This was definitely an end of the year we will always remember. Spring of 2020 at preschool will be one for the record books. Starting in March we went to a Virtual Preschool. I sent out daily emails for the preschool families that followed our weekly themes and we had Virtual Circle Times for all the classes.
I was surprised how quickly the children adapted to "Rectangle Time" and how they responded to having class online. I learned how to use the screen as a tool. I spent my days learning how to read a book without have a glare on the page, how to make sure we had proper lighting and how to add fun into our 'regular' curriculum that was now being presented as online activities. One of the favorites has turned out to be hiding from each other while singing All Around the Mulberry Bush and popping up at the end of the song.
I find it ironic that one of my go-to books for our outdoor classroom, 150+ Screen Free Activities, has become one of the go-to books for my online curriculum as well. I have adapted the ideas to use with the children on the screen during our class times.
As we move through the 'new normal' I have worked to adapt in person circle time activities, science activities, stories and sharing time to the virtual classroom. The online classroom is different from the physical classroom but how children respond to learning has stayed the same. They are engaged when the learning is something that they are interested in, participate in and have a connection with. Is a virtual classroom the perfect environment for young children? I would say no but at the moment it is one of the only venues that we can safely engage in a preschool classroom environment with the children. So as the children are learning from me as the teacher I am learning from them on how to adjust my curriculum and my new classroom to meet their needs. I am re- learning how to teach my curriculum and how to be a preschool teacher.
It is a challenge and a joy to be able to reach these little ones in their own homes as we navigate this new way of teaching on a screen.
I will post the emails I sent out this spring and the emails I have sent for summer session. I have more children enrolled in our virtual summer session that we would usually have in our summer classes. Partly this is because we can have as many families as would like to come to class join us and partly because there are not a lot of other options outside of our summer sessions for preschoolers do right now.
The online class is: comforting, familiar, consistent and they have fun coming to class with their siblings, parents and friends. I think the key to the success of the classes was summed up by one of the children when we started our online classroom. She exclaimed, "I know this song! I know this!". During this time of uncertainty, with a lot of unknowns, the hour we spend together singing, reading stories and talking is something these children know. This is something they know this. It is an hour during their day that is familiar to them. We have all adapted to our new preschool setting and Rectangle Time.
This April is so different from what most of us had expected out April to be like. I know I had not imagined our world turning upside down like ti has. What has given me a sense of calm and hope is watching the gardens bloom, hearing the birds singing sweetly in the morning and know that nature has not changed at all. It is the same as it has been every year. I was looking back at previous newsletters and decided to use one I wrote a few years ago. What I wrote is the same -- gardening brings us hope of what is to come. We have faith that the seeds will grow in to plants, that we will have joy watching our flowers blossom and that there is pride in our accomplishments.
FROM April 2017
Ours was an “eating garden” not the “canning gardens” they ran through when visiting the relatives in Ohio. It was there for them to experience the joy of growing something, to see where some of our food comes from, and to be able to taste the goodness of their harvest (if we could keep the raccoons and birds from experiencing it first!) We would take pictures of their two corn stalks and send them to Great Grandpa – I am not sure who was prouder of their corn. When they got to high school they both took horticulture. The teacher came up to me one day and asked if Joel and Nick had gardened when they were younger. I said they had and she replied, “I knew it. They have such a respect for living things.”
It is so important to let little ones nurture things from nature. They develop an empathy and a respect for living things when they garden, as well as a knowledge of where food comes from, experience the science of growing seeds, patience while waiting for their plants to produce something to eat or look at, and pride in what they have accomplished. This love for nature will stay with them. Joel and Danielle have been working on the garden at their home Wedgewood. Nick does not have garden space but he likes to read books on gardening and loves planning a menu to eat all the things that Joel is growing! My Grandfather would be so proud of his little gardener.
I am glad we had, and are still having, fun digging in the dirt together. Children love to see the plants and see where food comes from before it gets to the grocery store. Take them to a blueberry or strawberry farm and let them pick some fruit. Then let them help prepare the food for a family meal. You know where food comes from but to them this is a new and exciting adventure. Take some time to get dirty with your child – or just visit the pea patch and see what other people are doing in the dirt.
