Keeping Children Active

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According to the State of Obesity, Nebraska ranks 5th in the nation for childhood overweight and obesity in children ages 2-4.  Yikes!  Nebraska also has the 13th highest adult obesity rate in the nation.

I recently read the book What If Everybody Understood Child Development?  By Rae Pica.  The book is broken down into 3 parts with a total of 29 easy to read essays which reference real-life stories shared by teachers and parents.  At the end of each essay, Rae provides the reader with ideas for what teachers can do as well as where teachers (and other adults) can go to for more information on the topic.

Part two of the book is all about understanding the mind/body connection.  Rae discusses what the research says about active learning, how important physical fitness is to children’s health and development and why we should push our schools to review the research on recess and active play breaks for children.

Benefits of physical activity:

  • reduces the risk of dying prematurely
  • reduces the risk of developing diabetes
  • reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
  • helps control weight
  • increases the body’s infection-fighting white blood cells and germ fighting antibodies
  • helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.

Based on research, it is clear that we need to keep our children and youth (and the adults too) more active.  Fit Activity For Kids, What’s Your Name? is a developmentally appropriate active activity for adults to play with the children.  To play, the player picks out the letters of their name, and then do the physical activity that goes with each letter.  You might be wondering what would your child be learning during this activity.  Literacy (Letter recognition), turn taking (social emotional), physical activity (healthy bodies, balance, core strength), and more!

Are you looking for new, creative ways to keep your children active and happy?   Visit The Learning Child on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/unlextensiontlc/.

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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What is the Best Preschool to Prepare My Child for Kindergarten?

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A friend of mine asked me the other day to give my professional opinion on whether she should enroll her child in a preschool within the public schools, or keep them in the childcare where they are currently enrolled.  The parent wanted to know if their child would be ready for kindergarten. She loves her childcare but is concerned that the center is rather small in numbers, and didn’t know if this was the best choice to prepare the child to enter a larger classroom with twice as many peers. This is the $100,000 question, and I didn’t give her an easy answer, because the fact is, it depends.

Types of Childcare Licenses in Nebraska

It is important to note that there are several options for licensed childcare in Nebraska and all must meet compliance by Childcare Licensing. For more information on childcare licensing, see The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website.

Family Child Care Home I

Program in the home of the provider; maximum capacity is eight children of mixed ages and two additional school age children during non-school hours.

Family Child Care Home II

Program in the home of the provider or another site; maximum capacity is twelve with two providers.

Child Care Center

Program licensed for at least 13 children.

School-Age-Only- Center

Program licensed for at least 13 children who are attending or have attended school.

Preschool

Program providing educational services where children do not nap and are not fed a meal.

I believe this parent was looking for some key indicators as to whether the childcare was doing an adequate job in preparing children for kindergarten.  Well, the fact is, the only requirement to enter Kindergarten in Nebraska is that the child is five years old on or before July 31, which is the cut-off date for Nebraska.  The idea is that schools must be ready to educate children of a multitude of abilities.

There are some good resources available for parents through the Nebraska Department of Education that can aid in making this important decision.  The important thing to note when looking at state standards for kindergarten is they are written toward the future, as to what the child should know and be able to do by the end of the kindergarten school year.

I gave my friend a few resources from the Nebraska Department of Education to explore. These resources emphasize that kindergarten readiness is more than what children know at this age, but also includes key behaviors and social skills linked to success.  They also include how parents and caregivers can support the child’s growth and development in all domains to be successful in the next level of education. If parents are searching for childcare, or contemplating the shift from a childcare center to a public school preschool, the quality indicators can be used as questions to ask the childcare provider. Many childcare providers are educated and well trained, and implement research and evidence based curriculum that does provide children the foundational skills needed for kindergarten readiness.

Questions to ask caregivers

  • Tell me how you promote good health and physical skills
  • How do you encourage appropriate social skills among children?
  • How do you support the child’s knowledge and thinking skills?
  • What do you do to support children to transition to kindergarten?

Check out these sites for more information:

Nebraska Department of Education, School Readiness

Getting Ready for Kindergarten: What Early Care and Education Providers Need to Know

A parent’s guide for preparing your child for school

There are many childcare options available in Nebraska that are committed to quality; it is up to families to determine the type of setting their child will learn and grow in, and isn’t that a wonderful thing?

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Beth Janning, 4-H Youth Educator

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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A New Perspective

Introductions are always a good place to start!

