Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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Cutting Through the Noise

holidays-together

The holiday catalog from a popular retailer arrived in the mail recently, and our two sons had a great time looking through the pages and finding countless items they wanted to play with. With every page turn came exclamations of “That’s my favorite!” and “That is just like, so awesome!” They tore, cut, and glued their “most favorite” photos to paper as we talked about what they’d like to do with these new toys. When the excitement died down, my mom brain took over.

“These prices are crazy! Where is all of this stuff supposed to go? Don’t we already have something like this?”

This time of year can be overwhelming! One of my roles as a parent is to make the most of the fun by managing expectations and what is realistically possible. While it would be exciting in the moment to buy everything their hearts desire and watch the joy on their faces as they open everything, it is not at all realistic. And really, where is all of this stuff supposed to go?

Our children are inundated with so much information on a daily basis, through TV commercials, catalogs, and/or peers. Honestly, we as adults are flooded too! It can be challenging to cut through all of the noise. As parents, my husband and I look for strategies for our family to focus on each other instead of focusing on things.

A few years ago, I came across the Something you want, Something you need, Something you wear, and Something you read strategy for gift giving. We’ve done this for the past two holiday seasons, and it has really helped to focus us on being thoughtful and specific with gift giving. We’re also able to talk about wants versus needs, and the boys aren’t nearly as overwhelmed by stuff and can fully enjoy discovering their gifts. This allows us to all enjoy each other a bit more, and is much easier to organize! How will you and your family cut through the noise?


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What Does This Season Mean for Your Family?

holiday-magic

Every family has their own idea of what traditions the holiday season should hold. After having children, my wife and I have discussed traditions and the societal influence of the holiday season. Imagine if the only thing that you knew about Christmas was what you saw on television or in the movies. You might imagine a snowman, elves, and jolly man in a red suit with white beard racing on a polar express train to get to Kevin who is home alone before a green grumpy Grinch steals all of this year’s most popular toys, only to be saved by a red-nosed reindeer.

My wife and I come from different backgrounds. She grew up with a vision of a commercial Christmas with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents and special foods. I have a Christian connection to Christmas with a baby being born, along with fitting in some of those same traditions of a tree and presents. How do we as a family unit celebrate and teach our children about the holidays? How do we learn about the holidays, specifically Christmas, for our family?

Working together and having open communication has been extremely important. We have chosen a traditional approach that focuses on our religious beliefs while embracing some of the popular cultural practices. We put up a tree together as a family and have pictures taken with Santa Claus. We spend time visiting a live nativity depicting the birth of Jesus. We will attend our church for a night of music and performance that is very family-friendly. We will be making Christmas cookies of all shapes and sizes with grandma. We will exchange presents with family and friends, but we focus on the people and not the gifts. (Although the box was the largest, best toy last year and I’m sure it will be again this year.) We have begun to do random acts of kindness for some people we know and others that we don’t. We will read the story of the first Christmas in the Bible and talk about the blessings we have to be thankful for. We have also begun to plan a trip to have a new experience and memory to celebrate.

We don’t have everything figured out as parents, but we are doing our best to provide as many positive experiences that our children will remember. That is what a tradition for the holiday has become for our family. My son already says Merry Christmas and we greet others with a smile.

We realize that everyone has their traditions, including not celebrating the holidays at all. We want our children to grow up and respect that this season is different for different families, and when they have their own families they can even make their own traditions! I hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday season, or Delightful December.


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What Did You Do to Show Kindness Today?

friends-kindness

This is the daily question we ask our kindergartener. Along with, “What was your favorite part of school today?” and, “Tell me about what you did in gym class,” we also want to communicate that being kind to others is just as important. We want to make sure we’re doing what we can to help him develop both academically and socially. What good to the world is it to be smart if you don’t share that gift with others?

Kindness can be quite a broad topic for a five-year-old, so we focus in on specific behaviors such as helping a friend up if they fall down, noticing if someone is feeling sad and asking them if they’re okay, smiling and saying “Hi” to people passing by, etc. These target behaviors are meant to help him develop skills in becoming more aware of those around him and treating others how he would like to be treated. We also like to point out when we see these things in others by calling attention to a peer who shares their toy with us or thanking someone who holds the door open for us.

