Tuesday, November 24, 2015

6 Things I've Learned from Preschoolers!

Teaching preschool is my passion and allows me to enjoy the gifts my preschool students give to me each and every school.  Here are the lessons they teach me each day:

  • Greet Each Day As A Gift: Sunny, windy, rainy, and snowy days are all met with a level of excitement that gets lost in adulthood.  Leaves changing color--that's so cool!  Pumpkins and apples have seeds inside--how interesting!  When we are at school, half the world is asleep--Imagine that!  Joy in the simple gifts of our natural surroundings.
  • Passion for your Favorite Things:  I had a student who colored every single picture in the color orange for an entire school year.  Enough said!
  • Spontaneous Kindness:  It is not unusual for me to receive a totally random hug or complement from these little darlings.  They feel love and express it freely!
  • Energy is Contagious:  I dare anyone to spend time in our classroom and not feel energized. My little students love to be busy!  They love to create, play, run, jump, sing, clap, dance, color, learn, paint, build, and imagine.  They remind me that sitting on your backside is a complete waste of time.  Dive in to things rather than let life pass you by.
  • Curiosity:  My students are eager to learn.  They have a drive to understand and look at things in unique ways.  They are not yet afflicted with the common adult affliction "Know it all Syndrome".  They inspire me to keep an open mind and try to look at things from more than my first perspective.
  • Perseverance:  At the beginning of the year, there are always tears and fears of the new classroom and by the end of the year, those same students are confidently striding in the door and smiling from ear to ear.  Anything new always seems difficult at first, but don't give up--you will rob yourself of the benefits you receive from sticking with it and conquering your trials.
I am truly blessed to spend my weeks in the company of such powerful little teachers.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

5 Gift Ideas from a Preschool Teacher

Children only have one chance at childhood.  It's brief.  It's precious.  It's fleeting.  As a preschool teacher, I have noticed an odd and disturbing trend...children don't know how to play.  In the past few years, my students (3 to 5 year olds) have come into my preschool room, bursting with toy filled play centers; and wander around in a confused fashion.  My co-teachers have noticed this same behavior. It is as if we need to teach these young children how to play!  It takes a few weeks for the children to rekindle their curiosity and delve into building with blocks, caring for the baby dolls, and putting on the dress up clothes.  We gently demonstrate, participate and encourage pretend play.  And once they understand the concept of free choice playtime, they look forward to that part of our day above all others.

What has changed?  Why are we seeing children who need instructions on how to use their imagination and play with simple toys?  This is a new trend.  I have taught many years and would say that this has occurred in the beginning of the year during my last three years of teaching.  I admit this evidence is experiential and anecdotal.  But it has been confirmed by other experienced preschool teachers.  So what gives?  My only guess is that electronic devises have pushed real hands on playtime to the side in these young children's lives.

The holidays give parents an opportunity to encourage the very thing that enriches childhood, PLAY. As a preschool teacher, I am pleading with all of you gift givers...use your money to purchase gifts that will enrich your children's childhood experiences; gifts that encourage imagination, problem solving, interaction, and real world experiences.  Here are my suggestions:

  1. Blocks, Puzzles and Building Sets: encourage creativity and spacial awareness.  
  2. Props for Pretend Play:  dress up clothes, dolls, toy cars, plastic food, doctor kits, doll houses, farm sets, and stuffed animals all foster and encourage pretend play.  
  3. Books: fill their minds with rich vocabulary and beautiful illustrations to capture their imagination.  
  4. Art Supplies: unlock creativity through crayons, markers, clay, stickers and stamps for crafting artwork together or independently
  5. Board games:  teach important social skills and often times foster counting and number recognition.  Be sure to choose games that you will enjoy playing with them, otherwise they will just gather dust on a shelf.
This list includes the toys that preschool children gravitate towards in my classroom.  Give the special children in your life real world toys that encourage them to use their imaginations and teach them the joy of childhood play.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

5 Mistakes Parents Make

Start forging a strong relationship with your child when they are young.

Nothing gets to me more than seeing disappointment in the eyes of one of my preschool children as a result of poor parenting.  It cuts me wide open.  And every year I have to deal with seeing it in some form or another...and the saddest part is it usually is totally preventable.  Here is a list of ways I have seen my little students inadvertently hurt by their loving parents.