Hi, I’m Katie!

I wanted to use my first blog on the TLC page as a place to introduce myself. I live in Ralston, Nebraska with my husband Kent, our son Weston (7 months old) and our dog, Tilly.  I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education, working as a teacher with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and children with special needs, as a director and for the state licensing office.  I now work for Nebraska Extension with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as an Extension Educator.  My job is to utilize research based information to develop programs and help connect people to the resources they need relating to caring for children ages 0 – 8.  My extensive background in working with young children gives me a unique perspective on the experiences I now have as a mother.  In addition to my roles as mom, wife, and Extension Educator, I also am working on a PhD in early childhood at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and try to get out to a local stable to ride horses in my ‘spare’ time!  Oh, and Kent and I are remodeling our 1922 home in Ralston!  So we have a LOT going on, and it’s a blast J.

Weston, Katies blog

I am really looking forward to sharing stories about Weston as he learns and grows that are both from a child development perspective, and from the ‘mom’ perspective!  For now, I will leave you with his most recent picture, his ‘7 month’ photo!  Yes, he’s got lots of healthy baby rolls.

Image source: Katherine Krause

KATHERINE KRAUSE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Applying Developmentally Appropriate Practices: Book Club Reflections

For the past several months, I have been participating in a book club with other colleagues reading Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children Ages Birth through Age 8.  Each week we have explored a chapter and asked ourselves the following questions:

linda DAP blog
Image source: Reposted with permission  www.littleravenheart.com/
  • What does the author(s) tell us about this particular period of development?
  • How do we see that period of development in action with young children?
  • What can we do in our role as adult educators to support those who are working directly with young children and families regarding DAP?
  • How do we lift up the work others are doing in order to spotlight educators in the field using developmentally appropriate practices?
    • A great example of this is Jaclynn Foged, Carrie Gottschalk and Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers’ work with child care directors.

We recently finished the book reviewing some of the Frequently Asked Questions when the following question bubbled up during our discussion:

How do you support an individual, particularly an early care and education teacher who finds themselves grappling with the implementation of developmentally appropriate practices with children?

Our team had a long pause, longer than usual.  Then we began sharing examples, some that we did when we first started teaching.  I shared that when I was teaching mobile infants and toddlers, I would try and make them sit during a circle time activity which involved reading long books.  I could not figure out why they would not sit and listen to the story.  As I continued taking additional coursework and specialized in infant-toddler development, I realized that mobile infants and toddlers developmentally needed to manipulate materials using all of their senses, and have the freedom to move about their environment.  As their caregiver and educator, it was my responsibility to respect their need to play.  It was my responsibility to have appropriate and reasonable expectations for what they could do, and be patient when they asserted their independence.  During those early years of teaching, I learned the art of balancing, like a mobile hanging above a crib, staying sturdy at the center as the children spun around me.  Sometimes I turned the dial to set the pace, other times they bounced around to their own tune, and every once in a while, the batteries just ran out, and the mobile stopped.  It was during those times I learned how to be patient and use those moments as opportunities to take a step back and observe the situation for what it was, with no judgment.

Patience.  Accountability. Reasonable Expectations.

It seems we are back at the first part of the question.  What do you do?

During our call, we agreed going back to the position statement which first, and foremost states no harm to children*.  From there, the rest of the document and principles serve as a foundation early childhood professionals can use to brainstorm and create strategies on how to begin the conversation around developmentally appropriate practices.

There are several resources, but there is one document I tend to utilize to when reflection and guidance are needed.  It was one of the first items I received during orientation when I became an early care and education teacher.  The National Association for the Education of Young Children Code of Ethical Conduct has several position statements that “offers guidelines for responsible behavior and sets forth a common basis for resolving the principal ethical dilemmas encountered in early childhood care and education.”

Personally, as an adult educator, I found the supplemental document Early Childhood Adult Educators helpful and I’ve included three insights I gained directly from the position statement:

  1. To adopt an attitude of continual learning and growth.
  2. It is important that any information shared, or teaching strategies recommended are based on present and accurate research when it comes to early childhood education, child development and adult learning theory.
  3. When early childhood educators present information that is contrary to your own beliefs and knowledge, acknowledge the different perspectives and if appropriate explore your own biases.

I invite you to review each of the position statements suitable for your particular role. There are statements for educators, administrators, and adult educators.  I hope that you find it as beneficial as I did and can utilize it to address any issues you may potentially experience in your work with children, families, and adult learners.

