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No Regrets

If you have been reading my blog, you know that for the past months, my husband has been in Hospice. He is now in rapid decline and as our anniversary is just around the corner, I am not sure he will make it to that day. Certainly he will not be aware of it’s importance. But I will always have our wedding day tucked in my memory bank as one of the happiest days of my life.

As we spiral toward his remaining time on earth, I observe how hard he is struggling to muster strength that isn’t there. It’s painful to watch. He seems afraid and I wish he was able to comprehend the beauty and wonders that await him as he moves into his new life.

I am sad, tired and grateful and… I know in my heart I have done everything in my power to make his final time on earth a time of comfort. When it’s your turn to do this for someone else, I hope you can do your best too. You will never regret it and it will help you find peace.

I am going to be away from the blog for a bit until I can find the inspiration to write again. For now, peace and grace to you. Resting in the Trinity.

CK

June 21, 2021

Emotions Need Space to Move

The Story: My Friend Frank

In the 1990’s, two young parents entered my office looking for a preschool for their son. I had one space available and as I talked with these parents I learned this child had already lived a life filled with challenge. He had no coping skills. He was angry. He was physically agressive. By the tender age of 3 1/2 he had been released from three previous preschools. His parents were anxious and holding their breath that he could come to our school.

His story pulled at the heartstrings. He was adopted and he was a crack baby. I wondered what came first, the pain of coming off a horrible drug or did the anger set in because those interacting in his life did not understand the pain? As I listened to his story, I knew I had to try. I agreed to accept his enrollment forms with two conditions. One- his family had to begin counseling– all three of them and two– we would try him in our classroom for two weeks. At the end of each week, we would assess where we were and agree to try again.

I made an agreement with the teachers that when he needed to release his frustrations, they were to remove him from the classroom and bring him to my office. Not as a punishment of course, but as a safe place to “Get it out” a place of respect and away from the flow of the classroom.

I didn’t need a call ahead to tell me when he was coming for a visit. On his first morning, he came to see me about five minutes after being dropped off. He gave me a surprise greeting that morning with a big bite on the arm. To this day, it has been the only time I had to go and get a tetanus shot due to a child’s bite.

It was a long first week. Each day, for hours and hours, he thrashed, screamed and exhausted himself and me. By the end of that first week, I had two thoughts- I needed a margarita! Ha! and he deserved a second chance. I took a deep breath and steeled myself for week two. Lo and behold, something happened that second week. His ourbursts and phyiscal thrashings reduced from hours to only 1 hour. The remainder of the time, he remained quiet and looked at books in his space. It was progress. It was the beginning of teaching self control and self respect.

As divine intervention happens, on the following Saturday morning of week two, I was walking in my neighborhood and sitting in a chair at a neighbor’s garage sale was a life size doll with interchangeble emotion-faces. The doll was made of cloth, and came with a mad face, a sad face, and a happy face. I paid $5 for the doll, named him Frank and on the following Monday, I brought him to school. I had decided Frank would be faithful and he could absorb whatever this child needed to release.

On Frank’s first day in my office, the child was infuriated. Frank had entered his space. It was a long morning as the outburts continued. In early afternoon, exhausted, this young boy turned on his side and began to sob. He was now facing Frank and had his back to me.

I knew we needed to acknowledge his upset. I sat on the floor beside him and immediately began with an apology. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to tell you about my friend Frank before you came to visit today. He wants to be your friend to and he will be here waiting for you every day. Let me tell you about him.”

I began telling him about Frank’s mad face. ” You know, when the eye brows are knitted together and the lips are thin, it shows us Frank is mad. He understands what it feels like to be mad and he’s tough. He can take it when you need to kick and scream. Your friends in class can’t take it. Sometimes they might cry or be frightened when you get angry, but Frank. He will always be here for you when you need to kick or even bite. I want you to remember, you can always come to Frank and he will understand.”

Then I attached the sad face. “You know when the smile turns upside down, it shows others we are sad. Sometimes we think we are mad when really, we are just sad. Have you have ever asked your friends to play and they say “No”? We feel mad but really we might be sad because it hurt our feelings. If you ever feel that way, Frank will understand and he will be here waiting for you.”

At this poing the young boy had not not acknowledged anything, but I pressed on and finally attached the happy face. “You know when the smiled is turned up, it tells others we feel happy. I am happy when I have a piece of chocolate cake. What cake is your favorite? To my surprise, he rolled over and said “Carrot Cake” and forming at the corners of his mouth were the first hints of a smile. We had made progress. I committed to two more weeks.

It took several months, but this little boy, with much home support, therapy and a commitment from a school, made progress and Frank became his safe friend where he could dissolve when he needed to release big feelings. At the end of the year, he asked me if Frank could go home with him. It was a sweet moment, for there in that moment I realized this child was no longer focusing on angry thoughts. He was changing and finding a place for friendship, possibilities and things wished for.

If your child has an occassional outburst, consider yourself lucky that he or she has times of happiness. If your child resembles this young friend, be brave, don’t give up and get help. Every child deserves our self control and perhaps every child needs a “My Friend Frank.”

Peace be with you.

Have a great day!

(C)

CK

June 1, 2021

In Gratitude, Memorial Day 2021

In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place,and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow

Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw

The torch, be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields. John McRae, 1915

God bless our country and each of us as we remember the great sacrifices given for our right to live freely.

CK

May 31, 2021

Happy Learners, The Early Years

There will be times you will need to be on the floor playing with your children. There will be other times you need to stand back and watch. During these times of observation, study what your children are drawn to. Children learn in many ways and it is for this reason you must be open to thier interests. How they take information in and how they process it depends greatly on their interests and gender does tend to play a role in how information is moved along during the early years.

Where are you going and what do you wish? The old moon asked the three. ( Wynken, Blynken, and Nod)

The Story: A Girl and Three Boys

I have a friend, who many years ago, had her five year old daughter tested for Kindergarten readiness. As part of the process, the assessment team grouped children being tested into groups of four and asked them to play together in the block center. They wanted to watch the children’s interactions. They were also looking to see if the children were leaders, followers, team players, solitary thinkers, commmunicators or problem solvers.

This little gal was placed in a group with three young boys. As they entered the block center, the boys sat down and immediately built a tall tower, with roads coming from the building. In no time at all, they were finished and ready to move to the next project. The little girl, however, stood to the side and watched. When the boys were done, she announced, “Now wait a minute. Look at this house. It won’t work at all. There is no kitchen, and where are the bedrooms going? We have to start all over!”

The little boys were more than surprised! LOL! But this young girl’s response was really no surprise at all. Even though there was no instruction on how to use the blocks, and the invitation to play was non-gender biased, gender did appear to play a role in the children’s approach to the equipment. This little girl, like most, looked at the details of the construction first. The little boys, like most, were looking at big picture.

I tell this story so it helps us remember, that how we set up learning environments or how we respond to our children’s play takes observation. They all need a variety of experiences. Be mindful and intentional. Children are impacted by developmental stages, learning styles, their position in birth order, their interests and their gender. Thier job is to live into what makes them tick! Our job is to give them the opportunity to thrive.

What makes me tick? What makes me tock?

Is it dolls or is it blocks?

My best friend likes to play with beads.

And her best friend takes time to read.

But I just like to play in dirt and find some worms down in the earth! –ck

Have a great Friday! I will see you again on Tuesday of next week. Have a safe and happy Memorial Day!

(C)

CK

May 28, 2021

Two of our Favorite Authors

This week we lost two of our favorite children’s authors. Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle. Both have left their legacy in the works they produced and they introduced millions of children to the wonderful world of reading.

Lois Ehlert was 86 and will be most likely remembered for her book, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, selling more than 12 million copies (reported by NPR.)

Eric Carle, was 91 and his list of books that introduced young children to science and literacy included “The Very Quiet Cricket, The Grouchy Ladybug, The Honeybee and the Robber, The Very Busy Spider, The Very Lonely Fire Fly and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” These are only a very few of his wonderful works. He illustrated more than 70 books and his books sold more than 170 million copies.

