Aldersgate Preschool


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Save those boxes

It may be too late for many, but I encourage you to save any boxes you have during the Christmas holidays – especially Amazon boxes.  Boxes sometimes make the best toys – as I’m sure any parent of a 1 year old soon figured out.  I remember my grandson climbing up on one of the boxes from a gift (we had closed the tabs so it was secure again) and then climbing down.  He has a January birthday so he must have been 11 months.  (Wow, look at those high math skills  – ha!)  Anyway, he did this over and over, and then over again.

Climbing on boxes is only one way kids play with boxes.  Older kids love to build spaceships, houses, cars or trains and so much more.  I used to do Home Daycare.  I remember using multiple boxes in a row as a train.  The children worked so well assigning roles, and deciding where the train was going.  The school age kids got involved making signs for the destination and for the boarding area.  We made pretend tickets.  This all developed naturally as they played.  This train play lasted almost the whole Christmas break – imagine keeping up to 10 children busy during those long winter days while all of them were out of school!

 

 

One of my favorite books is Christina Katerina & THE BOX by Patricia Lee Gauch.  Kids enjoy this but I have used it most with parent groups.  In the story Christina’s is so excited with her new delivery, a refrigerator.  She beams, “Oh, how grand and new.”  Christina replies excitedly, “It is!  Oh, it really is!”  She was, however, looking at the box.  The box became a castle, a clubhouse, a racing car, a floor of a mansion (after the box collapsed) – she was going to have a ball.  Eventually the kids scrubbed the floor with water and it disintegrated.  But, don’t worry, Christina and her friend soon had two new boxes from his mom’s washer and dryer.

Throughout the story the mother is ready to get rid of the box.  Isn’t that often the way?  We want to clean up the “mess” when kids often see it as an opportunity.

A newer book (published in this century – and boy that makes me feel old!) is Not a Box by Antoinette Portis.  Our copy happens to have been donated by the Inglehart family – thanks so much!  In this book the author asks a rabbit “Why are you sitting in that box.” The following page shows the rabbit sitting in a racecar along with the words “It’s not a box.”  We follow this format throughout the book with the box becoming a volcano, a robot, a boat, a pirate ship, a hot air baloon  . . . .

This book spurs a child’s imagination for all the different things a box could become.  I love it!

Image result for imagination is more important than knowledge

To see the source of the photo just click on the image.

Just imagine what your children could create with all those boxes that accumulate over the holidays.  Just add tape, paper, plastic lids (for wheels, well, actually for whatever the kids imagine), markers or paint (just put a tarp underneath).  You could even add shapes cut from the wrapping paper that covered the boxes.

Just imagine!


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Make this Christmas Season Meaningful

I usually write a post about toy options we suggest for your kids for Christmas.  I looked back at some of my old ones and to be honest, I think those posts cover the options really well.  You can find those options HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERETHIS ONE is specific to books we like as gift options.

Instead, today I will write a little about traditions that would enrich young children’s (and your family’s) lives as we look forward to Jesus’ birthday.

Advent Calendar

The last couple of years I have prepared an advent calendar of activities for my grandkids.  (This might be a great suggestion to your kid’s grandparents as it does take a little preparation.)  I try to include activities that are very quick, days that give little treats, activities that encourage active play, activities that include art and finally activities that point to the true meaning of Christmas – Jesus birth!

I am including PDFs of the list of ideas I created to print for their calendar.  Feel free to click on them to download them for  your use if you like.  Just an FYI, they are not in date order.

advent activities_        advent activities year 2

I also found this kindness activity list.  Just double click on the image and you can download it.

(Unfortunately I’m not sure of my source for this.  If anyone knows, please contact me so I can add it to this post.)

Light a candle at dinner time each night. 

Have each person take a turn sharing something about them: favorite thing to play, something good they did that day, something they would wish for, say something they love about the other people at the table, sing a favorite song (or sing different Christmas songs – by the way, our songs we are learning at school will soon be on our website for your listening enjoyment.  :), list people you love, a favorite memory, . . .