* If you are a early childhood educator and have questions regarding mandatory reporting laws, click here.

LINDA REDDISH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaclynn Foged, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers, Assistant Professor of Child, Youth, and Family Studies and Early Childhood Extension Specialist Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Road Scholars: My Reflections

 

Last week, I had an opportunity to participate in a three-day tour that began in Douglas County and ended in Scottsbluff.  During the tour, I had an opportunity to visit the Raising Nebraska exhibit, the West Central Research and Extension Center, Cedar Point Biological Station, Lake McConaughy Visitor/Water Interpretive Center, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Western Sugar Factory, Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory and the Wagonhammer Education Center.

As a state coordinator, I wanted to take this trip for several reasons. First, as new Extension Educator personnel I wanted to learn more about UNL Extension facilities throughout the state.  Second, I thought it was important to see local communities, and learn more about the strengths and challenges each faced.  Finally, as an early childhood professional, I also wanted to network and meet innovative people in the region outside of my field’s discipline.

My favorite location was the Raising Nebraska site.  If you’d like to visit the Raising Nebraska exhibit please join me August 26th, 2017 and The Learning Child team in the Raising Nebraska exhibit at the Presentation Stage during the State Fair! – http://www.statefair.org

Our team will have an interactive hands-on activity based on Head To Toe by Eric Carle.  We will have Kids Yoga and other physical activity games for children to participate in.

 Raising Nebraska

I learned this exhibit was a collaborative effort between three major partners including the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and the Nebraska State Fair. The goal of this exhibit was designed to help visitors understand the larger picture of what it takes to plan, prepare, and present food.  It was the first time I learned about how a pivot works and the various innovations currently at work in our state addressing economic impact and local hunger. Before leaving, I took a quick detour outside to see the natural playground exhibit. Check out some of the photos to explore the outside play spaces.

 

 

Image Source: Linda Reddish

LINDA REDDISH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Sarah M Roberts, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Code-a-pillar! Where Development Comes into Play

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Preschool teachers, imagine turning your room into an obstacle course and preschoolers working together for 45 minutes problem solving and programming.

The Code-a-pillar inspires little learners to be big thinkers by encouraging preschoolers to arrange and rearrange the easy-to-connect segments. This learning toy helps children to learn that the arrows indicate different directions. This is a perfect time to introduce the difference between right from left by using the color-coordinated segments that hook together with USB ports. Every time a child changes or rearranges the segments the child is working on learning directions, how to problem solve, planning and sequencing and critical thinking.

Teaching preschoolers about coding and the binary system foster curiosity, experimentation and problem-solving. Allowing the children to become engineers and robots all at once allows a child to work in a fantasy world while learning. The binary system has only two numbers so preschoolers can learn and be successful almost immediately. The number 1 stands for stepping forward and 0 stands for turning right. While one preschooler writes his code on the whiteboard, another preschooler follows the directions given through the coding. The children learn very fast that they can navigate the entire room using only the two codes.

Bringing the preschooler’s attention back to the Code-a-pillar is very easy. Their little brains are ready to arrange and rearrange the segments to get their Code-a-pillar to a particular place in the classroom. They soon realize adjustments (problem-solving) are needed so they can navigate around the tables and chairs in the classroom.

Once the preschoolers understand what a sequence is or program a path, the sky’s the limit. Thinking as they figure out how to get the Code-a-pillar to go wherever they want.

Coding is an excellent way to supports children’s curiosity and develop children’s inquiry skills by asking children to brainstorm solutions, or use open-ended questions like: How did you get that caterpillar to move?

Using open ended questions encourages children to listen, reflect, and then respond back how they made decisions or describe the actions they took to reach a specific goal.  This is an important scientific skill to learn and develop because it will allow children at an early age to practice using the scientific method! (Predict, Collect Data, Describe, and Reach a Conclusion, then… TRY AGAIN!)

As an early childhood educator, and interested in learning more strategies and specific ways to increase children’s scientific knowledge, please join us for an Early Learning Guidelines training on the Science Domain.  For more information visit: Fall 2017 ELG Classes

Image Source: Linda Reddish

RUTH VONDERHOE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Sarah Paulos, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Mindful and Reflective Early Childhood Educators

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Image source: Vicki Jedlicka

Early childhood educators work with our youngest children, 6 weeks to age 8 and often work with a vulnerable population.  Sometimes, educators are asked to work long days making minimum wage and some have more than one job.   An early childhood educator is consistently busy throughout the day, attending to children’s learning, managing the classroom and managing daily stress.  Educators benefit from practicing mindfulness and reflection.

