Aldersgate Preschool


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Social skills – a conversation with a parent

I’ve been communicating with a parent about options for her son, outside resources such as speech therapy and ideas for developing social skills.  As I was writing an email to her this morning I thought it might be a good thing to share here.

We are working with her son on how to approach others that have something he would like and how to handle it if another child wants a toy he has.  He just turned 3 years old but this could be any child and any of the ages we have here at Aldersgate.  Just think about it.  Your child has been alive for such a short time.  He has already learned to eat and feed himself, He has learned to talk, walk, play with toys and so much more.  It takes practice to  understand and handle social interactions.

The parent had explained that they were attending the Parents as Teachers playgroup and another group gathering.  Here is what I wrote;

All the exposure to play groups, etc. are great.  At his age I would try to stay a little more in the background and see if/how he is interacting with others.  This will give you an idea of how to work with him at home or at future gatherings.

For instance, you can actually practice the sharing and turn-taking involved in playing with others while you play with him at home.  I would get involved in some play that has multiple pieces (i.e. blocks) and then ask him for a turn with what he has.  If he says no or just ignores you I would encourage him to use words to say if he doesn’t want to. “I’m still using it.”  Or “When I am done.”  If he would try to take something you have (and I would make yours pretty exciting so it would be something he would want) then you can tell him to use the words, “Can I have that.”  I would give it to him sometimes when he asks but other times I would say those same things to him – explaining that he can wait and you will let him have a turn later.  This will give him the chance to feel what waiting is like and to learn how to manage the disappointment of not getting what he wants right away.

As parents we feel funny depriving our kids of toys (while we are playing with them) since we are the adults – but, when we give things to kids right away, they don’t have a chance to practice the skills they will need when playing with other children.

This can also be true with following directions, etc.  If, as parents, we do things that the child is capable of doing for them (because we love them) we are actually depriving him of a chance to grow independent and to practice listening and then following one or more directions.  I would say at this age he should be able to hang up his own coat (or if this is too high for him I would find a spot for him to put it), throw his trash away and put his dish on the kitchen counter after meals, he could help get himself dressed and put on his own shoes (this might need some help once he tries a little).  In February we are going to have a focus on Responsibility for these little guys.  There are real benefits in having kids do “chores” around the house.  It is hard to believe but at three years old kids should begin being a helpful member of the household.  Watch for more on that coming soon.

I thought I would share a few of our kids working on those social skills while they play.  We practice everyday!

  


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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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Just a tub of pom poms

Who knew?  Fill a tub with an assortment of pom poms and watch the opportunities for play (read learning) develop.

The Yellow and Orange classes have their tub table filled with various sizes and colors of pom poms.  Also included are cups, bowls and the special “window” tongs.  (These are actually bug catcher/viewers but we use them for lots of things.)

Of course during play it’s a great time to label the colors and sizes.  I enjoyed listening to Ms. Katka’s interactions with the kids about their play.

Soon, this sweet girl showed me her tongs with A LOT of pom poms in it.  “Look what I have!”

“Wow,” I said, “You have a lot of pom poms in there.  I wonder how many are in there.   Can you guess?”  (That’s estimating!)  She guessed there to be four.  We counted them (one to one counting) and she actually had 10 in there.  You should have seen the surprise on her face.  (This shows she already has an understanding of quantity and numerals.)  She filled the tongs again and I asked her to guess again.  This time she guessed that there were 8 and after counting we found there were 9 inside.  This 3 year old girl was already adjusting her estimating skills due to experience and knowledge.  Amazing!

The fun thing about 3 year olds – what you do with one others will also want you to do with them.  So we counted a lot!  It was interesting to watch their concentration as we carefully counted each one.

Soon, the play extended to wondering how many pom poms you can hold in your hands.  We discovered some could hold quite a few.  I think the most anyone held was 17!

Another day, in another class, the children explored the pom poms with a different focus.  Today we talked about the colors.  Did you know that there are light and dark options of the same color?  We found lots of those today.

We also took some time to describe the pom poms.  We found big ones, little ones and even medium sized.  We also noticed that some were sparkly.  That’s a fun word.

 

“Hmmm, you have a couple of really big ones in your mix.  Do you think that makes a difference to how many you can hold?”

I just love this “playing!”


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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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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.)

Routines

We work hard to provide routines for the children while they are in class.  Education.com 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!


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Time flies by – enjoy it now!

This is a post I wrote for the Jan/Feb 2007 newsletter.  It’s an oldie but still worth the read – I think.

Believe it or not, these years with your young children will be over before you know it.

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As many of you know, I am busy with preparations for my oldest daughter’s wedding (and I hear rumors of a possible engagement soon for my other daughter!)  This is a hectic time with lots of planning that can be both exhilarating and overwheleming at the same time.  Perhaps some of the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on comes from the underlying realization that we have truly moved out of the “child” phase of our family life.  Where did the time go?

(This photo is from this past Christmas, not 2007, but it is one I will always enjoy.)