Some of the children have already had the opportunity to plant seeds in the garden at preschool. We will all be planting soon. We will encourage the science of gardening while we set up experiments outside and have fun digging in the dirt at preschool. Be sure to check out the garden area when you are at school: the raspberry plants are leafing out, the hummingbird is visiting daily, and the slugs are enjoying our primroses. There is a lot going on in the preschool garden, and more to come!
Our Wildlife Habitat Garden has attracted the birds this winter and soon the butterflies will return. The garden is a place that allows the children to experience nature and encourages habitats for the animals in the area. When we encourage children to be a part of nature they develop a caring attitude toward nature that develops their ability to nurture – plants, animals and people.
You have the chance to plant a seed of something very special in the hearts, minds, and spirits of your children as you garden together.
When our sons were young they loved the mischievous fun of the leprechauns. They would wake up to clothes in the wrong drawers (shirts in the underwear drawer and vice versa), green milk, green oatmeal, a trail through the house made by little leprechaun feet (you can use little paper shamrocks instead of painted feet) and at the end of the trail would be a special surprise from the leprechaun with a note. In that note the leprechaun would explain how much fun he had playing tricks on them and making a mess. They would go outside and look for the "little people" in the garden, build little homes for them and leave them surprises. It was so much fun. As they got older they would still wait for the leprechauns to bring the surprises on St Patrick’s Day -- not as many tricks but still little green goodies. We enjoyed playing leprechauns and we have great memories from the tricks they played. The leprechaun visit combined imagination, surprise, tradition, and play all in one day of fun.
It is so important for children to have opportunities to play -- unstructured, open ended, child centered play.We see play as just “fun” but for children play is hard work. It is a child's full time job to play. For children play comes naturally. It is so important to give children opportunities to play -- unstructured, open ended, child centered play. We may see it as meaningless but it is an important developmental activity for a child. Children learn through play. By giving children an opportunity to play we give them an opportunity to learn. Through play they develop social skills, self-confidence, opportunities to problem solve, ways to develop leadership skills as well as the beginning skills for academics. They discover how the world works and how they fit in that world. As we “grow up” it gets harder for us to play as freely as we did as children. We have to work at it. How does play come so easily to little children? They have less outward restraints -- they have less focus on what society "thinks" as well as being less self-conscious about what they are doing. What can we do to enhance their learning while they play? We can give them opportunities to develop their imaginations by allowing them to engage in open ended play. Children used to have toys that were not connected to a product, movie or book. They would use a stick as a doll or train. They developed their own scenarios without adults orchestrating the play. When they had a train it was just a train not a train with a name and a specific role in the play. It is hard not to allow your child to have a Thomas or a Dora but you can help them develop the play without mirroring the story or TV show. Kids are attracted to the same things as when our boys were young but the difference then was that a train was just that -- a train, dinosaurs were dinosaurs, tools were hammers without a specific builder using them. Our first experience with attaching a particular movie/story to the generic dinosaur was Land Before Time and the dinosaur characters in the movie. We had to drive to a Mercer Island Pizza Hut to get Sharp Tooth. I never thought I would have allowed an advertiser’s scheme to manipulate me to buy pizza in order to get a toy. I was though -- through my children's big, pleading eyes. We drove across town to buy a pizza in order to get the last dinosaur in the collection. Advertisers have found a big target population to sell items to – our children. It is important to give your child a chance to use their creativity when they play not just copy what they see or hear. One way to help your child develop their imagination is to give them opportunities to think and play "outside the box" that society puts their toy in. A prime example of how children enjoy the open ended "toy" is watching a child play with the box and wrapping paper the toy came in instead of with the toys that came in the box. If you allow children to have items that they can use to create their own play scene -- things that do not already have a story line attached to them—you allow them to engage their mind in their play..
