Tips from the Classroom


Feeding your Toddler  
Please click on the following link for tips and advise:
 Feeding Your Toddler


Quiet can create space for your child's creative language and cognitive growth. Try:  slowing down and giving your children more time to think; patiently waiting for your child to respond; and decreasing the number of imperatives/demands/questions you use.

Don't be surprised if you begin see some regression in your child's behavior.
At this time of year, children are inevitably surrounded by adult conversations abuzz with talk about transitions, such as, summer plans and next year's school placement.  It takes a lot of planning and energy to put things in place for our families and we naturally compare notes and share our excitement and frustrations, with friends, e.g. at drop-off & pick-up, talking on the phone, sitting around the dinner table, etc.  Change is on everyone's minds and there's a sense of anticipation in the air that we all can feel, including the children.  As a result, young children predictably begin to exhibit regressive behaviors at this time of year.  They cannot grasp temporal concepts such as: in two weeks; next month; during the summer; in the fall; etc., and because they live in the here and now, they believe that the changes everyone is talking about are going to happen now.  Their feelings about this are typically expressed through a variety of regressive behaviors. Therefore, don't be surprised or worried if all of a sudden your child won't leave your side, wets the bed, uses baby talk, etc., etc. Don't try to analyze the behavior or ask a million questions, instead think about the emotion that's behind the behavior, affirm your child with a comment such as, "I'm wondering if you just need an extra hug" or "I'm wondering you're worried (sad, thinking about, etc.) something", and take comfort in knowing that this typical behavior, will pass.

Amid all the advice and "tips" that usually fill this space, I'd like to share a few words from Fred Rodgers...

"As different as we are from one another, as unique as 
each one of us is, we are much more the same than we are different. That may be the most essential message 
of all, as we help our children grow toward being caring, 
compassionate and charitable  adults."

A great way to reinforce your child's positive behavior and build his/her self-confidence is to notice and comment on the positives. For example: "I saw how you just shared the blocks with Sally, what a good friend you are!" ; or "I see that your jacket is on the hook, you did your helper job!"; "I like the way you gave the baby such a gentle kiss"; etc.  

What is peace? I just read about a teacher who was chatting with her class of four-year olds at snack time and they began to talk about the meaning of different words.  The word  war came up quickly and the children had many words to accurately describe it. This made the teacher, Betsy Evans, wonder if the children understood the word peace as clearly.  She asked, "What is peace?",  and decided to record their responses. Three four-year old boys were very interested in the question and this is what they said:

Peace is not shooting.
Is quiet.
Is not killing anything.
Is not throwing litter.
Peace is eating healthy stuff.
Is being silly.
Is not breaking glass.
Is not walking in the house with muddy boots.
Peace is not stealing money
Is not pulling somebody's hair out.
Is giving someone a present.
Is giving someone something to eat if they are homeless.
Is playing peaceful and sharing toys and something really tasty.
Peace is playing outside together.

One of the most important things that we can help children understand is that there times when they have a choice and times when they don't.  We can do this firstly,by being clear, ourselves, about what is negotiable/non-negotiable.  Next, how do we effectively communicate this to our children?  Do we make a statement or request and then end the sentence with "o.k.?" e.g. "It's time to clean-up, o.k?"  Do we engage in lengthy conversations with our child, explaining "why" and negotiating about the request we've just made?  
Here's a few things to think about:
  • when we keep talking, we give the message that there's room for negotiation
  •  asking "ok?", is stating our ambivalence
  • use clear consistent language such as, "this is not a choice" or "this is a parent/teacher choice"
  • children expect that adults will be in control - it makes them feel safe and cared for 
  • safety issues are 'black and white'!
Hope this is some interesting food for thought.

Have you tried to talk to your child about his/her day and gotten little or no response to your questions? Here's a technique that with practice, can become a very natural way to promote conversations with your child... instead of asking a direct question, e.g. "what did you do in school today?", try making a declarative statement, e.g. "wow, I saw all those colorful shapes on the table this morning" or self narrating, e.g. "I wonder if you played in the blocks this morning".  I think you'll be amazed at how much easier it is to engage your child in conversation.

Telling your child what he/she can do, instead of what not to do, is a positive and effective way to communicate expectations e.g. "feet on the floor" instead of "don't put your feet on the chair";
"use walking feet" instead of "stop running";
"First pick up your shoes, and then we can play a game" instead of "If you don't pick up your shoes, we won't play a game".  

