Category Archives: Pre-K

Healthy Eating and Cooking with Children

by Molly Manley, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Coordinator

Looking for a way to learn and grow with your kids, while also promoting healthy eating? Get on your aprons, and get ready to whip up something delicious with your children or those in your care. Cooking with children can promote lifetime skills such as:

  • Basic Math – Cooking involves counting, addition, shapes, sizes, and measurements.
  • Science – Highlight growing food or changing forms, like liquids and solids.
  • Language – Conversations with children while cooking will increase their language development and ability to follow instructions. Creating simple recipe cards with instructions is also a useful tool. Obtain children’s books from the library that pertain to the type of foods they will be eating.
  • Art – Have children draw pictures of the foods they ate.  Ask them to create a picture by painting with yogurt, or glue cereal to a piece of paper.

GO ON A FOOD ADVENTURE

Cooking with children also encourages them to explore new foods and how food gets to our tables. Discuss where food comes from, plant a garden, or take a field trip to the grocery store or a farm. This will give them a better understanding of what they are eating.

It would also be a good idea to shop around for child size utensils, cups, bowls and pitchers. This will make it easier for the child to prepare and serve themselves. We are promoting self-help skills, and, if the child has a difficult time succeeding, it may prompt them to quit out of frustration.

TRY OUT A NEW AND FUN RECIPE

Below are three simple recipes to try with children.

Fruit and Yogurt Muffin

Ingredients:
1 Whole Grain English Muff
¼ cup of Yogurt- any flavor
¼ cup of fruit- bananas and berries work well

Directions:
Adult: Portion out yogurt and fruit for each child separately.
Adult: Toast English Muffin.
Child: Spread yogurt over English muffin using a spoon.
Child: Add fruit to top.

Pizza Rollups

Ingredients:
1 tube of crescent rolls
1 jar of pizza sauce
1 package of string cheese – cut into quarters (1 ounce each)
1 bag of pepperoni- cut into quarters, unless using minis

Directions:
Adult: Unroll crescent roll dough, separate into 8 triangles.
Child: Place 8 pepperoni pieces on each.
Child: Place a piece of cheese on the short side of the triangle.
Child: Roll up dough starting on the short side and pinch seams to seal.
Adult: Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Cook at 375 for 10-12 minutes

Serve with ¼ cup of warm pizza sauce
Makes a 8 roll ups.

Celery Snails

Ingredients:
1 bunch of celery –  washed and cut in halves
Apples –  cut into slices small enough to fit into celery
Peanut or Almond Butter

Directions:
Adult: Wash and cut celery and apples to appropriate size.
Child:  Spread peanut or almond butter on celery pieces.
Child: Insert apple into middle of celery.

Cover image by Flickr user Andrew Seaman, Creative Commons license.

Hooray for Pre-K and Bartholomew County!

by Cheryl Tyler, Outreach Coordinator

Congratulations to Bartholomew County on becoming one of the newest On My Way Pre-K counties added to the program!  Governor Holcomb announced the addition of Bartholomew along with 14 other counties last month.

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

The Bartholomew County Early Learning Coalition worked for years in hopes that pre-K would be coming to the Columbus area.  They logged many hours of advocacy, phone calls, emails, and conversations.  It looks like those efforts have finally paid off!  In addition to the Coalition, many other organizations have also been championing this cause in a variety of ways.  Many hosted informational meetings,  spoke to their local representatives, and reached out to parents and professionals throughout the county. Thanks to the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Bartholomew County Schools,  Bartholomew County Early Childhood professionals, and many others for their hard work as well.

CHILD CARE ANSWERS’ SMALL ROLE IN THE BIG PRE-K JOB

Crystal Givens, our Director of Programs, and I contribute as members on the Early Learning Coalition. We provide data and information to help the Coalition access the county needs, as well as what the county has to offer.

I also took part in an phone outreach initiative with other Coalition members.  We called each child care provider in the county, engaging them on their views about becoming an On My Way Pre-K county and provider.  I’m happy to report that nearly all of the providers I phoned were thrilled about this opportunity for Bartholomew County.

As Outreach Coordinator, I have also spoken with many area businesses about the potential for On My Way Pre-K in their county.  At first, the conversations focused on the what and why of early childhood experiences.  There is a need for state-funded pre-K, and early childhood education matters to our communities.  After the Coalition and its partners completed much of its work, the questions began to center around when, where, and why not Bartholomew County?  They were right!  Why not Bartholomew County?

The pre-K future looks very bright for our friends in the Columbus area.  Child Care Answers will continue to support their needs and the professional development of their Early Childhood educators.  I am very eager to see On My Way Pre-K up-and-running in Bartholomew County.

