Tactile and Interactive Board Books

Last month we wrote about why board books are so important for early development.

This month, we’d like to share some of our picks for our favourite type of board books — those with movable parts, interactive elements and lots of tactile stimuli!

Before we get into the benefits of these books, we want to add the same disclaimer we do in every program in which we talk about choosing books for babies: Making books with lots of bells and whistles might seem like a gimicky way for publishers to sell titles, and sometimes it is. It might also seem counter-intuitive to other parenting advice we’ve heard; having books with ‘toys’ in them might seem to work against the logic that tells us digital screens cause over-stimulation and that we need to teach slower, sustained attention to our children.

But! These books are also brilliant tools for:

  • learning engagement (having novelty input is what sparks our imaginations and pushes us to learn more)
  • hand-eye coordination (tracking is a crucial pre-reading skill)

and

  • developing pincer grip and fine-motor coordination (the pre-writing skills that allow us to hold pens and pencils and move them in small, concentrated ways)

Board books, with their flaps, sensory patches, sparkles, tabs, pulls, holes, and sometimes even actual bells and whistles, provide a unique opportunity to build these skills while simultaneously strengthening the same bonding, literacy, and communication skills of regular storytime.

Our list of our favourite tactile and movable board books is always changing. Our Director has a list published through Calgary Public Library if you’re interested in borrowing rather than buying, but these books tend to have a shorter lifespan than other books (which is OKAY!) and new ones are always being developed. Some of our stand-by classics include:

  • Re-pubs by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr. like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar“, “Mister Seahorse” and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” (the Slide & Find edition particularly)
  • Just about anything by Salina Yoon, but especially “Opposnakes“, her Lift-The-Flap-Adventure Series (Space Walk and Deep Sea Dive), and “Who Do I See?
  • Rufus Butler Seder’s Scanimation Series, especially “Waddle!” “Gallop!” and “ABC Animals
  • Anything that Herve Tullet has ever written (seriously) but for the littlest readers, we recommend his Tullet Game Series
  • The current publishing phenomenon that is the Usborne “That’s Not My…” Series. These ones include tactile swatches that are higher-quality than most mass-market titles, like full velcro (a lot of publishers shy away from rougher textures in favour of softer, ‘babier’ ones, but it is so important to expose our children to a whole variety of fibres!), puffy fabrics (that can be pressed deeply into the books, excellent for learning about pressure and weighting), and one-off textures that have been manufactured for each title.

We like the last series so much that we are going to submit a massive order through Usborne at the end of April. We’ll be carrying them in-store once our new location is up and running, but if you’d like to order a set now (and secure a title before it discontinues or batch re-prints) you can add your selection to our order (residents of the Greater Calgary Area only). Just shoot Alex an email with your title selections and we’ll get them on the list!

alex@rhymeandreason.ca

Untitled-1

If you ever have any questions about recommendations for books for your little one, we are always happy to help!

Happy Reading!

 

Babies and Board Books

It’s no secret that babies need books, and it just makes sense that the best books for babies are the hardier, more durable Board Books that are a unique joy of modern parenting.

Mother and her daughters reading a book.

Often printed on recycled cardboard with vegetable and food-grade inks, these books are meant to be explored by babies in the same way they explore everything — orally.

Yes, they’re going to get soggy; yes, they’re going to have chunks taken out of them; and yes, you are going to have to recycle them eventually… but that is literally what they are built for.  If you need to “learn to stop worrying and love the destruction of baby books”, check out this great blog post from A.J. O’Connell at Book Riot.

Providing a stock of board books for our babies to devour fosters an early love of reading, an exposure to words, language, and literacy, and  a comprehension of the mechanics of books (In English we read books from left to right across a page, top to bottom, and turn pages to the left)! On top of that, sharing a book with YOU also provides them with a huge rush of those feel-good hormones (dopamine, seratonin, and oxytocin) that increases the bond between you both, and builds positive associations around reading and learning.

Keep your eyes peeled for board books for every age and stage including high-contrast black and white books for newborns and their developing eyesight, bathtime books that can get wet, and books with lots of flaps and movable parts — we’ll follow-up next month with a list of our favourites!

Prepping for Preschool: Five Tips for Success

The wait-lists are long, sometimes years at a time. The philosophies are broad; Montessori, Reggio Emelia, Waldorf, TLC, Community, Classic Play?! Advice abounds, and with constant conflicts.

