Schedules And Routines

Little girl waking up routinesDay after day we get up, get ready for work, drive to the office, work all day, go home and do it all over again tomorrow… Some adults do not like their routine life but if you are a toddler or preschooler, routines and schedules are one of the best things in the world!

Routine ChartThe terms routines and schedules are interchangeable. Schedules represent the big picture and routines represent the steps done to complete the schedule. For children, routines can influence a child’s emotional, cognitive and social development. Children feel safe and secure knowing what is going to happen next in their day. Schedules help them understand expectations and can actually reduce behavior problems along with having a higher rate of child engagement in activities.

If you are having some challenging behaviors with your children. Take a step back and look at their daily routine. If you are not seeing some consistency then a change may be in order for your family. Children thrive on simple daily routines. Check out these tips from eXtension on Establishing Predictable Routines in a Child Care Setting.

Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Positive Relationships For School Readiness

Mom and daughter positive relationshipHave you seen all of those back-to-school pictures on your Facebook feed? This time of year is exciting, but can be a tough transition for Kindergartners. This is their first time they have been to school or even away from their family. Emotions can run high for both children and parents during this transition. Many children need comfort items or words to get them through the day, but all children need a positive relationship with an adult to make them feel safe and secure so they can venture off to school and be ready to learn in this new environment. For many years, researchers have discussed the importance of attachment in early childhood. It is widely accepted that relationships are an important part of the healthy developmental processes.

Adults must support children’s social and emotional development in addition to their cognitive skills. They also must assist children to navigate conflicts with peers, easing the transition from home to school each day, and helping children identify their feelings and needs. An adult who is responsive to the emotional needs of a child will be rewarded with a child who is excited, interested, and engaged.

Supporting a child’s healthy social and emotional growth takes commitment from all the primary caregivers in a child’s life. This includes mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers, and other key adults. It’s important to remember that children in the primary years observe and learn from our relationships. What they observe shapes their Clifford Goes To Kindergartenexpectations of how people treat others and therefore influences their developing social skills and emotional competence.

A great book to introduce your little one to the kindergarten transition is “Clifford goes to Kindergarten.” The book shows how Emily goes from the comfort of her home into they new world of school.

Looking for more information on supporting children’s healthy social and emotional development? Check out our publication The Role of Relationships in the Primary Years for tips on building relationships.

Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

(This article was originally published in NebLine by Poppe. It is republished here with permission)

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Back To School Transition Tips

Two young children going back to schoolBack to School time is upon us and for our youngest learners, a well-planned transition will get them off on the right start. Transitions can help build the bridge from one stage of a child’s education to the next, and caregivers who work together in this hand off have the most success.

Transition Strategies For Caregivers

Plan an open house at your center or classroom a few days before school starts, inviting parents and children to visit together. If there are classroom supplies that families are to provide, this is a great time for them to bring them to lessen the load on the first day.

Consider sending an at home activity that families can do with their child and bring to the open house. Another option is to plan a parent/child activity at the open house such as a classroom or building scavenger hunt to help the child to feel more comfortable in their new surroundings and to know where to locate supplies and other areas such as the restroom, lunch room, gymnasium, nurse’s office, and school office. Be sure to invite school personnel to participate in this by greeting families at their station. Perhaps you could have something for the child to collect at each destination on the map, ending up back at the classroom to get their family photo taken by the teacher. This also gives the parent an opportunity to meet other building staff.

Children will feel a sense of belonging if they can see their name on their own coat hook or cubby. For elementary school children, they might put items in their desk. Later you can use the photos from the open house for a bulletin board to welcome the children. This is also a great time to discuss how you will communicate daily/weekly with parents regarding classroom information.

Transition Tools For Parents

Dad taking young son to preschoolFamilies also play an important role in smooth transitions to school. If you have the time, take each child individually to shop for their school supplies. One-on-one time, especially in a household of siblings can be a special way to ease you both into the new routines. If it is your child’s first day of pre-school, you may have many emotions as you separate from your child too.

Parents can help their child by establishing practical bedtime routines several weeks before school. Think about packing lunches, selecting clothes and setting out items you’ll need the night before. This will make morning routines go so much smoother. You may find these tips for easy transitions from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) helpful as you prepare your family for back to school.

