Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's the Best Time of the Year...Right?

If you're like me at this time of year, you are bouncing from one 'festive' obligation to the next. Only to get home at the end of an exhausting day and realize that you haven't put a dent in your ever multiplying to-do list.  All you want to do is get off your feet and take those Hershey Holiday White Chocolate Candy Cane  Kisses to your warm, comfy bed.

But...the kids need dinner, probably a conflict mediator and maybe a good scrub behind the ears.
So tell me again, where does that quality time fit into this Holiday picture?

In the essence of saving time, I'll cut to the chase...

Below is a fun recipe to try with your children that will not only help prepare them for kindergarten, but also give you a much needed dose of relaxation.

Warm Vanilla Steamers



  1. Combine milk and sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Stir frequently until sugar has dissolved and the milk begins to simmer.
  2. Remove from the burner, add the vanilla and allow it to sit for 4 minutes.
  3. Whisk vigorously to form a thick layer of foam on top of the milk.  Divide into 4 servings, topped with a dollop of the foam.
  4. Sprinkle with a pinch of ground cinnamon.
=Good vocabulary to use with your child.

Besides the Social/Emotional growth that your child will gain from this bonding experience, cooking with children incorporates many different domains of early childhood development:

Language & Literacy

  • Encourage your child to help you read the recipe.  
      • If you can find recipes with pictures (like on the backs of most brownie boxes) children can confidently help you interpret the recipe.
  • Use vibrant language that describes what their senses are exploring.
      • 'fragrant aroma of chocolate chips melting into the dough'
      • 'the gooey, sticky marshmallows are clenching to the sides of the pan'
  • Use common vocabulary in context
      • spatula
      • sifter
      • degrees
      • whisk

  • Encourage your child to count
      • Count with your child as they add ingredients
      • Ask them to give the mixture 20 stirs  
  • Use common vocabulary in context
      • 1/2 cup
      • dash of salt
      • 400 degrees


  • Point out cause & effect
      • Watch the cookies rise as they are heated in the oven.
      • Predict what will happen to the liquid jello when you cool it in the refrigerator.
  • Use common vocabulary in context
      • liquid
      • solid
      • mixture
  • Allow your child to explore with all of their senses

Enjoy LEARNING with your Child!

Thank you Ellen Booth Church for the fabulous recipe:
For more of her warm drink recipes visit:

Monday, December 6, 2010

If Santa only Knew.....

The list has been prepared and Santa is checking his bag.......just WHAT should be in Santa's sack to prepare children for the kindergarten classroom?

If a child's PLAY is his/her WORK, then we need to provide toys that offer the greatest learning opportunity.

Let's look at some important characteristics of educational toys (particularly for the birth-3 child):

1. 90% Child/10% Toy - When shopping for toys, always think about what the toy does for the child and what the child has to do to the toy. It is more beneficial for a child to have a simple toy that does very little for him/her than to have a toy that is laden with electronic appeal (lights, sounds). Toys that prepare a mind to problem-solve are toys that require the child to think. Open-ended toys allow the children to use their own creativity to bring meaning to the toy, rather than just responding to what the toy does for them.
2. Multi-Sensory - There is direct correlation
to the number of senses a
toy engages and the number of brain centers that are activated. When children see, hear, smell and
manipulate toys, they engage both hemispheres of their brain and maximize the learning.

3. Age-Appropriate - Toys teach the most when they are introduced at the appropriate age. Look for toys that engage the child's sense, require creativity and produce success in their play. For example, if a shape sorter is too difficult for a child, put the sorter away and make one that is simpler (with 1-2 shapes only). Neural connections and confidence are built through repetition and success and perseverance, not from discouragement. Children are naturally motivated and will let you know when they need more challenge from their toys.

4. Promote Interaction - Toys that promote caregiver/child interaction are the most beneficial to a child's development. Stuffed animals or dolls offer a perfect opportunity to play "picnic" or "school." With adult interaction, the child can use his/her imagination to create a scenario with toys. The adults give guidance, serve as a consultant and enrich the play with language enhancement. When the child says "cup," the caregiver can say, "Yes, rabbit wants the tall, green cup." The adult also teaches the child empathy and appropriate social interaction.
Additionally, the adult stretches the child intellectually by teaching color concepts, number concepts and other intellectual concepts throughout the play.

