Aldersgate Preschool

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Sometimes a “little bit” it is just right for our Little Ones


In our world of excess I think about our little ones.

I think about the little bits of things that would benefit them so much.

I recently wrote a post about all the things our children need in abundance.  You can find that post HERE.  Today I’ll focus on the opposite of that – what we need to limit to “just a little.”

A little bit of screen time

Between birth and age three, for example, our brains develop quickly and are particularly sensitive to the environment around us. In medical circles, this is called the critical period, because the changes that happen in the brain during these first tender years become the permanent foundation upon which all later brain function is built. In order for the brain’s neural networks to develop normally during the critical period, a child needs specific stimuli from the outside environment. These are rules that have evolved over centuries of human evolution, but—not surprisingly—these essential stimuli are not found on today’s tablet screens. When a young child spends too much time in front of a screen and not enough getting required stimuli from the real world, her development becomes stunted.

And not just for a while. If the damage happens during these crucial early years, its results can affect her forever.

Much of the issue lies with the fact that what makes tablets and iPhones so great—dozens of stimuli at your fingertips, and the ability to process multiple actions simultaneously—is exactly what young brains do not need.

Read this full article HERE

My thoughts: Our presenter on Brain Balance indicated an underdeveloped right brain is often the root of many developmental delays.  Here is a slide from her presentation. (click on photo to enlarge it)


A little bit of planned activities

Preschoolers need a lot of unstructured activity, free play being the primary example. Through exploration and experimentation in free play, their brains start to build the complex neural networks they will need for advanced decision making further down the road.

Research is now backing up the notion that young children need regular experiences organizing themselves in order to develop their “executive function”.

Executive function refers to the ability to formulate goals, make appropriate decisions towards achieving those goals, all while regulating personal behavior. It also implies that you know how to pay attention to your environment, and how to collect and process the information you need to achieve your goals.

Read this full article HERE

My thoughts: From our experience this is just one area we feel a too full schedule affects adversely.  As you’ve heard us say – Free play is so important.


A little bit of control

“Kids want and expect their parents to provide structure and make key family decisions. It helps them feel safe. While it’s great to give kids a say in things, too many or too big of  choices can overwhelm them or put too much pressure on them.

Give young children the choice between only two things. If they don’t or can’t pick between the two, don’t offer a third. (This doesn’t include “free play time,” where they should be able to do whatever they’re interested in.)”

The article goes on to talk about the need for consistency.  There’s is so much value in consistency.

Read the full article HERE

My thoughts:  Sometimes we will give children the choice between two books at circle time.  We take a vote and then we go with the most votes.  We don’t however, give the choice of whether they sit for a story or not.  We choose the schedule we feel works best for children this age.  Sometimes it’s kids’ choice time and other times it is the teacher’s choice. 

A little bit of frills

For celebrations:  “Simplicity remains the rule for 2- and 3-year-olds too: You might offer cupcakes—the perfect-size confection for little ones—with cardboard Blue’s Clues characters stuck on them. (Check your local stationery or party store.) They’ll appreciate more elaborate parties with themes and planned activities later on. ”

Read the full article HERE

My thoughts: Birthday parties are just one area we, as adults, feel the pressure to be elaborate , exciting or even grand.  Even play dates can be filled with too many frills.  I once heard a mom saying she had planned all kinds of activities for her child and friend’s play date.  They ignored her and quickly ran off to play.   

It goes against our nature to think of denying our children but sometimes less is truly more.


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We’ve received so much!

At this season of gifts concludes, I am reminded of so many ways our preschool is blessed.  This school year is no exception.  We have truly received some wonderful gifts.

Early this fall Marcus Nameth (Ms. Robyn’s son) gifted us with two amazing magnet ball walls.  He made this for his final Eagle Scout project.  I know he spent hours researching the best balls, glue, etc. to make the project most successful.  And it is!  The kids on both playgrounds enjoy discovering how the balls will move through the pipe tracks, dependent on the way the tracks are positioned.  What a wonderfully thought provoking play experience.  Plus, they have fun too!  We are so grateful that Marcus chose us as his Eagle Scout recipient.  Thank you Marcus!