In the early childhood sphere, we often talk about how teachers will see more of whatever they give attention to. As parents, we try to do the same. Very often, we miss the mark—this parenting thing is difficult! Information overload in parenting is a real thing, and it is impossible to do everything we’re told we should do. As parents, we have had to try our best to cut out all of the noise and get down to the basics of what type of people we hope our sons will grow to be. Kindness is one trait we hope they possess. We take this journey day by day, one example at a time, calling attention to the kindness we eagerly anticipate seeing more of.


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Nature: The Original Classroom

natures-journeyNature has a wonderful basic quality that has so many opportunities for learning. I believe that many of the things that we learn can be explored in nature. We learn nurturing and responsibility as we care for our parks, yards, feed birds, and plant gardens and flowers. We learn in the rain, in the water as we jump in puddles. We learn about feeling when we fall or when we have to come inside.

Nature is so valuable. The earth provides an amazing opportunity for learning and the potential from the excitement from being outdoors is electric. We see the value of nature as a way to create calm in our emotions. We spend a lot of time outside simply experimenting with the environment and investigating everything. We learn in the backyard, we learn at the park, we learn while on a hike, we learn everywhere.

The outdoors has provided a fantastic classroom for me and my children. We generally take at least one hike every week at a local park or in our neighborhood. Our son walks during most of the journey and explores everywhere. Exploring and being prepared for the journey is very important. I usually have a small bag with snacks, water, and wipes. We occasionally get off the trail and really find some interesting things. Recently we went on a hike a day after a rain and the creek trail was so muddy and full of puddles. I was prepared with clean clothes and towels in the car. What a wonderful opportunity to explore. He stomped through every puddle large and small as we were on our walk. Then it happened. His feet got wet enough that he didn’t want to walk any more. I had a few choices but I chose to put him up on my shoulders as we finished our hike. It was cold and messy but messy is fun.

About a week later we were on the same trail and it was rather dry but we found a wet space for him to learn and play with the water. I was interested in what would happen if he got muddy again. He was slow at first, but gradually got more and more wet. I got down in the mud near him and painted my face with a little mud. The best part was when he looked up at me and smiled and was inquisitive whether he could have some mud paint too. He lifted his face up with excitement and let me share some art on his face. We walked down the trail where my wife and daughter were waiting and my wife was surprised with our choice of organic facial material but it was such a wonderful memory. Yes, it will get hot or cold, rain or snow, and there will be scrapes, and the bugs will bite, but it is all worth the journey of learning outdoors.


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What’s the Deal With Preschool Anyway?

play-and-learn-preschoolThe word pretty much speaks for itself. The school before the “big school.” As a kid, I loved going to preschool. We got to play and make art projects. But there is more to preschool than just having fond memories of fun times. Those play experiences build the foundation for future learning!

As an adult I when I was reintroduced to preschool, I was hooked from the get-go. Play is a huge focus in preschool. Play is actually how kids learn. For instance, how many of you, as a child, played “house?” Growing up that was all I ever wanted to play. I was always the mom, I loved to be in charge! Playing house and having dramatic play areas in preschool classrooms are a way to get kids ready for kindergarten. Think about this. Kids “pretending” to act like they are in a “real life situation.” They model what they see from their own lives and what they see their parents/caregivers do all while using their elaborate imagination.

One of my many responsibilities at 4C for Children is to facilitate Play & Learn groups. We play, learn about cleaning up, read a story together that falls in line with the lesson of that day, we have our snack and parents leave with their kids once the session is complete. In addition to the children playing and learning the parents are asked to fill out an evaluation at the end of the session. We use these evaluations for data and feedback on our sessions. 4C also offers parents the opportunity to fill out ASQ’s (Ages and Stages questionnaire) on their child. In a recent Play & Learn I had a child that just turned 2. His mother filled out the ASQ saying that her son could not string beads. In that very session I sat with him and watched him string beads onto a pipe cleaner. When I told this mother, her face just lit up. It was so exciting for her to learn that her son has been growing and learning different skills.

Kids are like sponges; they literally soak up all the knowledge. It is amazing to see how their minds just brighten when they learn something new. Writing their name, understanding the importance of what it means to be a friend, and more! For parents that are on the fence about preschool I would encourage you to look at the advantages of quality early childhood education. Unfortunately, preschool is not an option for all families. Search out the resources in your community; learn about some different early childhood experiences in your neighborhood. Talk to other parents, teachers and community members who are advocates for early childhood education and learn what you can do to set your child up for success in school.