Below is a list of optimal toys for a baby and toddler:

Textured toys
Toys with dimension
Pretend play toys (pretend telephone, pretend kitchen, etc...)
Dolls/Stuffed Animals
Toys that promote movement

Good luck shopping for toys that will teach and promote learning in your child. The neural pathways that are created early in life will be the ones that prepare the child the best for learning in the kindergarten classroom.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Practices healthy behaviors through physical activity
Look for your child to...
Choose to participate in daily physical activity.

Your child may...
  • Play on/with outdoor equipment (e.g., slides, balls, wheeled toys).
  • Engage in active play (e.g., run, jump, chase, move to music, and play with pets).
  • Go on walks with family members.
  • Join in indoor or outdoor games (e.g., musical games, Tag, Drop the Handkerchief).
You can support your child…
  • Create a schedule for your child that includes at least one hour of physical activity each day.
  • Take your child to playgrounds frequently, and if possible, provide outdoor play equipment and riding toys in your yard. Don’t just cheer on your child from the sidelines—be a good role model and join in the fun.
  • With your child, play Tag and other games that involve running and movement.
  • Play music, and dance with your child. Use scarves and streamers for extra fun.
  • Take walks with your child. Walk in different ways (e.g., take tiny steps, take giant steps, walk very fast, walk slowly like a turtle).
  • If it’s hot outside, play games involving water (e.g., play catch with water balloons, run through a sprinkler, or “paint” each other with a bucket of water and a large paintbrush).
  • If there is snow on the ground, go sledding or ice skating, play catch with snowballs, or build a snowman or igloo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Algebra In Kindergarten? You Can't Be Serious!!

So, what does math in Kindergarten look like?  Parents should know that unlike the developmental stages of writing, math learning does not necessarily develop in a continuum.  Think of all of the concepts below as objects on the horizon that your child can reach out and grab at any given time.  Generally there are some that will occur prior to others, but essentially they all intertwine together.
According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, students exiting kindergarten should be able to do the following:

Numbers and Operations:
  • rote count to 100 and recognize numbers to 31
  • recognize 1/2 of a shape
  • use concrete items to compose and decompose values up to 10
  • connect number words (orally) and quantities they represent
Algebraic Relationships:
  • recognize or repeat sequences of sounds or shapes
  • create and continue patterns
  • model situations that involve whole numbers, using pictures, objects or symbols
Geometric and Spatial Relations:
  • identify and describe 2 & 3 dimensional shapes using physical models
  • describe, name and interpret relative positions in space 
  • use manipulatives to recognize from different perspectives and orientations models of slides and turns
  • compare and order objects according to their size or weight
  • describe passage of time using terms such as today, yesterday, tomorrow
  • identify and know the value of a penny, nickel, dime and quarter
  • measure objectives by comparison of lengths
Data and Probability:
  • sort items according to their attributes
  • create graphs using physical objects

So what can I do?
Math surrounds us every day in everyday situations.  Therefore, to support your child's math development there is no need to break the bank with fancy learning toys or computer games.  The most important thing to remember is that 'drill & practice' is not the answer.  Children learn best through meaningful hands on experiences that support their development.  Below are a few ideas to get you started in each mathematical strand.

Numbers and Operations:
    • Children learn best through play, therefore playing games that encourage synchronic counting will give your child a meaningful reason to use sequential counting for a purpose.
    • "I'll Time You"  Children love to see how fast they can complete a task.  Tell your child that you'll time them, then count aloud as they rush to beat their time.
    • Remove several number cards from a deck of playing cards. Provide a small bowl of m&m's or other small objects. Take turns with your child, choosing a card, naming the numeral shown on the card, and laying the corresponding number of objects next to the card.
    • If you have stairs inside or outside your home, use masking tape to number them. As you climb the steps together, count the numbers aloud.
    • Point out numerals in their environment. ex.,signs, license plates, mailboxes, clocks, etc...
    • Using a calendar, count down the days until a special event.  "In four days, you get to spend the night with grandma."
    • Break a cookie in half and share it. "Half for you and half for me."
    • Write down grandma's phone number, have your child touch the numbers on the phone as you call.
    • Sing familiar songs that use numbers and counting
    • Change the words of familiar counting songs to make them silly or personalized for your child.
  • Read books that have counting and numerals.

