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Naptime = Storytime

Naptime can be a rough time

Transitioning from playtime or even lunch into naptime can give teachers fits.  There is so much confusion, and the kids are grumpy because they are tired.  I have an easy way to make it better: READ

And not just short picture books that you read at other times of the day…chapter books.  Let’s take the lunch to naptime plan.  Once the children are sitting down to eat, talk about what happened in the story last time.  It has been almost 24 hours, at a minimum.  They forget.  Some of the children fall asleep before you stopped reading.  They missed things.  This way everyone is on the same page, so to speak.  Ask them what they think will happen next.  I had one 2 year old who often suggested, “dinsaaarz will be ‘der.”  This also gives the kids something to talk about at meal time (YAY!  learning social skills!).

As the children clean up from lunch and go to the bathroom (hand washing, teeth brushing, toilet/diapering) stand outside the bathroom with the book.  If there are pictures, share them if asked.  This is often a big hit with Pooh books, although there were also good pictures in Little Bear and The Littles.

When most of the kids are on their mats/cots, ask if they are ready for the story.  A chorus of “yes” generally erupts at this point.  Settle down in your accustomed place and begin reading.  If kids ask to see pictures, reply that right now they are building the pictures in their heads.  “Close your eyes and build the picture in your head.”  They can look at the book after rest time is over, if that works for you.  Depending on the age of the class you will read between 10 & 30 minutes.  Find a good stopping point and place your book mark.

During that time, the calm voice telling a story will have relaxed the children & with the eye closing to build pictures, many of them will have drifted off.  There is less of the talking to the kid in the next spot, getting up for water or the bathroom and an overall calmer transition.

Mother and daughter reading togetherHave you ever wondered about the benefits of all of that reading aloud before naptime? Not only does this bring you a calmer transition, it also helps with self-regulation, language development, literacy & imagination.

Although reading to a child before bedtime is great, a team at the University of Sussex in England last year found that reading before afternoon naps is actually the most opportune time to enhance a child’s learning. Their research found that reading before an afternoon nap not only helped children to retain words better but also helped them to retain a greater number of words.

So, rather than just putting on music or giving them quiet toys to play with, take time to read to the children. Whenever possible, do so before afternoon naps. By starting this practice early and building it into a fun and anticipated tradition, the children will gain benefits that last a lifetime.

At what age should you start?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s never too early to start reading aloud to children. As soon as a child is born, you can and should begin the practice, so that the child can become absorbed with books.

An advantage in school

Reading aloud with children not only creates a bond between the two of you – which is a side benefit – but it gives each child an important advantage. By age 3, children who have heard fewer words – whether though reading, talking or singing – may be at a disadvantage compared to children who have heard a greater number of words, and which may lead to a disadvantage in school. That was the finding of a study, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” conducted by Betty Hart and Todd Risley.

 

Great!  But what do you read to them?  Sometimes this is a road block.  How do you know what books are appropriate & will interest them?  A good place to start is to think back to books you loved when you were first learning to read.  I was a lover of all things Pooh, books by Syd Hoff, Captain Cat & Danny the Dinosaur in particular, and Another is to look at books or series that have been made into TV shows or movies.  I will write another post with a list of books I suggest and a bit about each of them.  Look for it soon.

To get the post with the chapter book reviews & suggestions subscribe to this blog.

Share your happy tales with us

Does your class have a favorite selection of children’s books that you enjoy reading aloud together before naptime? Share your happy tales with us on our Facebook page.

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Top 10 Ways to Empower Children

As a teacher working with young children, you have millions of opportunities to empower children & foster good self-esteem.  Every day in the early childhood classroom self images are being built by the child’s successes & failures and by what they see and hear.

Many of the challenges that plague children are the result of low self-esteem. Teenage pregnancy, drug usage, poor grades, fighting, depression, and even suicide can be the result of low self-esteem. A child with high self-esteem will enjoy life more and have a more successful childhood. Children with high self-esteem are likely to grow into adults with high self-esteem.