What back to school transition ideas have you had success with?

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Cultivating Cultural Competence In Children

Culturally diverse childrenIf civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships-the ability of all people, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. –Franklin D. Roosevelt

The first step to cultivate human relationships starts in the home. Children tend to exhibit the behaviors and attitudes that they observe. If parents want children to value diversity, it’s imperative that parents model respect for all people. In addition, parents must make a conscious effort to provide their children with the skills and tools necessary to grow up to become culturally competent adults.

Research Tells Us…

  • Parents are the primary influence on children’s attitudes toward other cultural groups.
  • Between ages 2 and 5, children become aware of gender, race, ethnicity, and disabilities. They are aware of both the positive and negative bias.
  • Biases based on gender, race, disability, or social class creates obstacles and a false sense of superiority for children.
  • Racism attacks the self-esteem of children of color.

Make Diversity Apart Of Your Daily Life

  • Create an environment that reflects diversity. Include toys, literature, artwork, etc. that represents all groups of people.
  • Interact with others that are different. Provide opportunities for your child at school,Different hands together daycare, play-dates, or try attending cultural events together.
  • Talk about diversity. Listen to and answer your child’s questions about what they are experiencing in the world. Talking about their experiences helps them learn from different perspectives.
  • As your child gets older teach him/her how to challenge stereotypes appropriately and what to do when witnessing a bias.
  • Most importantly, parents must model acceptance and open-mindedness about diversity.
  • Make certain that the school your child attends as well as community and religious organizations you belong to promote respect for diversity.

Family Activities

  • Research your own family’s heritage. This will help build a sense of pride and understanding of your cultural heritage in your child.
  • Discuss issues you may hear. Children are going to hear things about diversity and other issues in the media or in the classroom. This brings up a great opportunity to talk to your child about how to respond in an appropriate manner.
  • Learn a second language. Children can start learning another language with simple words like numbers, colors, and naming objects around your home. Our blog post Culturally Responsive Teaching And Environments has great tips on how to introduce other languages in the classroom which can also be used in the home!
  • Explore foods. The cuisine of other cultures introduces children to something different. Try preparing ethnic recipes together at home or dine at an ethnic restaurant.
  • Attend cultural events. Museums, concerts, plays, dances, and attending festivals or celebrations of other cultures are great ways to introduce children to diversity. If you’re a bit apprehensive about attending a cultural celebration/festival for the first time, you might want invite a friend from that community to accompany you and your family to the event.

What are your tips for encouraging cultural competency within your children at home or in the classroom? Leave us a comment!

Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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What Are Pulses And Why Are They Important?

Pulses, legumes, beansThe Year Of The Pulses

The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulses. What are pulses and why are they so important? Pulses that we are most familiar with here in the U.S. are dry beans, dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas to name a few. They are high in protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. This movement is an opportunity to raise global awareness in the role that pulses play in feeding the world and is an occasion to help communities learn about the nutritional value of pulses and the positive impact they can have on your health. Pulses are environmentally friendly and play an important role in our global food security.

Educating Children On Pulses

As an Extension Educator I found this an opportunity to introduce pulses to children through our summer programming in Scotts Bluff and Morrill Counties in Nebraska. Creating a culinary experience for children and allowing them to assist in food preparation makes children eager to give it a try and they often ask for seconds when they’ve helped prepare their own food!

In my effort to educate children about introducing healthy snack options, teach culinary skills, and introduce pulses, I searched for recipes that might appeal to children. My search lead me to Mango Black Bean Salsa and Roasted Chickpeas (garbanzo beans). In order to make them more kid friendly I altered the recipes by omitting the onions and using a light dusting of spices. Since I may be introducing some spices that may be new to children I only gave a light dusting of the seasoning or spices. In the month of June we introduced pulses to approximately 250 children K- 5th grade. The children gave our recipes a “thumbs up!”