We were blessed to have them grace our libraries, bedtime storytimes, and preschool reading nooks. I hope they are celebrating together under a big tree with lots of color, whimsy and fantastical peace.

Have a wonderful day and take good care.

(c) CK

May 27, 2021

Remember NO

Saw this on Face Book and had to share:

If you FAIL, never give up because F.A.I… means

First Attempt In Learning

END is not the END. In fact E.N.D. means

Effort Never Dies

and if you get NO as an answer, remember N.O. means

NEXT OPPORTUNITY.

I love this reminder. We have so many things to keep us looking up and looking forward. If you needed to see this today, I hope it reminds you to Keep Moving Forward.

Peace Be With You. (Faberge-ish Stones!)

Check back soon, there are new designs being uploaded over the next few days!


(c) CK

May 25, 2021

Who You Are Matters

When I attended middle school, my favorite teacher, Ms. Burrow taught us how to diagram sentences.

She also told us to always remember the “W’s” : Who, What, When, Where and Why.

“You is Smart. You is WIse. You is Important” From the Movie: The Help

Who you are matters- greatly. You are a gift to others and from you much is learned and imitated. Children in particular are watching to see how you live you life. I hope you will live it honestly and with purpose.

What tomorrow brings is unknown but the good book tells us 365 times to ‘Fear Not, Do not be troubled, Do not worry’. Trust is something I work on constantly and learning to walk with the unknown is a daily challenge in keeping worries under wrap.

When you walk the walk and talk the talk, others will notice. I wish you enough along the way so you exude kindness to others and have compassion for those who need it. Living with insecurity can consume someone and your gentleness may be just what someone needs.

Where you make your mark in this world doesn’t have to be monumental. It’s in the little things that people will see your appreciation for them. A handwritten note, a poured cup of coffee, leaving your newspaper on someone’s doorstep so they can read the news. Even offering a smile and warm greeting makes a world of difference for someone who might need it.

And finally Why. Why are you important? Because you mean the world to someone and maybe many. Always respect yourself and don’t let anyone tell you that you do not matter. We cannot be everything to everybody. It’s good to know this when you need to move forward and leave drama and disrespect behind. It bears repeating–YOU matter-greatly.

You and I have a purpose and as our lives unfold our purpose changes. Be flexible. Be forgiving of yourself. Be available and say “Yes” when you can. Love yourself always.

You are the big W: The Winner, The Wise One, The Who, What, When, Where and Why!

Have a great day.
See you soon,

CK

(C) May 18, 2021

Have Faith

Love me faithfully – See how I am faithful

With all my heart and all my soul, I am with you though I am far away. — Anonymous

Beauty and Hope are just around the corner. Have Faith

I have often wondered how someone can deny faith. I wonder where they turn when they are hurting. I wonder how they live without hope and joy when days are not so bright. For me it’s a must. They must have a confidence to “go it alone” that I don’t understand because I know every single day, I need support!

In observing children, I have learned that faith comes easily and naturally to them. As infants, they are brought into the world to trust. Trusting you to feed them, bath them, nurture them, protect them, attend to their needs when they cry. All along, you are teaching them about something they cannot touch and yet they can feel its presence. This is important as they develop and learn about things seen and unseen.

In my preschool, I found if I spoke of God with reverance, then the children I interacted with learned to see God as someone to trust and hold special. Because they trusted me, they learned about something they could not see or touch or hear but they knew God loved them and cared about their well-being.

As parents, we have to all realize there will be a time in our children’s journey that they will not turn to us to have their questions answered. You will be thankful in those moments that their decisions will be influenced and molded by what they have learned on their faith journey. They will be okay if you continue to lay the foundation for their beliefs. Have Faith.

Hope your day is terrific!

See you tomorrow.

CK
May 11, 2021 (c)

Love the Earth

I keep the following on my refrigerator and read it everyday. I don’t come close to doing all that is asked of us in this short piece and it gives me something to ponder and to remember… humility and others before self. Yes. Goals. Hurt not the earth and the fullness therof.

By: Walt Whitman

This is what you shall do:

Love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, arugue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people.

Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families.

Read the leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul.

And your very flesh shall be a great poem and the richest fluency not only in words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body….

Have a great day and I will see you again on Monday. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms, Aunts, God Mothers and Special Friends who love our children well. You are treasured more than you know.

Hugs,

(c) CK

5.7.2021

When You Have Questions Surrounding Your Child’s Development

It’s a hard reality to accept when you realize your children may not be perfect! Ha! When my girls were young, they were both accepted into the Gifted and Talented Program at the neighborhood elementary school. Here I was thinking they were gifted only to find out that they were not gifted, they were both highly competitive and driven to accomplish what was in front of them. They were developing normally.

If you child is developing normally and moving through the stages of growth as expected, take a moment and be grateful. If your “gut” is telling you something is not quite right, ask questions and don’t give up until you have answers. Your child needs you to establish his/her new plan and you need guidance from the experts in order to support your child effectively.

Talk to your child’s teachers, counselors, school administrators. Ask questions of your family members. Ask your “observers” to do just that and state their thoughts in terms of “I have observed” and not “I believe or I feel” statements. Ask for referrals to developmental pediatricians, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and pediatric therapists. Each are trained to support your child. The sooner you address your child’s limitations, the greater the chances are for successful steps forward.

Our Children Need Us to Pay Attention and Give them the Tools to Grow in a Healthy Way

Here are eleven things to pay attention to concerning your child’s development:

Hearing-Have tested by age 4

Speech- Have tested by age 4

Eye Sight- Have tested by age 4. Watch for excessive rubbing of eyes

Avoids eye contact

Is uncomfortable with physical contact

Has difficulty in keepins one’s hands to him/herself

Breathing irregularities

Food allergies

Gross motor development, is “loose” -not sturdy on his/her feet

Demonstrates an inability to hear directions and follow thorugh on what is asked

Exhitbits extreme physical agression

Be aware your feelings will be fragile when it comes to questioning the health of your children. It will be hard and this is when you need to remember that parenting is not for the faint of heart.

Move forward with confidence. You are doing the very best for your child who needs your pro-active undestanding, support and guidance. You’ve got this!

Here’s wishing you a sunny day.

See you tomorrow!

(c) CK

5.6.2021

Remembering Mom

When I think of my wonderful Mom, I remember her being selfless. She looked for the children who needed help and she gave them support. They often didn’t know it, but from our perch at home, we watched her extend kindness to those who needed it most. She was always there to read a story, always there to rock a sick little one with an ear ache in the middle of the night. Always cheerful, truly one of the most positive people ever to live. She’s been gone almost five years and there is not a day that I don’t miss her. If you were to ever ask my Dad, he would readily tell you that Mom was the best cook and baker in the county. I suspect he was right.

So many memories we hold of those we cherish happen around the dinner table. Traditional meals or even daily doings. In honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day, I am posting one of our favorite holiday recipes from Mom. She got the recipe from her Mom and we still use it today. My children have the recipe so they can keep it handy for their tables when needed. Four generations, connected by one recipe. That’s powerful.

Cornbread Dressing

4 Cups breadcrumbs (day old biscuits (yeast biscuits) I love that it calls for Day Old Bread–this is probably because they didn’t want to use fresh bread in the dressing as this recipe is from the days of the Depression. They were saving the fresh bread to go on the table.

4 Cups cornbread, (I use white cornbread mix)

1 Cup milk, with 1/3 cup of softened butter

1/2 Cup Chopped Onion, 1/2 cup Chopped Celery

3 Cups chicken or turkey broth. Use this to soften your onions and celery. I use the microwave to heat up the broth with the onions and celery.

