Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Early Math is as Important as Early Literacy


"Controlling for IQ, family income, gender, temperament, type of previous educational experience, and whether children came from single or two parent families, the study found that the mastery of early math concepts on school entry was the very strongest predictor of future academic success.

Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement," Duncan said. "And it does so just as reliably as early literacy mastery of vocabulary, letters and phonetics predicts later reading success." The opposite -- reading skills predicting math success -- does not hold up." Northwestern University 2007 study of 35,000 preschoolers in the United States, Canada and England.
However, in early learning environments, most of the time and attention is focused upon early language and literacy skills.
For every 100 early childhood classrooms in session on a day, 96% would engage in language and literacy activities that day, 30% would engage in some form of art or music, but only 21% would engage in any math activities. Jennifer McCray - Erikson Institute
We know it's important, and yet early childhood settings are not engaging in mathematics in even the most cursory manner. These are the findings for formal child care settings and preschools. Children that stay at home, stay with relatives or are in home child care settings, are most likely receiving even fewer opportunities to explore mathematical concepts.

We encourage parents and educators to provide early literacy and language activities - reading to children, teaching the left to right convention, singing the alphabet song, pointing out letters and words, sounding out letter phonics and words, correcting misconceptions and errors. Yet when similar mathematical concept activities are provided, it is often looked at as not developmentally appropriate or necessary. 

Yet, mathematical literacy is not just AS important as reading literacy, it has been proven to be even MORE so.

Just as reading literacy should be introduced from birth with reading and language activities, mathematical concepts should be introduced early and often as well, as I discussed in my post Learning Math from Birth.

18 months - 26 months
As an engineering major my first time through college, perhaps it's my mathematically-inclined background that has always helped me view math as a vital element of early childhood education. I also remember my first introduction to multiplication in fourth grade and being affronted that no one had ever bothered to tell me about this before. It made so much sense, more sense than counting a bunch of 2's. I strive to keep apace with my students' cognition and interest in mathematics and I think it shows in their abilities.

If you read this blog at all, you know that we do math EVERY DAY at EVERY AGE in multiple ways. We graph, sort, compare and contrast, group, measure, count in context, do 1-1 correspondence, quantify, pattern, study geometry, and the list goes on. All through hands-on, playful activities.

Miss L at 4 doing patterning extensions in both directions
When I wrote the blog post Higher Numbers and Preschoolers, I was surprised to be told that children my students' ages do not need to learn those concepts. That they need to be experimenting with numbers to gain an understanding of what they mean. Perhaps that would be true if my students were just beginning to be exposed to those concepts like their peers, but they've been exploring math concepts since they were 12 weeks old on a daily basis. Obviously, it has made a difference in their level of understanding in comparison to the vast majority of children who have not had the same exposure.

At 2, Mr. G can tell who's ball went the farthest from a graph

So if you have the care of a young child and are not currently doing activities that enhance math concepts, I strongly urge you to do so. All it takes is looking for fun, preferably hands-on or movement-based opportunities.

