Author Archives: Vicki Lehman

How to Combat Provider Stress and Burnout

by Vicki Lehman, Professional Development Specialist

Life can be stressful! The life of an early childhood teacher can be even more stressful. We are in a profession of caregivers, so it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves. I know how hard and stressful your job can be – I was a preschool teacher for 7 years in a 4/5 Pre-K classroom.

When I was in the classroom, something that really helped me was meditation. I would meditate when I got home from work. There are tons of guided meditations on YouTube you should check out. I know it may seem silly the first few times, but I found that it seriously worked for me. Yoga is great for relaxation too.

If you take care of yourself,  you can be the best version of “you” for the children in your care.

HOW CAN YOU BE A STRESS SURVIVOR?

  • Prioritize and know your limits – You can’t do everything, and that is okay. Figure out what is important, and go from there.
  • Take a deep breath – You will be amazed what taking a few seconds to take a few deep breaths will do for you!
  • Take time for yourself – Write, read, meditate, or listen to music.  Figure out what works for you and make time for it.
  • Ask for help –You can’t do everything, and no one expects you to. Ask for help when you need help!
  • Learn more about the children in your care and their needs – The more you know and understand them the better.
  • Spend time with adults – You spend your whole day with young children; make sure you are spending time with adults as well!

Remember: it is okay to take time for you! Self-care is NOT selfish.

COMMIT TO MAKE A CHANGE

Try this: take a few minutes and think about ONE thing you can change over the next month to help decrease the amount of stress you experience. Write it down on a piece of paper and revisit the paper a month from now.

At the end of the day, the children in your care deserve your absolute best “you”.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

I’m teaching a number of classes over the coming weeks on this topic. I would love to see you in person for one or more of these FREE trainings! Each of these trainings also offer 2.25 hours of CDA06 credit hours.

Cover image by Flickr user (T)imothep, Creative Commons license.

Including All Children and Families during the Holidays

by Vicki Lehman, Professional Development Specialist

The holiday season is often a very exciting time of the year. This goes for both children AND adults! For children, they are experiencing all of their family’s traditions. For parents and caregivers, they also have the opportunity to share traditions with their children. As an early childhood professional, it is easy to get caught up in celebrating a certain holiday within your classroom or center. It is very important that you are intentional with your planning and you ensure that all children and their families are represented appropriately. The most important thing for the children will be that they see themselves and their families reflected in the activities and celebrations that you plan.

You want to be sure that the activities you are planning accurately represent the different ways families may choose to celebrate different holidays. Here are a few ideas to help you get family members involved. (Julie Bisson, Celebrate!: An Anti-Bias Guide to Enjoying Holidays)

  • Encourage families to share information about their holidays and how they celebrate.You will find that most of the families will share information with you. They will be grateful that they were included and that you took the time to ask them for specific information.
  • Ask for activity ideas! Most families will be more than happy to help you incorporate their holiday into your lesson plans. Ask them if there are any fun activities or games they think would be appropriate for the age group you work with.
  • Invite family members in to share a story or activity with your class. It’s always great for kids to get a different perspective straight from the source, and little ones will have a sense of pride when their own family members can participate.

It is also important to remember that December isn’t the only month in which holidays take place. If you have children in your care that celebrate holidays in other months, recognize and include those holidays in your plans. Give equal emphasis to all holidays celebrated within your group of children to help them feel respected and included.

Remember, the “Holiday Season” is not the only time you should celebrate diversity. Your classroom should represent many different cultures year round. Post pictures of the children and their families on the wall, place books on the shelf that are culturally diverse, and talk about the different kinds of family units present in your classroom.  Do your homework so you know the information you give the children is accurate.

Holidays are incredibly important and personal for the families that celebrate them. Taking that extra step and incorporating ALL of the holidays the children in your care celebrate will really go a long way. Enjoy the fun and excitement that will come with the children getting the opportunity to share their traditions with you and the class. Happy Holidays!

Cover image by Flickr user melCreative Commons license.

“Are we there yet?!?” – Keeping young children busy on long car rides

by Vicki Lehman, Professional Development Specialist

Vicki is our newest staff member and has experience as a preschool teacher. She has some great tips to share for keeping your young children busy on long car rides as the holiday season approaches.

Young children can be very impatient sometimes. Keeping them in a happy and content state on long car rides or trips can be tricky! Make sure you are as prepared as possible – the worst thing would be for you to get an hour into a three-hour car ride and realize you didn’t bring enough “stuff” with you to keep them busy. Hopefully you can use these ideas on those long journeys to visit family and friends.

My first suggestion is to create a “busy box”. You can put all types of things in the box (or bag, or container, or whatever works best for you and your children). Some ideas to get you started:

  • Books – Books they are interested in, books they have never looked at before, books specific to the season/time of year.
  • Paper and Crayons/Markers – You may want to include a clipboard as well. You can take this one step further and ask them to draw what they see outside. For easy clean-up, choose marker and paper sets that ONLY draw on the paper and not on anything else. That could save your car seat from being “decorated.”
  • Your Child’s Favorite Kind of Toy – This will vary on what interests your child – cars, dolls, action figures, Duplos.  Be intentional about what kind of toys you put in the box. Lots of little pieces will of course end up ALL over the car and you will be finding them for months!
  • Whatever else you think you need…then add one more  – Pack according to the amount of time you will be in the car…and then add some!  It never hurts to be over-prepared. Also, don’t forget about the return trip!

Of course you always want to make sure you have snacks! Snacks are a very important part of a young child’s day. I have a fun suggestion; buy a small plastic tackle box and fill it with different snacks.  Of course, make sure it is safe and you clean it before you use it. You can put things like fresh fruits and veggies in the larger sections and then put the more “yummy” treats (marshmallows, chocolate chips…) in the smaller sections. This gives them a lot of variety and kind of changes things up a bit.

Like I said, young preschoolers can be impatient and that can make long trips a bit stressful for all involved, BUT, if you prepare yourself, things can go very well. Spending long amounts of time in the car also leaves you with the opportunity to talk to one another. You can talk about where you are going, what you are going to do when you get there, or just about life in general. There is a lot of time when you are in the car to make some very strong connections and communicate with your child. So, take some time to prepare and enjoy that time you have with them. Young children often have some very funny and insightful things to say if you just listen to them. Their view on the world helps put things into perspective sometimes. So go and enjoy your time together –  they are only young once.

Cover image by Flickr user Larkin Family, Creative Commons license.