Grow a child’s self-esteem and confidence:

  1. Draw attention to the child’s strengths. Let the children bask in the glory of being good at something. Whether the child’s strength is school, throwing a fastball, or playing Go Fish, let them know that you notice how great they are at it.
  2. Teach children how to deal with failure. Explain that it happens to everyone and is part of life. Help each child to examine what went wrong in her approach and how to improve. Encourage children to be persistent until success is achieved.
  3. Give children choices. Just be sure to control the options. Suppose a young child is getting dressed for school. Instead of choosing the clothes for the child, allow him to have a few options. Choose a few different outfits and then allow the child to choose between them. You’ll have a well-dressed kid that feels empowered because he chose his own clothes.
  4. Allow each child to fit in at school. The idea of Spiderman pajamas at school might seem bizarre to some, but if that’s what all the cool kids are doing, let it go. It can be difficult for adults to remember the importance of peer acceptance. Allow the children to find their own way to fit in.
  5. Allow children to struggle a little. It can be hard to resist the urge to provide help at every opportunity. However, it can be great for a child to learn how to deal with struggle. Ensure that the struggle ends successfully! Give each child the opportunity to be successful without adult intervention.
  6. Be reasonable in your praise. Your 3-year old student knows her drawing of a butterfly isn’t the best butterfly the world has ever seen. Instead, offer a comment like, “I love how you used so many colors in the wings.” Be sincere with your praise.
  7. Allow each child to overhear you complimenting them. For example, the next time you’re talking to another teacher in front of your class, mention something positive about one of the children. He’ll be sure to hear and feel on top of the world.
  8. Avoid comparing one child to another. All people are individuals. Comments like, “Why can’t you be as neat as your friend?” cause more harm than good.
  9. Spend time alone with each student. It’s one way of showing that every child is important to you. Children know you could be doing a lot of other things, but you chose to spend time with her instead.
  10. Be encouraging. We all require support from time to time. When a child is struggling, provide encouragement and support. Let them know that they’re not alone. Consider what you would’ve liked to hear as a child and allow that to be your guide.

A child with a healthy level of self-esteem will be happier and perform better in school. As an early childhood professional, you have a strong influence over your children’s self-confidence. Making your children feel good about themselves is one of your greatest responsibilities. Pay attention to the little things each day, because that’s what your kids are doing!

 

There are countless opportunities to make your child feel better or worse about himself. Be proactive.

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Calendar Inspiration

I have gone down a rabbit hole today.  I wondered what special thing August was the month for, like July was national Picnic month.  It seemed like a simple thing, but it was like falling into a well.

August is the national month for more than 20 things.  It is bananas.  Crayons, goat cheese, and peaches.  Then I noticed that the site nationaldaycalendar.com had days as well.

It had just been national ice cream sandwich day, so I thought it might be interesting to see.  Today is National Prosecco Day, National Filet Mingnon Day, Left-Handers Day and National Spirit of ’45 Day.  Interesting, but not what sucked away half the day.  It was seeing all the other days and thinking about how many of them could be used to inspire classroom lesson plans & activities.

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 is National Relaxation Day.  It seems odd that relaxation only gets one day.  On the other hand I thought it would be a great opportunity to have staff training on really relaxing, on how relaxation is key to their health.  Doing soothing message with the infants also occurred to me.  But what about toddlers?  Is there any way to get them to relax?  How about creative visualization?  That could work.  They love being bears and trains, perhaps could have them be something calmer, more relaxing.  Meditation in the preschool class?  Easy.  What about something more challenging?  A message circle?  Yoga.  Aromatherapy. Calm water play.

One of the things children struggle to learn is self-regulation.  We don’t remember to put this item in out weekly plan often enough.  If this silly calendar could bring this into a classroom, what else could it do?

Click below to get the plans for increasing relaxation at your center.

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What is a Mentor Coach and Do You Need One?

Athletes have coaches. Many entrepreneurs and professionals have mentors. They’re really the same thing. A mentor coach is a coach for your growth. Most of us weren’t formally taught how to grow successfully. A mentor coach can help you to figure out what you want to do with your life, set goals, and achieve them. They have experience in helping others to live fulfilling lives.

A mentor coach wears many hats:

  1. A mentor coach is a cheerleader. Life is easier when someone is in your corner. When you know you have support, it’s easier to take risks and chase after big goals. You always have someone on your side when you have a coach. *Your coach will also push you. They’ve seen plenty of clients attempt to avoid hard work and stressful situations. They’ll know when you’re playing games and push you to succeed.
  2. A coach provides guidance. It’s not always easy to make good decisions, especially when you’re stressed or fearful. And let’s face it, some folks just don’t make good decisions, period. A coach can help you to make wise decisions. * A friend can’t always be objective or completely honest, but your coach can. You’ll hear what you need to hear from your coach.
  3. A coach helps you to determine what you want to be when you grow up. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 68. A mentor can help you to determine what the next step of your life should be. If you’re feeling lost, a coach might be the answer.
  4. A coach will help you to find balance. Coaches are aware that there’s more to life than just money or a perfect classroom. They emphasize keeping things in balance. Health, professional success, relationships, finances, spirituality and leisure activities are all part of a well-balanced life.
  5. A coach is not a therapist. Therapists deal with past issues and traumas. Coaches work from the present moment and into the future. A mentor won’t help you get over a past loss or deal with the fact that you were bullied in junior high. A coach can guide you toward building a more desirable future.
  6. A coach isn’t required to have any training. There are organizations that certify coaches, mentors or trainers, but they aren’t necessary to hang out a shingle and make a living in these areas. Be sure to vet anyone you’re considering hiring. Since the barriers to entry are so low, there are plenty of coaches that aren’t good at what they do. * Pay attention to reviews and schedule an introductory session to see if a particular coach is a good fit. Choose carefully.