  • Count blocks, toys, the number of flowers on a page in a book, using the CHILD's finger, or toe, or elbow to touch each one as the number is said...
  • Pattern cars, blocks, rocks, Fruit Loops.
  • Line up the teddy bears or dollies from smallest to biggest and the other direction.
  • Measure how long some things are in the number of your hand prints and the child's and compare the two. Discuss amount concepts such as more/less, greater/fewer, a little/a lot, taller/shorter, bigger/smaller.
  • Discuss time concepts such as morning, night, later, after, before, when.
  • Discuss ordinal count concepts such as the third dolly in line is wearing a pink dress, you go first and I'll go second.
  • Point out numbers in the environment such as price signs and license plate numbers.
  • Count stair steps and anything else that can be felt through movement or touch.
  • Introduce a ruler, tape measure, pound scale, balance scale, yardstick, measuring cups, etc. as tools to measure.
  • Discuss the weather temperature.
  • Discuss prices and money. Don't just say it costs too much, say it costs $5.46 and I don't have enough money for that.
  • Discuss shapes in the environment, and not just circles and squares. A sliver of moon is a crescent, an oat container is a cylinder, a ball is a sphere.
  • Deconstruct quantities into various equations, "You have 6 cars. Three red cars and three blue cars. That makes 6 cars in all. Three and three is six, two threes is six." 
  • "Do you want 1 or 2 cookies?" Hold up both quantities so the child can grasp the significance.  Believe me. An 18 month old can figure out which is better. One PLUS two!
  • Mathematics has its own language, whenever available use the opportunity to describe mathematical thinking. "If we divide this candy bar into four equal pieces, then each of us will get the same amount, one-fourth of the candy bar."
Just as a child will not immediately be able to read from being read to, a child will not immediately be able to do math from being introduced to math concepts. But similarly, it sets the stage for scaffolding knowledge. It builds a repository of information for them to access as they encounter relevant situations and opportunities to test and manipulate that information.

Since so little attention has been paid to mathematics as an early introduction subject, it will be interesting to see what children can accomplish if it is given the same time and attention as early literacy. I know my students far exceed my expectations of what they should be capable of understanding.

With earlier attention to this important aspect of children's education, maybe the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] initiatives will begin to have even greater success in luring students into these fascinating and needed fields.

A few relevant lists from the video:

Content to be presented
Numbers and equations
Data analysis, graphs
Algebraic thinking

Processes teachers need to enable
Communicate concepts and ideas
Reason and proof concepts and ideas
Solve & represent equations and quantities

5 Principals children need to learn
1-1 Correspondence: Each only gets counted once
Stable Order: Number order is a constant
Cardinal Principle: The last number counted is the quantity
Abstract Principle: A quantity is constant
Order Irrelevance Principle: Quantity remains constant no matter the order of the counted objects
Tags: preschool, math, mathematics, early, literacy, language, concepts, theme, unit, birth, counting, logic, reasoning, gifted, toddler, infant, preschooler, child, care, daycare, research, video, mccray, erikson, northwestern university, early childhood education, teaching, education, ECE, skills, 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Child-led Learning, Our Snapshot

When I say that I have an intensive preschool program, people may think that we spend all day in a classroom type environment. However, that simply isn't so. Most of our learning is interjected throughout the day, and we only sit down for story time, and that's not every time, since we do movement activities for most stories. I say my program is play/movement based, child-led, and teacher facilitated. What does that look like, truly? Here's a snapshot of five of our week's learning activity.

#1 This is pretty much verbatim between me and Miss A during a group activity.

To the group: "What do you want to do...sight words, counter activities, dancing, craft, play...?" [I do this throught the day, letting them choose the next activity]

"Sight words!!!" [unanimously]
"Sure! Why don't you each go pick out your two favorite words and I'll make sentences out of them?"
"Yay!" [they turn and head to the word wall]
"Hey, does anyone remember what you chose for the word of the week?" [turn to me]
"THREE!" [in unison]
"Good job! High fives."
"But can anyone SPELL it?"
"T-H-R-E-E!" [all, jumbled voices]
"Awesome! More high fives."
"Say the word you choose, please."
"I want PLAY, I like PLAY. There it is, above HAS." [she also chose SOME]
"Okay, let's read your sentences."
"I need a name of something that plays, sweetheart."
"Good choice. Here, where there isn't a word, say GIRAFFES." [new having a blank in the middle of the sentence, now we do this on the white board and write the word in or use Rebus cards]
[Miss A pointing to each word] "! Yay!"
"Good job!"
Each child goes through their sentence then we go through them all together.
"Wonderful. Do you want me to put your sentences out in the front area so you can read them to your parents when they get here?"
"Does this look like a good spot or do you want them there, or there."
"Why don't we read them one more time to make sure that I put them up correctly?"
"Okay." Read in unison again.
"What do you want to do next?"
"More school!" said Miss A.
Total instruction time: 10 minutes. No loss of attention.