Algebraic Relationships:

    • Do a clap and tap rhythm pattern for your child to copy.  As her ability to copy improves, create more complicated patterns.  Let her create a pattern for you to follow.  
    • Create a mealtime pattern.  Alternate between water, milk, juice to drink with meals. Encourage them to predict what will come next.
    • Make a pattern with your child's colored fish crackers and see if they can continue it.
    • Listen to and sing songs that have repeating patterns. The Chicken Dance is a fun patterning song to dance to.
  • Read books that have patterns.

Geometric and Spatial Relations:
      • Set up an obstacle course for your child and talk about how he is crawling under the table, through the box, over the cushion, etc.
    • Play Simon Says with your child using positional words like "on your head" or "behind your back"
      • Spread a few familiar objects on the floor in front of your child. Describe an object using positional words or shape words  “I spy something that is square behind the keys.”  See if your child can guess the object. Take turns giving clues and guessing.
    • Have fun with making shapes.  Use sand or shaving cream to write in or play dough to build with and model the correct formation of shapes.
    • Point out and name shapes in their environment.  Look for shapes in nature, in your home, and in pictures.
    • Create edible shapes with pretzels or string cheese.
    • Going on a Bear Hunt is a great song that reinforces positional words.
  • Read books about shapes or positional words.

    • Have your child roll a die and build a tower using the same number of blocks as the number shown on the cube.  Then you take a turn.  Ask your child, "Whose tower is bigger?"
    • When having to take turns to do an activity, uses size comparisons to determine who goes first.  "The shortest person goes first today."  "The person with the longest arm span will go first."
    • Use time words with your child. "We will go to the store after we eat lunch?"  or  "Grandma will pick you up tomorrow."
    • During meal times, we often use the term more,  "Would you like more?"  Start using the word 'less' just as often.  "Do you want 3 crackers or less?" This is often a difficult concept for kindergartners to grasp.
  • Read books using comparing words.

    • Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a great story using comparison words.

Data & Probability:
    • Play tic-tac-to with your child and have her tally the wins of each player.
    • Take a family vote on what to eat for supper.  Have your child stack blocks to graph each person's vote and determine a winner.
    • Using Trail Mix again, have your child sort the mix any way they choose and ask them to describe how they sorted them.
    • Sing songs that emphasize categories, such as Old MacDonald's Farm.

Simply remember that we experience mathematical situations everyday.  
Simply share these experiences with your children and be amazed as they develop into a mathematician before your very eyes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Foundation of a Classroom Community

Creating Classroom Community

Today we are focusing on a how parents and providers prepare children for a school setting by meeting their social and emotional needs in infancy and toddlerhood.

Three areas will be discussed: Secure attachment; Self-Regulation; Strong Sense of Self

Secure attachment

Healthy attachment is the most important job of parents and caregivers during infancy. When a baby feels securely attached, the brain is able to grow and develop to its potential. A healthy brain means a healthy school-aged mind. Children who have not been nurtured and learned trust have more difficulty accessing the higher levels of their brain, which is the part of the brain necessary for complex thinking and problem-solving (i.e.- school success). How do we develop strong attachment? A few ideas:

1. Hold Your Baby – babies who are held more cry less. Their stress levels are lower and their heart rate is more regulated. You are developing your child’s sense of TRUST in the world

2. Make Eye Contact – Make as much face-to-face contact as the baby desires. Look in your baby’s eyes, smile to her, tell her you LOVE her

3. Feed your baby his/her bottle – do not prop the bottle and allow the child to feed him/her self

4. Appropriate Physical Touch – Infant massage is a powerful way to communicate love to your baby, as well as to promote healthy circulation, digestion and sensory integration.

