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Notice, I did not say he or she does not need dress-up clothes. I said pass on the costumes.
What’s the difference? Dress-up clothes are multi-purposed and the purpose changes with your child’s imagination. Your child is in charge. The plain cape can make him or her a superhero or a knight or Little Red Riding Hood or Zorro or a bad guy or a good guy or a princess traveling on a mission. A Superman cape with logo is only a Superman cape.
Dress-up play is immensely important.
- Imaginary play develops a child’s language skills. Think about it: Whether your child does it silently or out loud, he or she can’t become part of a story unless and until they put words to it.
- Thinking of multiple uses for an object is a trait of creativity.
- Dress-up and imaginary play puts a child in charge. In a day to day existence where children are told so often what to do and when, imaginary play lets them be the boss.
- It also helps children develop impulse control.
- Finally, in imaginary play, children can tackle what’s frightening and overcome it, they can be aggressive and discover their limits, they can be powerful–and on and on. The agenda is theirs.
If you buy a Snow White or Spiderman costume, that’s the end of the story–literally. Save your money and buy oodles more of all purpose dress-up clothes instead (many can be picked up at your local thrift store).
What’s your favorite addition to the dress-up box?
That may sound like an exaggeration. Certainly the intention is to improve education for a generation but when mandates don’t match with reality, the opposite occurs.
As busy as you are, if there are young children in your life, you need to read this summary in the Washington Post of Defending the Early Years’ coalition report.
If you think it’s not this bad, read Dr. David Elkind’s book Miseducation. Written in the late 80’s, it was prescient. It remains one of the best and most accessible explanations of why we cannot go against the biology and psychology of learning and what happens when we do.
And if you think these things don’t happen, I’ll tell you about my personal experience over ten years ago with preschool testing. My youngest, who is now sixteen, was in a “lottery funded” preschool program. Good program, good teachers. Until they started testing. A lot. I asked the teachers to not test my child. They squirmed big time–and eventually “sorta” told me that they couldn’t cause it would get them in trouble.
I spoke with the director who was very understanding–but still wanted him tested. We finally agreed that I would put my request in writing and that they wouldn’t test. I thought that was the end of the story.
Then in the car pick-up line a few weeks later, the teacher very quickly (and surreptitiously) stuck her head in the car window and apologized to me and said she “was sorry but she had to.” “Had to what?” I asked. “Test him today” was her guilty reply.
It was my son’s last day at that preschool, free or not.
If you are involved in early childhood education, please check out the link in the WP article to DEY’s survey and make your voice and experience heard. Speak up to principals, school boards, and others who make education decisions. Insist that their decisions follow what we’ve known for decades about how children learn.
Together we can see that children receive the education that’s best for them,
I despise cancelling any storytime but especially Toddler Time for babies through 3-ish. Most of the kids are between 12-24 months, and I appreciate (and vividly remember) how difficult it is for someone that age to change gears quickly and deal with disappointment.
So I never, ever, ever cancel Toddler Time unless I have to. Which includes getting caught at a specialist’s appointment. There should have been plenty of time for the appointment (and you know how specialists are; you’ve got to take the appointment they’ve got open). But there wasn’t.
Back at work that day, I learned how the morning had gone without me. There were no tears, no fits, no meltdowns–not even a wimper. Why?
Because the parents stepped in and did it themselves!
They did rhymes, fingerplays, songs, circle games. They even read a book. They did this all with no planning and no advanced warning. And their kids had a great time!
These parents come week after week. They sit in the circle with their children and do all this “silly” stuff with smiles on their faces and excitement in their attitudes. I affirm nearly every week how important the time is for language development–and how they need to do the same outside of the library, at home, in the car, in the doctor’s waiting room, at the restaurant. Learn here and do there is the message. Learn here and do there is the purpose of Toddler Time.
What a terrific bunch of parents!
Winters are long here in the San Luis Valley. We get lots of cold weather but not much snow (it’s actually a desert up here at 7600 feet). So storytimes on winter, the cold, animals, and the exciting times when we do get snow tie right into a child’s daily experience here.
Here’s what I’m currently doing for wintertime storytime. The kids and I are enjoying it!
Books we are reading include:
- Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
- Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep by Maureen Wright
- Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara
Before I start reading Tacky, I show the kids my penguin stick puppet. He’s simply made out of black and white foam with a yellow beak (some kids love pointing out that he has no eyes). We talk about his colors and what he is covered with–fur? feathers? scales? hair? Once we’ve figured out penguins have feathers, we can talk about other animals that have feathers–birds! And then we can talk about birds that fly–and birds that swim like penguins!
Lots of talking happening, and of course, only for as long as the kids are interested. It’s easy talking, though, and easy for the kids to join in with their thinking and ideas and words.