Here are some local resources:


Confidence in Child Care

confidence-in-child-careAs I send my oldest child off to Kindergarten, I find myself worrying how his day at “big school” is going. Is he being kind? How does his teacher handle his love for talking his way through activities? Is he making progress? This change from our previous routine of being at child care all day has me reflecting on how comfortable we’ve become with our child care provider, and what it is about our provider that eases my mind.

Making our initial child care decision was somewhat overwhelming. We knew how important doing our research and making an informed decision was. I utilized the “Find Child Care” quick link on the 4C for Children homepage, and further explored the “Choosing Quality” tab. Ultimately, utilizing these resources and touring facilities brought us to our current child care provider.

We were greeted over the phone by a loving and professional voice that encouraged us not to schedule a tour, but to come visit at any time. To me, this signified confidence on the part of the provider. When we toured, we were immediately greeted by the director and by every teacher whose classroom we entered. The spaces were calm and organized; the teachers were warm and welcoming. I paid close attention to how the children treated each other, and how they approached the teachers. Everyone was comfortable in their surroundings, which is an essential foundation to learning. After touring the facility, we were given a copy of the age-specific parent handbooks and encouraged to ask any questions we might have. We weren’t pressured to make an immediate decision, rather, we were guided to look over the information and contact them if we’d like to enroll.

After making our decision to enroll, we were able to fill out a questionnaire regarding our children that would help the teachers with basics about our boys before they came into the classroom, as well as scheduled a time to meet with each teacher so they could ask additional questions and get more comfortable with us. This was very reassuring to a nervous mom! Knowing they had an “open door” policy meant I could stop by at any time, and I could call to check up on them. In the coming weeks we received daily communication with special notes about what they enjoyed each day. The attention to detail and development their teachers put into their notes helped reassure me that my children were well cared for. The program director asks for feedback and welcomes questions and input from all parents. The words and actions from our program say “We are partners in caring for your child.”

Overall, every parent needs to have choice in choosing child care, and feel confident in those caring for their children. We are so thankful to have found a program which partners with us as parents while truly appreciating our children for who they are. It is among the most important decisions as parents we’ll make!


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Honoring the Memory of My Grandparents

grandparentThere are so many things that remind me of the past. Music, food, people, sounds, smells and experiences often have a connection to our ancestors. As a child I was blessed to know three of my great-grandmothers and both sides of grandparents.

  • My grandfather (mom’s dad) was a very charismatic, outgoing, jovial man. From an early age, he taught me how to cook and shared his love of food through traveling during summers, cooking at festivals all over Ohio. He also helped me through many stages of my Eagle Scout project which is still an important accomplishment for me.
  • One great-grandmother (dad’s grandmother) was the wife of a preacher, keeper of the family bible, and was very instrumental in the faith and belief of God throughout our large family tree.
  • My granny (mom’s grandmother) was a selfless volunteer who loved the outdoors and had a creative mind. We would often go out to the Masonic Home to help and visit with people. She taught my mom to sew, who in turn taught me.

I have many fond memories of doing things with my grandparents; they were so supportive in whatever I attempted. All showed me love beyond measure, respect and empathy for others, and made a huge impact on the man that I became. They spoiled me in the best of ways—especially with time.

I want my children to have similar memories and experiences with grandparents, family and close friends. Experiences lead to adventures and real life learning. We have some worry however, because our family is very spread out. My father passed long ago and our children’s other grandfather lives halfway around the world. It is very difficult to travel with two young children—especially when it’s far away. My mom visits her grandchildren regularly. They explore the outdoors, listen, talk and read together. Their aunt Deb (very close friend) dotes on both of our children, especially our son. She has made so much effort to be part of their lives. My son’s first sleep over was at her house. She sends cards, surprises and visits when she can. We realize that our children are young, but these early memories in their childhood last a lifetime.

There are many different perspectives of raising children, but we feel it takes a village to raise a child. We look for surrogate relationships that will make those memories and experiences for our children. As we look back to our past, we want to plant the seeds for our children’s past in the present. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” We are our children’s first teachers and will have to fill their lives with memories of our parents and grandparents. I can think of nothing better to honor my late family members than to pass down the lessons that I learned from them.