Read a Christmas book

This is something you could make a special time for each evening.  Some of our favorites that focus on the story of Jesus’ birth include:

Christmas in the Barn  by Margaret Wise Brown

The Donkey’s Christmas Song  by Nancy Tafuri

The First Night  by B.G. Hennessy

The Friendly Beast  an Old English Christmas Carol, illustrated by Anna Vojtech

Mouse’s First Christmas  by Lauren Thompson

The Nativity  illustrated by Julie Vivas

The Pinetree Parable  by Liz Curtis Higgs

The Stable Where Jesus Was Born  by Rhonda Gowler Greene

That Special Starry Night  by Jeff Carnehl

Who is Coming to Our House?  by Joseph Slate, Ashley Wolff

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star  pictures by Lesley Harker

The Giving Manger

This is an advent kit you can purchase.  I’ve seen it advertised many different places this year.  I love the idea of it.  You put the empty wooden manger in a visible spot in your home.  Through Advent you fill the manger with hay (placed with every act of service someone does) and finally you add baby Jesus on Christmas day.  You can read more about it on their blog HERE.   The menu bar will also take you to where you can order the set if you would like.

Celebrate with a pretty table

Your kids can take turns setting the table with whatever they decide makes it feel festive.  Perhaps old birthday napkins, home-made napkin holders (just cut up a paper town tube and let the kids either draw on it or apply stickers), special dishes, . . .

Christmas Blessings to those we love

Each night (or once a week), call someone you love and have the whole family sing them a song.

Connect through KindCraft

This local group has ongoing project of service for others.  They have a facebook group that you can find HERE.  This is how they describe themselves on the group page:  We have a heart for serving our community with our families. Our goal is to provide families with opportunities to serve once a month. We believe it is so important to teach our kids about compassion, empathy, & the importance of making a difference for someone else.

Hide Baby Jesus

Yes, I really suggested you hide Baby Jesus.  I started this one day (a long time ago), just as a joke with my kids.  I took the baby Jesus from our Nativity set and hid it in a little artificial tree that was nearby.  This then lead to a pretty consistent thing we did for the following years.  I liked to compare the kids to the Wisemen as they were searching for the Messiah – baby Jesus.

Blessing Jar

Thirty Handmade Days, a blog written by Mique, focuses on craft projects.  Don’t worry though, you don’t have to be too crafty for the blessing jar.  Mique suggest putting toungue depressors with things we are blessed with into a jar.  Each day you pull out a stick and then count how many of those things you have in your house.  You can read more about it HERE.

Here is a beautiful video about all the blessings we have in our everyday lives.

Okay, so that is a lot of ideas.  Some are very simple and others are more complex.  Honestly, you can do none of these and still take moments to remember to true reason for the season.   I don’t write this to put more pressure on you in this already busy time.  It’s just about taking time to pause amidst the hub bub of the holiday and be mindful of the gift of Jesus and our many blessings.

I wish each of you a joy-filled Advent season and a beautiful Christmas.


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For mom’s with strong-willed, over-emotional, or otherwise challenging kids

Isn’t that all of us at some time in our parenting?  I’ve talked with so many mom’s over the years.  Mom’s that are questioning their parenting.  Mom’s that are second guessing their hard decisions.  Mom’s that are weary of the day to day “work” of parenting their “spirited” or challenging (in some way) children.

To all those moms I say. . . .

You’re a good mom too!

You are a mom in the trenches of tantrums.  You are a mom dealing with sensory issues and finding socks that “feel right” each morning.  You are the mom encouraging the very reserved child to try something new.  You are the mom that leaves in tears after dropping your child off because he is crying AGAIN.  You are the mom that faces endless decisions for what is best for your child.

Today is a busy day – another special parent day in one of our classes.  I’m stopping though, to write this, because it is so important.  Diana Markel, one of our previous staff, posted this on her facebook wall.  It spoke to me deeply.  You see I, too, was one of those moms.  One of those moms that wondered what people thought, as my child threw herself on the floor in the middle of Target.  One of those moms that had to leave a full cart of groceries to take home a child that was just out of control.  One of those moms that wondered if her middle child was drawing on the walls (mulitple times) because she wasn’t getting enough attention.  I was one of those moms that wondered what people thought of me as a, well, . .  a mom.

I’m sure that is why this article spoke to me so profoundly.  I hope this speaks to many of you as well.


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Fun while learning – indoor play

It’s that time of year.  Time to think about indoor fun.  Time to think about new activities to keep the kids busy and stimulated.  I spent some time looking at the blog BUSY TODDLERS: making it to naps, one activity at a time.  I am linking to several of her posts.  WAIT!  If you have older preschoolers, don’t despair, there are lots of things in here that would interest them.  Simply click on the photo to link to the full blog post.