Yesterday our teachers got to have some great fun.  We visited Lakeshore Learning, an educational children’s toy store that you can find out about HERE, for a teacher training.  Then they “worked” hard playing “Santa” for our school.  Actually, they had a blast choosing just the right things that will fill a need we have.   It was also interesting to find out which of our staff members are good at math and could figure out how to make the most of our money with the coupon discount they were offering that day.  I just stood back and watched them getting so excited about it all.

All this is possible because of YOU!  We used fund raising money to make these purchases.  So, thank you!

And finally as we prepare to leave for our Christmas break I cannot help but think about the greatest gift we’ve ever received.  God chose to become human.  He chose to humble himself to our limitations so that he could give us the gift of salvation.  That sweet baby in a manger is truly our King.  I pray each of you feel surrounded by the love of Christ as you celebrate this Christmas!

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Our little ones need a lot!

This is not a typical post listing ideas for items to give for Christmas.  I’ve done those.  You can see those HERE , HERE and HERE

Today I am writing about so many other things that are the basic things that young  all children need.  I don’t want to preach, but truly the things listed below are so much more important than any gift you can give.  Your child will remember these more too.  Your child will thrive and blossom when surrounded with the blessings of these items.



I know, if you are a stay-at-home mom you are thinking, “I’m with my child all day, every day.”  I mean a little more than just being with them.

I’m talking about playing (hide-n-seek, board games, rolling and tickling, playing catch, being the ‘sister’ for your ‘mommy’ child, ordering from your ‘waitress’ child, . . .)

I’m talking about having family dinners together.  Talk, laugh, share stories about when you were young (this is a favorite for my grand kids), ask questions, talk about feelings you felt today . . .)

I’m talking about going for walks, visiting a fire station, watching for squirrels, doing a family puzzle, . . .

I’m talking about cuddling and connecting.  I’m talking about saying I love you . . a lot.


Once again, I know you may be thinking “the days already seem so long.”  But the old saying, The days are long but the years are short is so very true.  Put the ‘hurry’ away and relax and enjoy.

I’m talking about time for your child to practice a new skill (like putting on clothes and shoes, learning to zip, put his or her own clothes away, feed him or herself, walking – even into school, . . .)

I’m talking about time to process emotions.  Time to figure out how to manage things when I’m frustrated or sad.  Time to let me be sad or frustrated.  How can a child learn to manage those kinds of feelings if he or she never experiences them.  It’s truly okay.  You can be there to support but your child will benefit from struggling a little at times.

I’m talking about time to JUST PLAY.   I know how I am if I have to stop in the middle of a project or thought.  I get frustrated – just ask my staff.  And I’m an adult.  Imagine being a child and always having to cut short the time to: build long train tracks, to draw a masterpiece, to pile the pillows which then turns into building a fort, to play with the water in my bath – or even other times during the day, to set up my ‘grocery store’ just so, to build a tower  . . . .

HERE is a previous blog post written by one of our parents.


I’m talking about time to run, skip, jump, roll, swing, dig, twirl, climb, and breath in the fresh air – it’s all good for your body! (and a growing child’s brain!)

I’m talking about time to experience and enjoy all kinds of weather; hot, cold, balmy, windy, sunny, snowy, and even rainy.

I’m talking about gatherings with other families and friends, but also time on his or her own to learn how to entertain himself or herself as well.


While I certainly want all children to be safe, I’m also talking about a different kind of security.

I’m talking about security in knowing your family expectations  – consistency is so important.  HERE and HERE are a couple of  previous posts about discipline and setting boundaries.

I’m talking about security in the fact that expectations will be developmentally appropriate.  Imagine how unsure you feel if you are asked to do something that you aren’t able to – don’t even think about asking me to do a back bend, my body is not ready for that.  Did you know, a child’s brain isn’t typically developing the left side of the brain (the side for letters, writing, organized thinking  . . .) until at least three years old?