Giving them opportunities for open ended activities will encourage your child to develop their imagination and enhance their cognitive skills. Our sons played for hours with wooden blocks, animals and cars. Often they built towers, towns, boats, roadways -- the start of each project was new and changed as they developed the idea for that day. It was the same set of blocks yet used to create different outcomes, scenarios, stories. Toys are the same, yet different, now -- Legos used to be an assortment of colored building blocks but now they have a theme or specific story line attached (Pirates of the Caribbean) that pre-determines the outcome of the play, many books have a show or movie that sets the visual imagery, dolls/trucks/trains have a pre-determined personality or story line. The play is less imaginative and creative if the child is just re-creating what they have already seen or knows about the characters or materials they are playing with. It is important to help the child create his/her own story line or scenario rather than just mimic one that has already been determined by a toy manufacturer.
A natural arena for open ended play is the backyard.
Give them time to be outside playing in the yard -- they can dig in the dirt, play with water, use animals as they make their own zoo or farm, plant a garden, watch the clouds, read a book. Being outside is something that is important for developing empathy for living things. They learn to respect living things -- both animals and plant life. Children need time outdoors -- unstructured time to play in natural surroundings. They experience the world through all of their senses. It gives them opportunities for leaning balance, eye hand coordination, cause and effect, visual discrimination, depth perception, enhances their hearing, creates associations with sound/sight to the knowledge they have acquired while reading books -- and you just thought they were playing outside! As they get older they can organize group play. The older kids set up the scenario and the younger kids get to play the parts. It is through this kind of multi-age play that they can develop social skills, problem solving techniques, leadership skills and self- confidence. Allowing the children to govern the play gives the child opportunities for developing abilities to manage their bodies and emotions, express their opinions and feelings, and create an environment of cooperation. They learn how to play together with rules and how to deal with their feelings when the outcomes of the group play are not what they want them to be.
When you are inside the house you can set up open ended activities that allow children to use household items for activities that encourage academic learning through play -- measuring and pouring develops spatial awareness (science, math, verbal skills), sorting items like buttons, nuts and bolts, food items (sensory awareness, verbal skills, visual discrimination), using socks for puppets, scraps of cloth for art projects (visual discrimination, 5 senses, creative problem solving).
There is a place and time for both open ended activities and playing with beloved characters. We had Snow White and the Seven "DORFS" memorized – I could not miss a word or page - ever! While on a trip to Ballard I had to stop at a toy store and ask permission to put the "dorfs" that were on display in the window in the correct order (Doc to Dopey). Winnie the Pooh and Mickey were part of the Disneyland play, Beatrix Potter was played out with their stuffed animals but they also made magic brews in the backyard, set up wild safaris in the garden and just laid in the grass and looked at the sky.
Give your child a balance of activities so they can develop creative thinking skills, cooperative play, and problem solving skills.
Through play your child is developing many new skills that will be the building blocks for a lifetime of learning.
February is a month we think of those we love. Love is expressed in so many ways: a hug, a kiss, a kind word, a smile and the list goes on. Each day we have many opportunities to show people how special they are to us. From the way we greet our family in the morning to the way we respond to the not-so-friendly neighbor, we are modeling love to our children. They will learn a lot about love and kindness by watching how we respond to them, and others, during the day. They will also learn about forgiveness, patience, understanding, relationships and conflict resolutions. We are not perfect, and as hard as we try, we do not always show the “best” to our children. But this is a perfect opportunity to model how we respond to those we love, or those we have relationships with, when we haven’t reacted in a kind or appropriate manner. Some-times how we make amends is a better model of love than our hugs and kisses.
After a hard day we are not as fresh as we were in the morning, or for some of you, who are not morning people, evening may be the best time of day for you. Whenever you are running low on those warm-fuzzies try to give your children a clue that this may not be a good time for you. I used to look at the boys and say, “look at this face, do you think this is a good time for this?!” As they get older you can use humor to release the tension and maybe get a laugh out of the situation.