Do you sometimes get stuck in a frustrating back-and-forth with your child when it's time for him/her to transition, e.g., changing activities, leaving the house or school, etc?  Here's a strategy to try that we find helps ease transitions at school: get your child's attention by saying " Let's see if we can .....(tiptoe, hop, walk sideways, be quiet as mice, etc.).... all the way to ______. We've found that this changes children's  focus from the fact that they have to transition, to the fun of how we're going to do it.

Now that you can't avoid the need for your children to get in and out of snow clothes, many times a day, I thought knowing the chant we say at school would be helpful:  SNOW PANTS, BOOTS, JACKET AND HAT, THEN OUR MITTENS GO ON LAST.  Just say it to your child and he/she will be able to sing it to you. You'll be amazed how independent your child can be with a little prompting with these words. Try it and let me know how it goes!

There many situations when we all appropriately offer children a choice, e.g. blue or red paper, apple or peach, etc, thus encouraging them to have some control and engage in decision making. 

However, it's important that we be clear and help children understand that there are times when they do not have a choice and it is the adult who is going to make the choice.  Example:  The routine is for children to wash their hands after circle, before they sit down for lunch.  When a child's name is called, she goes strait to the table & starts unpacking her lunch. A teacher reminds her, "we wash hands first, you must have forgotten!"  The child replies, "I don't want to do it now". The teacher reminds her again & the child replies, "I'll do it after lunch".  Hand washing before eating is a non-negotiable classroom routine.  The teacher does not encourage or engage in further conversation. She calmly and simply states, "This is a teacher choice".  If a child gets upset, ignores, wants to negotiate, etc., the teacher responds, "This is a teacher choice. We wash hands before eating. Would you like to go to the sink to wash your hands yourself, or should I help you?"  Once the situation is resolved, the teacher doesn't re-hash what happened, Instead, make a positive comment to the child, " What a good job you did washing your hands!" 

The teacher's calm, clear, matter-of-fact response communicates that this is a non-negotiable issue - it's simply what we do and the adult makes this decision.  Important note: Children want and expect adults to be in control - when their experience teaches them that they can count on this, they feel safe and secure. 

I was just reading an article about working and communicating with adults and had to pause for moment when it reminded me of how important it is to "...understand that what you say is not always what people hear." 

 I wanted to share this "tip" that I think offers invaluable insight into our daily interactions and the complexity of communication.

10/22/14 - Halloween
Halloween presents a unique challenge for parents and teachers of toddlers and preschoolers.  It's a time when the imaginations of older children and adults soar and when fantasy & eeriness become evermore appealing; and it's a time when it's very easy to forge that Halloween can be just plain scary for very young children.
Developmentally, they can't yet distinguish between fantasy and reality - when someone puts a witch's mask & cackles loudly, that person BECOMES a witch.

Therefore, we try to make the day of Halloween as normal a day as possible - children don't wear costumes at school and we don't plan "Halloween Parties".  However, we also believe that it's important for us to acknowledge the reality of children's lives and so, during the week of Halloween you may see children painting with black and orange, carving pumpkins, roasting pumpkin seeds, reading stories about witches or cats, and maybe, making masks. 

These activities are just among the children's many daily activities and aren't the focus of our classroom curriculum and discussions.

Helpful Hint:
Even if your child has been bursting with excitement about his/her costume and Halloween, please know that it is predictable and perfectly typical, age-appropriate behavior if your child suddenly dissolves into tears when it's time to put on a costume, go to a friend's party, or if he/she refuses to go near the door when trick-or-raters arrive..

If you ask, "what's wrong?" or "why did you do that?" it will be very difficult for your child to answer.  All that your child knows is that he/she has a really "yucky" feeling inside!  The best thing to do is to look for the feeling behind your child's actions and not to react to the behavior.  If you think that he/she is feeling afraid, name that feeling and let him/her know that Halloween can be very scary for lots of boys and girls, that it is o.k. to be scared, and that you understand how he or she feels.  Most likely, when you identify and validate his/her feelings you'll hear a sigh of relief from your child as he/she slowly calms down.  If it's possible, this would be a great time to go off and do something together that's totally unrelated to Halloween.

Very often, older siblings and well-intentioned, but overly enthusiastic adults, have to be reminded that although they may not remember it, there was once a time when they, too, were scared by Halloween.