Thursday, January 4, 2018

Play dough

January is upon us and it certainly has brought lots of cold temperatures along with it!  As we stay inside to keep warm, I’d like to offer some suggestions to keep the fun and learning indoors until the warmer weather arrives.
Play dough. The material is easy to make, fun to manipulate, and playing with it addresses all of the critical domains of growth and development.  If you want to get fancy, you can engage your child in looking around the house to find some things to bring into your dough play.  Cookie cutters are a go-to, but unusual kitchen items such as bottle caps, forks, and rolling pins can also encourage imagination and problem solving. Follow your child’s lead and experiment with how the utensils change the shape, texture, or look of the dough.

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to give you a recipe to make the play dough. Like baking, making play dough with your child is a learning experience in and of itself! For making play dough, you will need:

·         1 cup                     water
·         1 pkt.                     Kool-Aid
·         6 cups                   flour
·         1 cup                     vegetable oil

·         Measuring cups
·         Mixing bowl
·         Wooden spoon

1.       In a bowl, mix water and food coloring.
2.       Add flour.
3.       Add oil.
4.       Stir together.
5.       Knead until smooth in texture. 

Encourage language by talking through the steps with your child. First we will pour; second we will stir, mix, and knead. Your sneaking in ordinal words in context. Providing children with hands-on experiences along with the words will help those words to stick. Use words that describe the mixture as it changes; pointing out how the ingredients transform as others are added: mushy, wet, smooth, and dry. Making play dough together not only gives real-life opportunities to provide language, but also adds science concepts as the children observe the processes that take place.

Math concepts are introduced next—at the good part; manipulating the dough. As you play together, point out big and small sizes and shapes that are created. Challenge your child to sort the items you’ve made into categories. Compare the lengths of the snakes that you roll. Thinking about these ideas will prepare them for more complex math concepts in the future.

While you are exercising the fine motor muscles of the fingers by pinching and poking the play dough, you are also teaching the social skills of sharing, cooperation, and perhaps turn taking. All of these foundational skills will benefit your child as they go to school: fine motor skills encourage the strength needed to write and draw, turn taking sets your child up for social success with peers.

Make believe or pretend play is also encouraged by play dough. Anything from a pizza party to a fire breathing dragon is possible with imagination and creativity. Talk with your child while manipulating the dough and you might be surprised by what you learn as they express themselves through the material.  Play is the work of young children, so why not learn and have fun?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Learning at the Holidays

Preparation + Your Child = Meaningful Learning Opportunities

Get out your recipe or cookbook for your favorite baked good. Following the recipe gives your child a real life reason for reading as well as a new why. When we read a recipe, we read for instructions. If you're at my house, the conclusion of this story is something tasty! Have your child follow along with their finger as you read the ingredients and instructions. This helps to practice the early reading skill we early childhood teachers refer to as the return and sweep, a print concept that builds a foundation for later reading. Following along lets children know that we read left to right and top to bottom.

Reading a recipe also introduces lots of vocabulary. Ingredients to look at, touch, and taste are connected to new words. Actions such as whip, fold, and pour allow your child to hear and act out new words as you work together to combine the ingredients. 

In addition to reading words, a recipe allows for reading numbers too. A cookbook gives lots of meaningful opportunities to talk about and show fractions. Most children know what a half is when asked, but following a recipe lets you talk about 1/4, 1/3 and the teeny tiny 1/8 measurement. Let your child scoop, measure, look and feel the differences a fraction can make. Talk about bigger and smaller; comparing the sizes as you mix them in. Challenge children to  estimate and you will have them contrasting as well as comparing!

Finally, we get to the good part; baking. Call attention to the mix before you put it in the oven. You can even take a picture of it with your cell phone. Spend some time together watching the oven as the chemical reaction takes place. Teach about safety while taking the baked goody out of the hot oven.

Once safely placed on the counter to cool, ask questions as you patiently wait for the first bite!

What do you notice about the cake?

What is different?

Why do you think it changed?

How did the change happen?

Be prepared to be amazed at the answers that these open-ended questions can elicit and be ready to laugh too. After all, holiday learning is about spending time and laughing  together. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Healthy Holidays!

No matter which holiday you celebrate, there is a common theme around food. Whenever we come together, people include food as a part of our celebration. As a teacher and a mother of young boys, I always became concerned about offering a healthy diet during the holidays. Should I limit the indulgent foods that the holidays center around? Cakes, cookies, and pies are full of empty calories and the sugar seems to energize them at nap time! Most importantly, I worry that eating all of the food that signifies a celebration will actually cause health concerns later in  life.

 As a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, I am privy to research regarding the health of young children.  According to the NAEYC:

Calories are not bad, but necessary, in the right amounts. Children have specific caloric needs that depend on their age, size and activity level. The word “calories” is just a measure of the energy a food contains. However, foods that offer only calories and have no other nutritional value are best avoided since they run the risk of filling a child up with “empty” calories before all of her nutritional needs have been met.

This news is good and bad. Good, in that the sugary stuff that I am talking about usually isn't introduced until after we all have a chance to fill up on our "good food".  Bad, in that no matter how much "good food" I put on their plate, my boys always seemed to find room for plenty of deserts. It took me a few years to catch on; but once I did, I became an expert chef regarding sneaking nutritious foods into indulgent, celebratory, holiday foods. In fact, I am patting myself on the back just thinking about it! As I am congratulating myself, I am also thinking about the resources that helped me to become an expert Sneaky Chef, and I want to share them with you:

Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food 
 by Jessica Seinfeld

The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals
 by Missy Chase Lapine

Healthy Recipes for Picky Eaters: Create Tasty Meals Your Kids Will Love to Eat
by Martha Stephenson

For those of you like me who hate to wait for the mailman, visit Pinterest and type "Healthy Kid Recipes" in the search. In seconds you will be inundated with recipes from sneaky moms around the world--pictures included! A word of warning:  get comfortable and schedule lots of time beforehand.

Holidays are also about spending time with those you love; which brings me to another sneaky tip! Over the years I found that if I included my boys in the preparation of food, they were more likely to eat it. In addition to quality time spent, cooking with young children presents lots of opportunities for  meaningful learning...

Stay tuned!

To read more, visit the NAEYC  website:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Registration for 2016-2017 School Year

The ECEC is now scheduling for the 2016-2017 school year. We ask that families of currently enrolled children submit their schedule requests online. 
Please note that some scheduling options have changed. These changes reflect our commitment to provide continuity for the children and the program.
Schedule requests are due with deposits ($375 part-time / $750 full-time) on or before Monday, March 28, 2016.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kindergarten Information Night - 02/23/16

Join us on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 for a Kindergarten Information Night. Meet the teacher, learn about the kindergarten curriculum, get information on pricing and enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year. 

Click here to RSVP.