After the broth has cooled, add 1 egg to the broth

4 Heaping Tablespoons of Sage (I do not use fresh. If you use fresh Sage, reduce the amount you use.) Salt to taste. (I don’t use salt)

Crumble warm biscuits and cornbread in a large bowl. Add Sage seasonings. Add hot broth with onions and celery to make a soft mixture. Mix well and add softened butter and milk. Mixture should be very soft to allow for loss of moisture during baking–almost soupy! Add more broth if necessary. Pour into a greased pan, bake at 350 for 1 hour, until well browned.

Even though this is a Thanksgiving recipe, I think everyday is a good day to give thanks, so it must be a good day for Cornbread Dressing!

Enjoy and Have a great day!

See you tomorrow.

(c) CK

May 4, 2021

Finding Gratitude

What a Wonderful World

Everyone experiences something hard. Being grateful does not change the difficutly of what you are asked to experience, but it does change your response. I have had to remind myself of this lately! It is easy to get into a pity party when it’s more proactive for you to open your eyes, ask for support and find the support you need. If you do those three things, you will find yourself feeling better. It takes time but it does happen. Gratitude is a daily reminder that helps each of us feel encouraged and “in-couraged” as well.

Deal with your problems and try to be realistic. Accept the things you cannot change and work on those things you can change.

Write this down:

*What is your biggest challenge at the moment? Have more than one?…–Put each challenge on a different sheet of paper so you can sort out how to move forward on each issue.

*Brainstorm five things you can do to help the situation.

*What can you not change about the challenge? How can you reach a level of acceptance if the outcome cannot change? Once you have identified what you cannot change, accept it and let your focus stay centered on what can be done today to make your day better.

I would encourage you to begin a gratitude journal. Start with 50, yes 50, things you are grateful for. Say thank you for those things everyday. Creating this list and setting the habit to list those items everyday will go a long way in keeping your spirits lifted and being more positive. If you don’t have time to write your list down on paper, then begin listing in the shower or when you are driving to work each morning. A mental list works just fine!

Today, I am thankfor for the sun and the rainbows that follow the storms. I am thankful that you took time to read my blog and look at my art. Of course, I am thankful for prayers. If I’m adding to keep my list going, then there are my reading glasses, painting, food in the pantry (no trips to the grocery today) and miracles. That’s only a start to my list! Hope it inspires you to get your list started too.

See you tomorrow.

(c) CK

5.3.2021

It Really Does Take a Village

It’s been said it takes a village to raise our children and this is true. When you brought your newborn home from the hospital for the first time , the village was already forming. Grandparents were present. Perhaps aunts, uncles, coursins, and siblings were there. Most certainly, special friends were invited into the inner circle to support and nurture this new life.

There most certainly are angels among us in this world!

Something happens however when the village expands beyond the home and we find ourselves questioning the expanded world our children enter. When you take your children to preschool for the first time or leave them with a sitter for the first time, you may enter this new world feeling anxious. You will wonder silently, “Will my child feel loved? WIll he/she have a good day or play and learn and make friendships?”

I understand these feelings of uncertaintiy. The village has grown and even though you have done your research in choosing the right “spot or sitter” for your children, you have not had experience with the individuals assigned to watch your children while you are away.

We all recognize today that not everyone in the village will be perfect. Be alert and pay attention. If something seems wrong, ask questions and ask for change. You are your child’s stongest advocate.

Please know also, that in our schools at least, the large majority of administrators and teachers are there to partner with you. There will parents of future freinds that will be in your expanding village and the list continues if you include doctors, clergy, coaches, tutors and therapists. Each one will be waiting to work beside you as your children grow.

You have been entrusted with a gift. Guid. Love. Protect. Nurture. Learn all you can and affirm you are doing the best you can. Your children will be the recipeints of your dedication but you will received something far greater. For at the end of each stage of develpment, you will look back and know you have expereinced perhaps the greatest role in life.

Chart the course with care as you navigate the journey. I wish you enough along the way and wish for you and your children, al life of joy.

See you tomorrow!

(c) CK

5.2.2021

Learning to Just Be- Happy Mother’s Day

Look for the Rainbows.

I do believe this past six months has taught all of us to do a double-take on what is important and how we prioritize our choices around “being.” With our young children, simply being present and showing up is necessary. Depending on a child’s temperament, it can influence how they see you. Are you dependable? Are you trustworthy? Do you value their time with you or are you distracted? Believe me, they notice.

In being with your children, there will be times that you simply need to just be close by, observing their play as they create. Other moments may need your input and certainly need your hands on investment as you create playful interactions together. Be pro-active. If your children are struggling, observe and ask why. The earlier you uncover roadblocks to learning, the better off your children will be as they move forward. Perhaps it speech, maybe it’s physically needing support. Ask your children’s teachers and get recommendations for support. Whatever it is, you have a duty to invest the energy into figuring it out and moving your children forward in the best way you can.

The Story: Being Present and Recieving the Gift

When my older daughter was four, her preschool class was planning a Mother’s Day Tea. I was excited to go to my first Tea Party at school, but my daughter had other thoughts about the day. When I told her it was time to get dressed for school, she protested. She did not want to go and I decided it was not going to be a good experience for either of us to go, so I called the school and told them we were taking the day off. Had this been another “regular” day, we certainly would have packed up and gone to school, but in reality, I was being a bit selfish because I didn’t want a memory of my first school Tea Party to be one filled with tears.

Once I backed off and told her we would stay home together for the morning, her tears immediately dried up and she shared a secret with me. She had been planning in her mind, my very own personal tea party. Be still my heart!

She led me to the kitchen and we made peanut butter finger sandwiches and lemonade. We picked flowers from the back yard and decorated the dining room table. She was quite specific that she wanted to use the fine china, and carefully she set the plates, cups and saucers at our places at the table.

Having prepared the table, she announced it was time to get ourselves ready and oh, what fun we had going through my closet. She picked out her grown up outfit, picked out my dress, we put on make-up together and brushed each other’s hair.

I must say, the celebration at the table and the actual Tea Party, took about five minutes but the true celebration of her wanting to have this morning together was the true gift. To this day, it is my favorite memory of Mother’s Day. I am forever grateful that I did not miss it. I am grateful I was able to be present and just be-with her. You never know by being present, being playful and being accepting what magical gift awaits you.

Here’s wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day, everyday.

See you tomorrow.

CK

Honoring Teachers

Thank you to our teachers! We are grateful for your faithfulness to the children.

This past year of witnessing the teachers and administrators as they have balanced a teaching schedule around Covid has been mind-boggling and for those on the front lines, it’s probably been mind-numbing at times. I admire the strength and tenacity it has taken for these wonderful souls to teach our children. They most certainly need our thanks for all they have accomplished …and they deserve an extra special end of year present this year.

Here are 5 ideas to get your started:

1 A Gift Card to a favorite restaurant –attached to a plate of homemade cookies.

2 A basket full of books or magazines that your teacher would enjoy. Let your child decorate the basket or write a letter of appreciation to that teacher for all that he/she has done this year.

3 A recipe box, filled with recipes you enjoy the most. Include a casserole (such as chicken tettrazini) with the recipe attached.

5 Give them a gift card for a spa package and include a gift bag filled with bath soaps and hand creams.

The gifts the teachers have given to all the children this year will become a permanent part of their foundation as they move forward into the next year. They will be remembered long after the school year ends and for many children, they will be remembered for a lifetime. We are lucky to have had so many step forward with confidence and teach our children well. Thanks some more wonderful teachers. You have made a difference.


Have a great day. See you tomorrow!

CK

Maintaining Trust

Today’s news is really out of balance. Stories are sensationalized and this impacts our views of the world. If you think it doesn’t affect your children, you should rethink what they are absorbing everyday when news is playing out on the screens.

As a parent or grandparent or God parent or aunt, uncle or special friend to the family, you need to be a safe place for children when the world around them spins out of control. We all learned this lesson when 911 happened. We learned it again in Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey. Today we are witnessing children being dropped over the border wall. Really? Can you imagine if you are shocked, just how children could be processing those images? It is our duty and responsibility to help our children feel secure and much of that security depends on your responses to those events. Above all others, they will turn to you to guide them to a place of feeling protected. Above all others, you will be their safe place. They are watching you to learn how to respond.

