Simple Sunday-A Simple Toddler Calendar (for when you are away, or when you’re not)

A few weeks ago Dadda and I went on a little mini-break.  It was some highly prized alone time that we were really looking forward to.  It was not lost on us that our now two-year-old would be more aware of our absence than ever before.  This not something we do often and we wanted to make sure he was prepared for what was to come.  It was also important that he was able to feel some sense of control around our time away.

Being that children his age have a sense of time that is mostly limited to “yesterday” (as in that happened sometime before today) and “tomorrow” (that will happen sometime after today) our goal was to use his daily routine to help prepare him for what was to come.

To this end we made the following “calendar”.  I use that term loosely as it really is an amalgamation of his drawings, a few words and mostly large blocks of time before and after lunch and dinner.

Collin’s completed calendar

 

The process went as follows: As he watched I drew a skeleton of his time with his ‘Mimi’ and away from us.  I filled in the major parts of the day and he helped pick ‘icons’ that represented these parts of the day so he could ‘read’ them on his own.  Following that he and his Mimi went through their time together and they both drew pictures of what they would do during open blocks of time.  As you can see he took great pride in his depictions of things like swings at the park, grass, or a picnic.  Yes it looks to us like he just drew all over it but to him it was really his calendar.

Though we have nothing to measure against I feel confident that he was more comfortable with us a way since he had a visual image of when we would be coming home.  He was free to play and free from worry.  Sure he missed us, but he didn’t seem to have anxiety over it.

Finally the calendar served a second purpose.  Playing at the park the evening after we went home he said he “had feelings Mamma Dadda gone”.  We were able to talk about how we missed each other and then he was able to go to the calendar to show us the fun stuff he had done.  He loved talking all about his time with Mimi. The calendar was up for over a week after we got home, often discussed and revisited.

I would totally use it again, even if we are not separated, just to help him deal with the passing of time in other situations.

Happy Sunday all! Hope the beginning of summer is treating you all well!

Melissa

 

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Simple Sunday-How to Keep Your Toddler Busy (for a half-hour straight!)

In our classroom we use play dough with new accessories all of the time.  We use cookie cutters, pine cones, leaves, feathers, random parts to broken toys and sometimes just nothing at all.  Last week I was at a loss for what to do with a bunch of spirited two year olds and opened my cabinet to find some q-tips.  We also use these in many ways, for painting, in shaving cream, to mix paint etc.  For whatever reason it had never occurred to me to put these two together before.

What followed was pure magic.  The magic of toddlers completely engrossed in their work.  Working independently with out looking for guidance from an adult.  They worked with play dough, q-tips and their ‘training’ scissors for almost thirty-five minutes.  I urge to you give it a try if you haven’t already!

Tiny fingers grasp the q-tip with delicate precision.

Many discoveries came about organically like how to pull objects through the other side or how long the play dough will dangle on a q-tip before it falls off.

Porcupines, cakes and umbrellas all around!!

We tried all sorts of ways to insert and remove the q-tips including using the scissors as “tongs”.

They were lined up and counted.

Made into towers.

And proudly shown off (while blowing out the candles of course!)

A beautifully productive, child-led morning of play, learning and exploration.  Hope you all had a great weekend.  Here’s to another week of supporting the play and honoring the feelings of the littles in our lives!

Good Sunday night to you all!

Melissa

Foot Painting (A semi-wordless Wednesday)

 

 

What the Teacher Taught the Mamma (1 of 2)

When you are a preschool teacher with no children there is a phrase you hear on a regular basis. It is not said with disdain but it is said with confidence. Uttered by the mothers (and fathers) we work along side, the single teachers among us hear the phrase and secretly think they know better. It goes something like this…

“It is different when it is your own child.”

I admit that when I heard it I always thought something along the lines of “Yeah, but I’d still never let my child do [fill in the blank with some undesirable/socially unacceptable action]” but guess what? It is oh so different when it is your own child.

Years and years and YEARS of teaching preschool, directing preschool, nannying and babysitting couldn’t ever prepare anyone for becoming a Mamma. Being a Mamma isn’t being pregnant, it isn’t setting rules or just wiping noses and buns. It is so much more and no one else will ever be able to be your child’s Mamma.

As I grow into my Mamma self what I thought I knew has fallen away like a discarded cheerio. My teacher self has grown alongside my Mamma self as I view the world of children in a new, brighter light. There are large parts of my teaching history that have informed my parenting thus far and my parenting style has begun to change my teaching for the better. This is the first in a set of posts where I will attempt to reflect on the major ways each side has influenced each other.

What the Teacher Taught the New Mamma:

