Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Teaching Penmanship

I do not begin with writing instruction until right before a child leaves for kindergarten. Usually it is a late spring/summer thing. I'm starting it earlier with this group, in February, because they want to learn it. Actually, they are DEMANDING to learn it. The whole purpose of writing is to convey meaning, and these boys have a lot to say, the ability to compose it, and now they require the means to do so.

Forcing penmanship early and often does nothing more than make it a chore. Working on a letter a day/week with complete disconnection to reading and writing, is one of the things I believe is wrong with our school, and pre-school, system. 

Forcing it early also breeds frustration, feelings of failure, and a dislike for education over all. Why? Because in order for a child to be able to properly form letters, stay within lines, etc., he must have a ton of other things in place first:
  • Advanced fine motor skills
  • Tripod grasp
  • Hand strength
  • Crossing-the-midline
  • Core strength
  • Ability to focus and pay attention
  • Depth perception
  • Eye tracking
  • One-to-one correspondence
Children under the age of 5 have better ways of developing these necessary skills and competencies than forced writing they probably don't have the ability to do with success.

As with all the things I teach, I look for that pivotal moment when the learning is developmentally appropriate, and DESIRED.

There are keys to determining if a child is ready to put in the tedious time and attention to learn correct penmanship.

  • Can color in an entire coloring page without prompting
  • Is drawing independently for fun
  • Is telling stories about their drawings
  • Is attempting writing on their own
  • Is doing inventive spelling
  • Is asking how to spell
  • Is asking how to write letters and numbers
All of these must be in place. FIRST.

These worksheets 1-8 are what I use for my pre-k’s Penmanship Boot Camp that we do before kindergarten. This is the order we do them. They do the same one each day for 2-3 days, or until they get down proper formation of all letters on the worksheet. Only then do they move to the next one. 

Each worksheet works specific movements and shapes that coordinate. It makes it easier to get down muscle memory. I watch them carefully as they make the first letter. If they need to, I simply have them repeat OVER the first one as many times as necessary to get the formation down, talking through the movements. Then I have them fill in the rest of the line on their own.

A bootcamp is not a whole-class experience. It is very individualized attention to target key movements in an intensive, short period of time. When we do the penmanship boot camp, we are working on very little else at that time. I do not want their minds going in any other direction. Outside of worksheet practice, I encourage them to be writing lists, stories, plays, letters, creating cards, etc. 

ONLY DURING THIS TIME do I begin to correct their handwriting. Until this 2-3 week boot camp, I have let them write inventively to encourage that desire and not squash it. Only now, when they truly WANT to learn to write and spell well do I intervene and we learn how to do it properly. 

It is truly a once and done thing. It doesn’t take a letter a week, or a year of schooling, or starting too young when their fine motor skills are not fully up to the task. It is EASY to get penmanship down when a child truly not only wants, but NEEDS to learn it for himself, and is fully developmentally ready. As with most things.

The order we practice is:
l h i j
b p d o
r n m u
c a g q
e t f z
w x k y
s 8 6 9
2 3 5 4
Number 1 is the same as letter l, letter v is in letter w, and letter o is the same as number 0, so I leave those out. No need for repetition.

File is FREE on TPT!  8 worksheets and letter and number practice sheets. The letter and number practice sheets are FREE CHOICE. We do not do those as "lesson" worksheets. They also have their name worksheets, with first and last name, as free-choice practice as well.

Oh, these are only lowercase letters? YEP! Uppercase letters are easy. 95% of what they write should be in lowercase letters like normal writing. Seriously. Look at this paragraph and how many letters are uppercase and how many lowercase? It's another thing that goes REALLY sideways - teaching children penmanship of uppercase letters and having them WRITE in all uppercase. This creates a VERY bad habit that is hard to break. 

Here, we learn uppercase, lowercase and phonics simultaneously, and these children have had those down for a loooong time. These children are reading. Yes, BEFORE they learn penmanship. So lowercase penmanship is appropriate. As it should be. Any uppercase issues we either have already addressed or will in writing sessions. There is no reason to spend a lot of time or effort on it.

Why this works is because I provide each child several minutes of direct instruction, moving their hand myself for each letter if necessary. Then, they make a TON of copies. 