I was on the phone with my sister-in-law when her son (now 21) was having a playdate. I was reminded that timing is everything. She was at her wits end, the children (Joshua, then 5, his friend, Brandon, and the 2 year old brother, Carson) had returned to the house covered in mud (again), she would have to change their clothes (again), she would have to mop the kitchen floor (again), and she would have to wash them and their clothes (again)! As she was talking to me I could hear little Carson talking to her about what she had for him to wear. His sweet little voice brought back the images of chubby little people who used to bring dirt, mud and assorted other “fun” into my life. I would have given anything to be sitting in her kitchen cuddling with that little two year old or better yet sitting outside watching them giggle and laugh as they played in the mud.
Of course, 30 years ago when my little cherubs were riding bikes through the “hugest” mud puddle in the campground, in the only clean clothes left in our cabin, after a week of non-stop rain and after I had told them “absolutely no more riding through that puddle!” I wasn’t in such a warm and fuzzy mood!
Like I said timing is everything!
Just remember that the day will soon be over but the lessons they learn will be theirs forever.
Teach them love, compassion, humor, and let them know you will always be there for them and, remember, these memories of toddler-hood and preschool will always be there for you.
There are many ways you can show love to your children and in that expression of love they will feel honored and special. My guys loved it when we left little surprises at the end of a “treasure hunt” around the house, story books with pictures of them as the main character, allowing them to make the menu for the evening meal and then eating whatever is on their menu and sitting around the table listening as they shared about their day. We had special adult friends that also showed them they were important. The friendships with those adults are still in place to this day. It is important to have adults in their lives that are not “the parents”. Grandparents, aunts/uncles, family friends can be there for your child when they need to bounce ideas off someone but they don’t want it to their parent. Joel and Nick would tell Aunt Elysia things that they would not have told us. These special adults can say the same thing that Mom and Dad say but it somehow is different coming from them. I cherish the times I have with the “kids” in my life that are my friend’s children and the conversation we can have because I have known them all of their life.
Take time to show the people in your life how special they are to you. Cherish the time you have with these children and remember what a blessing these little people in our lives!
As we start the New Year some of us may have taken time to review what our families have done this past year and/or start planning the activities for the coming year. When you have little ones running around the house you are lucky to have a chance to review the last hour let alone the whole year! It takes some planning just to have time to think! These little gems that are running around your house, and running your life, give you a new outlook on life as well as your thoughts for the year to come. How much will they grow this year, what will they learn, what will I learn, where will we be next year, when will they learn to……??? There are lots of questions and a new year of adventures ahead of you. When you have a moment of quiet time, try to review what you did in 2019. Take time to reflect on what you did that you would like to do again and add that to the list of new things you would like to try this year. Some of the “things” you do with your family/child may be big things but a lot of the time the memories you keep with you are from the ordinary things that make up everyday life. Did you have time to laugh with your child, did you feel the awe of wonder-ment when your child experienced something for the first time, were you amazed when they learned something new -- did you really enjoy a day in the life of your child?
Sometimes you need to get away and have some R&R so you have the energy to have a positive attitude about being a parent. Give yourself permission to have time just for you. Give yourself permission to pamper yourself. If you take the time to recharge yourself then you have the opportunity to be the best for your child.
~ Take a walk
~ Go on a date
~ Read a book (that does not have pictures and a soft, fluffy animal, a truck, train, or builder as a main character)
~ Have a cup of tea and finish a chapter without being interrupted.
Then you will have the energy to enjoy all they have to share with you … a hug, a sticky-jelly-kiss, a worm, a laugh.
In our family I treasure the laughter more than anything else. To hear children laughing brings such joy. Even though Joel and Nick are grown they will always be my “children” so their laughter will always bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. And now we can enjoy the laughter of our grandchildren! Curt and I walked by a playground the other day and were drawn to the sound of children playing and laughing. What a wonderful sound that is. It is the sound of joy and wonderment. Often it is the everyday memories that mean so much as your child grows up. The day you sat on the porch in the sun and read a book, that early morning sleepy look as they tumble out of bed, a smile just for you, the excitement of a making something all by themselves. These little snapshots of everyday life with add up and become the history of their childhood. You can hold onto these mental pictures of your little one as you watch them grow. Sooner than you think (or want) they head off into the ‘big’ world -- grade school, high school and then off to college or their new job. Remember -- it is as important to take the pictures in your mind as it is with your camera because you can always look at the pictures in your mind.