No… it’s not the road to your child’s Post-Secondary Education — it’s just the first step on their educational journey, into the wonderful world of preschool.

The early years of life are a critical period of opportunity and skills-building. The things we learn in the first five years of childhood lay the foundation for our successes for the rest of our lives. This is why preschool registration is as intense as it is — finding the right fit for your family is hugely important. Regardless of what route you end up taking, here are some tips to help make sure the transition is as smooth as possible:

  1. Read about it

There are a lot of great books with themes revolving around the start of preschool — many of them involve characters that your child already knows and loves (keeping familiar things close is very comforting during times of big change). Snuggle up together and share a story: you’ll be increasing your child’s feel-good sensations around learning, and practicing one of the most valuable preschool activities, storytime.

  1. Plan a Visit

Most preschools are going to have open houses and parent education nights, but if you miss these, call ahead to see if you can arrange a quick tour through your child’s new school space. Familiarizing ourselves with new settings gives us a chance to manage our expectations. Start frequenting the school’s playground or another in the neighbourhood, so that the adjustment in September doesn’t also have to require an orientation to place!

  1. Practice makes Permanent

Start implementing a more tangible routine at home and practice skills that your child will need to do on their own (like self-care tasks around washing hands, taking off and hanging up jackets, putting on and filling backpacks, etc).

Incorporate imaginative play into your day! Make believe that you’re at preschool with your child and take turns being the teacher and the student!

If you’re worried about aspects of school like sustaining attention or pro-socialization, sign up for a session of early education classes; we cover all sorts of topics around early development, and your child can practice sitting quietly in a circle time, group sharing and conversations, and exploring personal needs, identities, and behaviours. We promise they’re also just a lot of fun!

  1. Validate Feelings

Try not to diminish or deny the feelings your child has around starting school. Avoid saying things like “don’t be nervous” or “there’s nothing to worry about!”. Instead reassure your child, saying “I understand that you’re feeling nervous about school — it’s such a different and exciting experience!” and then brainstorm ideas on ways your child can comfort and calm themselves.

Putting a label to our emotions, allowing ourselves to feel them, and building strategies before the meltdown allows us to move towards action instead of being overwhelmed by feelings. Having a strong emotional vocabulary and sense of resilience is an important pre-school skill to work on, and one even adults need help with sometimes… which reminds us:

  1. Brace Yourself

You are excited for your child’s new adventure, looking forward to regaining some of your alone time, sad to say goodbye to those awesome early years, and worried about your child’s future success. You’re probably feeling a million other conflicting emotions on top of these! Starting preschool can be as difficult for you as it is for your child. Help manage some of those feelings by following your own advice — don’t deny or diminish them; acknowledge them and build in some strategies!
Plan a first-day coffee date with other parents who have school starters this year.
Organize a special event with other family members who are home with you during the school day (they’ll be missing your little one too).
Go ‘back-to-school’ yourself and pick up a new hobby or activity that you’ve always wanted to develop!

This is a time of big change for everyone, but it’s a positive and exciting one. With a little bit of planning and some solid strategies, it’s going to be a good first year of school!

 

How to Play: Developing the skills of sharing

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you partake in social media. If that’s the case, then you have probably seen many an article written by both professionals and parents on the topic of sharing. Some say it is absolutely paramount to our children’s success and to our human culture that we learn to share, while others tout that sharing is completely unreasonable and undermines our children’s independence and right to say ‘no’.

So after all this back and forth, what’s the ultimate verdict? Well, you can probably guess that there really isn’t one. There are many studies and theories and best-practice articles out there on the topic; but like many parenting philosophies, this one has lots of room for interpretation and application of your own family and cultural values.

And that is exactly the crux of issue:  what you teach your child regarding sharing is based on YOUR OWN family and cultural values. Personally, I find it helpful to read a variety of opinions on the subject (however crazy I think some of them may be). But when it comes right down to it, I’m going to decide what I teach my son about sharing.

Whatever YOU’VE decided you want to teach your child, one thing that we can all do is begin teaching these values to our children early. Don’t wait until they are in the midst of the terrible twos and you’re faced with several screaming toddlers. Start early. After all, kids aren’t born knowing all of our social conventions and expectations; it is our responsibility to teach them.

Play give-and-take with your baby. “Now it’s mommy’s turn to hold the toy. Now it’s baby’s turn!”