First time through!
If they don't get it pretty much perfectly the first day, we will do it again the next. There is no forcing them to sit and practice, they WANT to do it.  

So after that, Mr. R did this for FUN. Often, they will continue to practice on their own. 


Then he evidently went home and chose to do even MORE writing. Chose being the operative word. His parents don't ask him to do anything there, they just facilitate his interest. 
As do I.

You might be interested in my earlier [2013] blog post on this subject that has over 10,000 views.

preschool, pre-k, kindergarten, childcare, child care, daycare, writing, handwriting, penmanship, worksheets, language, language arts, fine motor, 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Preparing Baby for Daycare

Transitioning a baby to daycare doesn't begin when you hand your infant off on the first day to your provider. It starts waaaaay before then. 

For your peace of mind, your child care provider's ability to provide quality care, and your infant's emotional and physical comfort, there are several things that need to be accomplished long before that first day of child care.

For a successful transition:
  • Baby must be bottle trained
  • Baby must be able to nap well in the crib or pack-n-play your provider uses
  • Baby must be used to safe sleep practices
  • Baby must be able to fall asleep on own
  • Baby must be able to spend time not being held
  • Baby should be able to self-soothe to some degree by 4 months
It is very easy while on maternity leave, especially with your first child, to breast feed exclusively, hold your baby all the time, let your baby fall asleep on the breast, and hold your baby while sleeping. You want that closeness and to spend as much time as possible with your infant. 

Unfortunately, all these things set your infant up for having a very rough transition to a daycare situation, and possibly the loss of your daycare position. Even if you have a wonderful and attentive provider, they have other children to take care of as well. Lunch must be made, diapers changed, altercations mediated, learning taught. One infant can not consume 100% of a provider's time and attention. 

A parent and infant that expects or demands that, will need to find a provider willing and able to accommodate those needs. Since sleep practices are regulated by licensing, that can mean needing an in-home nanny who is not under the same regulations, or an illegal provider. A quality licensed provider will not be placing an infant at risk, even at the parent's request.


The earlier you introduce the bottle, the better the result. As soon as good breastfeeding is established, the introduction of a bottle a few times a week will help your infant transition to day bottle feeding during child care much easier. Introduction just a few days or even weeks prior to going into daycare, will be a struggle. I currently have a 15 week baby that took more than 3 weeks of daily 3 bottles a day training to even BEGIN to take the bottle with any level of success. She was exclusively breastfed while mom was home. She had never had a bottle and refused that plastic nipple even being near her mouth. Quite vocally. Starting earlier is easier. For everyone, including your baby. 

Baby should be taking a bottle on the same schedule as they will at daycare, at minimum, the last two weeks before transitioning into care. If there will be no option for you to come breast feed, there shouldn't be any option of that at home those last two weeks, either. 

Even if you plan to breastfeed every feeding at your child care provider's, your baby should still be bottle trained unless you can GUARANTEE that you will be able to make those feedings. No meetings that go over, no late phone calls, no car accidents or bad traffic in your commute, etc. You can't leave a hungry baby screaming with your provider with no way for them to accommodate your child's needs. 

Keep in mind that exclusive breastfeeding also means your baby will have a very difficult time if you get sick or in an accident, they get sick and need to go into a hospital, you want to go out for an evening or go away for a weekend, you need to take certain medications if you get sick, or would like to have alcohol every once in a while and be able to pump-and-dump for 24 hours afterward. 

Very few infants have "nipple confusion" after breastfeeding is established at about the 4 week mark. They want their mom connection and the taste and feel of the breast, and will go between bottle and breast with little fuss once trained. 