5. Use Baby’s Name – Although you baby does not immediately understand her name, as you repeatedly use your child’s name, she recognizes that it is something important that SHE is something important.


Children who can wait in line, listen to a story, respect personal space and share toys have much more success in the institutional school setting. From the beginning of life, we can do things to teach a child self-regulation:

1. Respond to a Baby’s Needs – A child who feels safe, and whose needs have been met, will be able to calm more easily than a child who is insecure about his purpose/value.

2. Bedtime Routine – By 4 months of age, a baby is developing a sense of anticipation. He can anticipate when you are going to tickle him, play with him, sing to him, etc. Once a child can anticipate something, he is ready for a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine affirms the child’s need for security while also allowing the child to learn to calm himself.

3. Sing – You can teach a child to control impulses through song. Every time a child must WAIT for something in a song, he is teaching himself patience. For example, when a child has to WAIT until he “falls down” in “Ring Around a Rosey,” he is developing the skill of self-regulation. You can make up songs or use rhymes that you know, but focus on songs that teach the child to follow directions and wait.

Strong Sense of Self:

Children must know that they are unique and valuable, and that they have a significant role to play on this earth. When children are emotionally secure, they will be more successful in the social and academic setting of school. They can live more selflessly in community, can feel proud of their achievements, have intrinsic motivation to learn and can empathize with others.

1. Meet Your Baby’s Needs – As you respond to your baby’s needs, you are telling your child that she is important. A child cannot learn to respect others until the child has been respected herself. Parents and caregivers are the first ones to teach a child she is important, valuable and unique.

2. Learn Appropriate Affirmation – Affirmation and praise are different. Praise tends to focus on pleasing another party, while affirmation focuses on the pride and accomplishment of the individual. Learn to AFFIRM your child. Say things such as: “You are proud of yourself,” “You tried so hard at…..” “Look how you climbed the ladder all by yourself!”

3. Give Choices – As soon as a baby can comprehend a choice, allow him to make his own choices. The choices can be simple, such as if he wants to eat puffs or pears, or if he wants to read one book or the other, or if he wants to wear the blue shirt of the red shirt. As the child becomes confident making choices, he builds his sense of self.

Good luck! These ideas only represent the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully reminded you of the importance of social-emotional development to school readiness.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sometimes We Just Need To Focus Our Lens!

I overheard a conversation today that I can't resist the temptation to reflect on.  Now I wasn't eavesdropping...okay maybe I was, but their conversation truly intrigued me.  I was first drawn in by the statement, "I went to preschool with [insert child's name] today."  Now I don't know if this was a mother, a grandmother, or an aunt for that matter, but her next comment hit me in the gut.
She looked at her eager listener [not me] and said...
"I'm not sure they ever teach at that school! Every time I visit, the children are ONLY playing."

Whoa!  From that point on, every other sound in the room was tuned out so that I could, for research purposes only, listen intently just in case the conversation might let me in on what key aspects of learning she was looking for.

To summarize, here is what she saw during her visit to her son's pre-kindergarten classroom...
  • "He was digging through spaghetti noodles to find grapes."
  • "He was running around the carpet playing 'Monster Mash' freeze."
  • "He was wandering around the room wearing 'monster goggles' with colored lenses."
After hearing her description of the day, and thinking to myself, 'I hope she's talking about one of my classrooms because those are great lessons', I forced myself to take a moment of reflection and take off my teacher lenses.  

The words that she used did not exactly paint a conventional picture of learning, learning the way that she was probably taught.  I found myself wondering...'Did the teacher offer any kind of explanation for the learning that was embedded within those activities?'  

I truly believe that it is our role as educators to support the parents' role as the primary influence on their child's education.  In order to do this, we must communicate with parent's regarding how young children learn!

Post reflection, my gut was telling me to do something that I was not completely comfortable with.  I knew that I had to take this opportunity to 'let this lady borrow my teacher lenses.'  Somehow, I weaseled my way into the conversation and together, we began a conversation about children's learning that I wish I could have recorded and mass produced to all our parents.

