Gratitude is Always in Season

Image Source: Lynn DeVries

What is Gratitude

Let’s pause for a moment to examine the definition of gratitude. The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, practicing gratitude supports social emotional learning competencies for social and self-awareness.

Research has shown there are many benefits to practicing gratitude. In a study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, they asked participants to journal on specific topics over the course of 10 weeks. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). The people who journaled about gratitude were found to have improvements in health and well-being, including increased energy levels, improvement in sleep quality, lowered blood pressure, less symptoms of pain, and feeling a greater sense of joy. Click here to read more on how Practicing Gratitude Can Increase Happiness.

Gratitude as a Mindful Practice

Practicing mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally (Jon Kabit-Zinn). Another definition states, “Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention here and now with kindness and curiosity, so that we can choose our behavior” (Dr. Amy Saltzman). Practicing gratitude can bring you to a more present-moment awareness and similarly, gratitude can lead to living in the present.

Mindfulness in Gratitude is the topic of the week for a class I am teaching for childcare professionals, Cultivating Healthy, Intentional, Mindful Educators (CHIME). The CHIME Program provides education and guidance on how to incorporate mindfulness and reflective practice into your daily routine, teaching and care giving. Engaging in mindfulness and reflective practice has many benefits for health and well-being of both providers and young children — including reduced stress, improved emotion management, better sleep quality, increased focus and attention, and enhanced relationships.

In my CHIME class, participants kept a gratitude journal for two weeks. After the two weeks, the early childhood teachers also noted a sense of greater happiness amongst themselves and others in their workplace. Another activity I modeled in the CHIME class was to make a gratitude necklace or bracelet. We selected beads that resembled a person or thing we are grateful for and shared among the group as we strung the beads. For example, I chose the blue bead as I am thankful for the fair weather and clear blue skies. The teachers will replicate this activity with preschool children.

Harvard Medical School suggests Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier and “Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.

WAYS TO NURTURE GRATITUDE

Writing Thank-you-Notes or Emails

This practice can cultivate your relationships with others and help you to feel happier too. Don’t forget to send or deliver the message personally. I keep a bulletin board in my office, and it has pinned to it the special thank you notes that others have written to me. This little gesture of gratitude is a gift to the heart.

Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal

Keep the journal where it is handy to reach at a specific time each day, perhaps in the morning or in the evening. Write down 1, 2, or 3 things you can be grateful for each day. The things you write about do not have to be grandiose things or events, it can be the little things, hidden often in plain sight. It is important to stop and reflect on how this practice is going after about 2 weeks. What do you notice about your health and well-being?

Pray or Consider Thanking a Higher Power

Consider the practice of thanking a higher power to cultivating gratitude.

Mindfulness Meditation

Find a Gratitude Meditation Practice centered on what you are grateful for.

GRATITUDE PRACTICES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN


Julie A Reiss, author of Raising a Thankful Child from NAEYC says, “Teaching manners is a fine art of modeling but not always the making of meaning. Raising thankful children is a fine art of helping them make their own meaning.” We can model manners and ways to say thank you when appropriate, but it may not have meaning for children until later. Reiss suggests that learning to say thank you is not the same as being thankful, and that our role as caregivers is to model appreciation and reflect those genuine feelings back to the child.

What Does Modeling Gratitude Look Like for Young Children?

Here are some suggestions from Rebecca Parlakian and Sarah S. MacLaughlin, Nurturing Gratitude (Zero to Three, 2020)

  • Show appreciation to your children. Slow down and observe more closely. You’ll see things you appreciate about your kids—then tell them! Appreciation can be an even more powerful motivator than praise. Sharing appreciation is a strong way to feel connected to one another.
  • Show appreciation for others. Never underestimate the power of your words and actions. Your children are paying attention to the way you treat others, whether it’s friends, neighbors, a teacher, or the cashier at the market. They hear your tone with the salesperson on the phone. You set a great example when you model kindness, generosity, and gratefulness in your own everyday interactions.
  • Use the word “grateful.” Children need to learn what this new word means. Explain that being grateful is noticing something in your life that makes you happy. “I’m grateful that it’s sunny today because it was raining yesterday.” Mention gratitude when you’re doing an everyday pleasant activity, like hanging out at the playground or eating watermelon on a hot day. Pause and say, “I’m so grateful for this day!” or “Wow, this is fun!” Your enthusiasm will be contagious.
  • Make a Thankful Tree. Cut a tree trunk from cardboard or construction paper. Tape to a wall or window and cut out some leaf shapes. Ask your child to think of something they are thankful for and write one on each leaf. Then tape the leaf to a branch. Add your own “thankful things.” Have your child ask family members what they’re grateful for and add them to the tree.
  • Share stories of thankfulness, gratitude, and generosity.