What Shall We Give the Children?
What shall we give the children?
The holidays are here.
Toys, and games, and playthings
As we do every year?
Yes, for the magic of toyland
Is part of the holiday lore
To gladden the hearts of childhood
But I shall give something more.
I shall give them more patience,
A more sympathetic ear,
A little more time for laughter,
Or tenderly dry a tear.
I shall take time to teach them
The joy of doing some task.
And try to find time to answer
All the questions they seem to ask.
We'll read some books together
And take long walks in the sun;
Take time for a bedtime story
After the day is done.
I shall give these things to my children,
Which will weave a closer tie,
Knitting our lives together
With the gifts that money can't buy.
As we enter the Holiday Season the stores, internet and advertisements in the newspaper and magazines are all vying for your attention – and money. Buy this or that and your child will be bigger, better, smarter! We want to give things to our children but as the poem says, the things we give our child that are truly the most meaningful may not cost a lot of money. Two gifts that I found to be everlasting treasures for our sons: books and boredom (yes – whiney, annoying boredom!) One does not have to cost a lot of money and the other is absolutely free!
First – Read, Read, Read.It is so important to expose your child to the written word in books. Let them experience their very own books, check them out from the library, make their own story books and have them witness the grown-ups in their life reading books. Teach your child the responsibility of book ownership. They can learn to respect books. If they are prone to tearing pages, get them board books, buy books that are inexpensive or give them cloth books. If they are sitting on your lap, you can model how to turn a page or how to “touch the book gently”. Set their books on a shelf they can reach so they can read when they want to. Put the special books up and out of reach if you are concerned for their safety (both the book’s and the child’s!). Set aside specific reading times during the day. I read to the boys whenever they wanted to read during the day but the “special time” was when Daddy read to them at night. He read them their bedtime stories ( I was never sure who would fall asleep first -- Curt or the boys!) Their first chapter stories were short and simple. He worked his way through Curious George, Charlotte’s Web, Beezus and Ramona, the Redwall Series, and The Chronicles of Narnia. The boys own many (!) books of their own that mirror their personalities but the books that Curt read them as they grew up are in both of their personal libraries. They are treasured for the memories as well as the book itself.
How old is too old to read to them? Never! One of the traditions in our home was to buy Curt a new Christmas book to read when Joel and Nick came home for the holidays. We would all snuggle up with something hot to drink and a little snack to enjoy as we listened to Curt read. This year we will have a change in that tradition. Ansel will be added to the listeners and Papa will start the reading cycle again … first simple board books and then chapter books that he read to Joel and Nick as little ones.
Books are a gift you give your child and reading to them is a gift you give yourself. It is a time to bond, to share thoughts, to snuggle, to dream, to cry and laugh. Be sure to take the time to share literature with your child. It is a gift you will never regret giving.
Second is a gift that does not cost any money at all. So when you are thinking of gifts, think of something to give your child that you cannot buy – boredom. Yes, “I’m bored” is something I liked to hear – (no, I didn’t like the whining part of it but that is another story for another day). When they would come up and say they were bored I would answer them with -- Fine, you’re bored, what are YOU (not me) going to do about it? Allowing your child to figure out how to entertain him/her self is a gift you give your child that money cannot buy. There are many times during the day that you cannot always be your child’s sole source of entertainment. Let them go outside and dream, look at clouds, dig in the dirt, watch an ant or a spider in a web. Give them some “open ended” item to play with and let them discover ways to use their imagination. Old socks can make great puppets. A Cool Whip container is a unique hat, a boat, a bed….what else? Water, plastic animals, a little garden space and you have your own Animal Kingdom. Mr. Roger’s said the best toy you can give your child is a sand box. It is open ended in its approach and ever changing in the ways your child can use it. My boys, and the neighbor kids, actually used our sand box well into grade school. Of course, Curt’s idea of a sand box was a 6-foot x 6-foot square that must have been 4-feet deep. They could flood it with water, dig for buried treasure or just sit in it and watch the world around them.