#2  The human mind loves the number 3, so whenever possible, I teach in units of 3. So for beginning Spanish counting, I randomly sang, "Uno, dos, tres. Uno dos tres. Spanish 123 IS uno dos tres." The children would pick it up and also randomly sing it throughout the day. 

No direct instruction.

I will also bomb instruction during their play, randomly throwing out something new/different or 1-2 questions related to something we are learning. The mind also loves rhyming, so  I try to make the most of that affinity. 

#3 "Hey, does anyone want to learn some body part names in Spanish?"

"YES!" [only takes one, the others will hear and learn, too]
"Okay, hold out an arm like this."
"BRAZO" [hold out arm]
[bring my hand up] "MANO"
[wiggle my fingers] "DADOS!"
[smooth movements] "Arm, hand, fingers."
[again] "Brazo...mano...DADOS!"
Instruction time: 1-2 minutes.

#4  "Hey, does anybody have a cylinder?"

[scurrying about to find one]
"I do!" [toilet paper tube from the sensory bin]
"I do!" [plastic can from the play kitchen]
"I do!" [sippy cup]
"Cool." [I go back to reading to the little ones]
Instruction time: 30 seconds

#5  "Miss Connie, I want to paint!"

"Sure. Anyone else want to paint?"
"ME!" [head into the art room]
"Do you want big paper or little paper?"
"Me, too!"
"How big? Tell me where to cut it." [points to a spot on the big roll]
"I want this end of the table today."
"What color paint do you want?...Where do you want it?"
"Here and here and here. I want purple, too. Over there. I just want to finger paint today."
"I don't want to finger paint, can I use the car?"
"You can use anything you want out of the bin. Just remember to put what you use on the tray after you are finished with it to keep paint off the table."
Instruction time: None. No instruction, just a reminder of the procedures. 
Time: However long it takes to create a masterpiece
Tags: stealth, learning, teaching, preschool, child, care, daycare, pre-k, curriculum,

Friday, April 19, 2013

Crib [or family bed] to Bed Transition

Toddlers are capable of climbing out of cribs as early as 13 months! I caught a little boy this age as he dove head first over the side of a crib. I haven't had cribs in my child care since then, only pack-n-plays, which are deeper and have soft sides they have more trouble getting a firm foothold upon. 

I also currently have a toddler who was easily climbing out of a pack-n-play prior to 18 months. She is a limber and STRONG little bitty child who could hook her foot up over the top and pull herself over with no issue WAY too early. She still can, this is for demonstration purposes of her technique. She couldn't even get her arm over the top when she first climbed out. She's been out on a bed for a good while now.

Little Monkey Miss N at 21 months
Some state regulations require children in child care settings to be removed from cribs and pack-n-plays at EXACTLY 18 months. There are reasons for this mandate. 

I have had parents tell me that they want to keep their child in the crib as long as possible so that the child is basically caged, i.e. SAFE while alone in the nursery. However, this is definitely NOT the case. A toddler tumbling from a crib can be deadly, and a monitor can't tell you something's wrong if the child can't cry to get your attention. 
THURSDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Each year in the United States, nearly 10,000 children under the age of 2 arrive in emergency rooms with injuries suffered while in cribs, playpens and bassinets, a new report shows.
Most of these injuries involve cribs and are usually caused by kids climbing out and falling on the floor, said the researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"The most surprising thing to me was the number of crib-related injuries we found being treated in hospital emergency departments," said lead researcher Dr. Gary A Smith, a professor of pediatrics and director of the hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy.
"This is an underestimate," he said. "We know that children are taken to their private physician and urgent care centers."
Smith noted that only about 1 percent of the injuries involved a parent or sibling: "It appears that most of these falls are children climbing out of the crib and falling."
In most cases, the children landed head first, Smith noted, which "really makes this an issue that we should pay attention to." Children at that age are top-heavy, so when they fall they fall head first and don't have the ability to break their fall these injuries can be serious, he explained.
Smith added that as the children became more mobile, the number of injuries increased. "So, parents need to be cautious when a child is in a crib and can start to pull himself up," Smith said. READ MORE

