The Closing Ceremonies of the London Olympics had some deeper meanings for all of us, far beyond kindergarten readiness. As the Games closed in London, the Olympic flag was handed to the next host city reminding us that when one thing ends, something else begins. London sadly says goodbye to the games, and Rio eagerly awaits it’s turn.
Kindergarten is like that. As kindergarten starts, every day the child closes the door at home and opens the one at school. For parents, there is sadness mixed with the joy and pride of watching children take their first steps into the world beyond home.
Perhaps, this circle of endings and beginnings is reflected in the Olympic rings. Children, just like adults, need to know that it is okay to feel sad when things end and they need to be reassured that there is something new beginning. The shape of a circle can help them understand how things can go round and round. Many of the athletes will soon start training for the next time and dreaming of a new competition and possibility.
Are there some endings/new beginnings for your child too?
Do you sometimes wonder where to start when it comes to kindergarten readiness? how to decide what to do and when to do it? For kindergarten, I sometimes recommend the 3 R’s: relationships, routine and repetition. In their new book, The Whole-Brain Child, parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson and Dan Siegel write “…we are hardwired for play and exploration as well as for joining with one another.” The importance of relationships is built into brains!
This means that providing opportunities for your child to play with friends, family and you is one way to prepare your child for school and beyond. Are there some community programs in your area such as library story-telling or recreation activities for parent and tot? Sometimes, there are playground groups or you may want to informally join with other families. Play-dates can be organized around parent and care-giver work schedules. Children also need to be included, where they can, in tackling the family’s work-tasks. Read books and share stories that talk about friends, family and feelings. Include some stuffies and dolls in the toy box for both girls and boys so kids can explore relating.
One of my favorite quotes in my book, 1 2 3 Kindergarten Readiness, Everything Your Child Needs To Learn Before Kindergarten, is this one from Aristotle: Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. Playing and working with others can be considered as both heart and brain development. Social and emotional growth is part of the kindergarten readiness package. Is this something that is doable for you?
I scream, you scream, we all scream for … kindergarten readiness! With a few sunny breaks today, kids were able to squeeze in some outside time before it rained again. Since the walk was dry, it was a good time to play with some sidewalk chalk. And that’s just what this child did.
Have you ever noticed how kids can get an idea stuck in their head and not let go? Any guesses as to this idea? It was ice cream. Of all the wonderful things that hands and chalk could draw, (or at least have help to draw) the choice was ice cream. Just as I wanted to groan, I realized that I was seeing another learning and thinking strategy, that of persistence. I could almost see that little mind thinking, “Hmm, if asking for some ice cream didn’t work, maybe drawing a picture of some would.”
Children have amazing persistence for something they want. On occasion, they wear the adults right down to get it, too. Kids’ persistence is often negative but it can be positive as well. Learning something new requires persistence and so does kindergarten readiness. I love this explanation on Kidpower Blog:
Now, some children know how to persist, but they do it in negative ways by whining and getting upset when they don’t get their way. Our job as adults is to help them learn how to persist in positive ways and how to accept disappointment gracefully.
Adults can help children learn to use their persistence by:
- Giving them opportunities to overcome challenges;
- Complimenting them when they are persisting in a positive way;
- Telling them if they get discouraged that even if something doesn’t work that you are proud of them for using their persistence and trying their best;
- Guiding them to be persistent and positive by asking them to use a regular voice instead of whining; and
- Helping them deal with disappointment by telling them you admire their persistence even if they are not going to get what they want. (from Kidpower Blog, Jan 17, 2010, Irene van der Zande)
Supporting young children as they learn involves so much more than academic skills. For your child’s learning and thinking development, is there an opportunity to encourage the skill of persistence?
(photo Hardeep Singh)
Relaxing on Sunday and enjoying some Earth Day activities, I was reluctant to prepare for Monday morning. Then I saw the example of a small child and thought he had a great attitude that will help for more than kindergarten readiness. Little M is have fun mopping the floor. His strategy is to turn work into play. Now that’s powerful thinking and learning.