Once baby is old enough to have an opinion, it can be difficult to bottle train. There are some tricks:
  • Provide a nipple that mimics mom's breast and nipple size OR
  • Provide a nipple that is similar to their pacifier if they use one
  • As with a binky, begin by just having them play with it in the mouth
  • Have dad or someone else give the bottle
  • Give the bottle in a position other than the one for breastfeeding
  • Give the bottle when you know baby is hungry
  • Try holding a shirt or blanket with mom's smell next to baby's head
  • If baby refuses to take breastmilk from a bottle, try formula. If formula works, gradually mix it with breastmilk in increasing quantities until baby is back to taking breastmilk exclusively.
  • Make sure bottle is warm enough, it needs to be body temperature
What causes problems: 
  • Not starting early
  • Not starting early enough to have it completed in time for care
  • Liking that baby only wants mom, not fair to baby
  • Not pumping prior to care to know how much can be produced and creating a back up supply of frozen breast milk
  • Assuming baby will take a bottle from the provider, in a new environment with new sights, sounds, smells and people, when baby is already stressed from starting at a new place
Most providers require infants to be bottle trained prior to starting care.


I hold my infants to 4 months as much as possible. I have a lot of experience and am able to do almost everything with an infant in my arms. When not in my arms, the infant is in their carrier, pack-n-play or bouncer right next to me. I am able to talk and interact with the baby at all times. However, I can't hold them the entire time. They must be okay with the separation and just being close, seeing my face and hearing my voice.


Your baby needs tummy time and to spend time near, but off, of you. Holding an infant 24/7 is fine for the first weeks, but they need to build the muscles for rolling and that takes time down on the floor. They need to know that not being held is not being abandoned and to be okay with it.

Over 5 months, a baby should be on the floor most of the time. Spending time on the floor with a constantly changing variety of toys and sensory items is what builds physical strength, proprioception sense, vestibular balance, crossing-the-midline ability, cognitive connections, resiliency, cause/effect understanding, visual acuity, and so many more developmental markers. Being held, sitting in a stationary exersaucer, and using any other contraption that holds an infant in a fixed position is detrimental to their growth and development. It is vitally important for their physical, mental, emotional and cognitive growth that they be allowed to spend time alone on the floor exploring and moving. 

What causes problems:
  • Hold 24/7
  • Expect provider to do the same
  • Expect baby to be okay with not being held exclusively once in care, even though they are not okay with it at home [we are not magicians]
  • Not providing tummy time and other physical growth opportunities so that once in care, baby is not developmentally able to perform at an age-appropriate level


Legally, providers must practice safe sleep practices. Infants must be placed on their backs in a pack-n-play or crib to sleep with nothing more than a plain pacifier. Period. Sleeping in a carrier, bouncer, baby hammock or even in the arms can place the infant in danger of positional asphyxiation

If a baby is allowed to sleep on a parent's chest, laying face down for naps, the transition to care is going to be VERY difficult. You've got a level of warmth, heart beat sound, face-down position, smell and body feel all to overcome before the infant can sleep in a daycare situation. This is SO far outside of how the infant will need to be taking naps at daycare, that it is very difficult to overcome once this becomes the baby's norm. 


Establishing your care situation as early as possible, you can find out if your future provider will be using a crib or pack-n-play, which music or white noise they use, level of light in the nap area, etc. so that you can mimic those factors as early as possible to get your infant comfortable with how they will be sleeping in care.

We often can't take the time to rock them to sleep, and we can't allow them to fall asleep on the bottle. We need to be able to place them in their crib or pack-n-play, on their back, and have them go to sleep with reassurance and soft touches.

Even the most chill daycare will have crying babies, screaming toddler drama, bickering preschoolers. Add in some banging, music, chatter, etc. and daycare is NOT a quiet place. Infants, especially for morning nap, must be able to sleep through noise. Putting them down in a quiet room by themselves all the time is setting them up for sleep problems at daycare. At minimum, have music or TV playing while they sleep in the morning and go about your regular activities. My infants sleep through the vacuum, dogs barking and all the other noises that go on here.  

What causes problems:
  • Letting baby fall asleep on the breast or bottle 
  • Holding baby in any manner while sleeping
  • Not putting baby to sleep in a crib or pack-n-play as will be required at daycare, especially for naps, while at home
  • Not practicing safe sleep practices/back-2-sleep
  • Swaddling beyond 2 months when daycare can't
  • Using a white noise your provider can't replicate
  • Using a Wubbanub, blanket, or other lovey for sleep time that can't be used at daycare for sleep
  • Having baby sleep in a quiet environment

Parents, especially new parents, are quick to pick up and soothe at every peep their infant makes. Soothing is not at all bad, but when infants associate any little discomfort or irritation with being held, cuddled, rocked, cooed and entertained, it doesn't allow the natural progression of self-soothing. "Babies who can self-soothe sleep for longer periods and have longer total sleep times at night." Infants should begin to learn to self-soothe at 3-4 months and a 6 month old should have the ability.