As our conversation drew on, I realized that this woman did not need 'teacher lenses', she just needed to learn how to focus her own lens!!!  I explained that childhood is a time of learning and children learn from all they do, see and hear.  I helped her to see the importance of early childhood teachers providing activities that encourage active engagement that is essential for learning.  

A 15 minute conversation made all the difference to how she now viewed her child's learning experiences.  As we discussed the activities that she had observed, Sheila [I now knew her name] was immediately going home to tell her husband all that her son had learned at school today and her lens was focused and ready to watch for teachable moments with play!  Because she now knew that...


  • He wasn't just "digging through spaghetti noodles to find grapes."
This activity not only reinforced his tactile perception and manual dexterity by sorting the grapes from the spaghetti without any visual cues, he was also participating in a sensory activity that would engage his senses in a learning experience that would stimulate brain development.  From the instant that he was born, he has been exploring his new world through his senses.  As he experiences new and different textures, smells, sights, sounds, and textures, more neural connections are made in his brain, and his brain becomes a rich network of connections that will help his development for the rest of his life.

  • He wasn't just  "running around the carpet playing 'Monster Mash' freeze."
He was learning self regulation by using his auditory processing skills to determine when it was appropriate to run and when he had to stop.  Self regulation is a skill that will greatly influence his success in kindergarten.   He was doing all this while, using his spatial relational reasoning to manipulate his body in space and not run into any of his friends.

  • He wasn't just  "wandering around the room wearing 'monster goggles' with colored lenses."
By wearing the colored lens goggles, he was encouraged to 'focus his lens' on the task at hand.  The teacher was asking them to find shapes in the environment.  By removing the added distraction of multi-colored items, the students were able to focus on the physical attributes of the shapes that surround their everyday environment.  Finding shapes in our environment, creates concrete examples for a task that can be quite an abstract concept.

So parents...I challenge you today to 'focus your lens' and discover what learning is occurring during your child's favorite activities.  

Please share your discoveries, we can learn a great deal from each other!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Early Reading Skills

Look for your child to...
Develop a sense of story.

Your child may…

  • Tell a story from pictures.
  • Recognize variations in re-telling of stories.
  • Predict outcomes of stories.
  • “Read and re-read” stories.
  • Tell stories with beginnings, middles, and endings.
  • Dictate stories for other to write down.
  • Tell stories based on personal experiences, imaginations, dreams, and/or stories form books.
  • Recall information about stetting, characters, and events in a story.

You can support your child...

  • Encourage your child to recount experiences and describe events. Ask: “And then what happened?” to urge the story along.
  • Make a “story” journal to include descriptors of favorite outings. Illustrate with snapshots and drawing.
  • Allow your child to dictate a story to you and later “illustrate it.” Make comments: “I really like how your story began. I really like the ending of your story. It was nice that they boy found his lost dog.”
  • Allow your child to share his/her day activities during the dinner meal.

Get started reading today- The Saint Joseph Public Library

Post by: Community Action Partnerships of Saint Joseph, MO.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Can Play Dough Help My Child Be a Better Writer?

As parents, we are told not to compare our child to others because each child develops at their own pace.  Let's face it... that's easier said than done, especially with something as visible as their writing.  Have you ever found yourself asking these questions wondering if something is wrong:
  • Why is my child only scribbling when others in his preschool class are writing their names?
  • Why does my child write so big that his name can't fit on a single piece of paper?
  • Why does my child write many of his letters backwards?
These are very common questions asked by parents of very typically developing writers.  

First of all let's revisit the statement, "...each child develops at their own pace."  This is true from birth.  When learning to walk, a baby progresses through many stages of development that strengthen his muscles in preparation for his first steps.  First a baby rolls and then sits on his own. The child slowly begins to crawl, which progresses to pulling up on things and strolling along them.  Until finally, they take that big step toward a loved one.  A parent never would expect them to take their first steps right after they had mastered sitting up.

The same holds true for our young writers.  See below, the developmental stages of writing that are typically represented in a classroom of pre-kindergartners.  It is important, as a parent, to know where your child is in this continuum so that you know how to appropriately support them as a learner.

Now let's revisit our questions from concerned parents.
Q:  Why is my child only scribbling when others in his preschool class are writing their names?