What I have suggested to my clients that has worked well: 

  • Remove the crib, place the crib mattress on the floor. The crib mattress is comfortable and familiar and will sleep/feel/smell the same once it's on the floor. Transitioning to a different mattress, bedding, bed position in the room, etc. is just asking to stimulate your child and cause issues. If the bed is the same, just lower with no bars, then your child has only one change to handle. Children do best with consistency and routine, and too many changes thrown at once can be disturbing to them.
  • Place a gate over the bedroom doorway so your child can be heard but not roam the house. 
  • Keep only a few toys down and accessible to your child in the bedroom. When your child goes to sleep, the toys are locked in the closet or placed into a bin and removed to another room or the hallway so if s/he wakes up, there's no reason to not go back to sleep, no stimulation. The room basically becomes a large pack-n-play. It also removes any boosters for getting over the gate.
Miss H 18 months

Falling out of bed 3-4 inches onto the floor isn't going to hurt a child. As they gain spatial awareness of their non-restricted environment, falling out of bed is normal. Eventually their body will accustom and adjust naturally to ensure that doesn't happen. A child jumping on a crib mattress on the floor is also not likely to break a bone, or cause them to fall improperly and hurt themselves badly. Again, letting them gain the spatial awareness with the mattress on the floor will help prevent them falling from their eventual big-kid bed when they jump on it, possibly preventing a concussion. They probably will jump on the bed at some point, no matter how much you admonish them not to do so.

A toddler bed, a frame to hold the crib mattress, is really a waste of money and time and only necessary for someone wanting to keep the "look" of the child's room. Even with transition cribs, if the side is off and the mattress is as low as possible, it is still likely that the child will fall out or off a few times, from a greater height than just the mattress on the floor.

Once your child reaches 2 years, s/he can transition up onto a twin bed with no issue, having most likely gained the spatial awareness necessary to remain on it during sleep. If your child continues to wake up on the floor while down on the crib mattress, however, bed rails, or a pool noodle tucked under the fitted sheet on the sides of the bed, may be necessary to provide a boundary.

Family Bed Transition

This also is a good idea if you are trying to get your toddler out of YOUR bed. It is an easier, gentler, kinder way to do it than just kicking them down the hall. Getting a new bed, that smells, feels, and sleeps VERY differently; in a new environment, which, even if they play in their room regularly, it is TOTALLY different at night, with different sounds, light/shadows, and smells; without the heartbeat and warmth and comfort of the person/people they have ALWAYS been surrounded with at night, is traumatizing to a toddler.

Imagine if your spouse told you that you need to sleep in the guest room from now on because you disturbed their sleep. They helped move you into the guest room, talking about how great this was going to be for YOU. You lay there at night, not comfortable with the bed, listening to how the house sounds different in this room, how it smells different. You miss your spouse's warmth and smell and gentle snores. You feel like you are in a foreign land. You wonder if your spouse will change their mind tomorrow and let you back into YOUR bed. Surely they won't kick you out if you slip back in there, or if you let them know how much it means to you to sleep with them every night, to feel that closeness and connection. You feel lonely, abandoned, rejected, sad, unloved, unappreciated. You are an adult and you feel all these things even though you have some understanding of the reasons behind the request and life experience with which to relate similar experiences in a rational manner. It hurts. 
Now imagine what your toddler feels like when it happens.
Think about how much you LOVE your bed, dislike sleeping on others when you travel, or how long it takes for you to become accustomed to a new mattress. UGH! The same is true for your child, and they don't understand it. You don't like changing beds, they don't either, and your bed is most likely the only one they've ever known.