Tips For Cooking with Children

  • Make certain you are aware of the food allergies that may be present in the children you are working with.
  • Many children often struggle with the textures of foods, especially with legumes, as their taste buds are changing and evolving. Always ask them to give it a try! They might not have liked it before, but because of their changing tastes, they may like it this time.
  • Always make the first serving a small “tasting serving” and remind them that they can always have more if they would like.
  • Ask children: How might you change these recipes? What other fruits would you add to the salsa instead of mangos? What other types of seasonings could you add to the chickpeas?
  • Have copies of the recipes so that the children can take home to share with parents.

Black Bean Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 mango
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans
  • 1 can (7 oz.) Mexicorn
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin (Instead of using garlic salt or cumin try using 1-2 tsps. of taco seasoning)

Instructions

  1. Wash and peel the mango. Cut into cubes.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips. (You can also make your own tortilla chips by cutting corn tortillas into triangles and baking them in the oven!)

Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas (15 oz.), rinsed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt (Instead of cumin or garlic salt substitute with taco seasoning)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Spread chickpeas on a paper towel to remove excess liquid. It’s important to make certain the chickpeas are dry the more liquid they have in them the longer they take to cook.
  3. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, cumin, garlic salt. Add chickpeas and toss to coat evenly.
  4. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet with a rim. Roast for 30-35 minutes or until chickpeas are crunchy. Occasionally shake the pan to ensure even browning.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Looking for more information on teaching children about pulses? Check out the Teachers National Year of the Pulses tool kit.

Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Exploring Nature With Children

Child in nature on grass

Although children should have outdoor time every day, research suggests that on average, American children are only spending 30 minutes of unstructured time outdoors each week. Spending time outdoors is said to lower stress levels, reduce ADHD/ADD symptoms, encourage the opportunity for physical exercise, increase academic performance and levels of concentration, reduce myopia, help children get enough Vitamin D and builds strong immune systems (not to mention a develop a sense of wonder). A good way to plan outdoor space is to identify permanent spaces and temporary spaces.

Exploring Nature in Permanent Spaces

  • What permanent outdoor structures exist in your yard? Do you have a variety of natural elements such as: grass, trees, shrubs, and plants?
  • Offer areas where children can build with nature’s treasures, such as sticks, rocks, leaves, pinecones, and snow.
  • A quiet sitting area such as grass, stumps, large rocks, or a bench is a good place to slow down, relax, read a story, or have a heart-to-heart talk.
  • Don’t forget to create areas for nature and weather observation with a good view of the sky for weather watching.
  • Offer tools such as magnifying glasses, binoculars, paper towel rolls for telescopes, hand shovels, various containers for collections, and bird feeders.
  • For observing the weather, offer materials such as a rain gauge, measuring cups, wind chimes, or streamers (to see which way the wind is blowing), homemade sun dials, and thermometers.
  • Consider having journals, paper, and pencils for kids to record ideas and possibly stumps, decks, or climbers to allow for higher views of observing.

Exploring Nature in Temporary Spaces

  • Create a garden area. Add planter pots with easy-to-grow seeds, plants, shrubs, and vegetables that are safe for young children. If you have the space and time, creating a vegetable garden with children is a great opportunity for them to learn about plants.
  • Provide children with opportunities to care for nature, such as watering plants, feeding animals, picking up trash, and treating “creatures” gently, supports a sense of respecting nature and developing empathy. Experiences such as these help build lifelong skills and give children a connection that may in the future support caring for their environment.
  • For water play, use plastic bins, buckets, funnels, plastic piping, hoses, plastic gutters, spray bottles, paint brushes, sponges, etc. Store all of the water play items inchildren-763791_960_720.jpg a large plastic bin with a lid. Instead of using wading pools which can spread germs, try sprinklers and individual water play containers. Remember, whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be no more than an arm’s length away so they are close enough to provide touch supervision.
  • Children love interesting nooks. You can create fun spaces from tarps or blankets draped over areas, large cardboard boxes, or the undergrowth of a pine tree.
  • Playing in the mud is a great outdoor activity kids love. Set up an area where children, with supervision, can dig in the dirt and add water to make mud. This space should be close to clean-up supplies and away from busy play. Give children clear rules before mud play, such as where the mud may be taken and what toys may be used.
  • Don’t forget to offer an art area! Bring an easel and paints outdoors or set up water colors on a table or sidewalk. Providing a box of art materials give kids an opportunity to express themselves and use nature for collages and sketches.