If you allow your child to figure out “what to do” he/she will learn to problem solve, engage their imagination, develop creative thinking skills and be more self-reliant. We are so busy giving them opportunities for structured learning that we forget to give them opportunities for un-structured learning. It is not bad to be bored. They can relax and day dream, they can explore new ideas, try new thinking skills or they can whine and do nothing. Give them a chance to determine how they want to spend the time. Joel and Nick were not always successful – in my view -- in finding appropriate ways to entertain themselves. One time Joel and his friend decided to “switch the brains” of their two younger brothers – creative, yes, but electricity and metal pans on heads was not the way I wanted them to express their creativity! But there were many science experiments in the back yard that did meet my criteria for safety and their ideas for exploring their world. We had mud monsters, assorted “brews” in buckets, collections of roly-poly bugs, slugs and worms. They built forts, boats to float in the gutter after a rain and buried treasure to find later. Give your child a chance to be bored, let them figure out what they can do to entertain themselves, plan for un-structured time in their day as well as structured time. It is important to give them both structure so they learn how to interact in the world and to give them time to manipulate their surroundings so they can learn how to problem solve and express themselves in a positive and successful manner.
Two important gifts to give your child: Books to open the world to them and boredom to allow them to manipulate and explore the world around them.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is a time we set aside to spend time with family and friends. Yes, there can be stress and tension when we get together with family and friends but it is a time to embrace traditions, make new traditions, be with the people we know and the people who know us best.
As we start into this holiday season I hope you take some time to set your priorities to make this a family-centered and stress-less (I know it cannot be a stress-free) time. It is hard to keep from getting caught up in the materialistic side of the holidays. We want to give our children special gifts. We want to make them happy. The nice thing about Thanksgiving is that it is time to encourage families to be aware of the people in their lives and the things they already have. Children are a gift to us and the values we share with them are the gifts we give to them. Take some time to enjoy the treasures you have in your children and reflect on all the joy they bring to our lives.
The days are getting darker and we will soon be inside more than outside. As we transition to the cool, wet days it is a fun to do family activities that do not cost a lot of money and can be done while you are hunkered down at home. Read a story by the fire or by candle light. Build a tent with sheets and use flashlights. Pop some popcorn and look at baby pictures – they love to see pictures of themselves as babies and are intrigued by your baby pictures. Spend a Saturday ―on vacation‖ -- pretend you are out-of-towners and be a tourist, or just stay home but don’t do chores— just fun stuff. Make a family movie or have a puppet show. Build with blocks and read Hans Christian Anderson’s Block City. Play a game. Stay in your jammies and eat breakfast on a quilt (or in bed?!). Just enjoy these little people because they will be big people before you know it!
I was talking to a new mom about how busy the days are and how fast the children are growing up. Some days it seems like your day will go on forever but in the blink of an eye your children will be in grade school, then driving a car (and, again, you will be waking up at midnight!) and heading off to college. During these years, while your children are small, you need to take time for yourself.
~ take a nap
~ go for a walk
~ go on a date
~ get out and clear your head.
Take care of yourself so you will be able to enjoy these precious gifts you have been given. It is a lot of work to raise children. You need to take care of yourself so you have the energy to take care of them. By sharing your joy with them, they will find joy in their world.
As I watch your children at preschool I am reminded how lucky we are to have the chance to see the world though their eyes. Take some time this month to count your blessings and give thanks for the treasures we call children.
Fall is a time of change – the leaves change to a variety of colors, we anticipate the change in the weather and temperature, the sunsets come earlier and sunrises later as we watch the last of the flowers in the garden fade away. We change our clocks, our meal choices and our wardrobe…time for all those sweaters and fleece to come back out of the closet where they have been (although in Seattle it may have only been for the last few weeks!)