Do you need a mentor coach? A mentor coach won’t solve your challenges, but they can help you to help yourself. If you need a steady hand to guide you and a cheerleader to support you, a mentor coach can make a big difference. There are good mentor coaches and bad mentor coaches. If you’re looking for a mentor coach, ensure that you find a good one.

Texas Director offers Mentor Coaching services. Schedule your session today.

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15 Years of Training Directors

Kate and I (Carrie) have been teaching people how to direct childcare programs for 15 years. Did you ever wonder

Where did you come from, where did you go?
Where did you come from, Cotton-Eye Joe?

Sorry.  My Texas roots are showing.  Every time I tried to just type where did we come from, that song just popped into my head.  Anyway…

Back in 2001 we were both working side gigs with a non-profit organization, focusing on helping women grow their businesses.  I was providing training and support to Registered Family Home providers and small child care centers.  Kate was administering a grant focused on job opportunities for low income  women.

They approached me to write a curriculum for a Director Credentialing course, but said they wanted to have an academic teach it.  That didn’t make sense to us.  Why not have the instructor be someone who has actual experience in the field and an academic write the text?  How could they answer questions that came up in class?  They wanted to ensure that the text hit all the points that a new Director needed to know, and so they wanted a “practitioner” to write it.  OK, I can get behind that.  I decided if I was going to create the materials, I darned well wanted to teach it!  Kate agreed, and we set off to create what is now Texas Director.

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We researched, compiled our knowledge, filled out paperwork, and found a place to teach the first class.  We talked through everything that we wished we had known when we started from marketing tips to insurance to classroom arrangement techniques.  Writing the book was much harder than we thought it would be.  We were literally finishing it while we were teaching that first class.

We tweaked it during each class for the first year.  Sometimes it was just that we noticed a place where we needed to add punctuation, but other times we realized that we had not explained a key point well enough.

We knew that adults retain information better if they have short activities after each topic.  So, we had a quiz or work product that corresponded to each area. When the new Director was done learning about goal setting and all the ways they can use that tool to improve their center, there was a goal setting worksheet to go through to cement the knowledge and give a chance to practice the skill.

Everyone who has ever worked in pre-k knows that to really learn something, you have to actually do it.  You can teach Tommy that his name is spelled T-O-M-M-Y and show him the letters, demonstrate how you write it, but he won’t be able to sign-in in the morning until he holds the pencil and tries.  It will be a mess the first time, but he won’t master it if he hasn’t tried once.  That was the core of our teaching and evaluating philosophy.

It still is today.  A lot has changed in 15 years, but that concept and our commitment to making sure our Directors have what they need to start their careers off strong hasn’t.  If you or a friend is thinking about becoming a Director, let us help you.  You won’t regret it.

My time with Texas Director’s has been life changing! Your company
helped me really take charge of my career and give an amazing 
learning experience to lots of children, including my own daughter.
I have been working with children for over 17 years and obtained my Directors
License about 10 years ago! I have had the privilege of working
in so many different types of centers.
From the credential program and trainings you provide, I have learned the aspects of a great 
Center! – C. Monk

 

 

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5 Ways to Celebrate Holidays/Holydays in Your School

Holidays are often a key element in the annual calendar of our schools.  Christmas crafts, dreidel spinning, flag making, pumpkin carving, Chinese dragons and eating special foods enrich our programs.  The children enjoy the change from the standard routine and we feel great about incorporating elements from other cultures and broadening the kids’ awareness.

Sometimes in our excitement to do these wonderful things we misstep.  Dates that our calendar lists as holidays are sometimes actually holy days.  Days that are holy to families around the world, some of whom may be at your center.   We are entering one of the busiest times of the year for this.  Tomorrow starts the Muslim holy Day of Eid al Adha. The Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur happen in October.  Hindus and Sikhs have Diwali.  Pagans have Samhain/Beltane. Christians have All Saints Day and Christmas. Additionally Buddhists have Bodhi.  That is just between now and the end of the year.  It is jam packed.

We don’t want to inadvertently treat a day that has a lot of significance for families cavalierly.  So Here are 5 simple steps to make these days super special at your program.