LEARN MORE

Pre-K: Which environment is best for your family?

by Marla Segal, Pre-K Project Manager

Recently, pre-K has been a hot topic in the State of Indiana. Studies have shown that pre-K can have long term benefits for your child’s development1. It helps prepare them for kindergarten, and it helps their social-emotional growth.

It can be overwhelming to find the right pre-K program for your child. Where to start? Look for one that the State of Indiana considers to be high quality. This means they are a Level 3 or Level 4 on the Paths to QUALITY™ program. These providers follow certain standards, no matter the type or size of the program. They follow a curriculum, complete 20 hours of professional development, and have certain education levels for their staff.

In Indiana, the search for a pre-K program can also be overwhelming because of our mixed-delivery system. You can find pre-K classes in family child care homes, child care centers, ministries, public schools, and private schools. Through my work as the pre-K project manager for Marion County, I see wonderful learning environments within all these programs. So, how do you know which one to choose?

As a parent, take some time to understand both your child’s and your family’s needs. Then, make your pre-K decision based on which environment fits best.

FAMILY CHILD CARE HOMES

If your child needs a small group setting, she may fit well in a family child care home. If your child gets overwhelmed in a large group, consider a home. Some people think a family child care home can’t prepare your child for kindergarten because it is not in a “school setting.”  However, if the program is a Level 3 or 4,  they are following a developmentally appropriate curriculum.  Family child care homes can have up to 12 or 16 children, depending on the type of license they have. Homes usually run a year-round program.

Family child care homes can have mixed age groups, which means you may have an infant and a pre-K student together. When meeting with the owner/director, ask how he or she manages such a wide age-range. Mixed age groups can be a great learning environment if it’s done appropriately.  Children can develop skills and learn from one another.

CHILD CARE CENTERS

Many Level 3 and 4 child care centers wrap their pre-K programs in with their all-day services. This is meant to help working families. Child care centers have classrooms separated in age groups. The ratio of teacher per student is one teacher to 12 students. Programs may have up to 24 children with two teachers.  Child care centers usually run a year-round program.

MINISTRIES

Level 3 or 4 ministries are on the Voluntary Certification Program (VCP), therefore meeting the same guidelines as a licensed child care facility. Ministries are housed in a facility operated by a religious organization. They follow the same ratios as a child care center and usually run a year-round program. Many ministries offer part-time programs. This may be ideal if your child may not be ready to be away for a full day program.

PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Many public school systems in Marion County offer pre-K and can also participate in Paths to QUALITY™. Lawrence, Warren, Wayne, Perry, Decatur, and Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) all have Level 3 or 4 programs. Most public school programs require their pre-K teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. Some even require a teaching license. For most public schools, there is a weekly fee for pre-K services. If you live in the IPS school district, they offer pre-K for no charge. If you are interested in your district pre-K, call to see what type of programs and services are offered.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Many private schools offer pre-K. An approved On My Way Pre-K private school is not required to be on Paths to QUALITY™, but the pre-K program must be accredited by a regional or national approved state board of education. If they are an accredited program, they must follow developmentally appropriate standards.  Private schools tend to be smaller in size than public schools. If you are looking for that “school” environment, but are hesitant to be in a large setting, then a private school may meet your needs.

CHOOSE A DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE ENVIRONMENT

No matter the type of program you choose, a quality program should foster your child’s development. It should also integrate learning in a developmentally appropriate environment. All the programs we discussed should have learning centers and developmentally appropriate learning materials. Preschoolers need to feel that they are in a safe, comfortable environment that allows them to explore and grow. If you see that in your child, you can feel comfortable in that pre-K program and know that you chose the right path for your child’s future.

1 Center for Public Education: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Pre-kindergarten/Pre-Kindergarten

Cover image by Flickr user Donald MaxwellCreative Commons license.

Putting down screens and picking up a book

by Kristin Kahl, Knowledge Manager

Next week is a fantastic opportunity for families.  It’s both Screen-Free Week and Children’s Book Week! You read that right. I said fantastic opportunity, not scary-potential-for-disaster-when-my-kids-don’t-have-something-to-entertain-them-every-second.

I get it. As a working parent of 6- and 8-year-old boys, sometimes this mama just needs a minute of peace. Most of the time, the Kindle does a bang-up job of being my right-hand man to help me get a load of dishes or laundry done. The Wii (who lives in the quiet recesses of the faraway basement) is a great friend whenever the boys are snapping at each other, and I need a way to get a little quiet time.