A child care provider may be dealing with another child when baby starts to fuss, and unless the infant is in emotional distress, the infant may have to wait their turn.

Helping with self soothing:
  • Give the opportunity for your infant to self-soothe by not immediately jumping in to "fix" the situation
  • Watch for self-soothing behavior and only step in if the baby seems to be escalating in need for assistance
  • If necessary, soothe with sounds, words and soothing touch [gentle pats, back rub] rather than holding, rocking  and full physical contact when possible
What causes problems:
  • Respond with soothing to every little peep their infant makes
  • Soothing with breast/bottle feeding
  • Soothing immediately with picking up rather than sounds, words or touch first

I've seen mom blogs say that you need to get your baby on a schedule before they go into care. I disagree. A good provider is aware of developmentally appropriate practice and one of those practices is that infants are allowed to eat and sleep on demand. Especially until 6 months. At 6 months babies generally navigate into a regular schedule. However, this will always be at the whim of teething, gas, growth phases, changes in family schedule, any time away from parents or in a new environment, changes to routine, etc. Never get complacent with an infant schedule. As soon as you do, it will change.

The rhythms of a daycare setting are very different from the ones at home, and while a general schedule of morning nap, eating every 2-3 hours and afternoon nap are in play, schedules are never meant to be rigid for infants. Even older children often have different sleep needs when in a growth phase. I had a 5 year old who hadn't napped in a year suddenly start needing one when he took a massive growth spurt of an inch in a month. Your provider will want to know what the general schedule has been at home will try to accomodate that to some extent. More so, the provider will look to your baby for cues of hunger and tiredness and respond accordingly. 

Forcing your infant to stay up, go hungry, or pushing your baby to eat when it is full, is not appropriate. Babies need what they need when they need it. 


When all of these things are in place, your infant and provider can focus on building an emotional bond, a trust bond. Your infant can focus on becoming familiar and comfortable with the new environment in a state of being well rested with a full tummy. Having those basic needs met with little to no issue, will make the transition a MUCH easier one, on your baby, your provider, and YOU.

When in doubt, ask yourself, "Would I be doing this if I had six children?" 

If your answer is no, and you plan for your baby to go into daycare, then your parenting should, at least most of the time, help your baby prepare for a child care setting.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

This is one of their most requested meals. Of course, it isn't as healthy as some. Go figure. Using frozen hash browns is the time saver. My main goal with this one is to introduce rosemary to their palate. 

32 oz bag of frozen Southern Style hashbrown potatoes (veggie)
16 oz bag frozen broccoli florets (veggie)
32 oz organic all natural chicken stock (protein)
4 T butter (dairy)
4 oz cream cheese (protein)
8 oz cheddar cheese (protein)
2.5 oz or 1/2 C crumbled bacon (protein)
1-2 T rosemary garlic seasoning blend
8-12 oz milk (protein)

  • Heat bacon in stock pot
  • Add in and bring to boil potatoes, broccoli, seasoning and stock  
  • Reduce to medium heat and cook 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender 
  • Puree with an immersion blender 
  • Add butter and cream cheese, let melt 
  • Add cheddar cheese 
  • Add milk to desired consistency 
  • Serve with crumbled wheat or multi-grain crackers 
The addition of the refrigerated ingredients after cooking, brings the soup to a perfect immediate serving temperature for the children.

If you need to make this quicker, the frozen potatoes and broccoli can be either defrosted in the fridge the prior day (preferred) or defrosted in the microwave first.

I have also put the bacon bits, stock, frozen potatoes, frozen broccoli and seasoning into a crockpot on low the night prior, or on high as soon as I wake up, to have it ready to assemble from there for lunch.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

10 Things to Discuss With Your Child Before the Family Christmas

For our Christmas party we make crafts, drink Grinch juice and hot cocoa, make gingerbread people and do a small optional gift exchange with dollar items. It’s an opportunity for the children, especially the 3.5yo+ children, to discuss and practice societal norms and expectations before heading to family events and the mayhem and high emotions involved.