You can also make outdoor chores fun! Have your children join you in washing the car, cleaning out the garage, feeding the pets, getting the mail, hanging clothes on the line, working in the garden, or any task that calls for them to be involved in the great outdoors.

If you would like to learn more about children and nature, visit the Environmental Education section of UNL Extension’s Learning Child website.

Author:  Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Routines Matter

Teacher reading to children and establishing a routine with them.Why Are Routines Important?

One of the most important concepts for parents and child care providers to consider is the child’s daily routine. A well thought out routine can be the secret to a calm, child centered learning environment if planned appropriately. Children desire to know what is coming next in their lives. If the established routine is consistent and predictable, the children in your care will begin to infer and make sense of “time” related to the events in the daily schedule. Perhaps morning snack always comes after story time, or Johnny’s Dad always arrives shortly after outdoor play. When a caregiver commits to establishing a consistent routine, they are building a sense of trust and children have a sense of control over the day.

On the other hand, if the daily routine is full of unknowns and interruptions, this chaotic environment will likely result in worry and anxiety in young children. Children who cannot yet communicate feelings around the disorganization may instead display disruptive behaviors toward the parent or caregiver and other children in the setting.

Routines In The Homebaby-1151347_960_720

Parents and caregivers can work together to establish routines at home that are similar to child care and vise-versa. We all lead busy lives, and weekends and evenings can be even
more spontaneous. Parents will find that they have less struggles with their little ones if they can at least keep meals and bed time or nap time close to a normal routine. Don’t forget to communicate together about changes in your normal routine as well. Caregivers who are aware of this can be more sensitive to individual children’s needs.

Example On How To Keep Routine In The Home

Parents can make a simple flow chart of events as a visual for children at home similar to what you might find in a preschool classroom. This could be posted on the refrigerator and as the day goes on, the child could move a refrigerator magnet to the picture of what happens next. Eventually children won’t rely on moving the marker with each event, and will be satisfied with knowing that they have passed a few steps and can visually see what is next. These picture schedules are also great at preparing children for a change in the daily routine. Parents and caregivers can talk about how the routine will be different today with a simple explanation and perhaps rearrange the photos if needed to help the child see how they will go about the day. Check out these additional tips on establishing routines from eXtension.

Routine With Infants

For caregivers of infants and toddlers routines Infant getting a bathare all about meeting the needs of the child in a responsive, nurturing way. We wouldn’t expect all infants to be fed, or nap at the same time, but the manner in which you respond and the environment you design to meet the infant’s needs can be seen as your established routine. For more information on establishing routines check out this article from NAEYC.

Key Points When Setting Up Your Daily Routine

  1. Consider the age and developmental stage of the children when establishing routines.
  2. Consistency is important to build trust and reduce behaviors and anxiety.
  3. Parents and caregivers can work together to enhance the consistent and predictable routine.
  4. If there must be a change in the routine, try to prepare the child ahead of time.
  5. An established routine will allow you to be flexible when needed with minimal disruptions.

What are your tips for setting up routines in your child care center or home? Leave us a comment below!

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Fire Prevention

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 11.44.52 AMDaily we hear fire sirens, many going to medical emergencies but way too many are en route to a home or apartment fire. Is your family prepared?

Keeping you and your family safe is a top priority and there are simple steps to take to stay safe. Preparing for emergencies such as a fire is often talked about but proper action is rarely taken. Fires can be prevented by taking time and precautions to remove the risk factors from your home or daycare.

Fire Risk Factors

Risk factors include: unattended cooking, smoking, burning candles, electrical malfunctions, and failure to maintain heating equipment and no smoke alarm.

Smoke Alarms

Every home and child care center should have smoke alarms. Approximately 3 out of 5 fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or alarms that do not work. Smoke alarms should be placed outside all sleeping areas and on every level of the home. If you don’t have a working smoke alarm, install one now. Working smoke alarms give you early warning so you can escape quickly. Remember to check your smoke alarms monthly and replace them every 10 years.