Once the decision is made to remove your child from your bed, it must be a firm decision, and your child must not be allowed back into your bed. If you do, then it's just mean, because it will be on YOUR terms and just jerking your child around, which s/he doesn't understand. Make a rule and stick with it. Vacillating back and forth on ANY can be in my bed CAN'T be in my bed can be in my bed can nap on the couch today..., especially something like this that deals with your child's connection and access to YOU, just makes children uncertain, stressed, fearful, and distrustful. Consistency allows them to trust that, "This is the way it is." They won't like it at first, of course, because it's YOU who is making that decision FOR THEM to remove them from THEIR BED to a new one, but they will quickly understand that, "This is the way it is." Period. And they will adjust accordingly. Just not happily. 

The crib mattress can begin to be used at nap time. Once your child seems comfortable napping on it, which may take a while, place the crib mattress next to your bed for their "special spot" at night.  

If you are eventually trying to get them into their own room, once they adjust well to sleeping on the mattress at night, gradually move the mattress a little farther away from your bed and toward their room each night, allowing for extra nights if you hit a transition period where the child balks. Never move it back toward your bed, but just keep it in the same position for a few nights. It will eventually reach the hall, and eventually reach their room, and eventually reach the place in their room that you want it be. Make sure that gates are up and hallway doors are shut and/or childproofed with handle guards so your child only has access to their bed location and your room if they get up at night, which they most likely will during this transition. Just consistently place them back on the crib mattress with calm reassurance. Every. Single. Time.

Breaking from this even one time gives your child hope and expanded possibilities. They will run with it, and the transition will be much harder and longer the second time around, and exponentially thereafter. 

Tags: toddler, infant, bed, transition, family, removing, transitioning, crib, bassinet, playpen, pack-n-play, child, care, daycare, crib to bed transition, toddler bed, own room, son, daughter, boy, girl, parent, parenting, discipline, gentle, easy,

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Higher Numbers & Preschoolers

This is usually a kindergarten or late pre-k concept to introduce. We began really working on 30+ numbers last week, since they had DOWN 0-20. These children are advanced learners, and have been working addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and quantity concepts of 0-20 for some time. This is a child-led, teacher-facilitated, learning through play and movement school. The children let me know what they want to learn, and it is my job to facilitate that learning and make it fun and interesting.  

They have also been working on 21-30. Usually, counting up to 30 as we do jumping jacks together. We are also working on time, where they are really using 30, and now will need to know up to 60. They love money, add nickels and pennies, but need the higher numbers to go farther. They play restaurant and want to be able to count the money. Correctly. They are frustrated with the lack of knowledge that is currently holding THESE children back from learning what THEY want to know.

As a casual intro, we watched a few YouTube videos that went to 100 over the last few weeks. These are the best two, by far. I really like that they both make a break on the tens, just as we do when we count it. I also like that The Big Numbers Song also shows the words with the numbers. Good cadence and decent graphics in both.

We watched our Leap Frog Math Circus video, and I reinforced some of the concepts as we watched. 


We also read our big book of Chicka Chicka 1-2-3, and on the back pages counted out the entire 0-100, something we had not been doing because the attention/interest hadn't been there. We do a lot of movements with our book readings, so this is always a favorite book, but now I could see that they were paying more attention to the 10s units as we read, as well as the counting to 100. If they even THOUGHT I would skip over the 100 counting, I got called on it. Often they insisted that I do it more than once, and asked to have specific numbers pointed out.

Miss H 3 3/4

After carefully observing the children to see if they had any interest in going farther with it, if the concept kept their attention, if they asked questions, or asked for more of the same...all the signs said, "YES!"

So last week I introduced them to our hundred pocket chart and we clapped out counting by 10's twice. I wasn't sure how well it was going over, so I decided on Friday that I would scale it back to 21-60, basically working on learning 30's, 40's and 50's numbers. 

