teaching thoughts · topic


Ever feel like you are hearding cats just trying to get one or two children to go from playing to eating dinner? Did you ever wonder how your child’s teacher gets 18-25 children to move from one activity to another? Let me tell you a secret… it’s all about consistent transitions!

What is a transition? A transition is the movement from one place or activity to another. So in school that might mean going from circle time to learning centers. Or moving from the classroom to the playground or cafeteria. This is not some type of magical powers that good teachers have, it is all about laying a foundation of expectation, practice, review and independence.

Cueing children is the first step. Children, and adults, have a hard time dropping something without warning. Yes, they need to learn to do this for emergencies, but for the most part you know a bit ahead of time that they are going to need to stop. So, let them know. A five minute and then a 2 or 3 minute warning is more than enough to let them know a change is coming. When you start this process you need to state clearly… “In 5 minutes you will need to stop playing with your puzzle and come to table for dinner.” As you move into the independence phase you can shorten this to just 5 minutes until dinner as they know the expected behavior at that time.

The first few times you do this, you will want to help the process. What do you expect them to do in this transition time? Should everything be cleaned up and put away? If you are leaving the house in 5 min, do you expect them to already have their shoes and jacket on?

Another key factor is establishing independent and shared tasks. The more you can have your child do on his/her own the smoother things will go down the line. But… and this is key… if you want them to do it on their own, you have to teach them to do it on their own. ANDDDD you need to let them do it. In the beginning it will take longer, but if you do it for them it will not be an independent task.

This is a process. Teachers take the first month of school to teach transitions. Take the time. Walk through the steps. Do not get discouraged it your child forgets steps or melts down. This is all part of the learning process. Once you and your child see that these transition plans help smooth out life… it will all be worth it!

teaching thoughts

I’m Sorry

Often when children do thing that upset another child adults force them to say I’m sorry. But, if you only tell the child “say I’m sorry” and that is it, are they really sorry? Do they understand what they are sorry for? Why do I have to say I’m sorry, I really wanted that toy. I didn’t mean to knock them down, why should I apologize? By forcing a child to just say I’m sorry, they aren’t learning what it means to apologize, and more important they aren’t fixing the problem.

Here is a simple extension to the I’m sorry that will assist the child in seeing what was wrong AND how to fix the problem.

I’m sorry that I ___________. What can I do to make you feel better? examples– I’m sorry that I knocked down your blocks. What can I do to make you feel better? The last part of this allows the child who was “offended/hurt/upset” to decide what they need… in this example they may want the child to help them rebuild the blocks. We want to validate the feelings of the child who as upset. Simple things like getting a tissue for a child who is crying, getting a band aid or even just a high five and smooth over emotions.

That is the simplest form and where to start the process. This is how I teach children who are young (3/4), who struggle to communicate, and those who are dealing with big emotions at the time.

To go beyond this. I’m sorry that I _________. Next time I will _______. What can I do to make you feel better? example– I’m sorry that I knocked you down. Next time I will watch where I’m running. What can I do to make you feel better?

The goal is for children to recognize what they did, how they can change it and what they can do now to fix the situation. I’m sorry is not enough to do this.

One last thing… children should not be taught to say “It’s ok” when they are “wronged”. It is not ok to be knocked down. It is not ok for someone to upset you. The child can accept the apology. The child can say. Thank you for apologizing, please be more careful next time. Thank you for apologizing can we work together to fix this? By saying it is ok then you are telling the other child they can do it again.

teaching thoughts

Get Out and Grow

As the weather gets cooler, it is a great opportunity to get outside. There is so much learning that can occur out in nature. Gross motor development is an essential part of your child’s development.

When children are very young, we focus on their gross motor development. Parents get so excited to watch their child roll over, sit up, crawl and walk. But, gross motor development does not end there. Children progress from walking, running, jumping, hopping and so much more. They need to launch off alternating feet to skip, gallop and hop.

Children need to continue to work on their trunk development. Working on core muscles of back, abs, shoulders and more assist in the stabilization of movements. As children grow they need to strengthen their larger muscles before they are able to develop and strengthen their smaller muscles.

Another little known developmental skill is crossing the midline. Children will need to be able to cross from left to right/right to left as well as top to bottom without rotating their whole body. This skill is essential for learning to correctly print letters and numbers.