The Story: The Girl Who Saw and Heard Too Much

For many years, I lived in Houston and when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Houston opened its doors and hearts to those New Orleans families needing support. At the time, I was a head of school and our licensing office told us we could extend beyond our regulated ratios as we accepted children who were displaced by the storm. Schools across the city took children into classrooms and families were nurtured as much as possible.

One child I accepted into our school was four. Her home was destroyed. Her grandparents had remained in New Orleans. She didn’t know how they were and they couldn’t reach them. Her Daddy was assigned to a task force to survey and work through the trauma occuring around New Orleans. Needing to to deal with the stress of all he was seeing and hearing, he would talk with his wife about all he was coping with. This young child heard much and her world, along with her entire family, was turned upside down.

For weeks, she didn’t speak. For weeks she didn’t participate in class. For weeks, she was replaying the images she had witnessed first-hand. In short, she was traumatized.

It took a good part of the year to help this child process what had happened to her but supported by counselors, her school community and most certainly her family, she began to heal. She was provided a safe place to release through drawings and talking, just what she had experienced.

Helping children return to a place of security begins with you. And me. And those who make up your tribe. And those who are not in your tribe. We all must model good decision-making so our children can be resiliant as they learn to be strong. AND… you must take care of yourself so you can better take care of the children in your life. We will get through these days that challenge our sensibilities.. Let’s make a deal to do it together.

Sending you good thoughts for a positive day.

See you tomorrow!

CK

It’s Spring and the Birds are Singing

I have been away for too long and must admit that life gives us much to ponder as we focus on what takes place.

For the past few months my sweet husband has been in Hospice Care. It has changed our routines, our expectations of daily rituals. Life has slowed down and we are in the midst of a sacred season. Just thinking about what this season brings, it’s startling… and I have had to take a big break from my routine of posting on my blog. To anyone reading this today, he is doing okay! We know time is limited, but for today, we are grateful.

What this time has given me, in addition to humility and devotion, is a time to paint. I am finding my designs are changing and I am moving further away from preschool stones and into art stones. I hope you will look around! I have updated the site today with new designs and sets. If you see anything you would like to order or have a custom set in mind, please let me know. I love working with clients who have ideas for the stones.

At this very moment, I am sitting by my window, wathcing so many birds enjoy our yard. Robins, cardinals, yellow finches and even quail. This is the first year to see the quail but they are settling in with the others just fine.

As I face the changes that are coming, at least for today and in this moment, the peace I spy outside my window reminds me of the hope we are given as we live each day. I leave you with this snipet of a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and hope it lifts your spirits. Ahhh-sweet spring.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing …

See you tomorrow!

CK

Take Heart! February is Around the Corner!

Februrary is coming soon and that means love is in the air. But did you know there are other celebrations that mark the lovely month of February? There are so many opportunities to teach kindness to your children this month and so below, today’s blog is filled with ideas you can pick and choose to celebrate the first week with deeds that make you smile or make others smile.

Have a Heart!

February 1– National Dark Chocolate Day. Hmm–what to make for someone special–dark chocolate cake? Hot Cocoa? Or perhaps you decorate a bag and leave it full of chocolate bites for a favorite person to find.

February 2-Groundhog’s Day–be sure to look for your shadow today! Perhaps you do a negative space drawing with a design cut out on carboard. Place that over your paper, have your little artist paint and voila-you have a peice of art that you can recognize and they have enjoyed the process of simply painting! Remember to hang it up so your artist can see it. It is validating to him/her when the artwork is displayed.

Februrary 3- National Carrot Cake Day– this is a great day to teach the art of peeling carrots and it’s such good fine motor for little hands. If you don’t want to bake a cake, have your child tear orange paper into strips and decorate a paper plate. Not as tasty, but still fun!

February 4-National Homemade Soup Day. Read Stone Soup and get busy in the kitchen. Don’t forget to find a stone, clean it and add it to your pot!

February 5-National Weather Person Day. Let’s play dress up today. How would the weather person dress to go out and check the weather today? Do you need snow boots, mittens, ear muffs or do you live where you can put on your flip flops? What does a weather person wear in front of the camera? Should you film your own weather report? I think so!

February 6-Pay a Compliment Day–Teaching children to notice something special about someone is a good beginning to helping them be less egocentric. This is also a time to practice, please, thank you and your welcome. Once you begin this art of kindness, keep it going. As the saying goes– practice makes perfect.

February 7-National Fettucini Alfredo Day. Yummy! Get busy in the kitchen. Cooking together teaches children math (measurements), time, science (properties that change as foods cook) and of course creativity. For example–could your noodles be dyed a color?

This gets you going for the first week of Februrary. Think ahead so you can celebrate everyday. I will add activities for the 2nd week of February soon.

Speaking of celebrations, today is MLK,Jr. Day. It’s a good day to take time to discuss his gift of seeing the person as a person and not as a color. If you are looking for a way to discuss differences with young children, make a chart with how people are alike (all have eyes, ears, nose and a mouth.) How could those be different? Eye color, hair color, sight vs. sightless, or the ability to hear. What if a child has no hair? Does that make that child less of a friend? Of course not.

We were designed to each be singular. Teach your children that everyone has something to teach and offer to another person. It begins with you as the parent, your child’s first teacher to begin the discussion.

Have a great day!

CK

The Block Box!

Children love to build. As they begin, you will notice as they lay blocks on the ground, side by side. Our builders then progress to stacking blocks one on top of another and then proceed to knock the blocks down. This is developmental and they are learning cause and effect! They are toddlers at this stage and everything is new!

Once they have completed this stage of discovery, you will see them begin to build towers, followed by simple structures. Eventually, your active builders will move to more complex structures with roads and enclosures, such as four blocks creating a square to hold such things as plastic animals. This developmental step usually occurs around older 3’s to age 4.

The block box is necessary as it teaches problem-solving and is a good shared activity for introducing team building. It allows for imitation of the world with abstract objects and it allows for spatial awareness.

Suggested equipment:

Legos and Duplo blocks * Tinker Toys * Lincoln Logs * ABC Blocks * Tabletop Blocks * Floor blocks, colored and natural * Colored toothpicks with stryofoam sheets for building * Cereal boxes and juice boxes make great building tools too!

For children under two, I would suggest using soft blocks such as cardboard or foam. Always double check the block sizes offered to prevent choking.

Children need props. Jus setting out commuinty helper figures, play cars, trucks, fire engines, boats, trains, airplanes, or small plastic animals, extends the interest and allows for complexity to occurs as the children play.

One final tip for today:

Take a plain white shower curtain to create a well-defined playspace. With colored tape, you can mark off roads and make circles for ponds. Let your children be a part of the process by giving them markers to draw houses, tall buildings, trees, fish–whatever they wish to add to the scence. The curtain provides a non-verbal invitation to play and imitate how they see the world. If your curtain is thick enough, it can be used on either side, creating two play environments from one curtain!

Blocks have one final gift–they give children a place to learn about cleaning up. Be sure you have tubs or baskets that make it easy for them to get the blocks put away.

“I have a block that I pick up

Can you now pick up two?

I will grab three… if you agree

and now there’s less to do!”–(c) ck

Have a great day! See you tomorrow.

CK

It’s a Strange Mess

We need to hit the pause button.

I am watching with sadness, sincere sadness, as our country unravels. There is so much hurt everywhere and I wonder how in the world did we arrive at this time in history?

The hurts people feel are real but are they acceptable? Is it okay to loot store fronts and call that anything less than vandalism? What happened in cities across America over the summer, was violence.

And then there is the attacking the Capital building last night, waving the American flag, my American flag and believing it’s justified. It’s worse than vandalism. It is barbaric.

For those hurting, get your voices heard in another way. Violence is not the answer and the damage you are doing to everyone, including the future of your children and your grandchildren is being affected.