Miss A  turned 3 last week

We started having a number of the day, and yesterday's was 53. Today I wrote a new one on the board and Miss H [the oldest at 3 3/4 years] said, "That's 84." I just looked at her for a few moments. "Actually, it's 48. 84 would look like this...because we always do the first number first. [We've been working on ordinal count as well.] But good try." So, I guess they get the concept more than I thought and are again pushing my teaching.
53     48

Since all of my teaching is movement based, we always do a movement chant for our number of the day. For 53 it was, "See, see, what do we see, our number for the day is FIFTY-THREE!!!" Today's was, "Great, great, isn't it great, our number for the day is FORTY-EIGHT!!!" 

Once they get down number recognition, which they pretty much have, surprisingly, then we'll move on to tally marks, ten frames and other units of measure to begin equating the numbers to measurements, as we have with 0-20. Still...all through play and movement. For instance, our tally marks will be made with sticks, play kitchen utensils, or playdoh snakes, and ten frames will be made with Legos, blocks, or toys.  

Today we did the hundred chart again, and the children all took three random cards out of the chart, I mixed them up, then handed them out to put back into it. 
Worked on 3+3+3 and 3X3 while we were at it.

What is great about this is that the quantity is small enough that each child can remember the ones they took out. If a child can't figure out where the card goes, then the child that removed it can usually show where it belongs...peer assistance/teaching & reinforcement of learning. If a child wants to participate, but isn't at a higher level, then I give them cards that are within their skill or challenge range, or have the children go in turns so that the less-skilled child goes last when only her/his empty spots on the entire board are left available, to make it less difficult.

Gradually I will increase the number of cards pulled by each child, until eventually I'll just throw all 100 out and let them go at it.

Speaking of ordinal count, I guess that's been going over pretty well also. Mr. G today was in the bathroom and told me, "Pants up second, panties up first!" Can you tell he's the only boy here and has a sister?! Panties it is!

I'm a "throw it at the wall and see if it sticks" kind of teacher. Sometimes I'm really not sure what all is sticking in their busy little brains, but usually they surprise the heck out of me with what they grab onto, mull over, and throw back out asking for more.

Our 2-digit number of the day chants for numbers ending in:

Teens Careen, careen, it likes to careen, our number of the day _____teen!!!

[Jerk body all around]

1 Fun, fun, let's have some fun, our number of the day is _____-ONE!!!
[Punch the air and dance around]

2 Boo, hoo, don't boo-hoo, our number of the day is _____-TWO!!!
[Pretend to cry, rub under eyes]

3 See, see, what do we see, our number of the day is _____-THREE!!!
[Put hand above eyes or make binocular hands in front of eyes and pretend to look]

4 Sure, sure, YES I'm sure, our number of the day is _____-FOUR!!!
[Nod head]

5 Dive, dive, let's all dive for our number of the day, _____-FIVE!!!
[Pretend to dive down, or dive down hands]

6 Mix, mix, in the mix, is our number of the day _____-SIX!!!
[Hold one arm in a circle like a bowl and pretend to stir with the other one]

7 Kevin, Kevin, who is Kevin? He has our number of the day, _____-SEVEN!!!
[Puzzled expression and hands out...if we HAD a Kevin, I'd actually give him the number to show and make it "...where is Kevin?]

8 Great, great, isn't it great, our number of the day is _____-EIGHT!!!
[Clapping with cheer hands at end]

9 Mine, mine, it's all mine, the number of the day, _____-NINE!!!
[Two thumbs gesturing towards you]
Tags: math, counting, circle time, preschool, pre-k, child, care, daycare, learning, numbers, counting, concepts, gifted, homeschool, homeschooling, mathematics, chants, songs, centers, teaching

Cutting Practice for Preschoolers

Two of the children JUST turned 3. Within the week. While they are fairly advanced cognitively, their fine-motor skills are age appropriate. So we need to work on cutting regularly.  They began cutting with teacher-assist scissors around 18 months - 2 years and at 2 1/2 we begin independent cutting with auto-open scissors. 