As with any mindfulness practice, mindful gratitude practice does take time. The benefits may not emerge immediately, but rather gradually occur over time, and children will need to be exposed to genuine appreciation and to feel appreciated themselves. How do you practice gratitude?


LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Amy Napoli , Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist and Kara Kohel Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Counting Coins

Young mother teaching her daughter about money managementWant your child to learn the difference between the various coins we use and the value of each? This activity is a great way for children to discover the differences between various coins and learn that different coins have different values.

What You’ll Need:

  • A pile of mixed coins making sure to have at least one of each type
  • Paper
  • Pencils (colored or regular) OR clay
  • Animals crackers or other “store items”

Learning Activity:

  1. Have the children separate coins into like piles by type, all the pennies in one pile, all the nickels in another, etc. Have them count the number of coins in each. If the kids are older, have them total up the amount of all the coins.
  2. Have the kids select one or two coins and do a coin rubbing by taking a sheet of white paper and placing the coin beneath it. Using a colored pencil or regular pencil, lay the lead flat against the paper on top of the coin and have the child rub it until the image of the coin appears. You may also use clay and mold it around each coin. Discuss the difference between the coins asking some of the following questions:
    1. What color is the coin?
    2. Does it have a rough edge?
    3. Which coin is largest or smallest?
    4. What do you see on the coins (presidents, buildings, trees)?
  3. Give the child five pennies and one nickel. Have the child “buy” five animal crackers together with the nickel and then singly with a penny each. Set up other play store opportunities at home where children can buy different items using different coins.

Other Money Teaching Ideas:

  • Visit the store and give the child 50 cents or a dollar and let the child purchase an item.
  • When shopping with your child, have them count items as they are put into the cart to understand how much money is needed for all of them.
  • Save money in clear containers so kids can see it increasing.
  • Conduct a treasure hunt for coins in a room at home. Sort into like piles and count.
  • Read a book!

The Coin Counting Book

The Coin Counting Book by Rozanne Lanczak Williams is a unique book that offers the kids the opportunity to see the coins in detail and to appreciate their value. This book is a good way to introduce simple math to children.

My First Book of Money: Counting Coins

 

 

My First Book of Money: Counting Coins from Kumon Publishing is a great book if your child can add numbers up to 100, and is familiar with the concept of money. This workbook will build on that foundation and is a fun and easy introduction to coins and their value, which will help strengthen your child’s mathematical skills.

 

 

What are your tips for teaching children about money at school or at home? Let us know what you do by leaving us a comment below or tweeting us at @UNLExtensionTLC!

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

(This post has been used with permission and adapted from a previous publication of this article by Leanne Manning from Nebraska Extension IANR)

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Look Who’s Hatching

Look Who's Hatching ProjectWritten by Alice Brown. Brown is a recent graduate from Tennessee State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and Family Relations and was an intern for Jaci Foged.

Baby chicks for Look Who's HatchingDuring the first month of my internship I worked with three preschool classrooms implementing the “Look Who’s Hatching” embryology project. Working with the children was my favorite. As a future teacher, I love to see the passion and joy in kids eyes when they learn something new or see the outcome of a project.

The classroom had 10 eggs that were placed in incubators until they hatched. Each visit we did activities of different Oviparous Animals (animals that lay eggs) with the classrooms. We kept the fact that we had chicken eggs a secret from the students so they could explore every possibility of what could hatch. Their guesses were adorable and funny!

Frozen Dinosaur Eggs

My favorite activity was the frozen dinosaur egg excavation. Before the activity, we froze toy dinosaurs inside balloons. When we arrived at the center we gave the frozen dinosaur eggs to the kids so they could help the dinosaur hatch. The kids were given a spoon and salt and had to melt the ice to “hatch” the dinosaur. The determination to help free the dinosaur was a sight to see, especially after seeing one of their friends already playing with their dinosaur.