While we look forward to change we may long for time to stay the same. I enjoy the crisp, colorful days of fall, but long for the lazy, sunny days of summer while looking forward to cold, snowy days by a fire in the winter. I want it to stay the same as I remember the fun of past activities and the excitement as I look forward to the new activities yet to come. This is true of parenting. I loved when my sons were young. I was always happy with the age they were. We enjoyed all the “seasons” as they grew. All were wonderful and different and challenging. The joy of the “firsts” -- first smile, first words, first steps changed to first lost tooth, first sleep over, first summer camp. Then it was time for learning to drive, college applications and their first time living away from home. We have enjoyed the time with our sons and being a part of the changes as they have grown from babies to adults. We cannot turn back the hands of time. What we can do is enjoy the memories as we look forward to all the new experiences yet to come. Just like the four season we experience each year parenting has it’s seasons. I think the three seasons of parenting are: memories - looking back at the past, moments -enjoying the present and milestones- planning for the future.
This month I would like to write about my passion for the outdoors. It is so important to be outside with your children. I have to be outside. I have always been an outside kind of person. I draw so much energy from nature and being able to be outdoors. When our sons were little we did as much as we could outside. Hiking, exploring, walks in the neighborhood, visiting parks, camping and looking for worms after a rain were just some of the activities we enjoyed.
This fall, at preschool, we will be adding to our play area to give the children more ways to exercise their bodies while being in a natural environment. I like watching children as they experience the wonder of nature. The trees moving when it is windy, the smell of the salt air, the feel of the rain mist on their skin. While we are at preschool these are all things they can experience while being in the outside area. What do they learn while they are outside? All of their 5 senses are used while in nature. They can hear the birds, feelthe wind, watch the clouds, tastea fresh picked raspberry from the garden and smell a flower. Their world outside is finite and infinite, the same and everchanging They can watch a spider spin a web, a bird soar in the air, a squirrel run up a tree and play with their favorite toys that they know will be at preschool. While they dig in the dirt (or sandbox) they are learning about physics and math, when they pet an animal they are learning how to interact in a kind and gentle manner. When they are outside they are discovering that they are a part of this big world they live in.
It is important for children to be given opportunities to explore their world. Give them time to roam about, by themselves, and explore. It is possible to allow children to feel independent by setting up safe outdoor environment for them. They can play outside while you watch from the window or porch. Give them an opportunity to explore the back yard while you watch from a distance. Some of the children will like the experience of being outside “alone” and others will want you to be near them. It is important that the children feel like they have some input in what is happening in their outdoor world as they learn and explore the natural environment in their yard, a park or at school. Let them interact with nature by climbing, sitting, running and exploring in their yard (or safe outdoor area) on their own. It is just as important to be there to explain the world around them as it is for them to have a chance to experience the world of nature on their own. What do they learn when they are outside? They develop
~ critical thinkingskills(what to believe, what to do)
~ curiosity (what is this …)
~imagination(what can I do with this),~
~problem solving skills(how do I climb up this rock)
~a joy of learning (developing a love of learning for learning not for a grade or the approval of others)
One way to do this is to give them an area to dig. This could be in a sand box, at the beach, in a pile of dirt or a space in the garden. Let them use natural materials, like sticks and rocks, to build with. Our sons had a huge sand box to play in. They would spend hours building roads for their vehicles, homes for their animals and dinosaurs, digging for buried treasures. I would sit nearby and read or we would build together depending on how they wanted to play that day. It was a delightful way to spend a sunny afternoon. “When we treat children's play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that's to be found in the creative spirit. It's the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”
― Fred Rogers
As our sons grew their “sandbox world” changed to climbing the boulder in the Cougar Rock Campground at Mt Rainier National Park, exploring my Grandfather’s farm in Ohio, playing Ultimate Frisbee games at Discovery Park and hiking in the North Cascades. Nick has summited Mt Rainier, Mt Baker, Glacier Peak and Mt Olympus. Joel and Danielle climbed Half Dome in Yosemite. They have gone on several National Park trips. They still like to spend time at Mt Rainier with their wives. We spent a lot of time hiking and camping. Now both Joel and Nick spend time with climbing, hiking and camping with their wives and family. Danielle takes Ansel and Zoe out on hikes every day. They spend time looking at leaves, playing Pooh Sticks and exploring the neighborhood parks along with hikes that are in the mountains and at the beach. Danielle loves the outdoors and she is sharing that love wither children. Just as I shared my love of the outdoors with my sons. I would like to think that their love to explore the outdoors, and the world around them, is partly inspired by the worlds they created in their backyard sandbox and the time we spent exploring the world together as a family.