Model good manners while playing. “May I please see the truck? Thank-you for handing it to me. Okay, I’m all done. Here you go…you’re welcome!”

Impart appropriate social skills. “No, you may not just grab the book out of my hands. You need to ask if you can have it first and wait for mommy to say yes.”

Be transparent. If you expect your child to share something, tell them right from the get-go. “Here is a bowl of crackers. I’d like you to share them with your cousins too, please.”

Provide the vocabulary. “This is Daddy’s. We won’t touch it until he tells us that’s okay, and if he says it’s not okay, we respect that”.

At first, you may feel a little silly having a one-way conversation. Just remember though that by starting early, you’re making it just that little bit easier on your future self. And you will thank yourself for it, even if you’re child doesn’t [yet]!


 

Want to read to read more into the research and professional side of things:

Infancy Journal: “To Share or Not to Share: When do toddlers respond to another’s needs?”

Child Development Journal: “Mine or Yours: Development of sharing in toddlers in relation to Ownership Understanding”

Pyschology Today: “Children can adopt Sharing Mindsets”, “To Share or Not to Share? Depends…”

Don’t Be Scared By The Name: What Music Therapy Can Do For Your Typically-Developing Child

Guest Blog by:

Hilary MacAulay, BMT, MT-BC, MTA

MasterworX Music Therapy

We all get a little nervous around the word ‘therapy’. Misconceptions about the type of people who require therapy, and the perceived social ramifications associated with the term make us hesitant to get involved in any program with that word in the title. But according to Webster’s Dictionary, something therapeutic is simply defined as ‘producing good effects on the body and mind’. This is the way I like to define music therapy. I like to think of it as using music to produce good effects on the body and mind, with a particular emphasis on the specific needs of the person or people involved. It sounds much less scary now, does it not?

Group Of Children Playing In School Orchestra Together

Music therapists are accredited through the Canadian Association for Music Therapy, and use a variety of music and musical interventions, such as songwriting, listening, or drumming, to work on their client’s individual goals. They work in a wide variety of healthcare, educational, and community programs, as well as in the client’s own home. But you would probably be surprised at how often you will come across music therapists in early childhood settings. We run the music program at the local daycares, and classes with the preschool down the road. We host mom-and-baby classes, or teach instrument lessons. We may even be the performer at a holiday party.

Usually when we speak of music therapy and early childhood, we are talking about kids with special needs. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of using music therapy with children with autism to work on communication and social skills 1, those with physical disabilities to work on strength or range of motion 2, and in special education settings 3. But the benefit of goal-oriented music reaches beyond just special needs.

Many of the skills that need to be acquired in early childhood, such as literacy, physical coordination, social, and mathematical skills, can be worked on using music. Songs lyrics that use wordplay can help to work on early literacy skills, while songs that use counting and numbers can help to improve early mathematical skills. Playing and sharing instruments is a great way to practice social skills and self-expression, as well as encourage curiosity and experimentation. But it gets better, because none of this work actually feels like work. Music groups or individual sessions look and feel just like playing, and children often do not even realize that they are learning to wait their turn and count higher than ever while they are singing, dancing, and jamming.

Group Of Elementary Age Schoolchildren In Music Class With Instruments
Music therapy can also be beneficial when times get tough for your child. Events such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, or a parents losing their job can be hard on young children, who may not have developed the words they need to express what they are feeling. A music therapist can help the child to express those difficult emotions through playing instruments, movement, or a number of other expressive forms to help alleviate the stress that the child is experiencing. The music therapist can also help the child to develop some personal coping skills, to be used when those feelings appear again in the future.

These sessions do not just benefit your children either! Singing, dancing, and creating music with your child can strengthen your bond. Studies have shown that singing with another person actually releases oxytocin (you may have heard it referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’ or the ‘love hormone’) in your brain, making you feel more connected with your little one 4. It may also help you feel less stressed and more energized, ready to tackle whatever else is headed your way for that day. And who knows! You might even find that you become a better singer, drummer, or car-dancer in the process!

There are numerous early childhood music programs out there, and they are all fantastic in their own way. What makes music therapy different is that the entire program is designed to best suit your child, family, or group. You can decide what your child or group needs, and the music therapist will work with you to ensure you are getting what you want. It can supplement other music programs or lessons your child participates in, help to practice physical skills such as balance and hand-eye coordination, provide the opportunity to practice social skills in a fun, engaging environment, or address any other goals or interests you may have.