This week is going to be different. So, I’m going to try to use entertainment other than screens for the kiddos. That’s where the books come in! The boys are old enough to be able to read on their own now. My 8-year-old is working his way through the Harry Potters and The Mysterious Benedict Society series. My 6-year-old feels like such a big kid when he reads the Magic Tree House chapter books. I think it’s also important for me to take some extra time out of my schedule to read with them. We have plenty of favorites I plan to break out, and many more waiting for us at the library.

Thankfully, I work with really wonderful experts who have some great suggestions:

 

 

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?

What about you? Tell us about your favorite children’s book in the comments section below.

 

AN UPDATE FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Well, I’m proud to report that our family survived Screen-Free week. As luck has it, it rained just about every day last week. Also, my third grader reported it was the worst planning ever because it also collided with Star Wars Day (May the Fourth). That meant that all six of the original movies were on TV, and the poor kid had to wait to watch them. Yet, we managed to get in some great board game nights and family reading time.

My favorite moment was when my kindergartner decided he wanted to attempt to read The Mysterious Benedict Society like his big brother. Although he could pronounce all the words, he didn’t know what they all meant. So, my third grader sat down with him and acted as a human dictionary for a good while they read it together. It warmed this mama’s heart – thanks Screen-Free week!

Cover image by Flickr user Katie LevesqueCreative Commons license.

How to Respond to Superhero Play

by Candice Wise, former Early Childhood Development Specialist and current Partnerships for Early Learners Inclusion Specialist

I have a few children in my group who want to play superheroes all the time.  Just about every day, Elijah constructs an L-shaped Lego and points it in the air. Other children shout “Shoot, Elijah! Shoot!”.  It seems that I am constantly reminding them to stop running indoors, kicking the air pretending to be Spiderman.  Does this sound familiar?

Many teachers express concerns about this type of play behavior in their child care settings.  Some admit to me that they feel frustrated repeating the same phrases while noticing very little change in the behavior.  Redirection doesn’t seem to work, and many have noticed that the children still sneak and play.  If you can relate, you may ask yourself “What can I do?”.  My response, along with many other researchers? “Join the party!”.

Superhero play is commonly defined as a type of imaginative or dramatic play where children can use action figures, costumes, or props to imitate and pretend to be their favorite super hero character.  This type of play’s main theme is a form of “Good guy versus bad guy” – a game that many of us played throughout our childhoods.  D.E. Levin[i] stated that most young children look for ways to feel powerful and strong and that play is a safe way for children to achieve this sense of power.  Rarely in a super hero movie or animation does the heroine show weakness – she wins more often than not.  With this being true, then it would be quite appealing for a child to play and admire superheroes, especially if he is searching for ways to feel strong and powerful.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

Currently, superhero play receives lots of attention.  Within the last fifteen years, many Marvel and DC comic super hero characters have been brought to the big screen by major movie companies.  These movies have shown trends of blockbuster sensations attracting generations of family members.  Fisher-Price and Hasbro now have a superhero squad geared specifically for children between the ages of three to eight.  Not only do we have classic super heroes, we also have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Power Puff Girls, Wolverine, and more.  At this point, I’m sure even you may have a favorite or two or can remember pretending to be a favorite character.

IT’S NOT SO BAD TO BE THE GOOD GUY

Children playing their favorite superhero character imitate the actions they see.  So, children will run, jump from furniture, crawl, and create weapons with block and props.  They are able to describe in great detail how the superhero saves people from evil, which can all be used as roles, language, and plot for their story and play[ii]. Like all other play, teachers and caregivers have an opportunity to respond to this emerging interest of dramatic play by listening, observing, and helping children facilitate their play.  There has been research and success in programs that have lifted the ban on children’s superhero play.  A few strategies to support it include:

  • Set reasonable limits and rules. Make sure children understand which behaviors are not acceptable.
  • Have children work with you to create the super hero play rules. Help children develop plots that don’t involve fighting.
  • Involve yourself in the play.
  • Allow time for open communication with children. Talk to children about real heroes and what it means to be a hero. Discuss the positive sides of being a superhero – don’t just focus on their power.
  • Encourage the imaginative and creative aspects of super hero play.
  • Practice conflict-resolution in the classroom. Make sure children can make choices and have power over their own lives.
  • Keep the lines of communication open with families.

In the end, you can move beyond the aggressiveness of superhero play by building on themes that focus on the benefits of helping others and overcoming challenges.   So rev up some power and join in the fun to create learning opportunities that help children develop and evolve into creative beings.

[i] Levin, D.E. (2003). Teaching young children in violent times: building a peaceable classroom. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility

[ii] Source:  Heidman, S. & Hewitt D. (2014) When Play isn’t fun Helping Children Resolve Play Conflicts. Sandra. Readleaf Publishing

Cover image by Flickr user Imagens Portal SESCSPCreative Commons license.