Take some time to allow your children to explore the world around them and you will be planting seeds of curiosity that will grow in them.
A FUN FALL NATURE ACTIVITY. Take a COLOR WALK. Learn about the colorful diversity of nature and the usefulness of camouflage.
Gather squares of paper in different colors – or let your child pick out some paint-chip cards at the store – and go on walk around the neighborhood, your back yard, or the park. Collect things that match your color cards. Green – grass, Yellow-dandelions, Red- leaves, Brown-pinecone, etc. (you can point out that at this time of the year all the colors that the leaves are) You can collect them in a plastic baggie or gather them up and place them on the sheets of colored paper. Talk about the colors and size of the items you collect. Talk about what colors are easy to find, what color is your favorite, where do find colors, how many colors are in the sky. See if you can name something from each color.
I am excited to be starting my 30th year teaching preschool. I have been teaching at Crown Hill for 26 of the 30 years I have been with North Seattle ‘s cooperative preschool program. I received a K-12 teaching certificate and BA in Psychology from Seattle Pacific University. Before I taught cooperative preschool I started a private kindergarten at North Queen Anne Day Care and was a K-6 gifted teacher in the Shoreline School District.
I decided to stop teaching when I had Joel in 1982. We bought our house in Loyal Heights and I started an in-home daycare. I had my daycare until with Joel and Nick both were in school. For most of the time I had my daycare I took care of 6 other little boys. We had our own little preschool! We went everywhere together in our Ford Bronco. It was quite a sight to see us all getting out the vehicle.
I found out about the cooperative teaching job from my neighbor. She saw the ad in the Ballard News Tribune – a local weekly newspaper. The Parent Educator that hired me has been my friend and mentor the whole time I have taught preschool.
The college website gives this information about the preschool program. Started over 50 years ago, the NSC Cooperative Preschool Program offers a warm and gentle introduction to school and community life for young children and their families. Adults and children learn together, grow together, and actively build a community together. NSC’s Cooperative Preschools provide parent and early education for families with children from infancy to Pre-K. For children, co-op is a safe and nurturing place in which to explore and have fun. Social, emotional and intellectual skills are learned through cooperative and creative play. For parents, it’s a place to improve parenting skills, help shape their child’s first school environment, and form lasting friendships.
I have always enjoyed working with the children and I appreciate the support given to the families by each other. The parent education helps families as they interact with their child and as they develop relationships with other children and their families. It is a strong network that supports families during the preschool years and beyond. I just met with some of the moms from one of our classes – their little ones are starting high school and learning to drive! They still meet on a regular basis and have stayed connected as their children have moved through the school years. From another class a dad sent me a note to say they were all going camping to celebrate a birthday – this weekend – in the rain! But off they all went with the children that had all played together for the last 3 years during preschool and are still playing together as Kindergarteners.
Cooperative preschool is a time for learning and growing for both the child and the parent. It is a time to develop friendships that will last for years – for both the child and the parents.
As we start the new year we will continue to work together in the classroom as we build friendships – some that will last for years. I want this to be a year that builds a foundation for developing their love of learning. I want this year to be a time for both the children, and the adults, to learn, grow, explore and engage in a safe and secure setting.
Instead of the 3 R’s we will have the 5 R’s …
Reading – together as a family activity
Rhyming – talking, singing, using language throughout the day
Routines – keeping a child’s schedule consistent
Rewards – acknowledging your child’s achievements
Relationships – building strong, healthy relationships between children and trusted adults
I am looking forward to a great year together.