Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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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:


The Kindness of Neighbors

friends-bubblesFor some reason all the neighborhood kids like to play in my front yard. I live in a cul-de-sac, which is super nice because we all keep an eye out on the kids. They often ring my doorbell when I come home from work to say hi, and ask about my dog Emma and my cat Bubs. They are always trying to sell me something like water or lemonade, and I typically fold. Three dollars for a cup of lemonade? How can I say no?

Sometimes we’ll sit on the porch and share a healthy snack. Last week they ate a whole container of strawberries. But honestly I don’t mind. I love that these kids are brave enough to ask me questions.

One of the little boys that plays in my yard dresses like a police officer almost every day. He’s got the whole package: vest, belt, handcuffs, gloves, badge, walkie-talkie, play toy gun, a baton, watch, boots, cargo pants. I have named him “kid cop.” He loves it. When he rings my doorbell, he asks if he can arrest me. I have had multiple charges: Eating too much ice cream, laughing too loud, letting my dog give too many wet kisses, eating pizza without them, not having any popscicles, I could go on. He and his friends just laugh and giggle at me and think it’s the best thing ever.

He told me he wants to be a police officer when he grows up because he wants to help people. “You know, if they lose a dog or something, or someone steals their bike. I had my bike stolen and I got it back when the police officer helped me.”

Our friendly cul-de-sac police-officer-in-training was recently featured in our community newsletter. He had his picture taken with our Township Police Department. He was beaming with pride!

I hope this little neighbor of mine always wants to serve his community, whether it’s through sharing a glass of lemonade on a hot day, a kind smile to a neighbor or desire to help when needed.


Trying New Things

toddler-playingWhen my 8-year-old daughter was only 9 months I was in a tough spot. I was faced with what I thought that day was a huge decision. I was asked to move her from the safe, soft, sweet, simple infant room into the loud, scary, falling onto, biting, drooling, messy toddler room. Technically it was my decision as I was lucky enough to have my kids in great care. Ms. Wendy told me, “Natalie is bored in the infant room and will do great in the toddler room getting to explore more. Think about if you don’t give her this chance to grow and experience this as she’s ready.”

Her comment reminded me of when my daughter was born and we brought her home from the hospital. My husband laid her on her brand new play mat under her hanging toys and I just giggled. “What?” he said and I explained, “Honey, she can’t even see those toys let alone reach for them yet.” He followed with, “How do you know? How do you know that exact moment when she will see them or reach for them? Why wouldn’t you put her here just in case today is the day?” That’s when my genius husband put his wife with all of the Early Childhood Education “expertise” to shame!

Ms. Wendy could see in my eyes I was still worried about my tiny, petite, little sweet angel going into a room with toddlers who were all at least 3 months older than her! She then said something to me that sticks with me to this day: “This is such a small decision compared to the lifetime of difficult ones you will have to make. For example, I am having the ‘Birds and Bees’ talk with my daughter tonight!” We both laughed and agreed! She promised to keep Natalie safe and help her transition comfortably. And she did! Natalie absolutely LOVED getting to go outside every day and play. To this day my still petite 8-year-old jumps at the chance to try something new and doesn’t seem to look at things as if she is too small to try—she will try anything!


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10 Things I Do Not Miss

Not so long ago I was living in the heavy fog of the baby/toddler days. You know, that time in your life when your child is a newborn or a preschooler or somewhere in between, AKA the neediest time of their lives. My days (and nights) were consumed with feedings, diaper changes, tantrums, messes and crying. If you have more than one child close in age those sleep-deprived days can seem to stretch on for years. I remember telling my friends that the soundtrack to my life was a crying baby.

What don't I miss about small children? This.

Don’t get me wrong, those days were also magical. And now that my children are older, I actually miss toddler pouts and rocking a baby to sleep at 3 a.m. So, whenever I see a snuggly baby or a giggly toddler and I feel an ache of loss for those exhausting-yet-delightful days, I remind myself of the things I do not miss.

Using the bathroom with an audience. I pee alone, and it’s everything I ever thought it could be.

Potty training. My daughter is very stubborn, so I didn’t make it through with my sanity.

Sleep deprivation. My youngest child can use a remote and pour cereal, with some help from older siblings. I wake up after the sunrise again, and it is amazing.

Changing diapers. I spent six years of my life changing diapers. Now I use that time reminding people to flush the toilet and wash their hands.

Negotiating with toddlers. No more maddening debates on pajamas, snacks, toys, shoes… oh, the shoes! We are 20 minutes late, please just put something on your feet.

Washing hair. How can it be so hard to tip your head back and leave it there for five seconds?!

Being late to everything unless you factor in a 30 minute contingency plan. I no longer have to allow extra time for last-second poopy diapers and toddler tantrums.

Washing bottles and sippy cups. Big kid water bottles have nowhere near the amount of pieces and parts as bottles and sippy cups.

Deciphering a toddler’s needs and wants. No more confusing answers to simple questions like, “Do you want milk or juice?” “Milk. No, juice. Um, yes. Milk. No, milk. Yes, juice. Yes. No. Yes. No.” “So, juice then?” “Waaaaahhhh!”

Feeding everyone else before me. Wait, I actually still do this. I suppose it’s something to look forward to.


The Child Connection

Children live in the moment. There's no reason we can't, too.The alarm clock blared at 6 a.m. and I willed myself out of bed. Every year for the past seven years I would have already been at the starting line, nervously waiting for the start of the Flying Pig Marathon. But this year a nagging foot injury kept me from participating, and instead I was heading to the sidelines to cheer on the runners and walkers that would soon fill the streets of Cincinnati.

 

With my camera in hand I headed to mile eight of the race to meet the other family and friends who planned to cheer on their loved ones. As the front runners rounded the corner our excitement grew. These runners were impressive, and our job was to encourage them along the way. As the swarms of runners grew, our support became even more important. For many this was their first marathon, and as these tired runners came to the brink of a three-mile uphill surge, it was clear that bringing a smile to their faces would help alleviate their pangs of fatigue.

With this in mind I began cheering more loudly, trying my best to get a nod, a wave or a smile from the many runners. Yet all my attempts were not nearly as successful as the outstretched hands of young children. Standing on either side of me were five of them. Initially they seemed unsure of how to approach the runners, tentatively holding out their hands or even backing away.

But their tentativeness quickly changed when several runners with large smiles on their faces reached out to share a high-five with the children. The response of the runners was exciting. They boldly stepped off the curb and with broad smiles, held their hands out towards the runners. And the runners reciprocated – many times coming from the other side of the street in order to share a high-five with these beaming little faces.

The connection of the young children with the runners was magical. They didn’t have to say anything, the runners were simply drawn to them, and I think it’s because children live in the moment. They do not worry about what they are not doing or what they could have done better – they simply approach the world with wonder and awe. For these children the marathon was a new experience and sharing a high-five with runners was building their confidence and bringing joy – to both of them!

So, I suggest you “high-five” the children in your life. The connection will alleviate your fatigue and your children will more confidently step off the curb and join in the race!