I’m talking about security in knowing his or her parents have “got this!”  Imagine living in a country that is totally changing, totally unstructured.  You would wonder who’s in charge.  Will your family be expected to pay more for taxes than you had planned – so then what happens to you.  It’s the laws (the rules) and the structure of our government (whatever your political beliefs) that give us the security we enjoy in this country.  It’s the same for your child even though he or she may fight the system (imagine a tantrum right here) often.  Ultimately he or she is reassured with the knowledge of consistent expectations.  Once again, it’s okay for your child to struggle a little within the security of the consistent boundaries you have set.

I’m talking about the security in knowing you allow him or her to explore and grow to the best of his or her abilities.  I love a job where I can use my gifts, learn and grow as I work.  I feel secure in the knowledge that my superiors will back me up – even if I make a mistake in the process.   In children’s terms they enjoy trying new, even a little challenging things, with the knowledge that you trust them to try.  They can do their best, but then you will be there if the challenge becomes overwhelming.


I recently read an article that sited a study that showed the importance of language in the family as a predictor of future success in school and life.

I’m talking about rich language full of new words.

I’m talking about casually restating what a child says and also extending a child’s sentence structure.

I’m talking about questions, ‘I wonder’ statements and time for reflecting.

I’m talking about labeling emotions and talking about them – a lot.  HERE is a link to a previous post about helping a child deal with emotions.

I’m talking about giving verbal directions and then multi-step directions as your child grows.

I’m talking about reading and telling stories (in books, at bedtime, during dinner, about family history, about things that happened that day . . .)

I’m talking about playing with language (sounds, rhymes, patterns, silly words . . . )

I’m talking about language through song.


We cannot say enough about the importance of sleep – for all of us – but especially children.  Think about how you are not at your best (in other words, how cranky you are) when you don’t have enough sleep.  Young children’s bodies are even far less able to handle sleep deficiency.  HERE is a link to a post by the National Sleep Foundation.  You  may be surprised by the number of suggested hours of sleep for each age group.

I’ll finish today by saying abundance, abundance, abundance and then more abundance of these things for your child.



The value of family traditions

Each year my husband’s family gathers for Thanksgiving at his brother’s house.  It is the one time of year everyone can count on being together.  Last year, due to an illness in their family, we were unable to have that time together.  We felt the loss.  My adult kids said, “It just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving.”

Do you have family traditions?  These can be something simple with just your nuclear family or bigger and include your extended family.

Values Parenting website had a wonderful article about family traditions.  Here is an excerpt

Almost all families have traditions, at least subconscious ones, often centering on holidays or the special occasions. But some parents come to realize the importance of traditions and the ability of good traditions to teach values to improve communication, to give security to kids, and to hold families together. Such parents can refine and redefine their family traditions and give them true and lasting bonding power.

Start by assessing and analyzing your own family traditions. What do you do on each holiday? Each family birthday? Do you have some weekly traditions, such as a special Sunday dinner? Are there some monthly traditions, such as going over the calendar and the family’s schedule for the month ahead? Make a list of your yearly, monthly, and weekly traditions.

Then, as a family, ask yourself three questions: How much joy or how much fun comes from each tradition? What values are taught by each tradition? Are there some gaps – some months without a holiday or birthday tradition? With these questions in mind, revise and redesign your family traditions. Formalize them a little by writing them up on a chart or in a special book.

Here’s a sampling of what happened to us as we went through this reassessing process:

  1. We revised some traditions. For example, our Thanksgiving tradition had essentially been to eat way too much and watch football all day on TV. We decided to shift the emphasis to thanks by making a collective list, on a long roll of cash register tape, of all the little things we are thankful for. Each year we try to “break the record” for the number of things listed.
  2. We decided it would be good to have at least one major family tradition each month, to look forward to and anticipate. Most of these centered on a birthday or holiday, but there was nothing in May or September so we started a “welcome-spring day” (a hike) and a “welcome-fall day” (a picnic).
  3. We listed all the traditions, by month, in a big, leather-bound book. A little description of each tradition appears on the left and a child’s illustration of that activity appears on the right.

Besides the once-a-year-type birthday or holiday traditions, there can be shorter-range traditions. Many families have religious traditions on Saturday or Sunday. There can be traditional ways of cooking a particular meal or of getting ready for school or of packing for a trip. Some traditions are real rituals, involving a particular sequence of events. There is comfort and security and identity in family rituals.

