Category Archives: Preschool

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.

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.

 

Let’s Put a Ban on Sharing

by Shannon Ford, MA, ECE Professional Development Coordinator

Here’s one of my all-time favorite scenes playing out in preschool: seeing a child run up to another and happily handing over a toy. I don’t mean just any toy, but the same toy these two kiddos were wrestling and crying over just five minutes ago. Happily, did you say? Yes, happily. These children have learned to take turns and wait. They haven’t learned to share. The notion of true, altruistic sharing doesn’t begin until elementary-school age according to William Damon, author of The Moral Child.

While sharing is the desired behavior in our society, it’s ineffective to force it at the preschool level. We expect children to be “nice,” but in the process we are teaching them the wrong lessons. Here’s an example:

Three-year old Johnny is playing with a train. His classmate, Alex comes up and reaches for it.

Johnny: “Hey, that’s mine!”

Alex: “But I want it!”

Johnny: “I had it first!”

Alex (crying to his teacher): “He’s not sharing!”

Teacher: “Johnny, be nice. We have to share. Alex hasn’t played with the train yet. If you can’t share, I will have to put the train away.”

What was learned by each child in the above scenario? Johnny learns sharing means giving up something he likes. Sharing makes him mad. He also learns his classmates get what they want when they grab. Alex learns that he gets what he wants when he whines and grabs something.  If he demands, he shall receive.

However, in today’s society especially, this doesn’t mean that children don’t need to learn delayed gratification skills. On the contrary, they need them now more than ever. Children who must wait until the other is done playing with a toy are learning just that—I will get what I want, but I can’t have it now. I must wait.

Much of the technical assistance I offer in preschool classrooms involves guiding children through the process of taking turns. Here’s what Johnny and Alex’s scenario should look like:

Three-year old Johnny is playing with a train. His classmate, Alex comes up and reaches for it.

Johnny:  “Hey, that’s mine!”

Alex:  “But I want it!”

Teacher:  “Alex, I see Johnny has the train right now.  (To Johnny)  Johnny, are you finished playing with the train?”

Johnny:  “No.”

Teacher (to Alex): “Johnny is not finished playing with the train yet.  You can ask him if you can have it when he’s finished.”

Alex (to Johnny):  “Can I have it when you’re done?”

Johnny nods his head yes. The teacher guides Alex to another play experience. She will check in with Johnny and remind him Alex is waiting to play with the train when he’s finished.

By utilizing the “can I have it when you’re finished” turn-taking strategy mentioned above, children build trust, and they learn delayed gratification skills and how to control their impulses. They strengthen their conflict resolution skills and increase their emotional intelligence. They learn that it feels good to give something away to a classmate. In the last scenario, the seeds of true generosity are being planted.

We can wish all day long our three-year olds could share, but developmentally, they simply aren’t ready. Instead, encourage them to take turns and watch the spontaneous generosity blossom.

Cover image by Flickr user SEIU Education Workers UnitedCreative Commons license.

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.