to school. Some great movies for preschoolers are: Curious George Back to School, Daniel (Tiger) Goes to School, Sesame Street Ready for School, Caillou Goes to School, Nickelodeon: The First Day of School, Bubble Guppies: Get Ready for School, and Leap Frog Let’s Go To School.

• Learn the teachers’ names and something about them to tell your child.

• Meet the teachers and have a tour of the classroom before school starts (often schools will have an Open House).

• Have conversations about the kinds of things they will do at school (playing on the playground, playing with new friends, doing art projects, playing with blocks, etc.) and ask your child if they have any questions about school.

• Take pictures of the school, classroom, teachers, and make a little book just for your child.

• Share memories with your child of some fun school recollections you had for our first day at school.

• Tell your child often and how much fun school is!!

And don’t forget there is still time to enjoy summer!