One other personal incident will illustrate the “staying power” and bonding influence of family traditions. On my (Richard’s) birthday in October, we had always raked huge piles of leaves with the kids and then jumped in them, stuffed them in our shirts, thrown them in the air, and just generally had a wild time. We thought as the kids got older, their interest in such a frivolous activity would fade. On the contrary, when they were teens, the leaf piles just got bigger. Finally, one year, four of our children were away at school or living abroad. On my birthday, four birthday cards arrived. As I opened the first, a leaf fell out and a note, “Dad, I honored your birthday tradition. Here’s a leaf from my jumping pile. I love you.” Through my tears I opened the other three – and a leaf fell from each.”

Last year at Christmas our family had a simple “photo booth” (a background hung on the wall and a camera) with different Christmas props.  I actually purchased one of those new instant cameras for some extra fun. You can find one like it HERE.

I treasure the photo of my mom being so silly!  We had so much fun with this that I hope to make it a tradition.  I can just imagine all the photos through the year as kids grow up, our family expands and so much more.  I’ll probably add a few new props each year just to change it up.

We also had our first gathering around our fire pit at our new house.  I’m brainstorming how this can become part of a special tradition.  As a grandparent I also see these traditions as ways to get the whole family together.  That’s important to me.

I know, through conversations with you, that family is very important to you too.  I invite you to add a comment to this post or drop me an email with ideas of traditions you have with your family.

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Give thanks for everything

Give thanks to God always and for everything. 

Ephesians 5:20

At our Devotion Worship last week we talked about saying thanks to God.  But, what are we thankful for?  Luckily we had a Thankful machine (our conveyor belt) that actually spit out ideas for us.  Our thankful machine worked with the energy from children clapping.  Did you know clapping is another way of saying Thank You?



Anyway, our machine spit out pictures such as “nose” and on the back side was “toes.”  Hey, we noticed those two things rhyme too.  Noses are good because, as one boy said, “it helps me breath.”  Yes, breathing is a very good thing to be thankful for.  🙂  These two items actually fit well into a song Ms. Jayne wrote for us.


Tune – original but begins kind of like Twinkle, Twinkle

I am thankful for my nose

I am thankful for my toes

My nose. My toes.

My nose. My toes.

I am thankful.

We sang this and added some additional “My nose, My toes” phrases . . . . . and went faster and faster.  It was great to see the kids having fun while talking about being thankful.  I think sometimes we get just a little too serious with this kind of discussion.  It IS important to remember, but we can give thanks in fun ways too.

Other verses we sang are:  The sun, I can run.  My head, My bed.  My shoe, And You.  I play, I pray.  See if you can come up with some new rhyming things you are thankful for.   Here is a link to an audio clip of Ms. Jayne singing her song.  I AM THANKFUL

Thank you Ms. Jayne, we love your creativity that helped us talk about being thankful in a fun, yet meaningful, way!

I also want to share with you a conversation I recently had with one of our parents.  I mentioned that I like to talk with the kids about “silly” things we can be thankful for.  I told her that I once mentioned toilet paper.  The children laughed hilariously.  Then we thought about it.  What would it be like if we didn’t have it?  We realized we really are thankful for toilet paper.

She mentioned that she lived in the Czech Republic during the Communist regime.  She remembers that toilet paper was one of the rationed items.  They would only get it on certain days and on those days there were LONG lines of people waiting for toilet paper.  As you can imagine, her mother was strict about how many squares of paper you could use each time.

WOW!  This truly put my life into perspective.  I’ve had times that I had to be cautious about what I could spend.  I’ve had to make choices between “fun” or “special” items and the necessary items.  BUT, I’ve never had to worry about having the essentials such as toilet paper.  I am blessed.

Perhaps this story will also touch your hearts.  I pray we all recognize and celebrate all blessings, large and small, and share with God our heartfelt thanks.

I pray we give thanks to God always and for everything.  

We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!


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Nature walk – a perfect fall activity

I love fall.  I love the cooler weather (although we’ve had a little extra cool than typical), the beautiful colors, the pumpkins and other fall fruit.  It’s the time of year I most enjoy being outside.  Perhaps your family does as well.