1. Find out which families celebrate one of these holy days.

The easiest way to do this is with a survey.  I suggest doing a written and an online version.  Another option is to make it a point to ask each parent at pick up over the course of a week. DOn’t assume that you know what the spiritual background of the families is.  I have met African-American Buddhist monks.  You cannot know without asking.

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2. Select the 2 or 3 you are going to explore this year.

Branch out from what you always do.  Wouldn’t it be great to learn about the holy day that is celebrated with candles, fireworks and sand art creations?  If you add one new exploration a year, you will keep your teaching fresh and your families excited to see what is on the horizon.  It will help families feel that they belong at your center.

3. Research the holy day.

The context of the holy day is important.  Many of us spin dreidels in December with our classes as a way to explore Hanukah.  Do we tell the story?  I didn’t know that it is not really considered an important holy day for years.  Yom Kippur is much more central to Judaism.  Why are fires set on November first in parts of Europe?  Are there special food associated with the day?

Comment below if you want a resource guide we have, that answers many of these questions.   A guide to the major religious holy days of  Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and 4 other major religions.

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4. Select activities, stories, crafts, music and/or food to share.

A quick google sear with the name of the holy day and the phrase “children’s activities” will get you started.  Crafts and coloring pages are usually the core of those web links.  Call or go by your local library to see if they have any children’s books on the subject.   Google can also provide you with music to play in the classroom and potentially ones to sing at circle time.

Hopefully by the time this time of year rolls around again next year Texas Director will have finished our resource kit for centers about each of these holy days.  Right now all we have is the informational packet, which is a good place to start.  Just fill out the form below and we will send it to you!

5. Go on a journey of discovery with your students.

Leap into the (previously) unknown with your class!  Dance to new music, eat apples and honey to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  Make sand art.  In doing so you will be honoring countless memories of people from around the world.

Something to look out for:

Sometimes we get caught up in the artistry of what we are doing and don’t think about what we are actually teaching the children.  This is most often and issue with Easter, but can be an issue with other holy days as well.  Because Easter is the most problematic, lets look at it.  What is the most important, or holy, part of this holy day?  Is it the crucifixion?   Is a man dying a horrid death what makes the day sacred to millions of people?  NO, it is that he returned to life.  If your projects are all centered on crosses you are missing the actual relevance.  Focus on what makes the day sacred to those who believe.  Making resurrection rolls,  yarn eggs, games of hike & seek,  and growing rye grass are all projects that focus on the renewal element of Easter.  This doesn’t mean chicks and eggs can’t be part of your plan, just select the activities that relate to what you want to highlight.

 

 

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Playdough

5 Great Playdough Recipes

Full disclosure:  I don’t create any of these.  They are just my favorite ones to make, some with the kids and some at home for the classroom.

Kool-aid Playdough (smells soooo good)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 cups water
  • Saucepan
  • Food coloring, tempera powder, or Kool-Aid powder for color
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tablespoons alum

Directions

  1. Combine salt and water in saucepan and boil until salt dissolves.
  2. Remove from heat and tint with food coloring, tempera powder, or Kool-Aid.
  3. Add oil, flour, and alum.
  4. Knead until smooth.
  5. This dough will last 2 months or longer.

 

child cooking No-Cook Playdough

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • Food coloring or powdered paint

Mix it.  Keep kneading it until it’s just right. Depending on the age of the cooks it will take between 2 and 30 minutes.  Just keep smooshing and rolling.  Add a touch of essential oil or extract (vanilla or peppermint) to make it smell wonderful!

 

Long Lasting Playdough

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil of your choice
  • 4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • food coloring and scents of your choice

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in sauce pan
  2. Stir till well blended
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until it forms one large ball.
  4. Remove from heat immediately.
  5. Place play dough onto waxed paper or your countertop.
  6. When cool enough, knead until smooth.

child cookingNontraditional Playdough

Ingredients

  • 3 cups conditioner
  • 2 cups corn starch

Directions

  1. Combine cornstarch and conditioner in a bowl.
  2. Paint or food coloring can be added, scent is already there with the conditioner.

child cookingBoiling Water Playdough

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups conditioner
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons of oil of your choice
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions

  1. Combine in a bowl using a spoon until cool enough to touch
  2. Knead until smooth.

All of these recipes yield great dough for increasing fine motor control, managing frustration, stimulating the senses, and making your day better.  If the dough doesn’t turn out just right, make adjustments.  For the flour based doughs, if it is too sticky – add more flour; too clumpy, add more boiled water; too stiff add more oil or just roll it more in your hands. 

What is your favorite playdough recipe?