 

MasterworX Music Therapy
If you would like more information on music therapy, check out the links below, or contact Hilary at MasterworX Music Therapy by email at masterworxmt@gmail.com or by phone at 403-999-1497.

Canadian Association for Music Therapy: http://www.musictherapy.ca/en/

Music Therapy Association for Alberta: http://www.mtaa.ca

American Music Therapy Association: http://www.musictherapy.org



 

1 Alvin, J. (1978). Musical and Autistic Behaviour. In Music therapy for the autistic child (2nd ed., p. 12). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2 Davis, W., & Gfeller, K. (1999). Music Therapy for Children and Adults with Physical Disabilities. In An introduction to music therapy: Theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 154-155). Boston, Mass:

3 Davis, W., & Gfeller, K. (1999). Music Therapy for Children and Adults with Physical Disabilities. In An introduction to music therapy: Theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 413-416). Boston, Mass:

4 Grape, C., Sandgren, M., Hansson, L., Ericson, M., & Theorell, T. (2003). Does singing promote well-being?: An empirical study of professional and amateur singers during a singing lesson. Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science, 65-74. Retrieved December 30, 2015.

My bedroom, myself

Mommy Blogger Kat from motherfunctions.wordpress.com, shares her tips for making sacred spaces for ourselves and our children — especially important during these often crazy holiday months!


 

dd91df9b-fd4f-49e9-81d5-064300748220
There is something to be said for the sanctity of a bedroom.  As adults, when the day is long and hectic, we seek our beds as sanctuary from the onslaught of the day.  It is our space to put our feet up without people walking into the scene with loud voices, deadlines, and demands.

So here are a few pieces of advice to help kids love their bedrooms:

  1. Make the Bed

First thing in the morning, have your kid make their bed.  Don’t make the bed for them.  Don’t supervise the task.  Don’t even help (unless asked),  Of course, their best efforts to do it won’t be hotel-quality, but it is a task that involves patience, focus and a bit of strength to lug all the blankets and pillows into a rough proximity of where they should be.

At the end of the day, when it is time to settle down to bed, that is the time to reward the job.  “Did you make this bed?  It looks great!  You did a great job!” Suddenly the bed becomes a point of pride and comfort.  Make a big deal out of how comfortable they made their bed and how much their stuffed animals love the work they did.

This holds true for ourselves as well.  When we put time into making our beds, or cleaning our rooms, we appreciate the work we put in earlier to make our experience in this moment even better.

  1. Toy Free

When we go to our bedrooms as adults, we are acknowledging that we need to go somewhere quiet and stimulation-free where we can process our day and put our hectic world aside to focus on ourselves.  We may not necessarily fall asleep, but we have a place that is wholly ours, separate from any other communal space in the home.

The same holds true for children.  A toy-free room establishes a quiet area that is just for your child to focus on sleep and relaxation.  When their bedroom is loaded with toys, there is no boundary between this room and any other room in the house.  When the bedroom is filled with quiet books and their most loved possessions, they get the satisfaction of knowing their room is a place of solace and introspection, free of distraction.

A toy-free room also adds to the next point:

  1. Friend Free

By removing toys from the bedroom we eliminate the desire for our children to bring friends up to their bedrooms.

This is a tough rule.  Why wouldn’t we want our kids to have their friends playing in their rooms when we have just established that their room should be a place they love?

Our bedrooms often house our most loved items.  That ceramic unicorn you got on your 5th birthday may not fit in well with your adult décor, but it has a place in your heart, and in your bedroom where no one will break it or judge you for loving it so much.

Kids deserve the same space.  By keeping friends out of the bedroom, we set up a space where a child can house the special items that they don’t have to share.  So often our kids are bombarded with the need to share that we forget that not all items should be shared.  That very special teddy bear and baby blanket do not need to be handled by a friend that doesn’t understand the special nature of the precious item.  That is your child’s possession and we know how their heart would break if anything happened to it; friends in the bedroom adds a risk that that item won’t make it to maturity alongside your child.

  1. No Timeouts

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean no timeouts at all.  Quiet time can be a very effective strategy, but the bedroom should not be a place where your child is sent when they are acting up. Or, not angrily at least, with the feeling that they are being punished.