Children will exert tremendous effort into doing things. They do not distinguish if it’s work or play. Washing dishes, stirring muffins, putting groceries in the cupboard, or making the bed can be as much fun as digging in the sand box, building with blocks, or playing dress-up. Sometimes their help makes more work for parents, but their willingness to assist needs to be encouraged. (Especially while it lasts.) Helping others and sharing tasks is an important part of social and emotional development.
Monday may not be grownups favorite day of the week but for kids any day can be fun day and work can be play. And it can help children learn new skills and practice developing ones. For your child’s growth and development are their some activities where s/he can help and turn work into play?
Is it Pink Shirt Day in your area today? Daycare and preschool is a fact of life for many young kids and some centers will be talking about personal safety and bullying. Little children are still sorting out what kinds of behavior are acceptable and sometimes hitting, grabbing away and pushing can happen. As parents and caregivers sometimes it helps to have books that we can read to little ones about what kinds of behavior are okay and how to deal with strong feelings. Here are some suggestions for books to read to kids to help them develop social skills for getting along with others and kindergarten readiness. Some of these are for older preschoolers and some can be understood by younger ones.
- Leave Me Alone: A Tale of What Happens When You Stand Up to a Bully by Kes Gray. A little boy actively tells a bully to leave him alone, rather that being submissive and passive, with the help of some animal friends.
- Enemy Pie by Derek Munson. A new boy moves onto the block. Dad helps his son learn some ways to be friends.
- The Way I Feel by Janan Cain. Colorful illustrations show lots of expressions and a variety of emotions.
- When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Maude Spelman. A little bunny learns how to cope with strong, angry feelings.
There are lots of other books that will offer support as you help your child develop social and emotional coping. Listening to the news can be very discouraging as we hear about all the stresses and challenges for our youngest and most vulnerable. One of the messages of Pink Shirt Day is that we are not alone and friends can make a difference. Do you have some thoughts to share that can help others?
The last Wednesday in February is Pink Shirt Day (different in some areas). This special day started in Canada in 2007 by 2 high school boys who saw a younger boy being bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. Asking their friends to wear pink shirts or using 50 they had purchased they banded with this student and sent a message to the bullies. The day–and the message– are spreading around the world.
How is this relevant for toddlers and preschoolers? Would you believe that the peak sensitive period for ways to respond to others is between the ages of 1 and 3 years? That’s the dark blue line in the chart. We neither want our children to respond to others with passive fear or aggressive action. Helping little ones learn about their feelings and emotions is a key. We can do this by giving them the name or label for emotions, such as “I see you are really upset. Could it be you are sad?” or “I see you look really tight and hard. Could it be you are angry?” and so on. Practicing figuring out what others are feeling by the look on their faces is another way to help. Helping children to talk about their feelings is another.
Instead of calling other people names, it’s important to teach kids to use “I messages”: “I don’t like when you take my toys. I feel sad when you tease me. I don’t like when you won’t give me a turn.” These are all “I messages.” We also need to give our kids some behavior boundaries, for instance, “It’s okay to be mad. It’s not okay to hurt others,” and some alternatives like ignoring, playing in a different space or with a different toy, or talking to the other person. And we need to let children know it’s okay to ask for help. They have a right to be safe and protected. These are life skills, not just social and emotional readiness for kindergarten and will help little ones as they interact with others. Will you wear a pink shirt on Wednesday and spread the message?
Valentine’s was earlier this week and began some posts on social and emotional learning activities with young children. Giving and sharing are social skills and just like any others need some practice. How do we feel when we get valentines? Kids need support as they learn about feelings and one way to do that is to label their emotions for them. Faces show feelings and emotions and learning to read faces is very important for social interactions and for kindergarten readiness. Besides making faces in a mirror, have some fun making faces in the kitchen!
I saw this post on SuperKids Nutrition Inc: “Make a happy face pizza with the kids! Get cooking together & make memories.” SuperKids suggested using corn tortillas or pitas. Bagels, buns or English muffins work, too. Spread on tomato sauce, add cheese hair and make eyes, noses, and mouths using olives, mushrooms, pepper slices, tomatoes or other yummies.
