Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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Learning Through Play With Sensory Bins

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Welcome to our special guest-blogger: Allison Schultz! Allison and her children attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Allison for sharing this story with us!

I’ve used sensory bins sporadically over the years—a tub of rocks for construction trucks, colorful shape buttons with dried beans for shape recognition—but it’s never been part of our daily rhythm. That’s my goal with these large sensory bins. I want to integrate them into our everyday activities. Sensory bins are a great tool for emotional regulation. If a child is overstimulated, moving their hands through something that is smooth, heavy, and cool to the touch can be a very calming and soothing experience. Adding in a simple activity can contribute to the grounding effect and also help children focus. My hope is to have sensory bin time throughout the day if my kids are getting overly wound up, whiny or grumpy, before nap time to wind down, and even as an alternative to time-out. I plan to switch out the theme and contents regularly to keep them engaged and also mix in other benefits, such as practice with scooping and pouring or learning about a particular topic.

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Our current setup has my four-year-old and seven-month-old sitting across from each other with their boxes in between them. There’s a large, outdoor table cloth under both boys and their boxes to contain the mess. I chose short and wide tubs to create a large play area that is also low enough for my baby to reach. Each box is based on a book.

My four-year-old’s is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault for some extra letter practice. We made a coconut tree out of cans from our recycling bin and green fabric from a giant bag we no longer needed. I painted the cans brown, hot glued them together, cut the leaves out of the fabric, and hot glued those to the top. I added in our set of magnetic letters and a handful of acorns to serve as coconuts and voila! One of my favorite things about sensory boxes is repurposing items that would otherwise be trash or clutter. The giant bag was a gift wrap bag from Amazon; it covered a trampoline from my dad last Christmas and it was on its way to the trash after being stored for a year. The cans were obviously about to be recycled.  And the acorns had been sitting around in a jar after being picked up at the park by my son this fall. No, we’re not saving the earth one sensory box at a time, but I’d like to believe it also teaches the value of reducing waste and using what you already have!

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My seven-month-old’s box is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I made more leaves from the same bag for the filler. It’s hard to find a filler that’s safe enough for babies, but fabric is usually a good option. We happened to have a pull along toy caterpillar that I put in, but closely supervise as it has a string attached. We also had a caterpillar magnifying glass I added; I guess we’re big Eric Carle fans! We have this great pretend food set from Learning Resources, so I chose a couple items in each color, some that matched the book, some that were just good for a baby to grab. I put in one of the baskets, as he’s at a good age for putting things in and out of containers. And lastly I put our small board book in.

Both boxes have been a huge hit! We’ve hidden letters in the rice and looked for them by name or by a word that begins with it. He has come up with games on his own, making them hide from a storm in the rice or telling each other to run up the tree. The caterpillar box is easy to transport as it’s not messy, so I’ve plopped it down in other rooms when I’ve needed to get a chore done. My oldest has requested sensory time often and they both enjoying sitting with each other, doing it as a shared activity.


Well Put Together

FequitaGuestBlogWelcome to our special guest-blogger: Fequita Simmons! Fequita and her daughter attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Fequita for sharing this story with us!

Today I took my three-year-old to play group. While watching her play ‘grocery store’ with her bestie I engaged in casual conversation with another parent whose son was immersed in fire trucks. I asked her if she had any more children. She lightheartedly responded, “I have just the one, and I can barely keep up with him.” When she asked me, “So do you have just the one?” I responded almost in automation to this question I’ve answered a million times, “I have four: ages 18, 10, 6 and 3.” Her eyes immediately widened to full capacity as she said, “You look so well put together!” In the moment I awkwardly laughed it off saying, “Thank you, I guess.”

Why did she see me as well put together? And as I am a mother of four—what have I figured out that has made a difference? There are certainly complications and hardships that come with raising several children. You have more personalities to manage and more schedules to keep up with, but it’s definitely manageable. Each parent has to come up with a system that works for the needs of their particular family. Here are a few general tips that work for my family.