I wonder… Where did all the people come from? How did they organiz? Who is funding the masses that show up to riot, beginning with Minneapolis this past summer and leading right up to last night in Washington, DC? Using violence and force as a way to express themselves is not okay. If we follow the money, we might just find out who the puppetmasters are, pulling the strings and tearing us apart. We should hold them accountable. They are the root of the problem.

To our political leadership at the top, in the middle and–on both sides. Stop playing with our lives. My life is not a game piece on your board. You have been entrusted to uphold the Constitution and to represent the people of this country. You are part of the problem. Find your integrity and vote accordingly. If you cannot work across the aisle, then please leave.

To the broadcast media, let me say that I really don’t want your editorial comments. I want the news. Period. If we listen carefully, we hear words purposefully inserted that cause the public to become argumentative, angry, aggitated. So stop it. You are a citizen just like me. If you want to give your opinion, do it on your own time, not on a newscast. And… if you insist on giving your opinion on a newscast, then start labeling with a scroll across the bottom of the screen that states it’s your opinion, your editorial. Like it or not, you are part of the problem.

I am one small voice in a sea of many, but I am also overwhelmed by all we are witnessing. We all need to do better.

CK

New Year’s Eve Ramblings

We made it! 2021 is tomorrow and to usher in the new year let’s stay up and usher in the new year.

. On New Year’s Eve, an old Irish tradition is to open your door at midnight and let the Old Year out and the New Year in. 2020 deserves to to have all the doors, window, and garage doors open. Ha! Not a bad idea!

(This post is making the rounds on FB and is not my own, but I am Irish and I do think this is a grand idea!)

Each new year, there are goals set and in reflecting on this past year, I have to say I am proud of us. We have all been resilient. We have endured hard moments and come out on the other side. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like recreating myself this upcoming year. I actually like myself just like I am. Strong. Sassy. Fragile. Loved. Aging but not old! For 2021, I am only picking out a focus word. I have not landed on my word yet, but it will come soon!

When you take stock of where you are, I hope you like yourself too. You have made it to see a vaccine, to feel hope for our future, and to personally cherish what has meaning. You have endured the unimaginable in our life time. Way to go! If you are picking a word–what is it for this upcoming year? I would love to hear how you plan to incorporate your word into your daily doings.

Happy New Year my friends.

See you tomorrow. See you next year!

CK

Embracing the New Year

As we begin to turn the page on 2020, and Christmastide is fully present, I came across the following that spoke to me this morning.

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled. When the star in the sky is gone. When the kings and princes are home. When the shepherds are back with their flock. The work of Christmas begins.

To find the lost. To heal the broken. To feed the hungry. To release the prisoner. To rebuild the nations. To bring peace among others. To make music in the heart.

–Howard Thurman

We have been presented with so many opportunities to witness these actions of Christmas work this past year. Thank you to our front line workers: the food banks, the schools, the medical professionals on all levels, the music makers who have found ways to connect through technology and those family members and friends who have reached out through Zoom or Face Time. Let’s keep taking steps to move forward and continue.

If you have been following my blog, you have probably noticed that I have been away for the past few weeks. Life gives us winding paths and these past weeks I have been taking care of matters that needed my full attention. I am now feeling I can return to As You Wish Stones and begin posting once more.

Thank you so much for visiting! If you see something on the website that you like, or have a special request, reach out and let’s get something designed for you.

I have just received my newest order of stones this morning. They are calling me to paint.

See you tomorrow!

CK

Thankful

LIfe is not what you ever expecct. This year, especially, the curve balls have been many for so very many families. And yet… and yet..

This year has also allowed us to pause and take stock of what is important to each of us. I am thankful to be able to slow down and recognize those who are so giving. I have watched neighbors helping neighbors, or churches finding a new way to serve others. The little things, a note card recieved or a text checking in on you, that makes you stop and remember you are important, to someone and often many. It keeps you lifted, even in the midst of a pandemic.

I am blessed to have my sister and her husband, who fixes everything when he visits. I am amazed by the goodness of my daughters and their sweet husbands, my grandchildren, and my abundantly generous and gracious friends. WIthout them, this year would have been too much for me. If any of you are reading this today, I love you. Thank you for loving me back.

I am thankful for fall days. Today, outside my window, are clear blue skies, squirrels scampering and even a couple of hawks screeching from the trees. The grass is fading, and the leaves are turning but in my back yard, the live oaks stand proud and casting their shade-bearing leaves. It’s truly beautiful where I live.

I am blessed to call the TX Hill Country home. Rounding a curve through the hillsides, leads to a vista more beautiful than the one behind. Wide open spaces, slower paces of life. It does help the soul rest when weary.

Of course, there is my dog, a rescue and I do believe he was born to be a Velcro dog. He’s been a great companion during a rather bumpy year.

And, there is the painting. Rediscovered only because life had to slow down.

This November, I have already put up a Christmas tree. Early to be certain, but if any year deserved an early tree, it’s this year!

My blog is slowing down for the moment. There are priorites at home that need my attention. I will get back to it when time permits, but for today, I’m hitting the pause button and giving thanks.

Much love,

CK

What it Takes to Make a Difference in Another’s Life

Always look for the rainbows.

One of the most influential people in my life is The Reverend Laurence A. Gipson, D.D. Dr. G.. to me. I have not seen him in so many years, but can still hear his booming voice when saying Amen, or watch him turn to putty when speaking to his beloved Mary Frances.

He walked the walk and talked the talk. I trusted him completely and many of his sermons still reasonate with me. The following is a piece he wrote years ago in the church newsletter. It still stands true. I hope it gives you a place to rest and recall those who have helped you along the way. To Dr. G, Thank you for believing.


What it Takes to Make a Difference in Another’s Life

Here’s a little quiz that a friend sent to me. Take it and see how you do.

  1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
  2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
  3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
  4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
  5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for Best Actor or Actress.
  6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series Winners.

How did you do? Most of us don’t do too well.

Now try this set of questions.

  1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
  2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
  3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
  4. Think of a few people who have made you fee appreciated and special.
  5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
  6. Name a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Did you do better? This list is easier for everyone The point, of course, is that the people who make a difference in our lives aren’t the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are just the ones who care. Caring is the most important characteristic for making a difference in another’s life. When I make a difference in another’s life, that makes a positive difference in my own life. – The Rev. Laurence A. Gipson, D.D.

Have a wonderful day. I will be posting later this week!

CK

Activities to Do! Planning with Pumpkins in Mind

Surely this time of year gives rise to pumpkin patches, picking our favorites so we can take them home. And surely there will be carving them into jack-o-laterns soon. But what about mini pumpkins? What can we do with those? Well, it turns out there is plenty to do, so while you are in the pumpkin patch, be sure you pick up a few mini pumpkins (and gourds) while you are there!

Pumkins scattered in the patch, Soon you’ll be my perfect match. I can’t wait to take you home, Where you can greet those friends who roam. (C) ck

With your mini pumpkins, think about painting them with washable markers. Outside, in a tub of sudsy water, your children can give the pumpkins a bath, pat dry. Repeat. Paint again, over and over. By washing the pumpkins, they might learn about germs being washed away and they are learning about self care. Friendly reminder: Be sure to supervise any water play. While you are having fun with water play, let your children play a game of sink or float. Gather items that will float. They can guess, (make a hypothesis!) on what will float and what will sink. Think of the great vocabulary you can introduce around this activity!

What about gourds? Be sure to pick up a few! They are wonderful to touch and feel. They are great for sorting. Bumpy textures and fun shapes abound and in addition to sorting, they are just begging to be sketched. Let your artists draw and paint on easels what they see. You may be completely surprised as they bring forth fabulous color combinations and drawings that are highly imaginative.

Now, let’s see, back to mini pumpkins. In addition to painting, try measuring and weighing. Include descriptions as you compare the pumpkins. What color?… yellow orange, rusty orange? Remember–you are helping build vocabulary, so lead the way for your little learner.