A timeout in the bedroom establishes a negative association with that room.  The bedroom isn’t really supposed to be a place where you go to when you’re scared, crying and worked up.  The bedroom is a place that you would choose to be when you want some close distance from a situation.

For some kids, bedtime is a difficult time because they feel isolated and alone, and a timeout in a bedroom just drives the point home that your bedroom is for removing you from everyone else.

A different approach is to provide a close-proximity timeout spot where your child can do their time near you.  After a number of timeouts throughout the day and no change in their attitude, it can help to calmly remove the child from the noise and chaos to their bedroom with you.  A calm talk on the bed about their behavior, a cuddle, bonding time and a story reinforces that the bedroom is a soothing place and that it is okay to walk away when the stress and excitement of the day can’t be handled.

The upside to a toy-free room means that your child won’t be distracted during their quiet time and also any siblings that have to be lumped into the process won’t cause an issue when they’re playing with toys while you’re trying to give the other child a quiet time.

  1. Sibling Separation

Sometimes it is hard as a parent with more than one child because there are issues when your older child is trying to play and a younger one comes along trying to snatch the toy they’re playing with.  That tends to be the point where we find older kids get frustrated because they understand polite rules of play while their sibling isn’t at that stage yet.  The older kid can’t reason with the little one, and they know better than to lash out against them.  Often that frustration turns into the oldest kid not knowing how to let that stress out and feeling like they have no place to go.

That is when a bedroom that is a positive space comes in handy.  It becomes far easier to suggest to the oldest kid that they might want to take those toys they were playing with and go play with them in their bedroom, by themselves, when they view their bedroom as a nice place to be, rather than a punishment when they obviously haven’t done anything wrong.

Now, this clearly seems like it flies in the face of point #2 where toys have been banned from bedrooms.  However, the occasional need to retire to a bedroom with a toy or two is a wildly different experience than having a bedroom filled with toys at all times.

Again, we establish that the oldest child has a place solely for them to relax in while also fostering independence and rewarding good behavior.  We are also recognizing their need to be viewed as a separate entity from their little sibling.

The youngest sibling also learns that their sibling has the ability to walk away and can help to establish proper rules of play, a model they can then follow themselves.

Another added bonus is that a separate space for the oldest child can help ease any animosity they might feel towards a younger sibling because they are able to walk away at any time instead of having to put up with whatever the young one decides to put them through.


Don’t forget to follow some of these tips yourself — reclaiming some close distance and retiring to your own sacred space is a great way to recharge your battery and maintain a healthy level of self-care! Don’t be afraid to reinforce the idea of me-time with your children — everyone needs it, and it is important to make it!

Favourite Activities for Fall

Our practicum student, Miss Becky, shares her favourite activities, crafts, songs, and rhymes for you to enjoy with your little ones during the beautiful autumn weather that seems to be sticking around (knock on wood)!

Little boy in a pumpkin patch

Pumpkin Patch and/or Corn Maze

What better way to embrace fall than to go a Pumpkin Patch?! Picking the perfect pumpkin can be a great deal of fun! It sure beats scrimmaging through a bargain bin only to find the ‘perfect’ pumpkin is at the very bottom of the bin — or not there at all! The fresh air and many acres provide for lots of space and running around, to blow off some of your little one’s steam.

Here are some tips for visiting a Pumpkin Patch:

  • Dress in layers
  • Arrive early and plan to spend a couple of hours there
  • If allowed, bring along a picnic lunch to really enjoy the fall atmosphere

Follow this link that allows you to find a Pumpkin Patch near you:

Scavenger Hunt

This activity is free and gets both you and your child/ren outside for some fresh, fall air! Here is our example of a quick and easy scavenger hunt checklist.

fall scav hunt

Tips:

  • Laminating a checklist and using dry erase markers allows you to take this scavenger hunt to more than one place.
  • Finding multiples of the same item encourages counting and numerical skills. For example, 3 red leaves or 5 lawn decorations! Reinforce the valuation of the numbers!
  • Turning ‘Twig’ into ‘Twig that looks like the letter Y’  helps to develop alphabetical skills.