What is being mindful?

What is being mindful?  The Association for Mindfulness in Education describes mindfulness as “…paying attention here and now with kindness and curiosity.  Mindfulness reconnects students to their five senses, bringing them into a moment to moment awareness of themselves and their surroundings”.  Dr. Amy Saltzman defines mindfulness as paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity. Simply, it is the awareness and acceptance of the things that happen in the present moment.

What is a mindful early childhood educator?  Practicing mindfulness is one way for educators to maintain their well-being while nurturing the children in their care. It is also a way to foster more enjoyment when teaching. Research finds that early childhood educators using mindfulness benefits children by increasing their kindness, enhancing their self-regulation, increasing their working memory, and decreasing their anxiety.

What is Reflection?

Reflection is the capacity to recognize the thoughts, feelings and intentions in ourselves and others.  If we think about this definition, why would it be important for childcare teachers and directors to be reflective?   Jeree Pawl gives us the answer “…it is not possible to work on behalf of human beings to try to help them without having powerful feelings aroused in yourself.”  The work our early childhood educators do naturally elicits many emotions throughout the day.

I was lucky enough to land a spot as a toddler teacher right out of college.  The first emotion I felt daily as I walked into my classroom of ten children 14 months – 24 months was happiness.  Still today, I miss the children racing to hug me and welcome me to the classroom.  I often experienced many other emotions on the job.  Joy, reading a book for the hundredth time to 4 children all scrambling for a spot on my lap.  Sorrow, when I learned a child was leaving our program.  Disappointment, when we could not go outside due to the weather. Frustration, when I was not able to reach a parent of an ill child.  Delight, when a child learned to do something new (like put on their coat or use a cup without a lid).

The bottom line is that without being reflective, I would not have been able to see each situation for what it was – a learning experience.  I learned so much from each interaction I had with my co-workers, the children and their families.  I wanted my classroom and our program to have positive outcomes for the children and families who attended.  The gift of time for reflection is valuable and can help us make better choices if we find ourselves in a similar situation in the future.

Local Management Required Trainings

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Image Source: Jaci Foged

Earlier this spring I had the opportunity to work with 18 childcare directors who were participating in a mandatory management training.  These trainings were delivered twice a month over a period of four months for a total of 45 hours.

I was interested to learn if infusing brief guided reflection discussions and mindfulness meditations into the existing training would be both feasible and accepted.  I decided to reach out to Holly Hatton-Bowers, an Assistant Professor and Early Childhood Extension Specialist and Carrie Gottschalk, an Extension Educator in Early Childhood. Both have experience in mindfulness and reflection. We came together and talked about simple strategies for integrating these practices into the training.

During the first session of the training participants received an overview of reflective practice, mindfulness, the benefits of using mindfulness both personally and professionally, and were invited to participate in a guided meditation.  Participants were also invited to use a mindfulness meditation app (calm app) for at least 10 minutes 5 days a week.

Before and after the training the group of directors were asked to provide their feedback and share their experiences learning about mindfulness, practicing meditations and participating in guided reflection groups. Directors were asked, “What does mindfulness mean to you?” Reflection and being present were the most commonly stated words. (See Figure 1)

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Figure 1. What does mindfulness mean to you?

“Being present” was the second concept most used to describe what mindfulness meant to the group of directors.  When we are working with young children (or parenting children), it can be easy to become distracted with a task you need to complete which may make you miss something wonderful the children are doing.  We need to take time to stop and delight in their learning.  Just the other day my 8 year old was swimming.  We have struggled for several years now to get her to go underwater due to a crazy case of swimmers ear and an aversion to ear drops.  I was elated when she said she wanted to jump in the water.  Then, she started doing cannonballs.  Next, she wanted to dive into the water!  Each time she experienced success she would swim over to me, put her arms around my neck and squeeze so hard.  She whispered, “I love you mom” and then would swim away declaring that this was the “best day ever”.  I was so happy I decided to be present, not only at the pool, but in the water to celebrate in her joy.  I encourage you all to be present; you never know what you might miss.