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I am proud of the young adults my children have become, but I do constantly wonder if I spent enough time truly enjoying them while they were young.  Did I:

  • take time to listen to the imaginative stories?
  • stop to take time to read a good book with them?
  • spend enough time cuddling at bedtime, or anytime?
  • take time to teach a new skill rather than rushing ahead and doing it myself?
  • go to the park enough?
  • make enough snowmen with them?
  • really listen to those sad feelings when a friend said something hurtful?
  • stop to read another good book?
  • allow helpful hands while baking when I knew I could do it so much faster by myself?
  • play enough games with them?
  • really listen when they were singing me the new song they just made up?
  • help my child investigate things like “Where is the end of the earth?” (This was an actual question my son asked at age four.)
  • paint, color, and do play dough enough?
  • stop to read ANOTHER great book?  There are so many fun ones available!

I mention all this because you are in the middle of these important years.  You still have time!  Be sure to catch some of that time for these things that seem so much more important when you are looking back.  Enjoy it now. . . while you can!

Cyndi


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Christmas Gift Ideas 2016

It is definitely that time of year again.  Time for shopping.  Each year I’ve put together a list of ideas for Christmas gifts that we recommend for little ones.  This year I am going to reference back to those (we still love them!) and link to a blog that I follow.

Our toy recommendations are:

From Christmas 2015

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From 2014

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We love Lakeshore Learning.  This post includes some of our favorites from there.

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Books make great gifts too.  Here are a couple of posts about books we like.

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Not Just Cute is one of our favorite blogs.  You’ve probably noticed many of my quotes in the weekly emails are by Amanda Morgan, the writer of this blog.  She has a great post about books for children of all ages here.

 NOT JUST CUTE-BOOKS

Here is her list of best toys for encouraging imagination:

NOT JUST CUTE -TOYS

Of course we offer all this with the full realization that toys and gifts are not what make Christmas.  We are starting to learn our Christmas songs for the Christmas Worship on the 10th and I love hearing from the children about Jesus and all that he has done for us.  It is so wonderful to recognize Jesus’ birth every year with our Christmas celebrations.  This book is a great one for talking about the real reason for Christmas.

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Using Dice with Preschoolers

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While walking through a classroom I noticed children playing a game with dice and pompoms.  I loved that the kids were practicing lots of one-to-one counting as well as writing numerals and using their pincer grasp.  This non-competitive game provided lots of learning opportunities while reinforcing concepts surrounding the fall season.

I thought I’d share some additional fun ways to use dice with young children.

(Click on the photos for a link to the websites.)

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Oriental Trading offers these larger foam dice.  The larger size allows children to touch and count the dots with greater ease.

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At Stir the Wonder blog there is information about this very toddler appropriate first experience with dice.  I love that the children are physically manipulating the blocks as you count the number you are adding.  How tall can you build?  This could be played with any kind of stacking blocks as well.

You can also extend this idea to more physical activities.  Jump, clap or hop the number the die shows.  Run as long as it takes for someone to count to the number on the die.  Drop pompoms or balls into a basket or through a paper towel tube to correspond with the number on the die, etc.

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The Measured Mom blog offers this game page free.  Matching the die face to the printed one is a good introduction.  You can count the dots as you are looking for matches.

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One Perfect Day blog has an in-depth post that includes a variety of ways to practice a variety of math concepts using dice along with loose parts (small items like stones, pompoms, beads, etc).  I love the idea of children actually moving items to represent the same “picture” they see on the die.

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Inspiration Made Simple blog has this fun game connecting dice to the parts of a robot.  There is a free download included in the post.

These ideas should provide many hours of good number fun.  Keep on rolling!

 


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Board Games…. Not Boring at all!

With this heat I thought you might all enjoy reading this post our previous Assistant Director, Shelly, posted back in 2012.  Have fun playing some board games!!!

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Earlier this week, I spent some time watching our Blue a.m. class kids as they played some simple games: Zingo, Memory, and Avalanche.  It was fun to watch them and see how much fun they were having!  It caused me to wonder, how often do we enjoy board games with our own children at home?

There are so many benefits to playing games:

* social emotional: Children need to learn about winning and losing.  Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose and that’s okay.  Losing can be tough but it’s a great lesson!

Games also allow us the opportunity to learn about taking turns.  We practice patience and qualities involved in sharing when we do this.  We also learn about cooperative play… so important in life!

* fine motor: Strengthening our hand muscles, eye/hand coordination, and isolating our fingers are all important in getting us ready to properly hold and use writing utensils and scissors.

*cognitive skills: Recognizing the amount of dots on a die, one to one counting as they move a game piece across the board, learning to recognize numbers, colors, shapes, are all great practice.  It’s pretty neat, too, to see how children learn to “strategize” from a very young age.  Games also teach about the scientific concept of cause and effect: if you do this, then this will happen.

Some of our favorite games up here at the preschool are:

*Zingo                         *Avalanch Fruit Stand                   *Hi-Ho Cherry-O

*Operation                 *Candy Land                                    *Chutes and Ladders

*Bingo                         *Memory

There are lots and lots of other great games out there.  While places like Toys R Us and Target are good places to find games, I encourage you to also check out these great sites and stores:

As we hear so often, “the best thing you can do for your children is read to them,” I feel just as strongly about playing games.  When you are reading to them, you are connecting with them and spending quality time together.  The same is so true about playing games.  Games are a great way to bring families together!

Shelly