Post it notes!  These are great fun for kids.  In the activity above the goal is to match letters to the ones in your child’s name.  You could do this for all the alphabet – or even for those letters your child is less familiar with (our Pre-K families probably got this information on their recent conference form!)  I would also consider making this an active game by having your child run, hop, spin, crawl, etc. to put on the letter.  All that movement will further stimulate your child’s brain.

This is the same kind of idea as the one above but with numbers.  For the youngest children you could just write the numerals in the colors of the sticky notes.  Encourage your child to match the orange sticky note to the orange numeral 3, etc.  They will be matching colors but can also build some awareness of numbers.

There is a wide array of concepts this post it note idea could adapt to; colors, shapes, emotions, and even sight words, etc. as children begin working on those in Kindergarten.

Manipulating stickers is a wonderful fine motor activity.  This changes the typical sticker play a little by placing it on a vertical surface.  Imagine how this will strengthen the wrist muscles.  For children working on patterning this would be a great way to do that.

If you’ve never thought about play in the bathtub (even when your child is in there for getting clean) I’d encourage you to, especially in the winter!  There are so many ways to play.  I remember my nephew often putting on his swimsuit and playing with plastic animals in the tub for almost an hour at a time.   I’m sure a quick search on Pinterest for “bathtub play for kids” will offer you a wide array of options.

While this is a fairly traditional (read “old school”) game, it’s still a good one!  The Peak Performance Center has a website all about helping people improve their performance.  In it they explain that human memory is a process that involves three domains: encoding, storage and retrieval.  This fun game supports growth in all three areas.  By the way, this is a great alternative to smart phones while you are waiting at a restaurant, etc.

Very young children will love this activity.  Surprisingly I am confident our oldest kids would also enjoy this as well.  While this seems like a “just keep them busy” activity, children are actually building hand-eye coordination, building strength in their hands and even cementing knowledge in the physical make-up of some dry foods.  Remember, there is learning active in all play experiences.

We LOVE shaving cream at preschool.  This is actually an activity I’ve done with my grand kids, multiple times.  They love it and they ask for it, even the seven year old.  At a recent conference, we were also talking to a family about using shaving cream as a way to practice drawing shapes, letters and numbers.  You could even combine this with the previous idea for playing in the tub.

 

Colored ice is also a staple around here.  Often the church staff or members ask us about the ice trays with colored water stored in the freezer.  You can also freeze a popsicle stick standing up in the tray (just stick it through some cling wrap) and then children can use this for painting too.  Also, adding salt to the mix brings in some science experimentation.

Perhaps you remember doing this as a child.  It’s so fun to expose a “secret” message, picture, shapes, etc. while painting with water color.  Psst, it’s just white crayon drawn on white paper.  You and your child could take turns drawing or writing the secret part.

This blog had a ton of other ideas.  I’d encourage you to check it out.  Also we have some previous posts about indoor activities.  Some include much more active play.  I’ve linked to a few of those below:

INSIDE PLAY

INSIDE ENTERTAINMENT

WHAT CAN WE DO NOW?

Have fun playing!

 


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Kindness is contagious!

Isn’t it amazing how just taking time to focus on something seems to manifest even more of that.  That is how I feel about our Kindness Campaign.  It is amazing how often I see children do kind things or hear a teacher talking about a kind action.

I LOVE IT!

Our teachers are sharing the kindness strips that our families send in during their circle time.  The children just BEAM when their kind deed is announced.

 

Again, I LOVE IT!

Our kindness chain is sure growing!

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

Perhaps this focus has even helped you become more aware of kind actions all around you.  I sure hope so.

One little guy make cookies and took them to the Police Station to thank them for keeping us safe.

Today I noticed a little guy in the Blue class giving a thumbs up to his friends as they were performing a play of The Three Little Pigs.  I know that made them feel great.  He got to add a link to our chain.

I’d love to see any of the kindness activities your buddies are encouraging the children to do.  Please drop us an email or add it as a comment to this blog post.

As another way to carry the kindness focus into the homes you may want to pick up a couple of books about kindness from the library.  I found this wonderful blog post about books that encourage kindness.   HERE   I hope you enjoy some from it.

 


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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.

CHILDREN NEED A LOT OF . . .

FAMILY TIME 

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.

TIME

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.

OUTSIDE TIME

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.

SECURITY

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.

LANGUAGE

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.

SLEEP

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.

 


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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.