  • Constantly bringing your child late to school.  It seems like a little thing, but children like to fit in, and be like everyone else.  Bringing a child late to school means that he/she has to figure out what has been missed, and get up to speed on what is going on.  It is stressful enough for a young child to be separating from the parent, but throwing him/her into a class that is already in session is heaping another stressor onto the child.
  • Not telling your child who will be picking him/her up.  Preschool children want to understand what the day will bring.  Having a relative or nanny pick up your child is necessary at times, but inform your child who will be there so he/she knows.  This small courtesy means the world to a young child.  A lot of parents believe that shielding children from unwelcome news is the best method.  But if you know your child will be disappointed that you are not picking him/her up, deal with it rather than surprise him/her at the end of a preschool day with an unfamiliar face or the unwelcome realization that you are not there.
  • Constant chaos.  Young children thrive on routine.  They learn from it, grow from it, and develop self confidence through it.  Serving up a daily dose of chaos is not doing your children any favors.  Chaos is when a child has no idea what is going on in his life.  Chaos is when a child doesn't know what his/her day will look like.  Chaos is shuttling your child to a range of nannies or friends or relatives to be looked after, rather than caring for him/her yourself or establishing a caregiver who your child knows and trusts.  Chaos is not good for children.
  • Adult Problems.  Some parents have big issues on their plates; divorce, illness, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse.  These big issues can steal a parent away from connecting and interacting with your child.  If you are facing personal challenges that are compromising your ability to be a good parent, search for support.  Support can come from extended family members, religious organizations, physicians and/or friends.  Investigate ways to get the support you need in order to be able to handle your adult issues without sacrificing your child's well being.
  • Distractions.  Ignoring your child in favor of your cell phone causes hurt to your child. Handing your child a video game or playing a movie when you pick up your child from preschool is robbing you of establishing communication between you and your child.  Make the effort to focus on your child at pick up time or when you get home from work, so that he/she understands that you care about him/her and want to hear about his/her experiences.  At least act happy to see him/her.  Your young child misses you while he/she is away from you. Make sure your child understands that you miss him/her as well.  And make the effort to communicate with him/her each and every day.
It takes effort every single day to be a good parent, and doubly so when you are a single parent.  The days are long.  The job is exhausting.   But you owe it to your child to be the best parent you can be and good parenting started early makes everyone's life richer and more fulfilling. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

You Don't Like Your Child's Friends...What now?

As the mom of four grown children, I watched loads of friendships form, strengthen, stand the test of time, and others crash and burn.  Watching this process can be painful for a parent.  Our protective "mama bear" claws want to come out when we see our children hurting, feeling left out, or being surprised and disappointed with a friend.  At other times, our children bond with children that we don't really like.  We feel conflicted about how much we should interfere.  It has been my experience that a parent's role when it comes to friendships in your child's life, should be similar to a driving instructor.  And here is why...

A driving instructor has the responsibility of keep his student safe.  And a driving instructor is instructing from the passenger seat.  When someone is learning to drive, they are in the driver's seat and have to ultimately make decisions.  Similarly, when parents are analyzing their children's friendships, parents should focus on safety (the emotional and physical safety of your child) but friendships and their success or failure should be in the hands of your child.

In simple terms, in most cases, parents need to butt out.  Friendships are the subject matter of the people who are involved in them.  Give your child the freedom to choose his/her friends and learn from the success or failure of those friendships.  It is not healthy or appropriate for parents to micromanage your child's friendships. You are there to love and support your child.  You are there to listen to your child when he/she is looking for advice.  You are there to teach your child what to look for in a friend, and how to be a good friend.  If you get over involved in managing your child's friendships, your child will either resent your involvement or take it as a sign that you have no faith in his/her decision making abilities.  So take this from someone who has made all of these mistakes. Learn from my experience to back off and let your child navigate his/her way toward the skills of making and keeping good friends.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Reading To Your Children is a Win/Win!

Great minds are formed through reading.  Read to and with your children.

Okay, we all know this...our lives our hectic.  We are so busy juggling our commitments and checking our facebook pages that we are forgetting to take advantage of the simplest pleasure of being a parent...reading to our kids.  Come on, fess up...when did you last read a story to your child? Last night?  Well if that's true then--CONGRATULATIONS!  But I'm guessing, not last night...or even the night before...or, well you get the picture.

So start tonight.  Or right now.  Sit down and read a book together.  Share a story.  Or start a chapter book, or dive into a series.  Share some snuggles.  Expand your child's vocabulary.  Bond.  This is the good stuff of parenting.  Don't deprive yourself of the good stuff because you are too busy!  No one should be too busy to sit down and read a book to your child.  And then, do it tomorrow night and the next night and on and on.  You will grow, your relationship will grow, your child will grow.  It's all good.  So no excuses.  Read a story to your child...and continue to build on that.  You will NEVER look back on that time as anything but precious.

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