For your larger pumpkins, before you carve, think about the learning potential on the outside. If you have access to tapping nails or golf tees, pumpkins make a grand surface for pounding the tees into. This action supports hand and wrist strength of course and it’s a fun activitiy.

Have a contest and guess how long the string will be that goes around the circumference of the pumpkin. Who has the longest string, the shortest? Who made the best guess or estimate. (Lots of language to use with this activity!)

When you take the “cap” off the top of the pumpkin, let your children take in the sensory experiences in front of them. First is the smell! Did you know that smell is the only sense that is not filtered? This is why you have such a strong reaction to pungent scents. Then, of course there is the sensory experience of touch. If your learner doesn’t want to touch, that is fine. No worries! But many children love to get their hands into the gooey mess of a pumpkin. Take out magnifying glasses and look at the seeds and the “guts”. Give your children tongs and let them transfer the gooey insides to a garden. Count the seeds or plant the seeds.

And finally, carve the pumpkin. This is an adult activity but the children can give you suggestions along the way about what they want to see in their pumpkin!

As a side note, if you don’t wish to carve your pumpkin, then get creative and think of decorating your pumpkin. Maybe it is decorated with feathers and turns into a turkey! You get the picture.

And of course, soon you will be making pumpkin pie someday soon. More to come on this at a later time.

For today, I hear a Jack-O-Latern calling!

See you tomorrow,

CK

And Baby makes Three

The new baby, Lord, sits centerpiece proud on the dining table as we eat a sleepy, still incredulous meal. Where before there were only two at our table, now, there is a faumily eating together. Only you, Creator, could come up with such a marvel, and we are awed even in the midst of exhaustion and newness. May our family dinner conversations, like the meals ahead, mourish and fill as we continue the creating you have begun, the making of a family. ——-Margaret Ann Huffman

I can see this picture in all of its beauty. A new life at the family table. Inclusion from the begining and part of the circle making the family unit complete. It is a Norman Rockwell image to say the very least.

I can also imagine the exhaustion that comes from a baby who perhaps has colic and has been up all night, with parents wondering–will sleep ever come and will the baby ever stop crying?

If you would like a custom baby stone, for a baby shower, send me a note!

Loving your children when you are exhausted, overworked, stressed from pressures of life, come without question. You were made to love. When your new bundle comes, it is as if your heart opened a new space reserved just for them. It happens before you ever see them.

Being able to like and love your children is first of many jobs that will be yours as you parent your children.

Enjoy the roads you travel in life with your new bundle. It’s an amazing journey.

Have a happy day.
See you tomorrow.

CK

Mishaps Happen

Use missteps as stepping stones to deeper understanding and greater acheivement. –Susan Taylor

At some point, your children will enter the grand stage of: “I can do it myself” . It’s a great step forward for them and as parents, we need to take a breath, be observant and support them as much as we can! What do they need to find success?

Always keep your eyes open for opportunities to support your young learner!

Here’s the example:

There will come a day when your children will retrieve their own cup from the cabinet, (all by themselves) reach into the refrigerator, pull out the milk jug, and begin to pour, and pour, and pour, spilling the milk everywhere. This is when you need to take a breath and remember the following. The over-pouring was really a miss on what they wanted to have happen. It was a mishap.

After taking a big breath, you might choose say something such as: “Wow, I bet that milk jug was heavy! Looks like the milk ran over the top of your cup and we need to clean it up. Let me grab the paper towels. One for you and one for me. We can clean this up in no time together.”

What have you done, in this instance? You have focused on the event. It’s not personal. You have also given your child the opportuntiy to learn about “cleaning up his/her own mess.” By offering to help, it prevents the task from being overwhelming and yet the lesson is still being taught, in a supportive and non-judging way.

What have you learned? For one thing, your child is ready to learn to pour. Rather than limiting this stage of growth and doing it for him/her, take the time to make this a teachable moment.

How can you support this step of development?

One thought would be to buy a child sized, plastic pitcher so your child can hold the pitcher easily. The second thought would be to take it outside so there can be practice–with water, so he/she can learn when to stop the pouring to get the cup filled “just right.” Let your child know that you are so glad to see he/she is ready to pour on their own and once they are able to do it outside, the pitcher can then go into the refrigerator, waiting for them to use it on their own. In other words, make an agreement that supports and informs their development.

Repetition through practice outside gives the necessary rehearsal needed for the muscles to hold the pitcher and the eyes to watch how the cup fills up. Once mastery of pouring has been acheived, keep the pitcher in the refrigerator so he/she can get to it “all by his/herself.”

Always remember, your children are doers and as such, they are going to have mishaps. It’s only a miss on what they intended.

Have a great day!

See you tomorrow.

CK

Parenting Preschoolers with Empowerment in Mind

Liking and loving your children is not the same thing and yet your children need both.

Liking is tied to actions:

“I liked the way you picked up your blocks. Great job!’ I like the way you were a good friend today. Way to go!’ ‘I like the way you put your dishes in the sink this morning. Give me five!’

There will be moments when you don’t necessarily like the ations your children choose. This does not mean you do not love them.

Love is steadfast. Love grows stronger. ONce a hard moment passes andyou begin liking your child’s choices again, you will be glad you remembers this.

Heart Paperweights! In Love with these. Can be found on the Holiday Page!

Never end the day without say, “Sweet dreams. I love you.” Even during those trying middle-school years, your child needs to hear that said everyday. It is the verbal reminder you are there even when you may be in disagreement about his or her decisions. We think our children know we love them and they do, but if we get overly angry with them, it shatters their trust in our caring for them. The verbal affirmation allows the message of your love to sink into your child’s awareness more deeply.

Liking and loving your children takes understanding about where they are in a particular moment. It provides guidance to move your children along the right path. Children must be loved for who they are and where they are. They must also be liked so they can develop a healthy self-image.

Children will be empowered by your validation. They will be empowered by knowing from your actions, that even in the toughtest of mooments you still love and like who they are. These two gifts from you will sustain your children and even give them courage. Courage to try. Courage to fail. Courage to try again.

Take a few minutes to answer the following questions.

What do you like about your child?

What do you wish you could change about your child’s choices?

Are your wishes realistic? Remember, skills can be learned by the approach taken to master skills most likely cannot be altered.

What you can you change about yourself to support your child’s strengths?

What can you changed about yourself to support his/her understanding of how to accomplish what is being asked?

More on this topic to come!

See you tomorrow,

CK

October 14th: National Dessert Day! Hallelujah

I knew there must certainly be a day dedicated to Desserts!

Today I go off topic and list one of my favorite desserts. This is from my Mom. It’s her traditional Christmas Coconut Cake. I can’t remember a time that I haven’t had it on our table at the holidays and when we asked her why it became a tradition, her answer was: “I have no idea!” Ha!

So here’s to traditions, however they start, and here is to my Mom, whom I miss every single day. The recipe is taken from her notes, and I love the simplicity of the recipe! Not only is it simple, it’s simply delicious.

C Was Once a Little Cake!

The Cake:

SOOO Easy. We actually use a boxed, white-cake mix. Follow the directions for baking. Bake in two round cake pans so you can create 2 layers for your finished cake.

Make the Filling:

Mix 16 ounces of sour cream with 2 cups of sugar and 12 ounces of frozen coconut- thawed.

Make the Icing:

Mix 1 cup of filling with 1 1/2 cups of Cool Whip.

To create the 4-layer masterpeice:

Start with the bottom cake layer, then filling, then cake, then filling, then cake, then filling then cake. (Your two round cake pan cakes are split into 2 layers, so you can have a four layer cake.

Spread icing over the top and sides of the cakes. Keep this wonderful cake refrigerated. (And by the way–it’s best if it sits a least one day before serving.)

Enjoy.
See you tomorrow,

CK

Supporting Outcomes and First Steps at the Art Easel

As your children begin to gain more muscle control and skills begin to take place, it’s important to support them by noticing the process before the outcome.