Then my puppet acts out this rhyme (pardon the bullet points, WordPress inserts double spacing otherwise):
- Little penguin black and white,
- On the ice, what a sight!
- See them waddle, see them glide.
- Watch them as they slip and slide.
- Little penguins black and white,
- On the ice, what a sight!
Then we read Tacky with lots and lots of expression! After Tacky we talk about what other animals do in the winter and bears and sleeping come up. Before reading Big Bear, though, I tell the kids I’m going to tell the same story two different ways (a great way to build narrative skills, btw).
First I do this rhyme to the tune of “Up on the Housetop.” As a sing through it, I place first a picture of a brown bear, then of a blue cloud with a face drawn on it (like Old Winter in Big Bear), and finally a bear sleeping in a cave onto my makeshift flannel board (I use pictures printed in color from MS Publisher and place them on a white memo board with double sided tape).
- There once was a bear who love to play (Put up brown bear)
- In the woods most every day.
- But then the winds began to blow (Put up winter wind picture)
- And soon the ground was covered with snow.
- Oh, oh, oh, ice and snow,
- Oh, oh, oh, I better go-o
- Into my cave to sleep all day (Put up bear in cave picture)
- Until the cold winter winds go away. Jean Warren
I’m amazed at how much the kids love this! Then on to the Big Bear book. We follow it with some snow fingerplays (see the left hand side bar for those) and wrap it up with Jack Frost. Don’t let this book fool you though! It looks far too simple to hold a bunch of squirmy kids attention but it works like a charm. And they love puzzling out the ending!
There you go, lots of conversation, vocabulary, print awareness (especially in the final pages of Big Bear, narrative skills, and phonological awareness through rhymes. All wrapped up in one winter package.
I’ve had folks ask for specifics on the storytime that turned into such a great moment for developing the early literacy skill of print awareness (read more here).
I start off with a picture of a real sheep; her name is Miss Molly. And I have a bag of her wool. While the kids pass around and feel some of it (you may have to teach them “passing around” :-)), we talk about what wool is and what it’s used for. Then we read stories about sheep!
Here are the books we read:
The Surprise by Van Ommen: This is the wordless book I start with. The first spread is great for beginning to discern whether the kids have a sense of print awareness or not. It shows a sheep standing on a bathroom scale–and nothing else! The entire background in solid yellow. No distractions. Can they recognize that there are no words on the page?
Where is the Green Sheep? by Fox: If they can’t “see” that there a no words in The Surprise, show them Green Sheep and read a few pages. What’s neat about it is that you’ll have page with words and picture, another page with words and picture, another page with words and picture–then! boom! page with only words. Can the kids “see” the words on the picture-less white page?
The two books were just made for each other and made for highlighting print!
After reading both, we read Snow Lambs by Gliori. It takes a little preparation; show them the map on the end papers. Point out the house and river and tree on it. Various pages through out the story need some pointing, highlighting something in the picture, just a few extra words of explanation. But don’t overdo it. The kids may start off squirmy, but it’s a good story, well told, and they will be quietly engrossed if you give them time. They all want to know what happened to Bess!
Songs we sang:
- Baa, baa, black sheep
- 1 little, 2 little, 3 little lambies
- Cows on the the farm (go moo, moo, moo) to the tune of Wheels on the Bus
This is one of my favorite storytimes! The kids love it, the teachers love it, and I love it! Try it with your groups!
For a number of years now, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended zero TV time for children under age 2 and under 2 hours a day for older childern.
A new report now links a variety of troubles children have later in life to how much TV they watched as toddlers (yes, toddlers!). These include the expected ones like obesity, high blood pressure , and problems with language development and attention span–but it also included suprise ones like lower math achievement and higher incidence of being bullied. These effects were found years later when the children were in school. Click here to read more. And here. (And both articles share some amazing statistics.)
What’s a parent to do? Is it really that important? Dr. David Elkind offers help in sorting this out; click here.
How can one activity lead to so many difficulties so many years later? There are two huge factors at work here.
First, if a child is sitting in front of a TV or other screen, that child is not doing the things his or her body and mind was made to be doing developmentally at that time. Simple things like putting things into a box and taking them back out again, rocking a doll, watching the birds outside, playing in the sand or water, or singing, talking, and reading with a living, caring human being–these are all critical to a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual growth.
Second, as intimated above, if a child is spending time with the TV, they are not spending time with an adult. The basis for all future relationships is established in the years between birth and age six-ish. We are socials beings, we are wired to learn about the world and life and ourselves through our relationships, and no machine can come close to fulfilling those roles.
As Elkind puts it, “…infants and young children learn best through direct interaction with caregivers, whether it is reading, talking or playing games like Itty Bitty Spider, Patty Cake and so on. Computer games (my insert: and other screens) for infants put an unnecessary barrier between child and caregiver and dilute the potency of that interaction.”