At the end of the project sadly only 10 chickens hatched out of the 30 eggs we delivered to the classrooms, but the excitement from the children was still the same. They were able to name their chicks as they hatched and were excited every time they saw the Egg Lady’s (what the kids called us) come to their classroom.

Are you interested in have the “Look Who’s Hatching” project at your center? Contact Katie Krause at katie.krause@unl.edu for more information!

Alice Brown | 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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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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Culturally Responsive Teaching And Environments

Teacher with culturally diverse children

Every day is an opportunity make your classroom environment more culturally responsive! Culturally responsive teaching starts with having an affirming relationship with students and their families. This teaching respects the languages, cultures, and life experiences of your culturally and linguistically diverse children and incorporates them into your teaching. Having a positive attitude toward the cultural experiences that each child brings to the classroom can enrich a child’s learning experience and that of other students.

Personal Inventory

So how can you take your classroom to the next level to instill a greater value and understanding for various ethnic groups every day? It starts with an inventory of your attitudes and beliefs towards students that differ from you and recognizing how that can impact teaching. Some questions to consider might be:

  • What is my definition of diversity?
  • What are my perceptions of students from different racial or ethnic groups? With language or dialects different from mine? With special needs?
  • What are the sources of these perceptions (e.g., friends, relatives, television, movies)?
  • How do I respond to my students, based on these perceptions?

Engage Students and Families

Another way to start culturally responsive teaching is to get parents involved. Getting to know your culturally diverse children’s family can help you incorporate their cultural/ethnic heritage. This can be done through a parent inventory/interview to gain greater insight into the cultural heritage of your students. You might ask parents to describe the following:

  • Customs that are important to your family
  • Special foods your family eats
  • Eating and cooking utensils you use that are unique to your culture
  • Special or traditional clothing you wear
  • Which language(s) is spoken in your home?
  • Which holidays specific to your cultural heritage do you celebrate?

After taking a closer look at each child’s unique cultural experiences, you can begin to incorporate these into your classroom! This can add to your classroom and impact learning for all students.

Creating a Culturally Responsive Classroom

How can you create a culturallyshutterstock_161741426.jpg responsive environment? Start with the way you see your classroom. Here are some tips:

  • Take a look at the bulletin boards, centers, and other materials where you teach. Are they reflective of the diversity that exists in your classroom?
  • Check out the photos you use. Do they reflect diversity? Make sure they include a balance of various cultures, males and females, and people with special needs. Be certain to include people in non-traditional roles for example, you might have a photo of a female fire fighter.
  • Do your play centers reflect different cultures? In a kitchen play center you want to incorporate eating utensils and foods that reflect the cultures you have in your classroom. For example: chopsticks, tortillas, nan, etc. In your dress-up area, include clothing from other cultures for children to try on.
  • Music from different cultures is also a nice addition to the classroom. Have children be exposed to music they may not hear at home from different countries around the world. In a music center, adding musical instruments like rain sticks, chimes, and bongo drums let children express themselves.
  • Try labeling everything in two languages or make your classroom reflect the languages of all the children you teach. Labeling things in English and Spanish for Hispanic Heritage Month is a great place to start. You might want to get parent volunteers to assist you in this task which is a great way to engage parents in your classroom.

Do you have any great tips to make your classroom more culturally responsive? If so, we would love to know in the comments below!

Author:  Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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8 Ways To Engage Parents In Childcare

Teacher with young studentsWelcome to our center, we are happy you are here and can’t wait to learn more about you! This is the message you should be sending every time a family enters your child care program. Families are important, they are our partners in the development, education and well-being of their child.

Keeping parents engaged at your center is an indicator for center retention. Ask yourself: Are parents welcome in your childcare center and classroom? Do you value families individually for who they are? Do you value the opinions families share with you? Communication is key, from the first phone call inquiring about child care to the last day a child is enrolled in the program, everyone must be engaged for the good of the child.

We cannot know a child without knowing their family. Developing relationships with families will ensure that no matter the topic, the message you need to share will be received. Here are 8 easy way to engage parents in the classroom and childcare center.