It teaches:

1. Giving is hard, especially if the item being given is something you really want.

2. Gifts are new toys and you shouldn’t expect someone to be willing to share their new toys, and you may not want to share yours, either. And that's okay.

3. Wait your turn to unwrap a gift. It’s not WWF.

4. Unwrap with care, gifts can be broken.

5. Show gratitude when opening a gift. Someone put a lot of thought and effort into getting it especially for you.

6. It’s the thought that counts. Keep any displeasure at the gift to yourself.

7. Offer kisses, hugs, high five, handshake or a simple “Thank you” to the person who gave you the gift, depending upon your comfort level with the giver.

8. You may politely decline personal space invasion. “I don’t feel like a hug right now. May I shake your hand?” Understand that there may be people around you that are your family, but you don’t know them or know them well. They will want to show you their love, but it may be uncomfortable for you.

9. Ask consent before you invade a person’s personal space, especially little kids who may feel overwhelmed and may not know you well. “Can I give you a hug? Ok. How about a fist bump?”

10. If things get overwhelming, it’s ok to ask your parents for a retreat time to some place quiet for a few minutes to just talk it out and relax.

We also talk about that opening presents is about opening presents, not playing with presents. That time will come afterward.

They know about being responsible and picking up, but those lesson can be lost in the mayhem, so we talk about that, too.

A time of joy and family can be overwhelming to young children. I try to prep them a bit to handle it as gracefully as possible.

parenting, child care, daycare, preschool, pre-k, teaching, holiday, holidays, Christmas, xmas, kids, children, 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Reading Taught Wrong

I've done posts about how I teach reading. Now I want to do a comparison of what I think I do right compared to how I believe traditional instruction does it wrong. 

Can all my methods be incorporated into a traditional setting? 

Absolutely not. There is not the time. However, some of what I do can be, and should.

1. Expectation that children can read

Pretty much every developmentally on-track child can read by the age of 7 when they enter the next Piaget level of concrete operational. In many countries, reading instruction begins at the age of 7 when every child can be successful. Each child is unique. I've had children read at 3 and many more read at 5. However, EXPECTING every 5 year old to be able to read is not developmentally appropriate. Yet, we do that in this country. Under 7, it should be the child's choice and ability to read early, not an expectation. Under age 7, children are in the preoperational stage, where they CAN learn symbolic representations such as phonics and early sightwords.

Making their own books with markers
and cardboard to read to their friends
2. Teaching methods

Children under the age of 7-8 learn through movement and play. Which is how I teach early reading skills. Yet, traditional instruction has children sitting still and being instructed, which is again not developmentally appropriate.

3. Time and attention

Children have an attention span of, on average, one minute per age, increasing to 2 minutes at the age of 5. So a 5 year old has an attention span of about 10 minutes. This is greater if they are learning through play and movement and engaged in the activity. However, traditional teaching has them sitting in a group for up to 30 minutes and listening to a teacher or one another, or waiting their turn to read aloud. Again, not developmentally appropriate. My instruction takes no more than 5 minutes at any one time. The best is that they ASK for it, and they will choose to keep practicing and playing with it on their own after the lesson. Because, you know, it is FUN and ENGAGING, developmentally appropriate and at their skill level.

4. Skills introduction

Pre-reading skills are begun here from birth. Turning pages, left-right convention, one-to-one correspondence, crossing-the-midline ability, etc. I will use a baby's finger to point to the words as I read them. After doing this daily for 2 years, it is muscle memory for them to do it themselves. Kindergarten classrooms focus so much on reading, that they forget that there are pre-skills necessary for success. When those pre-skills are not embedded, reading is much more difficult.

5. Letter names

I could care less if a child knows an A is an "A". It has no bearing on reading. I do, however, care that a child learns the phonetic sound for an A, which is absolutely necessary in teaching reading.