Leaf Prints

This is a cheap and easy craft to keep children entertained! Below is a link from Nurture Store with easy-to-follow ideas as well as picture resultss — lots of opportunity to get creative with using colors that aren’t associated with fall (pinks, purples, blues), and/or adding glitter, gems, buttons etc. to create texture!

http://nurturestore.co.uk/autumn-leaf-print-crafts

Books

Reading books associated with seasons and holidays is a great way to get children excited about upcoming or current events. Below is a link with some great recommendations, as well as what age they are directed to.

http://www.kcedventures.com/blog/fall-books-for-kids-autumn-stories

Rhymes/Songs

Some of our favourite fall songs include:

Five Little Pumpkins/Witches/Scarecrows

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.

The first one said, “Oh my it’s getting late.”

The second one said, “There are leaves in the air.”

The third one said, “But we don’t care!”

The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run.”

The fifth one said, “We are ready for some fun!”

Then OOOhh OOOhh went the wind

And out went the lights

And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Autumn Leaves are Falling (to the tune of London Bridge)

Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down

Autumn leaves are falling down, all around the town.

The wind will blow them round and round, round and round, round and round

The wind will blow them round and round all around the town.

They’re drifting gently to the ground, to the ground, to the ground

They’re drifting gently to the ground, all around the town.

Take a rake a rake them up, rake them up, rake them up,

Take a rake and rake them up all around the town.

Have You Ever Seen an Apple? (To the tune of The More We Get Together)

Have you ever seen an apple, an apple, an apple

Have you ever seen an apple, that grows on a tree?

A red one, a yellow one, a red one, a yellow one

Have you ever seen an apple, that grows on a tree?

Autumn Winds

Autumn winds are blowing free,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Leaves fall down from ev’ry tree,

Ooh, ooh, ooh!

Red and yellow, gold and brown,

Softly leaves come tumbling down,

Autumn winds are blowing free,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Autumn winds are whistling ’round,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Leaves go spinning to the ground,

Ooh, ooh, ooh!

Big or little, all will fall,

As they heed the windy call,

Autumn winds are whistling ’round,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

A Squirrel Song

I’ll be gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

I’ll be gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

I’ll be gathering all the acorns, gathering all the acorns,

Gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

And I’ll put them all inside my little home.

I will put them all inside my little home.

I will put them all inside, put them all inside,

Put them all inside my little home.

And I’ll eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

I will eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

I will eat the nuts until, eat the nuts until,

Eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

Then I’ll do it all again come next fall.

I will do it all again come next fall.

I will do it all again, do it all again,

Do it all again come next fall.

Adding objects, finger puppets, movement, and/or instruments are enthusiastic ways to interactive ways for children to participate in these songs and rhymes

Leaf Play

autumn fallen maple leaves isolated on white background

This activity makes for a interactive afternoon for both you and your little ones, and is sure to tire you both out!  All you need for Leaf Play are leaves and an imagination — if you don’t have a yard full of leaves, adventure to the nearest public park or field, take a rake, and start piling! Jump in the leaves, throw them as far up as you can so that it’s ‘raining leaves’, bury one another, make tunnels, organize smallest to biggest piles, etc. This can go on for hours, so pack a picnic and make an afternoon of it!

Carving/Painting Pumpkins

Since visiting the Pumpkin Patch, your family has now picked the perfect pumpkin(s)! So, what better way to celebrate your victory than to carve or decorate them? From our experience, especially with younger children, it typically ends with the adults doing most of the work for carving; the kids usually want to play with the ooey gooey insides (and we have no problem with that)! A great way to get children involved in creating their own pumpkin design is to have them paint and/or decorate their own. Go to the dollar store, pick up some cheap acrylic paint of their choice, and some accessories: buttons, gems, sparkles, stickers, beads etc., and let them get creative. Whatever the result, they’ll be incredibly proud!

Decorate pumpkin for halloween night on wooden background

 

 

 

NOOOO! (a.k.a. tantrums and how to deal)

We always discuss in our classes that tantrums often occur when we are transitioning from one activity to another and the child resists or isn’t prepared for the change. To (try to) prevent this, we recommend using songs to ease the transition from one activity to the next. Well! I recently got the chance to try it out for myself. About two weeks ago, my normally good-natured son turned into a tantrum-throwing monster, seemingly overnight. SO. MUCH. FUN.

My initial response to these tantrums was probably like most. This was my 3-step plan:

  1. Clench fists
  2. Scream
  3. Pour wine (once said tantrum-throwing monster was safely in crib, of course)

But then I remembered our class teachings and thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. (I make this sound so fluid, but in actuality I spent about a week responding to the tantrums with above 3-step plan).