Although our intervention with the directors consisted of only 20 minutes of the 6-hour training day, I was pleased to learn that 91% of the childcare directors agreed that they liked participating in the mindfulness meditations.  One director stated, “I like relaxing and getting in the moment with my thoughts.”  Another said, “It was hard to meditate.  But I like how mindfulness has made me more aware of the present.”   Eighty-two (82%) percent of the childcare directors agreed the activities for reflecting were helpful.  A director said, “It made me think about the way I feel and emotions and I typically don’t take the time to do that.”  Additionally, 64% of participants reported they use mindfulness in their daily life.  One participant stated, “I’ve always practiced yoga.  But now I take more time for myself and notice the waves of my emotions.”

New Childcare Program Focuses on Mindfulness and Reflection

The integration of guided reflection, learning about mindfulness and practicing guided meditations was well-received by the childcare directors. I am excited to now be piloting a program with Hatton-Bowers and Gottschalk termed Cultivating Healthy Intentional Mindful Educators (CHIME) with approximately 40 early childhood teachers. This twelve-week program meets every other week for an hour in small groups where we practice guided reflections, meditations, and learn different strategies for practicing mindfulness in the early childhood classroom. One week we practiced mindful listening while listening to sounds of different items being shaken in a plastic egg.

Moving Forward

So, where do we go from here?  How do we develop more mindful early childhood educators?

Let’s start by setting a goal for being intentional.  An intention is a guide for how one wants to live.  For example, “Today I intend to be more positive” or “Today I intend to be more present during drop off” You can set your intention at any time throughout the day, just be sure to check in with yourself and reflect on if you are following through with your intention.

I think we can all agree that we want mindful educators working with our youngest population.

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers, Assistant Professor in Child, Youth, and Family Studies and Early Childhood Extension Specialist , The Learning Child and Carrie Gottschalk, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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The Heart of a Parent

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This is not the typical blog that I write for The Learning Child, but I feel that all parents will benefit from hearing this message from the heart of a parent.

The school where my child attends hosted an all school assembly this month on bullying and cyber bulling. Parents and community members were invited to attend, so I took the opportunity to go and hear firsthand what the message was about.  I truly wish every parent could have heard this message from Mark and Joni Adler as they spoke from their hearts to tell the story of their son Reid, who was a victim of cyber bullying.

The Adlers introduced us to their family and told how they always strived to keep their children at the center of their lives. They described Reid as a good kid who followed the rules and befriended everyone he met.  He was the kid who always looked for the next fun thing to do.  Nevertheless, the Adlers also told us that Reid had made a mistake when he was in middle school.  Reid took a photo of himself on his phone that should never have been taken, and sent it to a girl. Reid never told anyone about this mistake, however, the girl ended up using the photo to blackmail and manipulate Reid, threatening to make it public.  The manipulation went on in such a way that Reid ended up taking his own life.

Reid Adler was close to his parents, and they could see that something was bothering their son. They opened the door for him to tell what was bothering him, and they had even sought counseling together after Reid had told his mom that sometimes he wondered if life was worth it. Still, Reid could not bear the thought of embarrassing his parents, friends and community, and did not tell about the photograph.

Suicide, according to the Child Safety network is the second leading cause of death of people age 15-24 in Nebraska. Mark and Joni Adler told me that they talk to student groups as Reid’s parents, not suicide prevention experts.  They hope to share this story to arm students with what to do if they are ever in a similar situation.

Joni told the students that day that we all make mistakes. Even your parents, who might seem to have it together now, have made mistakes.  She said she believes that we all experience different things so that we can learn from one another. As Reid’s mother, she gave this advice to our kids that day; do not take inappropriate pictures.  She also told them to follow their intuitions.  She said that she feels that Reid probably had that moment before he hit send that he second-guessed sending the photo.  She asked students to trust their intuitions, as they are usually what tells us that something is not right.

Joni’s next piece of advice was for students to pause before they say something, ask themselves, is it truthful and is it helpful. If the answer is no, then don’t say it. In her words, “Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to shut our mouths.”  She said to the group, that some of the kids in attendance might be the bullies. It’s human nature to hurt back those that hurt us, but she asked them to stop. Mrs. Adler stated, “If we keep up this idea of an eye for an eye, we will all go blind.”

This mother’s message is that we all have value and that it does not come from possessions or their family life. She stated, “No matter what has happened to you, or what you have done, you still have great worth, and no mistake is worth your life.” She advised the students that if they ever think of attempting suicide, talk to someone they can trust such as a parent, teacher or other trusted adult. She then said that parents can’t help you if you don’t let them in. She ended by saying that suicide is not the end of pain, but rather the transfer of pain to those who love you the most.