 

Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

by Marla Segal, Child Care Answers Pre-K Project Manager

The time has come; your child has turned five and soon will be heading off to begin a new journey into kindergarten. This life event can be exciting and scary for both you as the parent and your child. As a Pre-K Program Manager, a common question parents ask me is “What does my child need to know for kindergarten?”

After working in an early childhood setting for more than 11 years, I have watched many children transition into kindergarten. Yes, your child may know how to spell his name, count to a certain number, or know his phone number. However, I think there are two key traits that you can help develop in your child to be ready for the big day.

SOCIAL SKILLS

Involve your child in some type of social environment, whether that’s child care, pre-school, pre-K, or play groups. These types of group settings will help support your child in preparing her for the social environment of kindergarten. This is where your child can learn how to communicate, listen, and take turns. These environments can also help your child come out of her shell and be willing to speak up for help when she may need it.

SELF-CONTROL

This trait can be difficult at age five – goodness; sometimes it’s difficult for adults! Nonetheless, your child should have a good sense on how to transition into different activities, follow rules, and respect property and materials.

SOME TIPS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION EASIER FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD:

CONNECT WITH YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL

Call the school and see if there is a day to visit and meet the teacher. Many school corporations offer kindergarten round-ups or jamborees. These events can provide guidance on enrolling your child, but they also provide some great interactions for your child. He may be able to step on a school bus, tour his new classroom, meet his teacher and make new friends.

GET A HEAD START ON YOUR CHILD’S NEW ROUTINE

Begin your child’s morning routine about a month away from the first day of school. Change of routines can be tough for anyone. If you begin early, it will hopefully be less hectic when the important day comes.

READ UP!

Read books about the first day of school to your child as the day approaches. When I was a pre-K teacher, I began reading books at the end of the year to prepare the students for their next journey. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate are all books that I had on rotation during this time period. These are great books to start the discussion with your child about how they are feeling with the transition to kindergarten.

Children begin kindergarten from all different backgrounds and experiences. You as a parent know your child the best and need to make sure you’re her strongest advocate. Throughout your child’s education, make sure you are engaged, focused, and a participant in your child’s schooling.

Options to Help You Afford Preschool

by Marla Segal, Pre-K Project Manager

Working in the early childhood field, the most common comment I get from parents is how expensive it is to send their child to preschool. I definitely agree that it can be, but there are a few options that may help.

Several of these funding sources for preschool are geared toward low income families:

  • Head Start is a federally funded program that focuses on the healthy development of low income families. To qualify, families must make less than 100% of the federal poverty guidelines ($24,300 for a family of 4 in 2016). Head Start also provides services for families experiencing emergency situations. Programs may be half-day or full-day, depending on the community.
  • On My Way Pre-K is Indiana’s pre-K pilot program. It is offered in five counties in Indiana: Allen, Lake, Vanderburgh, Marion, and Jackson. Families must be below 127% of the federal poverty guidelines ($30,797 for a family of 4 in 2016). There is an application process for families that occurs once a year, typically beginning in mid-January. Funding is limited, so, depending on the number of applications received, a randomized lottery may occur in your county to select families. Children must be four years old by August 1st of that year to qualify, however, Marion County also accepts three-year olds.
  • The Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) is a federally funded program that helps low-income families who work or go to school. CCDF allows parents to select a child care of their choice that participates in the CCDF program. This means parents can research those high-quality child cares that may also offer preschool programing within their curriculum. Unfortunately, several counties may have a waitlist for families to receive funding.

Title I is another federally funded program that is given to public schools that have high percentages of low-income families. Some school districts support their own preschool programs with Title I. Call your local school district to see if they offer Title I to preschoolers and find out their requirements.

For those families that are not officially considered low-income, a few programs are available to help lower preschool costs.

  • Preschool Co-Ops are preschool programs whose tuition can be a little friendlier on your wallet, but it does come with some hard work. Co-Ops keep their tuition low because they look at parents as the key to running the program. If you begin looking into co-ops, investigate every aspect and make sure it will work for you and your family.
  • Tuition Assistance Programs are offered at some preschool programs. Typically the amount of scholarship you receive is based off on your gross monthly income. These types of programs also may require you to be working or going to school. Child Care Answers can help locate programs in your area that may offer tuition assistance.

No matter the funding source that may work best for you, the most important thing for parents is to research and visit the programs they are interested in to ensure a good fit for the family. Several high-quality programs accept different funding sources – Child Care Answers can help you locate programs in your area to help make the search a little less stressful.