So what can you do? Get out and play! Play hopscotch. Practice climbing up and down playground ladders. Pass objects around and behind. Practice pumping a swing (remind them to use their arms to pull and their legs to pump). Go for a hike. Pedal a bike, tricycle or other ride on toys. Play catch. Play frisbee. Kick a ball. All this is learning. All this development. All this is purposeful play!

story · teaching thoughts

Old Friends, New Friends

As your child prepares for the new school year, it is a time to talk about friendships. Many children need reassurance that they will have friends in school. Often we tell them that they will know the children in their class, but that isn’t always true. There will be times they do not know anyone or only someone they didn’t really see as a friend before.

Prepare your child to meet new friends. We need to remind children that even if they have old friends in the class, it is a time to meet new friends too. Time to expand their friendship circle.

Here is a Kid President talking about making new friends.

Help your child brainstorm ways to interact with new friends. What can they say? What can they share? Listen to these children discuss how to make friends.

Remind your child that they need to branch out and meet children who are different than themselves. Helping your child see that the things that make you different are the things that make you special. Show your child the things that make them unique and different.

family activity · story · teaching thoughts · topic

Who is in your circle?

Today we will listen to the story The Circles All Around Us by Brad Montague. In this story, a young child draws a circle around their shoes, a place for just one. They then realize that there is more to the world than just one. They create a larger circle for their family a caring circle. But, is that enough? No! The child begins to realize that when you let people into your circle you find friends and others who care. You begin to accept not only people who are the same, but also people who are different.

We all need to step back and look at who we let in our circles. Is your circle small or large? Is there enough room for more, or do you need to expand?

As you begin your next journey in school, it is a great opportunity to expand your circle. Let in someone who is different from you, and appreciate the differences. It can be someone who is younger or older. It can be boys and girls. It can be someone who has hair, eyes and skin that looks different than yours. It can be someone who needs extra support to learn and grow. Or someone who just needs another friend.

Who is in your circle? And, how can you help not only expand your circle of caring, but others as well?

Parents… children need this modeled to them. They need to see you being kind to others. They need to see that you accept people who are the same AND those who are different. They hear your words and see your actions. Do you treat the cashier, the wait staff and others with kindness, acceptance and understanding? Do you speak of children of all races, religions, and abilities as people who are capable of loving, growing and learning? Do you appreciate what makes people different? Your child is our future… model for them a way to live in the world with caring and compassion for all…. different is beautiful. Different is special. Different is what makes the world a wonderful place to live!

art · teaching thoughts

What is that??

Often times our children draw pictures that are not recognizable. This is a stage in the development, but adults you have a role to play in this… think about the wording of what you say to your child. Instead of asking what is that? Which implies you can’t tell what they are drawing instead state “Can you tell me about your art work?” This way your child can explain what they made in their own terms.

Often times when children are working on art, they are working through the process of art and not working to create a product. This is totally normal, acceptable and important! Children enjoy the process of art. They enjoy combining colors, working with textures, and the process of putting the materials together. While some children will always create something specific, it is important to understand that it is not always the reason they are creating.

When adults put on the child the need to have something specific they are creating or designing then the child may loose the process in creating an adult determined product. Now do not get me wrong, there are times when you want a child to create a product or specific image and that is ok too. But, when given the freedom to create anything they want, do not assume that it is something specific.

So.. to avoid the ummm what did they make problem… ask them about their process. Can you describe what you are creating? I love that you combined these two colors together, what are you going to try next? I see that you are collaging papers together in your project can I get you any other materials? Can you tell me about your project?

teaching thoughts

First day

It’s time to get ready to go back to school. This is such a fun and exciting time. Everything is new… new clothes, new backpack, new school supplies. Some children get over excited about all this new and change. But, remember that not all children deal with change well. There are some children who will struggle with this change. They need extra reassurance about what is to come.

Families need to support their child through this change. One big way is for the adults to keep their own emotions level. As an early childhood teacher, and mother of 2 boys, I can tell you that children will adjust to going to school. They will be ok after you drop them off. How you as a parent deal with your own emotions of that first day will impact your child.