1. Preparation and Consistency: Make a plan and stick to it. Make a schedule for all the things that must happen on a daily basis. It may seem a bit tedious to schedule what days to wash clothes, clean the bathroom, when to take baths and plan a dinner menu. However, with the hustle and bustle of a large family, it’s easy to overlook something and once you do it will be overwhelming to catch back up.

2. Get Everyone Involved: Encourage everyone to participate in the functioning of your household. My 3-year-old has chores just like the older ones do. My older children read the younger children bedtime stories. Children actually love to help out and it builds a great bond between siblings.

3. Roll with the punches: This is the most important rule. In a large family, there are too many variables to expect everything to run smoothly all the time. So learn to be okay with change. Every day there will be something that will not go as expected. And with each unexpected situation just improvise, adapt and overcome.

So if there is a mother out there, whether you have several children or just one, and you are feeling overwhelmed, give these tips a try. I hope they work for your family.

-Fequita


Give Your Kids a Piece of Yourself

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In this guest post, 4C Parent Services Specialist Dan Scheiman shares a reflection on fatherhood.

“Noble fathers have noble children.” -Euripides

When it comes to fatherhood, the above quote seems to say it all.

Be noble. Be honest. Be kind. And, maybe most of all, be present in your child’s life.

The first few on the list are actually easy. Treat your kids the way you want to be treated and in the way you want your kids to be treated by everyone they encounter. Be the measure that your children hold everyone they know up to and then be the one they feel safe enough to come to when things get tough and their heads fill with questions.

Being present is the tricky one. Things like work can get in the way. Life in general can get in the way and, something I can relate to, divorce can get in the way. So, at some point, every dad and every parent for that matter, has looked at their watch or even a calendar and wondered if they’ve made enough time for their kids.

But, here’s where that whole being noble, kind and honest thing comes in. For those times when despite your best efforts, you can’t physically be there, give your kids a big piece of yourself to carry with them and the confidence in you to know that you’re never too far away.

My dad passed away a few weeks ago so he is no longer physically present in my life and, while I could look to the things he didn’t do, the things he missed or left to my mom, I’d rather celebrate how he taught me to be honest, to be kind, and how to treat others, which by the way, had a lot to do with how he treated my mom. Those lessons became a guide for me through my life and through my divorce. 

I can’t count the number of times I have tormented my now nineteen-year-old son with “You’re…umm…ok after the stuff with your mom and I…yeah…umm…I mean the divorce?” The first few times were, to say the least, awkward, but we talked a lot and, after talking a lot, his responses have become, “Dad, geez, I’m fine. I talked to mom the other day; she’s good and says hi. Can we grab some Chipotle?”

My son has been home but will be heading back to college soon and, while I’ll miss him and worry from time to time, I know he has that piece of me with him. So, even with him hundreds of miles away, he knows I’m there which, regardless of the distance, always makes me present in his life.

All of this can be downright scary, believe me, I know, so here’s another quote to inspire you.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Parenting is a mighty high staircase to climb. Do it one step at a time. Have faith in yourself and your kids to do what’s right.


No Halloween! What’s the big deal?

Parents are sometimes surprised to learn that their child care program doesn’t celebrate Halloween. Why won’t they allow costumes and let the kids have some fun, they wonder. Are these child care providers spoil-sports, or are there good reasons for their policy?

While not the biggest issue in early childhood these days, consider this: Halloween can be very frightening to children under 5. While costumes and make-believe are fun for older children and adults, this can be downright scary for younger children who can’t yet separate fantasy from reality.

Though Halloween is widely accepted as a secular activity by most, it does conflict with the religious beliefs of some families. So programs are being respectful of the diversity of the families they serve when they limit celebration of holidays to those that are strictly secular.

If your program is one that chooses to celebrate Halloween, consider discussing with the director or caregiver how he or she will take steps to avoid frightening experiences. One simple precaution is to not allow masks and to keep costumes limited to simple dress-up items.  Better yet, consider a no-Halloween policy!