Cover image by Flickr user kynan tait. Creative Commons license.

Teaching Children the Meaning of “I’m Sorry”

SAYING ”SORRY” SHOULD BE ABOUT OBSERVATION AND ACTION

by Shannon Ford, MA, ECE   Professional Development Coordinator

Every day, scenes like this unfold in preschools around Indiana, but saying sorry rarely makes the situation better.  Plus young kids are rarely truly sorry.  Instead, “I’m sorry” is being used like a magic wand—say it and I’m off the hook!  Knock over a block tower?  Steal his swing?  Write on her paper?  Just say “sorry” and I’m free to continue on my way.As I walk into the preschool classroom, I see two children actively engaged at the water table.  All of a sudden, Hannah starts screaming and crying, “She splashed me!”  Erica immediately chimes in, “I’m sorry.  I said that I’m sorry,” and continues dumping and filling in the water table.  The teacher rushes over and asks Erica if she said her sorry as she guides Hannah to the paper towels so she can dry her face.

In her book, It’s OK Not to Share, Heather Shumaker suggests instead of forcing “sorry”, we need to teach children to stick around, take responsibility, and understand that their words and actions can impact other children.  Which is more meaningful?  Erica could say “I’m sorry”, or, Erica could get a paper towel, help Hannah dry her face, and say “I will try my best not to splash you again.”

Preschoolers are still learning about cause and effect.  They are egocentric.  They do not have the cognitive ability to feel empathy or understand the true meaning behind “I’m sorry.”  Sure, we want a classroom of children who are caring.  However, forcing children to say “sorry” before they understand its meaning only gets in the way of teaching empathy.  William Damon, author of The Moral Child, says moral awareness in children needs to be guided, but it cannot be imposed.  When teachers demonstrate empathy, it helps children develop compassion.  When teachers give children the scripts necessary to observe and take action, they are developing compassion in a way that is real and meaningful for them.

Let’s imagine our situation differently this time.  As I walk into the preschool classroom, I see two children actively engaged at the water table.  All of a sudden, Hannah starts screaming and crying, “She splashed me!”  The teacher rushes over and says to Erica, “You splashed Hannah with your scooper.  She is crying because she didn’t want to be wet.  How can you make it better for Hannah?”  Erica thinks for a second.  “I can get her a paper towel.”  Erica gets a paper towel, hands it to Hannah, and she dries her face.  The teacher then says, “Tell Hannah you won’t splash her again.”  Hannah says this to Erica and the teacher repeats, “Erica says she won’t splash you again.”  Hannah feels safe now; her feelings and emotions have been addressed.  Erica took responsibility and came up with a way to make it better.

Compassion unfolds naturally.  Eventually preschoolers will say “sorry” and really mean it.  Until then, lead them towards deeper skills by encouraging them to observe and take action.

Shumaker, H. (2012).  It’s OK Not to Share.  New York, NY:  Penguin Group.

Cover image by Flickr user Donnie Ray JonesCreative Commons license.

Books to help your child learn to share

by Candice Wise, former Early Childhood Development Specialist and current Partnerships for Early Learners Inclusion Specialist

Llama llama time to shareThere comes a time when parents realize that one of the goals of parenting is to help their young child learn how to share with others.  There is no magical age that all children are willing to do this.  Some children will be willing to share at a very young age, while it takes others a little bit longer.  This can be somewhat alarming and frustrating for parents to understand when it is appropriate to expect their young child to share.  It may feel uncomfortable to hear your child grab and shout “Mine!” with siblings and/or peers on play dates.  When young children refuse to share their toys, they aren’t being selfish – they’re behaving typically.  Sharing is a skill that can take several years to develop.  Children struggling to share their possessions are common childhood experiences.

SHARE SOME “SHARING” BOOKS

One way you can help your child learn about sharing is through reading books about this topic.  Reading books about sharing will provide a fun and interactive bonding experience that will help your young child identify the importance and rewards of learning to share with others.  To make the most out of this experience, talk about the characters in the story and help your child identify how the characters solve conflict through the scenarios.  The following is a list of popular books that you can find at your local library or book store:

  • I Can Share by Karen Katz (Ages infant-5)
  • Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney (Ages 2-5)
  • Mine! Mine! Mine! By Shelly Becker (Ages 3-5)
  • Mine! A Backpack Baby Story by Miriam Cohen (Ages Infant-2)
  • Sharing How Kindness Grows by Fran Shaw (Ages 3-5)
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (Ages 3-8)

Cover image by Flickr user Blue Skyz Studios, Creative Commons license.