Children are naturally inquisitive about nature and often will use it in their play.  On our playground the children use small stick, stones, sticky balls, leaves, and acorns in a variety of different types of play.  It’s an environment rich with possibilities. I’ve seen many of our families out for a walk together.  That’s fabulous.  Next time your family heads out for a walk, you may want to try making it a Nature Walk.  This has two benefits; expending energy and the awareness of nature.  Simply print out the picture below and check off the items you see on the way.  You could take time to compare two of a similar item you see – i.e. a robin and a crow.  This encourages your child’s observation skills, attention span, fine motor development and literacy awareness.

In the spring our Red classes will be learning about the 5 senses.  In past years they have taken a listening walk.

I love watching them walk around with their clipboards intently listening so they could mark off the different items.  Feel free to copy and past the two checklists for your own nature walk.



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Our Halloween fun – What? No Parties?

My husband actually said to me, “Oh, that’s right, you bah humbug Halloween.”  He was referring to our lack of costumes and parties in our preschool classes.  Don’t worry, I quickly set him straight.  🙂

At Aldersgate Preschool we elect to keep our kids’ holidays pretty low-key.  I know you can relate to the hype and “energy” surrounding holidays in our society.  That’s part of our thinking.  Here are a few of our thoughts driving our decision about holidays.  (Hang in there with me through this part – there are photos at the end.)


We work hard to provide routines for the children while they are in class. says this,

” One of the most important things that you can do to make your young child feel safe is to establish as much routine in his life as possible. Children (and adults) feel the most secure when their lives are predictable. When adults provide environments that feel safe, children learn that they can trust others to take care of them and meet their needs, so they become free to relax and explore their world. “

Confusion and missing items

I directed a preschool that did have parties and a parade.  Oh, the tales I could tell about the missing pieces of costumes, the mix-ups about who are doing crafts, the crafts that were not age appropriate, the children upset or crying . . .   Sorry if I sound cynical but with preschool and younger children these are a few of the realities.

Family time becomes even more special

Think about how special Trick-or-Treating becomes when it is the real highlight for your child.    I know some children are also exhausted after parties and the change of routines.  Hopefully our low-key day allows children to have a “less melt down” experience while they trick-or-treat.

Young children can be scared of the unusual

I saw a perfect example of this in our three year old class.  Ms. Susan showed the children an electric jack-o-lantern.  Most of the children enjoyed the glow and the novelty as they talked about the shapes used in the face, etc.  However, even with this friendly faced item, one boy said, “Oh, that’s a scary face.”  He looked concerned until he was comforted by another teacher.  When the festivities are at home with parents, those fears are lessened and there is more more flexibility in how the activity must proceed to accommodate each child’s level of fear or excitement.

The holiday can generate interest in new learning 

As you will see below, we do talk about Halloween and the other holidays.  We use the children’s base of knowledge to encourage interest in different kinds of activities that build skills; social, cognitive, language, fine motor and many more.  (Okay, here are those pictures I promised.  Look for all the different kinds of opportunities the children enjoyed yesterday – on Halloween.)

Developmental opportunities:  Science, language, sensory, cooperation

Developmental opportunities: group dynamics, language (in the photo on the left each child got to talk to their class “puppet” and say what he or she will be for Halloween), self control, cognitive areas


Developmental opportunities:  dramatization & language (this two year old class had the children practice knocking on the door in the box and saying “Trick-or-treat!” and then “Thank You.” Of course there was a little playing of Peek-a-boo too.)

Developmental opportunities: group dynamics, cooperation, self control (it’s hard to WAIT!), physics, cognitive, language, large motor


Developmental opportunities:  cognitive skills, listening skills, fine motor control

Developmental opportunities:  Fine motor, project planning, persistence, creative exploration (the first picture is a creation of two monsters), language (there was a lot of talking between the artists)


Of course all the staff talked with the kids about their plans for Halloween and what costume they will wear.  Then, today we visited about their actual Halloween experience.  Today I heard lots of stories about trick-or-treating and of course LOTS of candy.

We hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Halloween!