Mark Adler then took the stage to tell the students that this message is about leadership and courage.  Everyone has someone looking up to them, and at school, taking leadership means saying that you will not accept bullying, no matter what.  Courage is being able to step up and tell the bully that we do not do that here, and telling adults if we hear of bullying or someone talking of suicide. Courage is also telling someone if you are having those thoughts. Parents cannot help unless they know what is wrong. In closing, he asked the students to be the leaders and have courage. He asked them to remember that they can always reach a little higher and to go a little farther in kindness, leadership and courage.

I cannot begin to reproduce the powerful story that I heard at the school that day, but what I can say is that it has changed my life as a parent and as a professional.  I tell my parent education groups and childcare providers to be the hands that hold the child, be the hands that allow the child to go out and explore, and be the hands that also welcome the child back in when they are struggling with a need.  Last week in a parenting group I asked this question, “What do you hope for your children someday?” One of the parents said they hoped that their child would always feel welcome to come to them no matter what.

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Image source

From the heart of the parent who writes this blog today, my hope is for all families to communicate this openly so that our children will come to us with their joys as well as their struggles.  We have all made mistakes, learn from them and talk about them with your children.  Listen to your children when they come to you in delight, and when they come to you with the struggles, even if it is not comfortable for you.

Click this link if you would like to hear more of  The Adler Family Story

Another great resource on bullying from Nebraska Extension is this Cyber Bullying Neb Guide

The University of Nebraska has also been a part of the Born This Way Foundation.  Check out this link for more information as well as the related articles on bullying available here.

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Sarah Paulos, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Leslie Crandall, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Makerspaces in Early Childhood Settings

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Many adults have fond memories of tinkering with random items and making something from them.  Perhaps you remember making a ramp for your toy cars, or building a playhouse out of a cardboard box, or building a fort with old blankets and sticks. Often times these projects would take days to build as you encountered problems with the design and had to start over, or perhaps you needed to gather more materials as your idea emerged.  A Buzz Word is going around the early childhood education community that is fashioned out of similar experiences for young children, the Makerspace.

What exactly is a Makerspace?

In the early childhood classroom, children are provided materials with which to work together to solve a problem.  The concept requires that children cooperate, use creative thinking related to the use and manipulation of the materials.  NAEYC describes two levels of making; “Tinkering” is playful exportation and curiosity in finding out how things work. Here you might see children taking things apart.  I remember my son’s preschool teacher telling me about how he was more interested in the mechanics of the stapler than the actual project and how she allowed this exploration, which ended up in a stapler in many pieces.  Tinkering is the beginning of engineering, which starts with a problem to solve. For example in the book Brown Bear Brown Bear, how could we get over the river?

The child’s role: NAEYC breaks it down into three simple steps

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image source: provided by the parent, nonreproducible

 

  1. Tinkering: “Using the stuff”

  2. Making: “Using stuff to make stuff” that sometimes does stuff, but sometimes is just cool.

  3. Engineering: “Using stuff to make stuff that does stuff.”

 

The teacher’s role:

 Provide a variety of materials

  • Helping children to problem solve by encouraging thinking through open-ended questions
  • Give the children plenty of time to design, build, and test their products
  • Help children to fix mistakes, do not take over this role, as children will make new discoveries on their own and use trial and error along the way.
  • Safety Note: The teacher’s role involves teaching children how to safely use the “real tools” and to monitor them when in use. Teachers will need to establish rules for how to use the tools and to help the children to see and manage risks.

What kinds of materials can be found in a makerspace? 

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image source: The Learning Child

According to Cate Heroman, author of Making and Tinkering With STEM, your makerspace doesn’t have to include all of the items listed here and it is recommended that you adjust materials based on the children in your group.  Classrooms can start small around a central problem and add as they go.

 Tools

  • Child safety goggles, low-temperature glue guns, measuring tapes, rulers, scissors, funnels, child size hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, etc.