6. Upper/lowercase letters

Uppercase letters comprise such a small percentage within print. I teach uppercase, lowercase and phonics simultaneously. Just as a child can learn mom, mama and mommy all have the same meaning, so can a child learn that A, a, and aaaa have the same meaning. Traditional methods often focus on a "Letter of the Day" or week. Again, random letter recognition has NO BEARING on reading, yet so much school time is wasted on this. Knowing that lowercase a stands for aaa DOES. It is the most important instruction, but done through meaningful experiences, not isolated instruction.

7. Phonics

Phonics are music. Traditional methods want to teach phonics as written symbols first, without recognizing that phonics are tones, lilts, blends of sound. They are magical sounds with meaning. Teaching them as this, brings them life and a richness that traditional methods simply don't engage. Much of my early reading skills learning is done through music. I start exposing phonics of lowercase letters to my kiddos at the age of 2 1/2. They often have them down by 3.

8. Giving meaning to symbols

Traditional instruction has children practicing phonics unconnected to anything engaging. They are taught as representatives of a letter symbol, and the letter phonics are taught individually, one letter at a time. Nothing engages a child more than attention to himself. By beginning spelling with children's names, they have an instant buy-in. We do it with their name songs each morning. After they do their spelling song for their name, we review the phonics. The children quickly learn how to spell their friends' names and how to sound them out. We sit in this stage for awhile.

Miss A 2yo, yeah, she did this
9. Timeline

As stated, we will sit in a learning stage for awhile to ensure that the children are fully engaged and have MASTERED a particular skill/stage before moving forward. Traditional methods push through a curriculum agenda, and poor readers are dragged along, often not mastering skills but sliding through.

10. Developmentally appropriate

Children up to age 7-8 learn through play and movement. Phonics here are learned through music and games. I will make a phonetic sound and the child will run and jump on the letter laying on the floor. Early reading instruction here begins with simple sightword sentences with a movement component and some silliness. "I am a ______." goes on the wall in large letters with dots under each word. Each child takes a turn reading the sentence and putting his finger on the dot for one-to-one correspondence, adding in the word. Whatever the word is the child chooses, the whole group acts it out. This adds an element of anticipation and surprise, keeping the whole group engaged. The next week it may be "I can ______." always adding only one or two new sight words at a time. Then the sentences can be combined. "I am a MONKEY and I can CLIMB TREES." Further along, I will write in the words and we will sound them out phonetically after they do the movement, before moving to the next child's turn. For another game the current sightwords are attached to the wall and the children run around and I will call out a sightword as they come around and they hit it with a swat frame. Learning always has a movement attached in the early stages.

11. Books are engaging and complex

Our early readers are created around the child. "My name is...," "I like..." The books I teach with are from Nora Gaydos [affiliate link.] The stories are repetitive, building skills slowly with the ability for mastery, but complex and rich with vibrant illustrations. The children want to know what is going to happen next, which keeps them moving forward and eager to read another book. And, they are very appealing to both girls and boys. Often traditional methods focus on very simplified books with simple illustrations. The focus is on the READING rather than the STORY. We focus on the story, with the reading as a by-product. We talk about the characters and the story, working on comprehension and analytical thinking. Again, engaging the child with what he is reading, providing meaning and context. Children learn new skills because they are useful and fascinating, not because someone says they have to do so. Retention and mastery are dramatically higher when children are engaged with their learning. The Gaydos books also introduce phonics, digraphs, blends, sightwords and advanced reading skills in a perfect timeline for easy mastery. Often, books used in schools do not.

12. Individualized instruction

Since I read books individually with each child, they are never allowed to develop bad habits. They flow through reading instruction in a very linear, clear method. Instant, constant correction keeps them on the correct path. Traditional methods of group instruction at the early stages of learning to read allow children to become muddled, develop bad habits and become afraid to speak up about their confusion or to participate out loud for fear of sounding wrong and being corrected in front of their peers. Individual instruction and attention is simply something that doesn't happen in traditional settings to the extent that it needs to in order to create excellent early readers.

13. Optimized Instruction Time

The children here have a choice of whether or not to read. Some days they are engaged in something else and don't want to do it. Some days they will read 5 books in a sitting. Some days they are tired and unable to focus, and I will decide that this is not the day to be reading. Traditional settings don't have that option to optimize instruction time.