  1. Environment matters and it matters a lot. The Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy calls the environment the third teacher. I respect that notion in my classroom and my home. From the youngest age children need a simple selection of open ended toys that they are able to access and work with towards mastery (of the toy or a particular skill they are working on). When setting up an art activity, sensory exploration or playing with play dough keep in mind how easily the children can reach the materials to be used. Do their feet touch the floor, can they adjust themselves easily? How are materials presented? Try to imagine everything from your children’s perspective. Things like lighting, noise, and temperature of a room can enhance or interfere with a child’s experience. This goes for all times of day or parts of your child’s schedule. Calm music, dim lighting and a warm room go a long way to a relaxed sleeping baby.
  2. Modulate your voice Using your voice properly can be your best parenting or teaching tool. Speaking in a soft whisper can inspire a room of twenty two year olds to gather, stop and listen quietly. Or it can inspire your own child to focus and listen more closely to what you are actually saying to them. Turning directions into a song can get shoes on more quickly and children out the door. Firmly and evenly expressing that a behavior is inappropriate has a much more meaningful effect than yelling ever could. If you are yelling in a effort to get your child(ren) to calm down it usually has the opposite effect. Children feel before they listen. If they feel heightened energy in the room they will respond in kind, if they feel happiness they will join in the activity (even if it is cleaning up!) if they feel calm they will slowly calm down too.
  3. Children need structure and flexibility and they need them at the same time. Structure or schedule without the room for a little extra time spent chasing an ant up a tree or finishing a block tower puts limits on a child’s natural desire to follow their curiosity, learn, explore and play. All children, however, deserve an environment that (on most days at least) is predicable, safe and helps meet their needs. I see it as schedules without stress. Let your child guide you, they will show you if they need an earlier nap, are hungrier than usual or if they are learning so much from digging in the sand they need an extra ten minutes.
  4. If you feel like something isn’t working, its not You carefully plan an art activity but your toddler would rather throw collage materials on the floor. You sit down for snack and your child repeatedly asks to get down, smooches food around and throws it on the floor. If something is too hard, stop it. Let it go. Give up your idea of how things should have gone and give it up quickly. There is no point in trying to convince a child they are hungry or trying to get them motivated to do an activity they are not interested in. Move on or in the case of an activity let them show you what the activity was supposed to be in the first place.
  5. Actions speak louder than words Whoever first spoke these words was most likely working with children. If you tell a child from across the room to clean up while standing still, hands on hips staring at them its likely you’ll get the same in return. If you begin walking towards the toys and hand them a box to put them in they’ll start throwing toys in. You need to put yourself into action. Speak with your body, your eyes and your heart.

While we try to teach our children all about life, Our children teach us what life is all about. ~Angela Schwindt

2011 Best ideas for kids (Linky party!)

Alright, this is my first attempt at joining into a ‘linky party’.  I really have no clue what I am doing but I love the idea of being able to learn, share and explore with other like minded playful people.

As I am just beginning in this world of blogging I don’t exactly have a plethora of posts to choose from.  For 2011 I feel like one of the most relevant things for me to reflect on was how, when or if we allow our children to take risks.  I’d love to hear how other mammas, daddas and teachers allow or scaffold their children’s risk taking.  Here is the post.

Falling can be great!

Now….as for this party, it seems I can’t use java in my wordpress format so here is a link to all of the wonderful links so you can hop around and find the best of 2011.  I loved hopping!


Happy 2011, may your days be filled with peace, patience and play!!

Simple Sunday-The KISS method

I feel as if we have fallen head-first into the holiday season. We had a great long Thanksgiving weekend with my side of the family, including a three-day stay with Collin’s Auntie Mandy and Soon-to-be Uncle Jon. This week has been filled with tree lightings, snow and santa sightings. Collin is excited, he feels the happy energy of love, family and music filling our house. Every year is more fun with him around. I enjoy the changing of the seasons more as we look forward to the exciting moments we will share as a family.
As any mom knows the holidays are not all laughter, singing and cookies. It takes a lot of work to prepare for each event, outing and gift exchange.  Many days I feel a pull to do more, plan more and spend more.  Then I am reminded that this is not what the holidays are about.  Particularly at his age what he needs is for us to slow down, enjoy the moments and celebrate the small, but joyous moments of the season.

When I get too consumed by commercialism I always have Daddy there to remind me to K.I.S.S. or keep it simple stupid! Simple is usually more memorable in the long run anyway.

In the last six years of teaching preschool every holiday season I see families who really enjoy the time and families literally on the edge of cracking…this is what I have learned from them.

Here are five ways to K.I.S.S. this holiday season if you have a toddler:

1) Don’t over schedule! With only four weekends in the month of December every single choice you make will affect the availability of your time, patience and self.  Only say yes to events that you think you truly will enjoy or that will have meaning to you and your kids.  I know, easier said than done, but it is worth a shot.

2) Keep your child’s development/age in mind when planning events.  Try to be sensitive to their sleep schedules.  Is it worth it to stay up to spend a few extra hours with a much-loved but little seen family member? Probably.  Is it worth it to miss a nap (with cuddles and a nice book) to stand in line for the mall santa? Probably not.

3) Plan events through the season that will only involve your immediate family.  Quite time for just Mom, Dad, and kiddos can be hard to come by these days but for most younger children this is really all they really want. Allow loads of extra time for these activities so your child can move at his/her own pace and explore what they want.

4) Allow your child to be involved on their level.  If they want to do something, let them, even if it isn’t the “right” way to do it.  Let them have ownership of the holiday.  Does that mean some cookies may end up headless? Ornaments may drag on the floor? Yep.  Will they be more engaged and proud of their participation? Yep.

5) Incorporate the season into your daily life.  Whatever is most joyous for you, singing, cooking, crafting, pick something and do a little bit each day.  It will help keep your heart in the right place 🙂

Merry Christmas!!

Simple Sundays – Child-led fall fun

On Sundays I would like to regularly showcase photos, recipies, articles of interest or other tidbits I have come accross this week that I think you would like to see.  Other than a short introduction this will be a wordless blog entry.  Although I would love, as always, to hear your words in the comments below.

This is a photo gallery of two of our fall projects thus far.  They both evolved with Collin as a full participant.  The first, lights cut in the top of a box, literally got ‘flipped on its side’ when Collin got involved.  The second was our annual pumpkin carving which is now more fun, more messy and much less intricate than it was in our years before him.  Enjoy!

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