Materials

  • For building: popsicle sticks, straws, paper plates and cups, corks, wood scraps, pipe cleaners
  • For Connecting: A variety of tapes such as masking, duct, and cellophane, staplers, glue sticks, beads, string, clothespins, rubber bands, paperclips and binder clips
  • Sculpting: modeling clay, play dough, and tools such as rolling pins, plastic knives
  • Mixing tools: plastic bowls, spoons, pitchers, and ingredients for science exploration such as corn starch, and vinegar
  • Fabrics and decoration: pom-poms, feathers, buttons, fabric scraps, felt,
  • Writing materials: markers, pencils, pens, crayons
  • Electronics and technology: batteries (keep in a battery holder) flashlights, beginning circuitry kits ( These items would be for the more advanced engineers)

Where does the Makerspace fit in my classroom?

The items found in a Makerspace are similar to items found in the Art Center.  These areas could be set up adjacent to one another to make use of common materials easier to access.

Ideally, makerspaces should be organized in a way that children can easily see all the materials they have available.  Recycled clear plastic jars or drawer organizer trays work well. If children can see all that is available, they can consider which items will work best for a particular task.

To find out more on the concept of makerspaces for early learners, check out Making and Tinkering with STEM  at the NAEYC bookstore.  This publication is full design challenges appropriate for children 3-8 years, and here is an example of Maker Stations in another early childhood setting.

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image source: The Learning Child

Do you have a makerspace in your early childhood setting? How did you get started?  comment below

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATION | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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Is Your Family Ready For Back To School?

It’s time to start thinking about getting your family ready to go back to school. As time allows in the next weeks before school, there are things we can do to make the transition easier for adults and children.

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Below are some strategies from Nebraska’s Department of Education in response to families commonly asked questions about preparing for, and entering kindergarten.

Separation Anxiety

If you have a young child entering kindergarten, even if they have attended preschool or gone to childcare, there will be separation anxiety for both the parent and the child. This anxiety is a normal growth pattern for children. It is part of their development. Always let your child know you are leaving. Say goodbye even though it may be difficult for both of you.

How do I help my Kindergarten aged child transition to school?

  1. Give plenty of notice that the change will be occurring. You can use phrases like, “In 5 days you will be starting Kindergarten. You will be going to a new classroom but, the teacher will be there to support you.  I will be there to support you too!”
  2. Be positive, speak about the transition using an excited and confident voice. If you do this, so will your child.
  3. Acknowledge any feelings your child might have about the transition, “You said you feel nervous about the first day, that’s okay. I get nervous sometimes when I try new things too. When I feel nervous, I take a deep breath to help me calm down.”
  4. Get to know your child’s teacher, ask questions about homework expectations, start and release times, and other classroom-specific rules or behavior expectations.
  5. On the first day if possible arrive early, give your child plenty of time to settle in and give yourself time to transition too.

Medical Records

Review your child(ren)’s medical files and make sure all their vaccinations are up-to-date and all school physicals are complete, or appointments have been made. If children are involved in sports, do they have their physicals?

 

School Supplies

Check what school supplies will be needed and watch for sales or, if necessary, learn what organizations are willing to help provide these items. Generic pencils, folders, and backpacks work just as well as the latest fad ones. These things are also good to put on birthday and gift lists for grandparents, etc.

Transportation

Plan the transportation that is used and practice safety tips for children walking and/or riding the school bus. If there are older children and they will be walking to school, practice the path. If your family will be carpooling, check with the neighbors or friends to work out a schedule.  For a list of school bus safety and tips for keeping your kids safe in and around the school bus, click here.

 

Morning and Night Routines

Start early planning and practicing the new fall bedtime and wake-up schedule. Work on methods that were not used during the summer. These might be breakfast, bath time, homework and bedtime routines. Perhaps set aside some time each evening to play a quiet game or read starting 2 weeks before the start date. Stress the importance of being awake and alert for the school day by getting enough rest.  In addition to these recommendations, the American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) suggests that “all screens be turned off 30 minutes before bedtime and that TV, computers and other screens not be allowed in children’s bedrooms.”

Double Check

Check with the school or make sure you have read and kept up-to-date on correspondence, so your children have everything they need for the new school year. Ensure that you have the start and dismissal time of school.

And remember to talk with your children about the new school year, so they’re prepared for the changes that will take place and are ready for a productive school year.

Resource: Ready for Success What Families Want to Know about Starting School in Nebraska

Original Author: Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator | The Learning Child
Revised and Peer Reviewed: August 4th, 2017 by Linda Reddish, Extension Educator |  The Learning Child
Image Source: “Laughing children playing in a gym” by 2xSamara.com, used under license from Shutterstock.com

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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