This blog post was originally published in October 2009 by Elaine Ward, Senior Vice President/COO, 4C for Children.


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Curiosity Comes With Apprehension

The following is a guest post from 4C for Children’s Director of Information Systems, Terri Alekzander.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." —Albert Einstein

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” —Albert Einstein

Full disclosure. I am not a parent. I am the adopted aunt to the children of many dear friends. I like to buy gifts that make noise, pretend swings are airplanes. And I love to build forts out of dining room furniture.

My friends know that their child will be returned safely, a little more dirty, but safe. Recently I had a chance to spend some time with eight-year-old twins, Logan and Seth. Fun, fun age. We went to a small local lake outside of Boston. After stowing our belongings on a blanket in the sand I headed for the water with both boys in tow. The afternoon was complete with a seamless blue sky and sunshine sparkling on the water. I’m chattering away and splashing toward the first line of buoys when I turn around to see how they are doing. They aren’t. They are standing at the edge of the water staring at me as if I’ve crossed into some unknown world. My heart sank.

“Come on, guys. The water’s not cold,”

“We can’t swim.”

“Can’t swim? But I’ve seen pictures of you swimming.”

“That’s in a pool. We don’t know how to swim in a lake.”

At first I wanted to wave my hand at them and tell them how silly they were being. Water is water. Swimming is swimming. Come on, this was fun. Swimming in a lake opens up a whole world of possibilities for finding rocks, bits of shell, decaying logs and what not. But in front of me were these tiny little guys in swim trunks, wiggling their toes in the brown sand, hugging their arms across their chests. This was different. I waded back to them and sat down on the sand.

After only a few minutes of exploring the sand and its contents which included rocks, twigs and leaves, they were ankle-deep in the water and noticing small fish swimming around their legs. We were making progress, but the pièce de résistance was when I lost my footing and landed on my behind in the water. The splashing commenced. Now with a common target, they forgot their apprehension about the unusual stuff beneath their feet and set about making sure that I was completely soaked. Mind you I was wearing shorts that I rolled up. I hadn’t planned on getting thoroughly wet. However, once I realized they were no longer concerned about the lack of chlorine in the lake water, I didn’t care that I was going to drive home in wet clothes with my hair plastered to my head.

It didn’t start out the way I planned. It ended up better than I could have imagined complete with a very complicated game about splashing that I only barely understood. And I was reminded that while children are curious, curiosity does not come without apprehension. Before starting anything new and unfamiliar it is always a good idea to pause and ask questions. Rarely should we blindly follow someone, even someone we love, into unfamiliar waters.


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Want your baby to learn? Turn off the TV!

Today’s guest post comes from 4C Board Chair Davida Gable.

In the late 1990’s, Julie Aigner-Clark founded The Baby Einstein Company which sold videos of babies playing with toys with classical music in the background.  These “educational” videos were marketed to parents as a way to safely educate their babies during the most critical period of their lives for brain development.

Every living adult in the United States knows a video in a TV buys precious time when in the company of children.  Who wouldn’t love a video that makes her normal baby a Baby Einstein, too?  In 2003, 33% of American babies aged six months to two years had a Baby Einstein video.  In fact, a 2005 study showed that 49% of parents believed educational videos were important for intellectual development.

Ms. Aigner-Clark eventually sat next to Laura Bush in President George W. Bush’s 2007 “State of the Union” address.  The President even lauded her achievements and noted, “Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America.”  By the end of the decade, The Baby Einstein Company was valued at approximately $400 million.  The Disney Company purchased Baby Einstein, making Julie Aigner-Clark a millionaire several times over.

Shortly after our daughter was born, I eagerly brought out the padding and videos that would give me freedom to pursue my dreams.  I laid my squirming daughter on a pillow and maniacally shredded the plastic wrap from the Baby Einstein DVD case, delighting at the prospect of making my daughter an intellectual genius while I continued to conquer the world.  As my infant daughter paused her fist-sucking to curiously study my palpable excitement, I popped in the video to see…drumroll please…a baby playing with a toy!