A:  Your child is in a typical stage of writing development for preschoolers.  To move to the next stage in the continuum, your child needs to develop strength and control in his fine motor muscles.  To strengthen these muscles provide the following materials for your child to explore with.
  • play dough:  kneading play dough will strengthen the muscles that your child uses to grip and control a writing utensil.   (click here for some fabulous homemade play dough recipes)
  • hole punches:  the repetitive squeezing motion of a hole punch will strengthen your child's muscles that are used to grip writing utensils.
  • scissors: cutting objects other than paper such as straws, felt and string will promote the dexterity that your child will need to manipulate a writing utensil.
  • broad tip markers:  the wider grip of these are easier to control and markers take less pressure to produce an effect on paper, making exploring more appealing.

Q:  Why does my child write so big that his name can't fit on a single piece of paper?

A:  Children that are merging from the Pre-Literate stages of writing into the Emergent Stages often have a tendency to write larger.  Larger strokes on a paper are easier to control than smaller, more precise strokes.  Now is NOT the time to try to constrain your child's writing to lined paper.  This is a time for free exploration of the movement of letters and transition from a gross motor movement of utilizing their entire arm for writing to practicing moving their fingers to control the movements of their writing utensil.
  • Lacing cards:  using a pincer grasp to manipulate a small thread in and out of holes will promote dexterity in your child's fingers that will enable him to control the strokes of his writing utensil.
  • Finger painting: gliding their fingers along the paint's slick surface is a fun way to practice the movement of shapes and letters.
  • Crayola Pipsqueak markers: these small markers encourage the appropriate placement of your child's pincer grasp that will ensure more control while writing.
Q:  Why does my child write many of his letters backwards?

A:  As children begin to explore with environmental print and attempt to write what they see on paper, often times the written representation of what they see is a skewed version of the original.  Let's put their development into perspective.  This is their first attempt at taking something from their 3D world and representing it with a 2D expression.
Prior to their experiences with the written word, an object retained it's name independent of it's placement in space.  For instance, a cup is a cup whether it is sideways, upside down, or right side up.  With written print, this no longer holds true.  In fact, this transition can be quite confusing until the child has a solid understanding of directionality.  For some children, this is a concept that is not mastered until 6 years old.  So no worries, this too is developmentally appropriate.

Our role, as parents and educators, is simply to determine where our children are and scaffold their learning to the next level...not to make them run before they can crawl. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

"Out of the Mouths of Babes"

Babies are Born to Learn! From the moment of conception, we are preparing our children to be lifelong learners. My name is Debbie Kunz, and I am the coordinator of the Parents as Teachers program. As a contributing writer to this blog, my posts will focus on kindergarten preparation as it applies to the first three years of life. The focus of this week will be language development.

From the moment a fetus begins to hear in the womb, it is beginning to tune in to language - from the patterns of speech to the rhythms to the tonal quality. Babies learn that humans communicate their thoughts, feelings and needs through speech. They also learn that a healthy command of language will assist them in their adult lives.

How, then, as parents and caregivers, do we encourage healthy language development?

A few ideas are listed below:
Make time for face-to-face communication -

* give the baby time to respond; you are teaching her the 

art of communication

* take turns with your baby and honor what she has to say, providing plenty of time for the baby to respond.
* As your baby watches your mouth, he will learn how to shape his mouth for appropriate speech

Sing Together!!

**Singing together is FUN! The baby is learning while playing, which is the essential "work" of early childhood
**Songs use repetition, which strengthens the child's neural connections.
**Songs teach the child how to communicate with gestures, an important step in expressive speech for young children
**Singing enables the child to learn the individual phonemes of speech

Use "Parallel Talk" and "Stretch Talk"

**Tell the child what he/she is doing to make the speech relevant
**When the child says "Dog" and you say "Yes, you see a fluffy dog," you are stretching the child's speech and increasing his/her verbal competence
**As you interact verbally with the child about what he/she is doing, you are teaching the child about verbal problem-solving
**Since the child is egocentric, he/she will pay attention better to speech that is centered around what he is doing