  1. Send a welcome letter to the child and family before they start in your center or classroom.
  2. Send home a stuffed animal friend and a journal and have parents and children create a page in your classroom book about what they did when the animal friend was at their house. Everyone gets a page and the book will be bound and kept in your classroom library.
  3. Post a note on your classroom door “I Spy…” invite families and children to add to the list all week, then discuss the list during circle time. Share the final results with all families via an e-mail, a note sent home or in your classroom newsletter.
  4. Write thank you notes. This can be as simple as “Thank you for sharing (your child) with me. We have so much fun playing and learning every day!”
  5. Write a class poem. Start it with “I come from…” encourage families to add their line(s) to the poem. Then post the final poem in the classroom for all to enjoy. Ask families for a family picture to hang near the poem. If families do not have a picture, offer to take one for them.
  6. Invite families in to talk about themselves. The families in your classroom are a wealth of knowledge just waiting for you to recruit them.
  7. Communicate in many different ways. E-mail will not reach everyone, neither will printed newsletters or verbal discussions. Try to utilize a number of ways when you have an important message to share.
  8. Send home family homework over long weekends, family vacations or winter break. This will be something fun for the children to talk about when they get back to school.

Click here for additional strategies for supporting children and families.

Jaci Foged, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Enhancing Emotional Literacy: Tips For Early Childhood Professionals

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 10.24.43 AM.pngWe know that supporting children’s social and emotional development is key to school readiness and overall healthy growth and development. One critical component of a child’s social and emotional development is their ability to experience, regulate, and express emotions in socially and culturally appropriate ways. We call this emotional literacy. According to research, children who have a strong foundation in emotional literacy:

  • tolerate frustration better
  • get into fewer fights
  • engage in less destructive behavior
  • are healthier
  • are less lonely
  • are less impulsive
  • are more focused
  • have greater academic achievement

On the other hand, children who don’t learn to use emotional language have a hard time labeling and understanding their own feelings or accurately identifying how others feel.

There are many strategies you can use as an early childhood professional to help support children’s emotional literacy.

Indirect Teaching

One technique that works with infants, toddlers and preschoolers is indirect teaching, which would be when a teacher provides emotional labels – “you’re happy” or “you’re frustrated” – as children experience various affective states.

Teachable Moments

Another example of indirect teaching is building on teachable moments. When children are in the dramatic play area and acting out a scenario, comment on the character’s feeling. For example, the children are “playing house” and the child being the baby is crying. You may then respond, “Why is the baby crying? I think she is sad. What do you think?”

Modeling

Also you are a model for helping children identify and appropriately express their emotions. Therefore, model your own feelings when you are talking with children: “I’m excited that the fire fighters are coming tomorrow in their truck to visit us!” “I’m sad that Melissa is leaving our group and moving to Maine.”

Want to learn more about how to enhance children’s emotional literacy? Visit our website and our Emotional Literacy Lesson

Lisa Poppe, Extension Specialist | The Learning Child

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Cultural Diversity Tips For Teachers

10986943_895728893796197_7564530064451823380_o.jpgEarly learning environments that are culturally and developmentally appropriate enhances the educational achievement and success of young children and encourages them to become citizens of the world who respect and affirm the many ways individuals are diverse.

Children, who become citizens of the world, are empathetic to others. They seek to understand and value the diversity of our community and world while maintaining their own sense of cultural pride and values. Children who become citizens of the world learn to think and act with an anti-bias lens. This means a child will

  • demonstrate awareness, confidence, family pride and develop positive social identities
  • express comfort and joy with human diversity
  • develop deep, caring connections with others
  • recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts
  • demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions

Creating an environment that helps children become citizens of the world starts with creating culturally responsive educational experiences that promote cultural diversity and inclusion. For example, if a visitor was to walk into your early childhood program would they find materials such as books, crayons, and play items that are non-stereotypical and represent affirming and positive images of diverse cultural groups (i.e. a book about a woman firefighter or an educator in a wheel chair)? Would children be speaking their native language and also listening to music or learning another language as well?

As you think about ways you are helping children to become citizens of the world and creating culturally responsive learning visit our website and explore the Cultural Diversity topic area for additional topics and resources. 

Dr. Tonia Durden, Extension Specialist | The Learning Child

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