14. Sight word Instruction

I believe that everything is learned better in context. My children learn their sightwords more through reading and me telling them that it is a sightword, than learning individual sightwords through other activities. Traditional methods teach a sightword then the child reads a book focusing on that sightword. It just isn't as engaging and meaningful. Any word is a sightword if a child sees it enough, and time spent reading, which occurs through engaging stories, is what makes a good reader. Once we get enough sightwords and phonics to begin reading my Nora Gaydos books, reading instruction occurs through READING only. Only if a child is having a really odd, difficult time with a specific word or sound will I add non-reading instruction, which is usually just a few seconds, a few times a day, for a few days before he will get it down pat. This focused attention to a specific issue for a specific child is more impactful than a general instruction to everyone.

15. Reading aloud

Children still in the preoperational stage have a lot of trouble reading silently. Or, they simply CAN'T. They also have a lot of trouble with comprehension, even if they have the ability to sound out and recognize words. Asking a child under 7 to read silently is not developmentally appropriate. My 5 year olds need to hear those phonics to spell out words and read. They need to associate the letter and word symbols to the sound representation. In traditional settings, unless reading together as a group, this can be unreasonable in a class of 28. One of the benefits, is that the children will correct one another if they hear something another child says that is off or wrong. They also will ask one another for assistance, and they usually provide the same answers I will give, such as "try to sound it out," "that's a sightword," "igh says I," and not just give the correct answer. Teaching another is a powerful learning tool. 

Mr. G 5yo
Reading ability, and time spent reading and being read to, are the key to a child's future success. Time spent on reading instruction is never wasted. I wish traditional school settings could incorporate more of my methods and allot more time for individual instruction. 

So many children under the age of 7 are being labeled failures for not being able to read, when they are simply just not YET in that developmental stage where they have the ability. The joy of reading and learning is being stripped from them for simply being young children. That is something I can't forgive or forget.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Halloween Sensory Bin

Lots of choking hazards, so children under 3 AND children of any age still putting items in their mouth, are only allowed to play under direct, strict supervision.

Learning activities:
  • Sorting by orange/black/white
  • Sorting by pumpkins/skulls/bats
  • Sorting by item
  • Counting to 5/10/20+
  • Matching bugs
  • Stick puppets
  • Retelling "5 Little Pumpkins"
  • Role playing "Witches Brew"
  • Retelling "5 Little Skeletons"
  • Make a skeleton
  • Patterning
  • Scoop/pour/transferring
What's in it?
  • Main fill is black and white beans
  • Qtips for bones
  • Orange/black/white pom poms
  • 2 bags of bugs (Dollar Tree)
  • Skull/pumpkin/bat erasers (Dollar Tree)
  • Gold pipe cleaners
  • Mini caldrons (Dollar Tree)
  • Stick puppets, Frankenstein and pumpkin

  • White cloth pieces
  • Bats (Dollar Tree)
  • Orange/black/white feathers
  • Stick ghost puppets
  • Bag of plastic eyeballs (Dollar Tree)
  • Bag of plastic skulls (Dollar Tree)

  • Packing peanuts for ghosts or bones
  • Large styrofoam pumpkins

 Mr. R: "The beans are his bones and muscles."

 A favorite activity of the 2 year olds.

They figured out that they could take apart the eyeballs, fill them with beans, and put them back together to make mini maracas.

I found that they really liked just tearing apart the packing peanuts. Still a great fine motor activity and since they are free..."Go for it!"
preschool, daycare, pre-k, child care, childcare, Halloween, sensory, sensory bin, learning, activity, activities, counting, dramatic play, child, children, kids, homeschool, homeschooling, boy, girl, scary, ghost, skull, witch, bat, spider, skeleton, pumpkin

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Siblings Blessing or Burden

A conversation with a client this week:
"How did he do with having his baby brother here today?"
"I was afraid he would try to do too much. He's very responsible with him and likes to help out." 
"I let him know right off that the baby was MY job and MY responsibility and that if I needed him to help out as teacher's helper, which is his job this week, that I would let him know. He went merrily off to play."

You may think that siblings are a gift of one to another. That can be true. However, they are often a burden and that burden is created by adults.

One of the best gifts you can give an older child is to say about their younger sibling:

"He is NOT your job. 
He is NOT your responsibility."