OK, there was classical music in the background, too.  But my heart sank as I reluctantly realized that it would be better if I simply turned on the classical FM radio station and brought my daughter a toy.  She’d probably like it if I talked to her, too.  Maybe even held her for a while.

I wasn’t the only one who felt duped.  At the same time parents were sacrificing their hard-earned dollars on videos, falsely hoping and believing that they would enhance their babies’ intellectual growth, only 6% of parents were aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics’s recommendation that children under the age of two should not be exposed to any TV or videos… including Baby Einstein.

Under Disney’s leadership, Baby Einstein ceded to pressure from “false advertising” charges and continued criticism from child experts.  It offer refunds for videos purchased between 2004 and 2009.

During this period, Julie Aigner-Clark received praise and adulation for being an entrepreneurial mommy.  Meanwhile, I was feeling like an old-fashioned scold expressing skepticism about videos that could make my average child a genius.  Not only did my skepticism appear as a lack of support for desperate parents – but it also undermined my own personal goal to be part of the “great enterprising spirit of America.”  If I spent time playing, holding and talking to my baby, how would I ever start my own company or win awards?

I finally realized the truth.  Videos would not make my baby a “Baby Einstein.”  The TV station Nick Jr. really is not “The Smart Place to Play.”  When it aired its original slogan, “It’s Like Preschool on TV,” my wise caregiving friends and I would quickly respond, “Except it’s NOT!”

Believing that videos will provide intellectual development is an extension of our earlier flawed learning that taking care of babies is like taking care of an egg. Quality early childcare takes attention, time and effort, with “measurable results” possibly not revealing themselves for years.  It’s not easy, and it’s difficult to make efficient.

4C for Children knows this.  Even better, 4C for Children understands the pressures of caregiving.  They understand the pressures so well that they even appreciate why we use the TV and videos when we’re trying to prepare dinner or brush our teeth.  They know that parents don’t need false promises from heavily marketed products…and they don’t need the high pressure expectations of perfectionism either.  Parents and caregivers need support.  4C is here to provide support.


Parents, I Admire You

Today’s guest blog comes from 4C’s Julie Witten, director of Northern Kentucky Services.

A letter to all parents, from a non-parent.

I held a baby today who is just ten hours old. Baby Will is eight pounds and three ounces, and he has a tuft of black hair on his head. For most of the time I held him, he made soft sucking sounds and held his tiny fists close to his face.

A letter to all parents, from a non-parent.

When I walked into the hospital room I saw my friend, who usually has a loud laugh and a big personality, whispering softly to the nurse as she cradled her newborn son. She looked different. She looked like a mother. After we had chatted a while about the delivery, she said, “you have no idea the love I felt immediately for this child.” I melted. After a time, she asked for the baby back, having watched his face scrunch up and saying “if he pooped, that’s a big deal.” He had. Later we laughed about her son taking his first “number two” and I joked that I would be able to embarrass him as a teenager by citing my presence for this milestone.

She asked me if I would like to hold him, and I said “only if it is okay with you.” As a 36 year-old, single, non-parent, I’ve been through my share of friends becoming parents. I try to take my cues from the new parent, realizing that my job is to follow their lead. I support the instincts that new parents have and don’t insert my opinion. Even though I have a great deal of experience in early childhood and work at 4C, I am not an expert on your child.

I recently visited with another new mommy friend and she asked that I wash my hands before holding her son. I was glad she did. I know this is a good practice, and I was proud that she was brave to make her wishes known. I think it is important to honor the wishes of new parents.

I would guess that parenting is equal parts gut instinct, book smarts, wisdom from other parents and some pure luck. Parents, I admire you. You are brave and strong (even when you might not feel that way). I hope to become a parent someday, and I expect that I will need a lot of help.