Squiggles and Lines, and Hearts, Oh My!

Here’s the example:

Let’s say that your children are learning to draw self images. You notice they only draw a line with a circle. There are no facial features and perhaps that circle is not yet closed. That is where they are in their development. Focus on what they acheived. If all you can find to say that is supportive is: “I really like how you filled the page” then you have encouraged them to feel good about their efforts. Your role is to support their interest so they will look forward to trying again. With time, you will see the circle close, and connections (patterns) emerge as they add eyes, nose, smiles and even hair bows! It’s all developmental. With time, hand muscles and motor skills emerge to support their efors.

This will be true about your child’s learning, whatever the focus is. Repetiton, without force or preconcieved outcomes will make for happier learners. You are setting them on the right path to being curious and willing to try!

Creativity is, in short, problem solving. Children who are allowed to have self-expression are more engaged learners beacuase they are given the freedom to think beyond the lines. Children have a great capacity to see solutions and possiblities through creativity, whether it is visual arts, dance, singing, wirting, or tinkering to name a few.

Give some thought today about how you will provide time and tools to support your artist.

Have a great day, and I will see you tomorrow.

CK

Going to Harvard

In my many, many years of working with preschoolers, I have found there is absolutley no shortage of hopes and dreams that parents hold for their children’s future. Parents are forever to be commended when they proactively advocate for their children. I would much rather know parents who are over the top in their desires for successful futures than those who are disinterested. I worry for children whose parents are so overwhelmed they can’t put their priorities in place and take time for their children. To those parents, I say, please get help. Your children need you, every step of the way.

That said, I must admit, there are times that our aspirations as young parents get ahead of the game and planning a two-year-old’s path to attend Harvard would fall into that category. If, as a parent of a young learner, you are quietly thinking, “Oh, that’s me”, please catch your breath and don’t miss the beautiful journey in front of you.

I met a young parent, who was touring our school, tell me her two year old son was going to go to Harvard. She was looking for a highly academic school to begin his journey in education. She wanted to know what ABC sheets she should be using to help him along. I smiled and replied, “We don’t use worksheets here. We teach through play and play is our children’s work, everyday.”

A Was Once an Apple Pie. Story Stones for learning rhymes, in a hands-on way!

She was stunned and said, “I don’t understand. Your school was highly recommended to me. I am disappointed.” I nodded and thanked her but told her our understanding of child development did not support the use of worksheets in the preschool setting (at least not before the age of four) and I was pretty sure our school would be a disappointment to her and the goals she had set for her child. She thanked me for my honestly and left in search of an “academic” preschool.

In that conversation, I knew I didn’t have time to explain all that I knew to be true about early childhood development but I want to take one minute to share with you. Everyone, including adults, takes in information in the world through the senses. Seeing. Hearing. Tasting. Smelling. Touching. The more senses that are engaged, the stronger the learning opportunity.

Children need time to learn representational thought–letters and numbers. There is so much work to do first, learning concretely, before that begins. Giving young children hands-on, play-based and interest-based experiences is really imperative for their healthy growth as preschoolers.

So, in a nutshell, please don’t plan your two-year-old’s educational path through college. You will constantly be stressed and will probably be disappointed time and time again. You might miss what he/she is interested in learning so you can support who he/she is becoming, everyday.

Stay in the present. Plan activities for the day that provide age-appropriate, healthy, sensory based learning. You will be glad you did. I promise!

Have a great day.

See you tomorrow.

CK

The Greatest Gift

Children come to us without shiny bows or wrapped in beautiful trimmings but when they arrive, we realize they have been entrusted to us to provide them our protection, guidance and love. They are a gift.

The Story

A friend that I admire for so many reasons, told me this story. On the day he and his wife went to the hospital, it was clear it was a day that would change their lives forever. Filled with hope about their future, they were there to pick up a five-week old baby they were adopting.

His wife handed him the baby to hold and he says it was as if a bolt of lightning struck him because he realized someone had just gifted them with a baby and when he looked around, he realized it was all a gift- every single thing. His life, the wife that loved him, this baby. Every single thing was a gift.

This new father’s description is so accurate I think. When a new baby comes into your life it may be one of the most profound moments you are blessed to experience. It matters not whether you deliver a baby or you adopt a newborn. You have been handed the greatest gift. It’s yours to receive and yours to protect and love. Hope you have a chance to take a breath today and remember the moment you were first able to hold your new bundle of goodness. Happy Sunday.

See you tomorrow,

CK

Puzzles

Children learn spatial relationships and begin to recognize shapes as they work with (play with) puzzles. They may enjoy mazes or are drawn to the challenge of putting together picture puzzles. Just like you, pictures emerge for them as their pieces snap together.

In creating inexpensive puzzles, all you need to do is spend a few minutes rummaging around in your kitchen pantry. Find cereal boxes, cracker boxes, rice boxes or mac & cheese boxes. Cut the box fronts into pieces and have your young learner put the pre-cut shapes back together. The puzzles you make today will add interest as familar pictures get assembled. One added benefit is you are also supporting print awareness. (More on that on another day!)

Some of your puzzle creations should have two pieces. You might focus on positional words such as top and bottom, over and under or first and last. Some puzzles should be created with three pieces so you can add positional words of: next, in-between, and middle. As you puzzle master becomes more adept as putting pieces together, begin to make puzzles with outside pieces and inside pieces. Your puzzle builder will begin to recognize that straight lines go on the outside and become the edges.

Store your puzzles in labled quart-sized baggies. They will become a handy resource when you need them for another day.

PUZZLES

Puzzles come to me in bits. Do I see a piece that fits? Where’s the corner with a square? If I find it, I’ll start there.

I see two pieces that will link, Oh how a puzzle makes me think! A picture I will buidl today, What fun a puzzles is for play! -ck (C)

Hope you have a day of fun!

See you tomorrow,

CK

Preschool Math Continued. Today’s Focus: Counters and Sorting

Math in the early learning setting supports number awareness, develops logical thinking skills, and develops fine motor skills. If you watch your children use manipulatives in their math play you will find they are also learning how to use equipment properly. They are learning to do it “all by themselves” and this supports self-help skills too!

One-two-skip a few!
100’s of Angels Watching Over Me and You!

When you begin introducing math concepts to young children, start with concrete items that allow for one to one correspondence or matching. This is a good time to introduce colors.

To get you started, here are some items around the house you can gather for counters and sorting.

*Milk Caps -sort by color. Learn to rote count. * Buttons for counting or sorting (For young children, buttons can be a choking hazard so only offer these when you are there to supervise the play.) *Keys -many times a local hardware store will have throw-away keys and will give them to you. *Fruits and veggies–think about apples for example, they can be sorted by colors.

* Matching towels to washcloths or matching socks–making sets. (This is a fun way to introduce self care at home as they learn to do a simple chore. When you do the laundry, throw in some sets of hand towels and wash cloths or socks with different patterns. They are just the right size for practicing folding. And make it fun–add a dance to the folding time and use the towels or socks as streamers before you fold them. It’s sure to be an activity that delights young children!)

Mittens, gloves and scarves (think about bandanas!) can also be sorted by patterns, or colors.

Flatware–when your children put spoons at each place at a table setting, they are doing one to one correspondence. When they add forks, they are now making matched sets and if they lay them in the same order –they are now developing the skill of patterning.

Think about the varying sizes for eating and serving utensils. For example, allow your children to line up spoons by size–teaspoon, soup spoon, serving spoon, soup ladles etc. If you are okay with a bit of a mess in the kitchen, you can have your helper sort pots and pans by size. Once they have enjoyed sorting and banging, you can also use this time to teach putting things back where they belong. They can become your helper as you sing the “clean-up clean-up..’ song.

At Christmastime, if you have a package of premade Christmas bows, let your children sort the bows by color or size.

The opportunities are many and the more hands on opportunities you provide, the more concrete the number sense becomes.

Have a great day!