That idea inspired this one: fruit faces. We used oranges, bananas and strawberries but grapes, apples, and other fruits would work, too. Besides being happy faces can be sad, surprised, or mad. Here’s a picture of 2 fruity faces to give you and your child a creative appetite. Do you think the happy and sad face taste the same?
Maybe that title should read Learning to Make Many Faces. Valentine’s was a great time to start some posts on social and emotional development in young children. Yesterday the topic was helping kids learn the names of their feelings and emotions by supplying the words. When we see children showing a particular response we can label that for the child: “I see you are really upset. Are you feeling angry?” etc. Giving kids the words they need also gives them a way to talk about their feelings. Another aspect is helping them figure out what others are feeling.
Helping children learn to read faces is important for getting along with others, and for readiness for kindergarten. A mirror is a fun learning tool. Give your child a safe mirror and let your munchkin make all kinds of faces: happy, sad, angry, scared, worried, etc.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
The face we make tells it all!
For some interaction play Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. This time you get to be the mirror. Your child makes a face and you make that same face and be the mirror back to him/her. You might need to supply the words for different faces. Much harder is having your child be your mirror, where you make the face and your child tries to make the same one. Ask and see if s/he knows what kind of face you are making. Mirror, mirror on the wall. The face we make tells it all…. What’s yours ?
Valentine’s Day is all about emotions and social connections. But what comes the next day? How about some Tea For Two that will continue the social and emotional interaction? This is so important that doctors from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies be screened for social and emotional development as well as for physical health, ( Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben, Jan 2012).
Social and emotional are like 2 sides of the same coin: the social side for how we connect to others and the emotion side for how we manage our feelings. Maybe 2 sides of the same blanket would be more accurate because social and emotional are not separate but woven together. For babies this includes eye contact, babbling, smiling, and recognizing familiar faces.
Knowing basic emotions is part of early growth and kindergarten readiness and, like so many other skills, learning about them starts long before school does. Preschool, kindergarten and other groups of little ones will put some extra pressures on kids’ emotions so it’s helpful for if children know the names of feelings and have some experiences talking about them. Children also need to practice socializing and playing with others their own age. For a social/emotional activity could you share a few special minutes with your child today or have a friend of your child’s over for some playtime?
I’m starting this month’s blog with a big Thank You. I was included for a Versatile Blogger Award by Shelle at Preschool Play Time. My own personal excitement at being recognized and included reminded me that our kids experience those same feelings. My suggestion for a learning and kindergarten readiness activity for today would be to let your little one know that you notice his/her efforts. Learning to cope and grow can sometimes be very challenging for kids and a Wow, Super can be encouraging and motivating for social/emotional development.
According to the rules for a Versatile Blogger Award I now get to send one to 15 other blogs and to tell you 7 things about myself! Here are some other sites (abc order) that I visit for inspiration and hope you will too. Thanks again to Versatile Blogger and to Shelle’s Preschool. Enjoy…
what we all need: A Little Learning For Two
creativity: Casa Maria’s Creative Learning Zone
with handy translator gadget: De tout et de rien
art ideas: Dilly-Dali Art
messy is okay: Getting Messy With Ms. Jessi
handy and footy: Fun Handprint and Footprint Art
more hands: Hands On As We Grow
fun and sun: My Sunny Side Up Life
fun and play: No Time For Flashcards
fun altogether: PreK + K Sharing
grown-up getting dressed time: Pick Out Artists
science fun: Sci Spark
grow some learning: The SEEDS Network
remember imagination: Spark Your Imagination
and outside time: Sun Hats and Wellie Boots
And 7 things about me include:
-I love teaching little ones (everyone else is taller than I am).
-My house has books in practically every room.
-I sometimes feel like I am in kindergarten when it comes to computers.
-I believe our imagination needs nourishment, too.
-I wish I could draw as well as some kids do.
-I am not always on time or even in the right place.
-My kids gave me “Duct Tape Forever” for Christmas, along with a book
of Knock, Knock and Cross the Road jokes for my quirky sense of humor.