It is cliched, but they are only little once. Turn off the screens. Find other things for your baby and little one to do and explore; find other things to enjoy doing together. And not sure what to do? Ask your friendly neighborhood children’s librarian for ideas!
March 20th is “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Day. Maybe that’s why the NY Times featured a story about Fred Rogers and his legacy (he died seven years ago in February). There is so much wrapped up in this article about Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood.
First, the bad news: PBS is no longer distributing Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood to TV stations. I think this is a terrible loss and goes quite beyond a nostalgic sadness (which I will say more about below).
But the good news is that they’ve made his shows available through the PBS website. And that works find as long as you have internet access. It’s not at all good for those children who don’t, however.
I was a child when Mr. Rogers as well as Sesame Street got their starts on television. But we didn’t watch TV much as children and my first awareness of him was probably in 3rd or 4th grade when it was “the thing” to make fun of the way he talked.
My boys grew up with him, though. Their favorite lullaby tape was a collection of songs from the show. And as young men today, they still remember Mr. Rogers.
Now, I did sometime watch Captain Kangaroo as a child, and I remember him too. But not for the same reasons. Despite what the article implies, Mr. Rogers falls nowhere in the same league as Captain Kangaroo, Shari Lewis, or Howdy Doody. They were all find entertainers; they were all pioneers in the field of children’s television.
But Mr. Rogers was a genius. He had a remarkable education including graduate work in child development. He understood children deeply and could put his head and heart inside their world, a world which is so radically different from an adult’s. He had children in mind first and a TV show second.
In today’s world, when children are being rushed and misunderstood as never before, we need Fred Rogers in their worlds.
I encourage you, if you are not familiar with Fred Rogers’ work, to watch his TV shows with or without your children. Read his books; many are written for parents and teachers. Purchase his books for children. My children negotiated potty training, making friends, moving, and family death’s with Mr. Rogers caring help.
And maybe we’ll see each other in Pennsylvania on day at the Fred Roger Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. I’m awfully glad others are carrying on his work.
See you around, Neighbor!
Big messes are never easy to fix. But they are possible when we have the big picture in mind–and when that picture is accurate. Dr. Susan Engel does a marvelous job of refocusing the big picture in the NY Times today; click here. Take a few minutes to read it; she defines the issues just so, making it well worth the read.
We’ve known for over fifty years, through research and experience, what children need to learn. In many ways most children don’t need much; human beings are designed to learn. It’s like feeding them; basic nutrition is not rocket science or we never would have survived as a species. Learning is the same. Yet slowly and incrementally we have eroded that starting point. We have replaced what truly works with “stuff” that grows out of our attitudes. We, as adults, want to feel good and look good and we’ve used children as our props.
Our educational system is busted. It’s a mess and it needs fixing. Some honesty is needed, though, before any changes will matter. And most of this honesty involves attitudes:
More is not better. A malnourished child and a well nourished child do not need the same things. Neither does a “educationally” nourished child need the same things as the “educationally” malnourished child. Middle and upper class parents need to turn loose of this attitude. It strains resources and it harms children who do not need all that “extra” nourishment.
Earlier is not better. There is no research that supports that the earlier a child does something, the better they are at it later. Is your child better at using the toilet at age ten because he potty-trained 9 months before his cousin? Of course, not, how silly. The same principle applies to learning to walk, talk, read, or count. Doing it “early,” first off, does not last, and second, does not bear out later in “being better.” And when we push for earlier, we stress children, burn them out, kill the love of learning that’s built into them, and take away time from the learning “stuff” they would be doing–if they weren’t working flashcards, beginning readers, or worksheets. Earlier is better has been the mantra in the schools for over forty years–but in the same space of time, results have fallen and fallen. We need to make the connection. It makes us feel like we are “doing more” for children and that makes us look and feel good, but it is counter-productive.
Giving your child every “educational” advantage does not make you a better parent, give you status, or change how you feel about working full-time–or staying home full-time. We as parents need to separate what we claim we do for our kids “for their good” and what we are really doing because it makes us feel better. This is hard, separating our needs from those of our child, but it is essential to good parenting (and to any good relationship). When these get muddled, we sign up for everything “they” (marketers) tell us is needed and we pressure child cares and schools to “do more.”
I hope more people like Dr. Engel get involved in the conversation as NCLB gets revamped. But parents need to be involved also. Schools and legislators need to hear that this is “all right” with parents, that we will support them as they make these desperately needed changes. If you want further reading on this subject, I highly recommend Dr. David Elkind’s book Miseducation.
Read, think, watch your kids–and be honest! We can do what’s best for kids!