The first step of my new 3-step plan was to figure out the times that were most often causing his tantrums:

  • Getting dressed/undressed
  • Getting out of the bath
  • Leaving the park (the popular out-in-public tantrum…though at least at the park you are likely surrounded by other moms, as opposed to the grocery store which is filled with judgemental college kids)
  • Bedtime

So far so good. The second step of my new plan was to assign a specific song to each activity. This would signal to my son that we were now transitioning to a new activity while also providing an enjoyable distraction during this transition time. Therefore:

  • Getting dressed/undressed – we now sing:
    Baby put your pants on, pants on, pants on
    Baby put your pants on, 1-2-3.
    Baby put your shirt on, shirt on, shirt on

    Baby put your shirt on, 1-2-3.
    …etc.
  • Getting out of the bath – we now sing:
    Fishies in the water, fishies in the sea,
    We all stand up on the count of three!
    1-2-3.
  • Leaving the park – we now sing:
    The ponies are walking, they’re walking along
    Walking along, walking along.
    The ponies are walking, they’re walking along
    Woah! Woah! Woah!
  • Bedtime – a lullaby of course! However here’s where the plan breaks down and exemplifies why we say that transition songs will often work (but not always): lately when I try to sing a lullaby to my son he responds by screaming NOOOO in my face, over and over and over. So there you have it…even the teacher’s son can be a little jerk sometimes, despite my best efforts.

Which brings us to step 3 of my new 3-step plan: pour wine.

So the moral of the story is to try out the transition songs. Maybe they will work! Maybe they won’t! But hopefully they will work at least part of the time and that makes your life partly better. Right? And when it doesn’t? Go directly to step 3!!

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops 2015

It is such an exciting time to be a parent and/or working in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education! There is no shortage of new research, innovative practices, and exciting new philosophies to help guide our child-raising.  Here are just a few of the learning opportunities coming up in 2015!

For Child Caregivers and Educators:

Conference Poster 2015 with boxes

 

For Parents:

 

transition2000days

 

Language and LiteracyMicrosoft Word - Parent Conference Flyer.docx

 

Make the Outdoors your Classroom

puddleNow that it’s summer, my 1-year-old wants to spend all of his time outside. Before we’ve even had our breakfast, he’s running to the door, shoes in hand, shouting, “Outside? Outside?” If you’re child is anything like mine, you’ve packed up and relocated to your backyard for the summer too. Here are a few activities you can do that are not only fun, but will turn your outdoor space into a little classroom of sorts.

Sidewalk Chalk
Summer is a great time to let your little one get messy. The rain will wash away any toddler-graffiti and if your child gets a little dirty, it’s pretty easy to give them a quick douse of water on the lawn to clean up. Chalk is a fun way to explore art and drawing together. Let them draw on their own, or take turns drawing lines until you’ve created a collaborative masterpiece! Of course chalk is also a great opportunity to practice scribbling and writing letters. We like to write little messages on the sidewalk for daddy to read when he comes home from work.

Water Painting 
Similar to chalk, paint brushes provide a great opportunity for writing and drawing. You may be wary of using actual paint, so why not try a clean brush and a pail of water. Wet the brush and then draw on the sidewalk for some (very) temporary works of art.

Bubbles
I think all kids love bubbles, and they are an easy and relatively cheap activity in the summer. Older kids can develop their gross motor skills chasing after and popping them, and will also develop hand-eye coordination as they learn to dip the wands and blow. Even the youngest of babies will enjoy watching bubbles, while also developing their eye sight and eye muscles as they track the bubbles floating in the air. I love this little rhyme about bubbles too:

I dip my wand, and gently blow
A tiny bubble begins to grow!
And grow…and grow…and grow…and…
POP!

Sensory Nature Walk
When you venture outside your yard, take a little sensory nature walk with your little ones. Encourage them to use their senses as they smell flowers and fresh cut grass; listen to the birds chirping; and see the clouds moving across the sky. Stop in a park and see how many textures you can find: a rough pinecone,  a smooth pebble, a wet puddle! And remember to name the things that you see as you walk. A leisurely stroll around the neighbourhood is a great opportunity for some vocabulary development.

There are lots of ways to have fun this summer while incorporating some learning and literacy development, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money. I am always looking for more ideas to keep my little busy-body occupied…what kinds of activities do you like doing with your children in the summer?