So, what do we need to do? Talk! Talk about what your child will do the first day. How will they get to school? What will they do next? Help them learn the name of their teacher(s). Practice greetings. Practice asking for help. Practice sitting and waiting. Practice raising their hand. Practice walking in a line.

And as a parent, practice saying good-bye. Practice keeping in the tears. Practice being the cheerleader and saying it is going to be fun and you will be ok. Then be ready to let go. Walk outside, get in your car and then you can have your emotional moment. It’s ok to feel sad, to see your little one growing up before your eyes. To feel nervous for your child. To wonder if they will find a friend. Will the teacher “get” my child? Will they remember to eat lunch and use their manners? This is all part of growing up. It’s part of seeing your child grow into the independent individual that will shape their future. It is one more step… and it is ok.

I promise you… your child will be ok. The teacher will help your child adjust. The teacher will calm the fears and dry the tears. Your child will be ok.

teaching thoughts

Where to start

Is your little one getting ready for preK or kindergarten? Maybe they are heading off to first grade? Oftentimes I get asked, what do I need to do to get my child ready for school. There is so much to that question. Are you asking about academically, socially or just in general? Here are some thoughts for you about getting ready to go to school/back to school.

Starting a few weeks before, switch their bedtime and wake up time to the hours you need for school. It will take some adjusting to get off the summer schedule and if you start ahead of time, you will thank yourself for it the first few weeks of school. Sleep is key to a productive school day and year. Children ages 5-12 need 9-12 hours of sleep. Determine what time your child needs to go to bed based on what time they need to get up in the morning.

Practice self-help skills that your child will need to perform during the school day. This includes buttoning and zipping pants, opening and closing zip lock bags, opening juice boxes etc. Before the weather gets cooler, begin practicing putting on and zipping jackets. Children in kindergarten and first grade should be working on mastering shoe tying as well. The more your child can do independently the more successful he/she will feel during the school day.

Begin working on school related skills: using scissors, squeezing glue bottles to use just a dot (dot, dot not a lot), opening markers/glue sticks/glue bottles and putting papers into folders. Also begin working on using writing tools such as pencils, crayons and markers.

As adults, we often do things for our children because it is faster and we can “do it correctly”. But, when we slow down and give children the gift of time, we allow them to develop independence. When getting ready to leave, take a few extra moments and have your child put on their own shoes, jackets and other items. Encourage your child to help pack their lunch and snacks. Take the time to demonstrate and talk through zippers, shoe tying and other skills. While some children are not ready for these fine motor skills, most can master them with a bit of support and patience!

game · teaching thoughts

In the Car

I often get asked for suggestions on how to work on letter recognition, colors, counting etc… Driving in the car is a great time to work on these skills. Play games and make it fun!

Choose a specific topic to work on and stick with it.

Search for letters. Go through the alphabet A-Z or focus on one or two letters. Work together or make it a contest. Who can find the letters on signs, license plates, car names etc…

Play I-Spy. Take turns giving clues based on an item in view of the car. I-spy something that starts with the sound /c/ or I-spy something blue.

Count cars based on type. How many red cars can we find? How many trucks? How many out of state cars?

Keep books in your car. Books on CD play a book on youtube that you have the book of so your child can follow along in their own book.

There are many ways to engage in learning in the car. You and your child will be interacting and learning.

teaching thoughts · writing

Name Practice

If your child is going into pre-K or kindergarten, one thing that will help before they enter is working on their name. First they need to know their given name. Many children have only heard their nickname and are confused when adults use their given name. Most teachers will call children their nickname, if they are asked to by the child/family. But, there is still a need for your child to know their given name. Kindergarteners should know their first and last name.

Next start working on recognizing their name in print. Most teachers use names to label items in the classroom. Being able to recognize their name in print will help him/her find their spaces in the classroom. Practice picking out their name from others that start with the same letter. Often children learn to recognize the first letter and then get confused when there are multiple with the same letter.

Kindergarteners will need to know how to write their first name and will quickly move onto writing their last names. Names should be written with only the first letter capitalized, unless their are multiple capital letters in their name. Lori not LORI or McKenna not MCKENNA. When your child is doing art, have them write their name on their art. Use various medium to practice writing their name.

More information on name activities, check out this post of from last year.