Read Together

**The most important predictor of literary competence, reading together is critical!
**Reading brings routine to the child's world, the structure around which allows the brain
to create optimal connections
**Allow the child to manipulate the book and respond to his interest. Don't worry about reading all of the text in the book. Label pictures and tell your child what he is seeing.
**Answer any question that your child poses. Give concise answers and allow the child to continue asking questions if necessary.
**Hold your child on your lap while you read to send important messages of security, trust and affirmation
**Reading increases vocabulary, bonding, language awareness, context/knowledge of the world and empathy

Have fun making language an important part of the child/caregiver relationship! Your efforts will reap rewards as you see your child enter school with the confidence and competence to be a lifelong learner.

Images in order of appearance from the following websites off google images: (first two)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pre-K Approaches to Learning

Exhibiting creativity...

Look for your child to...
Use imagination to generate a variety of ideas.

Your child may...

  • Make up words, songs or stories.
  • Engage in pretend play.
  • Make changes to a familiar story by adding actions or characters.
  • Express ideas through art, construction, movement or music.

You can support your child...

  • Play pretend games, talk silly talk or sing rhyming songs that either you or your child make up. Make up different ending to a favorite story.
  • Act out pretend stories with your child, and let her be the teacher or the doctor or the mother.
  • Let you child take the lead in pretend play. Try to expand her activities (e.g., say “Oh, you’re a firefighter? There’s a fire here. Please come and bring your hose and ladder!).
  • When she is pretending to be someone, talk to the character she is role-playing. If she is pretending to be a waitress, talk to her in the way adults would talk in a restaurant (e.g., say, “I’d like to see a menu, please.”).
  • Many young children have imaginary friends. If your child has pretend playmates, let her talk and play with them.
  • Provide materials that encourage make-believe play. These could include dolls and doll clothing and equipment, hand and finger puppets, small plastic animals, Little People play sets (including figures of different cultures and races), empty shoeboxes, and art supplies for making play sets.
  • Use an old suitcase or box to house pretend-play supplies such as dress-up clothes, tools for various occupations and writing materials.
  • Provide child-size equipment. Include kitchen utensils and dishes, tools for various occupations, writing materials, sinks, stoves, tables, chairs, beds, etc.
  • Avoid props for pretend play that promote stereotypical behavior, aggression and insensitivity to violence. These might include realistic-looking toys guns, swords and other weapons, and action figures based on characters from violent TV shows an movies.
  • Limit the time your child spends watching television or playing video games. Encourage your child to “play the story” or “make up a new ending” to TV shows or videos you have carefully chosen.

Have Fun!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

If I knew then, what I know now!!!

I once had a para-professional comment to me that if she had of been working in preschool years ago, her children would have been much more prepared for kindergarten. Now, I'm sure, as all mothers are, she was much harder on herself than needed to be, but her comment made me think.

I have had 6 years of college, 2 years of experience working with 'rock star' veteran teachers, and several opportunities for professional development on how young children learn. I realized that sometimes I take for granted the things that come naturally to me when teaching children. As an educator, shame on me...

Since this para's comment, I have had ample time to reflect. I have always believed that the parent's role as an educator is invaluable, but now I realize my obligation as an educator to ensure that we as a community are equipping parents with the knowledge and tools they need.

I feel very blessed to work in a community where this has become a joint effort. Our community agencies work in tandem as we combine efforts for the benefit of our youngest learners. Below are a few of the ways that Saint Joseph is ensuring that our parents feel valued and confident that their child is prepared for school.