Now, at 3, we are ready to get serious about independent cutting. Regular scissors are hard at first, and they still need a lot of help. 

I dislike that so many times children are introduced to scissors via the dictate that they cut on a line, or do a specific task, usually just with construction paper. That's just not very fun. 

Actually it is BORRRRING!

And cutting is FUN. 

Or should be. Funky shapes can be created, and you never REALLY know what you'll end up with once you start cutting, or just how many small bits you can get out of one piece of something...without EXPERIMENTING. There are also hand muscles involved that need training and strengthening. Cutting one thing, usually paper, every so often, does VERY little to enhance the imagination or body conditioning.

Cutting is IMPORTANT.
  • Helps develop dominant and helping hands
  • Strengths hand-eye coordination
  • Greatly strengthens hand muscles, along with upper body
  • Works crossing the mid-line
  • Works spatial awareness
  • Works geometric awareness
  • Works linear positioning
  • Allows creative expression
  • Allows sensory exploration
  • Promotes independence
I teach to have the first finger out for stability [from a children's physical therapist], and "Point your thumb to the sky!" for proper hand position, "Elbow in tight!" for control, and "Paper moves, not scissors. Scissors only open and close!

Once they are cutting like pros, then I don't stress the index finger out. I've seen a couple of blog posts by others that mention putting a smiley face on the child's thumb so that they can "see" the proper thumb position. I love that idea for any child that doesn't "get" it easily.

So, yes, we do cutting for art projects [more than just PAPER], but they also get to have free-for-all days to experiment and practice with a vast variety of materials. Here's what is currently in our cutting practice bin:
  • construction paper
  • ribbon
  • yarn
  • sandpaper
  • foil
  • wax paper
  • envelope
  • plastic bag
  • magazine
  • napkin
  • cupcake liner
  • doily
  • string
  • netting
  • paper plate
  • crimped paper grass
  • straws
  • crepe paper streamers
  • tissue paper
  • card stock
  • clear plastic sheeting
  • thin felt
  • raffia
  • vinyl wallpaper
  • bubble wrap
  • nubby vinyl shelf liner
  • metallic fabric
  • thin packing foam
A good variety of textures to practice upon, with nothing overly difficult to cut for this age group, but some still challenging. At the end of a practice session, we pick up all the pieces still a decent size and toss the bitty bits into the trash.

It is definitely stressed that we only cut ART MATERIALS...WHEN ALLOWED, and that cutting without an adult present, or cutting anything we aren't given permission to cut, is NOT OKAY and will have dire consequences and revocation of cutting privileges. But, temptation to preschoolers is SO difficult to resist...

Maybe it shouldn't be THIS much fun. 

Mr. G and Miss B did some custom salon work on themselves just prior to Christmas after an older cousin swiped some scissors. Large, pointy, SHARP scissors. Their mother wanted me to state in here that excellent scissors skills SAVE LIVES. Seriously. These children didn't take out an eye or even nick themselves or cause any other damage because they had enough skill to accomplish their set task in a relatively safe manner. Hair cutting. Miss H did her own hair cutting thing over the same time off school. Attention diverted elsewhere during the holidays = opportunity glorified.  

Consequences for these poor decisions against the rules were reinforced at school upon their return.

DON'T leave scissors unattended or attainable for children. Even 5-6 year olds really aren't responsible enough to have unsupervised access. A former student cut the fringe off a $4000 hand knotted wool rug at a relative's house at the age of 6, again during the holidays. She was a highly gifted student and very much knew better.
Tags: preschool, cutting, cutting practice, toddler, introduction, introducing, scissor, scissors, skill, daycare, child, care, pre-k, art, craft, hand, strength, fine motor, development

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kid Delish Fried Fish

I don't usually post my recipes, but this one is too good and easy to pass by sharing. As Miss A said to me at lunch today:

"This is the BEST chicken you've EVER made!"