I have heard so often, "Take care of your baby brother!" as a parent leaves. Seriously, that is the last thing they say as they walk out through the door. A 3 or 4 year old child is left with that as their parent's final farewell. 

It is a massive burden. 

It strips away your older child's childhood.

Children do naughty things. Children get hurt. Children get hungry or sad or frustrated and cry. As adults we know we can't make a child's life perfect for them, but a young child has no clue and just gets anxious, frustrated, fearful and depressed when they understand the futility and POWERLESSNESS of the position they have been tasked with by their parent.

It is not a good thing for either child. 

1. It teaches the older child to lie. If it is his responsibility, then he will do anything to make sure the younger sibling doesn't get into trouble. This means lying about what happens, usually blaming another, innocent, child.

2. The older child will do anything to make the younger child happy. That often means assisting them in participating in something physical the older child is doing, which can be dangerous or inappropriate for the younger one. The helping can take the form of lifting the child or in other ways manhandling the child that could cause harm, or placing them higher or on more precarious places than a younger child should be accessing. 

By getting into physical positions with help, the younger child doesn't build the necessary skills to do so independently safely, and by not getting there himself, he lacks any knowledge of how to get out or down, let alone safely. Helping a child do anything physical is always a bad idea. They need to get there on their own, with some coaching, not physical manipulation. 

3. Also in making the younger child happy, the older one may sneak foods, steal toys from others, harm other children to allow their younger sibling to have an undeserved turn at an activity and in many way undermine the foundations of a good community. 

The older sibling wouldn't be doing this without the weight of responsibility, so it is turning a perfectly good child into one who is doing not good things, and developing not good habits. 

The younger sibling, on the other hand, is learning that she can get what she wants whenever she wants, doesn't have to wait, how to bully, and getting spoiled.

This week:

"[Mr. H], that is NOT her toy. Just because she wants it doesn't mean she gets it. It is not your job to make your sister happy, but it IS your job to follow the rules and be a nice person. Please give that back to him."

4. The older sibling spends so much time worrying and care taking over the younger child that they lose the ability to just play, be with their friends, and relax. They are constantly on the lookout for the younger one, and constantly intervening whenever anything goes even a bit sideways. 

The younger sibling doesn't learn proper coping mechanisms, patience, and social norms. Gaps can emerge in their development when the younger one is pushed by the older one into participating at a higher level before ready. The younger one isn't allowed to develop at their natural pace.


Mr. R to his friends: "I can't play right now, I need to get [baby brother] calmed down."

Me across the room: "He is NOT your responsibility. He's mine. He's fine. His bottle is almost ready. Go play."

5. When things go wrong, and they will go wrong, the older sibling feels responsible. He wasn't watching close enough, he wasn't near enough, he wasn't good enough to keep the younger sibling from getting hurt, either physically or emotionally. 

Couple that with a parent or adult that immediately demands harshly of the older sibling, "What happened?" It makes that burden even weightier. The proper response is to take care of the younger one, reassure the older one, and casually ask the older one if he saw what happened without a harsh grilling.

6. I have seen parents punish an older child for what a younger one did. Why? "You are old enough you should have stopped him or at least come and told me what he was doing!" Again, making the older child responsible, rather than acknowledging their own lack of parental supervision. 

It isn't fair to rely on a 3-6 year old to supervise an infant - 5 year old. There are plenty of videos on Youtube showing what children can get up to when left unsupervised. GOOD KIDS. For just a few minutes. Be the adult. Supervise your own children or hire someone else to do it. Take parental responsibility and don't lay it in any way in your older child's direction.

I, my brother and mom
I know many adults who hold resentment, and even trauma, due to a burdensome responsibility for their sibling(s) placed upon them by the adults in their lives. It can not only alter and even eliminate a happy, content childhood, it can change a person for life. 

I have a friend whose little brother died from a drug overdose when they were teens. She still blames herself nearly 50 years later for not being able to intervene enough to save him. She was tasked with taking care of her brother from an early age.

Give your child the gift of a sibling, not the burden.
parenting, parents, pre-k, sister, brother, sibling rivalry, development, child care, childcare, daycare, preschool, toddlers