  • The Saint Joseph School District provides PACT.
Each year Headstart works in collaboration with the SJSD to hold a city wide Early Childhood Screening. Based on that screening, the SJSD services those children that demonstrate the most need in a preschool program. One of the goals of the SJSD preschool program is "to recognize parents as the principal influences on their child’s education and development by providing opportunities that reinforce the parent’s role as an educator." Parents are invited to their child's classroom once a month to participate in Parents and Children Together (PACT) day. Families participate in an activity with their child while teachers focus on teaching parents how that activity supports their child's development and what they can do at home to reinforce those skills.
  • Kinder Klub
United Way's Success by Six program is a collaboration of several community agencies including, but not limited to the Saint Joseph School District, Community Action Partnerships and The Saint Joseph Youth Alliance. This team is in it's fourth year of offering a program to 'pre-kindergarten' age students, known as Kinder Klub. At Kinder Klub, any parent with a child that will be kindergarten eligible the next school year is invited to attend monthly Kinder Klub sessions. At these sessions, parents and children work together during an hour long session to build a foundation of pre-academic skills to work toward for kindergarten. The topics of activities include Concepts of Math, Developmental Stages of Writing, Fine/Gross Motor skills, Self-Help activities, Language and Literacy, and Social Interactions. During each session, the parents are educated as to how to scaffold their children toward each developmental milestone and students are given the supplies used during the session to support their learning at home.

  • Kindergarten Jumpstart
Kindergarten Jumpstart is a program very similar to Kinder Klub, except it is offered once a week for four weeks during the summer. Parents and children attend sessions at one of several local libraries and work together on activities prepared to give them an extra boost before Kindergarten begins. At the end of the four weeks, each child is provided with a backpack full of kindergarten school supplies.
  • Destination Kindergarten Blog
This blog is provided for parents as a resource and a forum to discuss topics of interest with other 'pre-kindergarten' parents.
Posts will be contributed by the SJSD and Community Action Partnerships.

In order for any of these programs to be successful, we need comments,
questions, suggestions and feedback.
We need to know:

  1. What is your biggest concern for your child starting kindergarten?
  2. What times of the day work best for a parent's schedule?
  3. Do you have suggestions for other avenues of kindergarten readiness that we might explore?
  4. Do you live in another community and have success stories that you can share?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Avoiding the Digital Daze

What is a digital age learner? In an age when a computer is as naturally a household resource as our kitchen sink, children are learning and connecting in ways beyond our childhood imaginations. To the older child, the computer has become a staple in social interactions, a standard resource for unanswered questions, and a virtual portal to the otherwise inaccessible world.

So what does this mean for our youngest learners? It means that upon entering school, they will be asked not only to navigate a computer, but to use one to create digital content, determine resource credibility, share ideas and construct knowledge with students around the world. That might sound like a daunting task to a parent that was not brought up in the digital age…so how can you help prepare your child?

The answer is not to teach your child how to use technology, but how to interact with technology. There is a difference between a child that has tuned out the world to spend three hours playing a video game and a child that is utilizing technology to take their ideas and transform them into reality. I fondly refer to the former as the 'digital daze'. It's that 'glazed over' look that your child's eyes gets when completely enthralled in a digital activity that has taken your precious cherub's brain (and subsequently, ears) captive.

Below are a few ideas that can engage your child in digital learning rather than getting trapped in a digital daze.

Digital Daze

Digital Learning

Playing Video Games4

Reconnect with loved ones far away. Take a moment to use your computer to allow your child to communicate with friends and family that they rarely see. There are many ways to accomplish this goal, but for now let me introduce you to Skype. Skype is a program that with the use of your computer’s web cam and microphone, grandma that lives across the country can see your child’s toothless smile and hear all about the dollar that the tooth fairy left without leaving the comfort of your homes.

Listening to an iPod4

Children love to explore with language and tend to be natural performers. Encourage your child to make up their own song and use your iPod’s voice recorder to create a one of a kind musical masterpiece. In guiding your child to become the creator of their own song, you are supporting their independence, creativity, self-esteem, as well as strengthening their oral language skills.

Watching Television4

Make a podcast! How many pieces of art do you have on your refrigerator? I am positive that each one tells a different story. Your child does not yet have the ability to express their thoughts in written words, but don’t let that fool you, they still have a story to tell. Take digital pictures of your child’s artwork and audio record them telling their story. You can use programs such as Windows Movie Maker or Apple’s iMovie to combine your child’s art and narrative to design their own movie!

Online Gaming 4

As a parent, it is our role to determine which online games are developmentally appropriate and foster an atmosphere of learning. Below are a few links as examples to get you started on your quest for finding quality learning games.


This is Daniel Cook


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Peep and the Big Wide World