Although it was actually FISH, point well made. It was also the first item EVERYONE grabbed off their plates. Many child care centers and providers do not serve fish. I think it is super important to serve a vast variety of foods and flavors at these young ages to encourage children to have a well-rounded taste palate for life. 
Pineapple juice around his mouth. Not snot. Promise.
 Easy peasy...

Coating Recipe

1 C       Pulverized chicken stuffing mix
2/3 C    Panko bread crumbs
1/3 C    Parmesan cheese

I buy Swai fillets when on sale. Usually 20 pounds at a time. I always ask for the grocery store person to pack mine fresh from the freezer to ensure that they are FROZEN SOLID. The ones that have been sitting out in the case have begun to thaw, and it's not good to re-freeze food of any kind once thawed. So I do my best to get them as the last item before leaving the grocery store and make sure that they go directly from the grocery freezer into mine. Since they are individually frozen, they don't really stick together and it's easy to pull out the 3-4 fillets I need at a time.

Set the deep fryer to 350 degrees and allow to thoroughly heat. I only use canola oil, which is a healthy oil. Since my child care menu is very low-fat overall, it is good to punch it up with some healthy fat and/or omega-3s a few times each month.

I microwave the frozen fillets on my REHEAT setting, which seems to perfectly defrost them. You can also defrost in the fridge or use the defrost setting on your microwave. Depending on the microwave, about 3 minutes. The edges should just be beginning to turn white, and the middle should be pliable when pressed down with a fork.

I cut each fillet into 4 portions. If using chicken, use tenders, or cut breasts into one inch strips.

I pulverize the stuffing mix in my Magic Bullet. You could also use a blender, food processor, or just bang the heck out of it with a meat mallet in a sandwich bag.

Swai is a firm white fish, so it holds up well to frying and handling. I use a fork to dredge it.  I do not wet coat my fish or chicken. I find that I don't need to do so, the meat is moist enough to hold the coating. If some spots don't seem to not be covering well enough, I press the coating into those areas with the fork.

The mix is more than I can use in a single meal, so I keep it in a separate container and just keep adding to my coating container as needed. Any left over in the coating container will be thrown out, but the extra mix that didn't have fish dredged in it can go into the fridge, sealed, for another meal. Since it has the parmesan in it, it will need to be refrigerated. 

I can get about one full fillet at a time into my basket making a single layer. I know that with this much fish, it takes EXACTLY 3 minutes to cook. If you cram more into your frier, then it may take a little longer.

To make sure there is no cross-contamination, I set it up like this, always keeping my raw and cooked utensils and platters completely separated.  

The fish, or chicken, comes out wonderfully crisp on the outside and moist and flaky on the inside. The taste is AMAZING! 

The stuffing mix and parmesan are both fairly salty, so I add the panko crumbs to help off-set that and do not add any other seasoning. It is very flavorful and doesn't NEED anything else. However, if not making exclusively for children, I think adding some lemon pepper or cajun seasoning would give it a different kick.

I also make a tarter sauce to go with the I was duly reminded by one of the children after serving today. They were impatient for it and I had no time for pictures until they were done. So you get the sloppy leftovers pic.

Tarter Sauce
1/3 C     Mayo
1 T          Dill relish
1 t          Lemon juice
1/4 t       Dill weed
1/4 t       Onion powder         

This is definitely a 30 minute, or less, meal.

3 minutes to defrost, start frier and make coating at same time
3 minutes per fillet, I use about 1/2 fillet per child, prep next fillet during cooking time
Tags: recipes, 30 minute meals, fish, chicken, coating, fried, frying, dredge, tarter sauce, child care, daycare, preschool, easy, quick, healthy, Swai, fish fry