Fire Escape Plan

Every family and child care center should have a fire escape plan. It should be practiced and children should be aware of all escape routes. Make sure to practice the plan and review it with all family members. Many people think they will have several minutes to get out after the smoke alarm sounds but in reality it is often less than 6 minutes. Once outside safely, call 911.

Tips

  • 2 out of every 5 home fires are started in the kitchen. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.
  • Smoking is a leading cause of civilian home fire deaths.
  • Electrical failure or malfunctions caused an average of almost 48,000 home fires per year, resulting in roughly 450 deaths and nearly $1.5 billion in direct property damage.
  • If you have upper levels in your home, a rope ladder can be installed to use in case of emergency.
  • Always remember to put out candles and smoking materials before going to bed or leaving the home.
  • Ashes from fireplaces and woodstoves should be disposed of correctly in a metal container and away from the house. Make sure grill fires are completely out when done grilling.
  • A home inventory is also important. In case or fire, do you know what all you have in your home and its value? This is very important for insurance and replacing items.

Take time to keep your family safe by removing risk factors from your home and daily activities.

Source:  National Fire Prevention Agency

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Field Trip Fun

shutterstock_193504667.jpgPlanning an outing with your preschoolers can be an enriching experience and an opportunity for the young child to explore and learn about their world. When considering a field trip for children in child care settings, there are a few key things to keep in mind including safety, the developmental level and special needs of the child/children, and how you will prepare the child for the event.

Planning

The location of the outing should be carefully planned out ahead of time. Long distance trips in a vehicle that take children away from their daily routine and familiar surroundings for the entire day may not be appropriate for small children who can become easily overwhelmed by change. Trips to the pool might sound fun, however it may be difficult to monitor and ensure safety, depending on the size of your group. When choosing a location, try to make the event inclusive of all the children in your care, and plan for how you will include special needs children as well.

Intentional planning of field trips should also be linked to the curriculum that is centered around the children’s interests and the early learning guidelines that are established, such as those established by the Nebraska Department of Education.

Some of the child driven interests may include nature, insects, farm animals and food. Consider what is available in your local community such as a bakery, grocery store, post office, parks, a nearby farm or county fair.

Preparation

To prepare the children for the outing or trip, parents and teachers can use a variety of strategies such as sharing and reading children’s books, looking at photographs, bringing in some items that the children may encounter on the trip into the classroom (touching a sample of wool from a sheep, or trying on a fireman’s hat). At meeting or calendar time, a special symbol or picture could be placed on the calendar to indicate the day the trip will take place.

After The Field Trip

In keeping with the concept of ‘plan-do-review’, don’t forget to take pictures of the children while at the event. You can use these later to help recall the experience. Children can draw a picture and dictate to the adult what they liked or learned from the experience. Later, the pages could be compiled into a book to keep in the book or library area of the classroom to revisit. Photos are wonderful tools to communicate to parents and they can continue the learning at home.

Check out this resource from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about how to stay healthy when visiting animal exhibits like a farm or a zoo. The CDC also has great information on how to protect children from the sun.

Check out these examples of children’s books related to the farm and farm animals as well as classroom activity ideas.

Author: Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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What’s Bugging You?

what's bugging youYoung children go through a variety of emotions every day. Sometimes they have problems relating their emotions to their behavior and all adults see… is the challenging behavior that is exhibited!

Take time to talk with your children about what is really bugging them. What has happened to them that is making them feel upset? How does their body feel when this happens?  What can they say to the other person?  How should they react?

We need to explain these feelings to our children and give them simple ideas of how to deal with their emotions. One way to teach this is by using bugs themselves.  Summer is a great time to have a lesson on bugs.  Incorporate bugs into the discussion of emotions too.  First take a large piece of paper and draw a bug right in the middle.  Title the paper with “When something is bugging me, I can say…”

Give the child plenty of ideas on what to say….. This poster can hang in their room, on the refrigerator or anywhere the child spends a lot of time. It is a constant reminder of how the child can start to regulate their own emotions and deal with conflict.

Author: Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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