See you tomorrow,

CK

More to Know about Play Dough

In watching play in young children, we see several developmental steps take place. These steps inform us and allow us to add new learning opportuities that extend a young learner’s skills when the time is right. Here is a quick list of the observable developmental steps that children experience when playing with dough.

When children begin to make balls, imagination takes place.

The first stage is pounding. Children pound the dough with a flat hand, no fist. The flattened dough matches their actions of not having yet developed muscle strength to form curves with their fingers. Once they are able to accomplish this, you will begin to see children create logs or snakes. In this developmental stage we begin to see the hand muscles incorporate the use of the fingers as they roll the dough, back and forth.

As muscles grow stronger, children begin to make balls. We are now seeing the hand muscles and finger muscles working together as the hand begins to cup and the fingers begin to curve over the dough. Once this is mastered, it’s time to pull our the cookie cutters, rollers or other toys to make shapes and patterns. We watch as imagination takes place and children begin imitating real life by using fingers to form baskets filled with tiny play dough eggs.

Play dough can be messy and if this is a concern for you in your home, then take it outside. It is such a stimulating piece of play equipment! If you missed the post on how to make wonderful playdough, please scroll back through the blog. For those that were able to catch the recipe, here are Wilton colors, in case you want to keep this list with the recipe.

Wilton Food Colors

Black-Brown-Christmas Red-Kelly Green-Lemon Yellow-Orange-Pink-Royal Blue-Teal-Violet-White White

Fluorescent Paints – (Can be found in an Art Supply Store)

Chromatemp Tempera Paint (Non-Toxic ASTM D 4236)-

Fluorescent Blue-Fluorescent Green-Fluorescent Orange-Fluorescent Pink-Fluorescent Yellow

Hope you have a fabulous day!

See you tomorrow,

CK

Matching and Sorting

This article comes to you from the Brain Building Series, The Children’s Movement of Florida. Even though I live in Texas, I enjoy following this team of dedicated supporters, as they work tirelessly for the benefit of developing young children. Enjoy the article and there are links included at the bottom that will give you access to more information you might find helpful in your role as a parent or a teacher.

From: The Children’s Movement of Florida

Interesting facts about early childhood that can help parents, grandparents, and caregivers nurture children’s developing brains View this message on our website. FOLLOW US:     

Children this age are able to play simple matching and sorting games. They can understand the rule that organizes the activity (sorting by shape, color, size, etc.), hold the rule in mind, and follow it. Here are a few examples from the Harvard Center for the Developing Child: Ask children to play a sorting game in which you take turns sorting objects by size, shape, or color. Engage older toddlers in a silly sorting game, such as putting small shapes in a big bucket and big shapes in a small bucket. Children tend to put like with like, so this is challenging. As they get older, toddlers also start to enjoy simple puzzles, which require attention to shapes and colors. Adults can ask children to think about what shape or color they need, where they might put a certain piece, or where they might put the piece if it doesn’t fit, thereby exercising the child’s reflection and planning skills. What sorting and matching games does your child like today?
 

Related News Articles  Unlock Your Child’s Potential – And Have Fun At The Same Time The Pandemic Is a ‘Mental Health Crisis’ for Parents Help Your Kid Get a Better Night’s Sleep by Adding These 9 Foods to Their Diet       The Brain Building series presents an interesting fact about early childhood that can help parents, grandparents, and caregivers nurture children’s developing brains in their first five years. You can expect it in your inbox on the first Monday of every month.

The Children’s Movement of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan movement of Floridians insisting on a strong start for all Florida children. 

3250 SW Third Avenue, Miami, FL 33129 | Tel: 305-646-7230
The Children’s Movement of Florida © 2020 All rights reserved. Donate | Forward to a friend | Visit our website 

Have a great day! I will see you tomorrow!
Carol Katrana
The Value of Matching and Sorting

It’s Possible

Young children live by the motto “It’s possible!” They are filled with hope, believing that if things are not right the first time, then it’s only natural to try again and again. If you have watched a baby begin to crawl, and then grow into the stage of walking, you understand that young children are truly possibility addicts. They are designed to learn by doing and it’s the belief of “I can do it” that keeps them going. If you have a little one that tells you, “I can’t” he/she may be feeling overwhelmed. Think through the request. Did you ask for too many steps? For example, if you asked for your child to wash his h/her hands, brush teeth and get ready for bed, you have asked for 3 steps. Go back, break down the steps such as only asking for washing hands. Once completed-comment with a positive comment on the actions, such as ‘good job’. You can then move to the next step and so on. Children want to be successful and almost always they will surprise you with their accomplishments.

The Story

Early in the month of January, I was sitting in my office when in walked the most petite, frail, three year old with the largest brown eyes and jet black hair. She was exquisite. Behind her, stood her parents. They were in search of a preschool.

Facing the Future. Finding Possibilities.

I found out that they had traveled across the world to bring this child to America. Her earlier life had been dismal. My understanding of her background was that she had for the first few years of her life, lived in a hut with dirt floors and she was already trained in sweeping those floors and picking up clutter. Her biological parents had died, suddenly and violently. She had no birth certificate and the best guess on her age was about 3 1/2 years old. Goodness, was this even real? Her story sounded like a novel.

She had arrived in America with her adoptive parents only three days prior to my meeting her and she spoke no English.

I took the parents and the child to a classroom where she could explore and I could observe her in an inviting environment. Here she was in a room with running water, electricity, music playing in the background and child-sized chairs and tables. Our preschool had child-sized bathrooms with sinks at her eye level and water flowing from the water faucet. Certainly there were toys to appeal to every type learner. I so wondered what she was thinking and feeling being in such a magical space.

As if she was reading my mind, she walked over to the sand and water table. It was wintertime and in that tub, we had light powdery snow glitter. I lifted the lid off so she could see what was inside. Her eyes grew large and she began running her fingers through the flakes. Soon she was giggling and tossing the “Snow” into the air. As she giggled, we giggled. It was truly an “anything’s possible” moment.

Oh, and did I mention, our school was full and accepting her into our school would put us one over our class ratio? Yet, in that moment, in watching this child become the teacher, teaching a life lesson on grit, determination to thrive and the world of possibility thinking, I made the decision that one over ratio was indeed possible. It was our joy to watch her grow and to always remember, that anything, with a bit of persistence, nuture, creativity, love, and hope is possible.

Have a great day.

See you tomorrow.

CK

The Family Quilt

The Family Quilt is singular and unique for every family.

The yearly calendar provides us with holidays that honor our heritage, our faith and our history. This year, our traditions may look different as there may be changes to the way we celebrate together. I think, in this year of 2020, it makes it all the more important that you find those elements you can share with your children that have meaning. It is important for you to establish traditions that are repeated, year after year, so when your children are older, they will be able to choose those elements that gave them meaning and pass those cherished memories and actions onto their own families.

Halloween is coming. If you cannot go Trick or Treating this year, then think of a dfferent idea–maybe you have a family party where you make popcorn balls or bob for apples. Maybe you have a pumpkin carving contest and roast pumpkin seeds. You may find one of these ideas becomes a family favorite and makes its way into your family’s traditions going forward.

Certainly, as we fast forward to Thanksgiving and into December, recipes that are prepared year after year will become treasures that connect past generations to the present. The aroma coming from the oven, the bustle of energy in the kitchen, the tastes and textures of food, the way the table looks and the sounds of comversation will leave strong images. Inviting young children to participate in the preparation of the meal lets them be a part. If all they can do is put spoons at each place at the table, that’s a-okay. They are getting to participate and the bonus is that they are doing a bit of math as they do one to one correspondence in matching a spoon to a table setting. Maybe they draw a card to put at each place. You get the idea.

There is, of course, so much more that goes into a family quilt. When you think about your family’s quilt, most certainly you will tuck holiday traditions or birthday celebrations into the fabric of the quilt. Yet, living your life, day to day, together, is what reflects you. Weaving recorded events into the daily “doings” with purpose and commitment will leave your children with their strongest memories.

We find that in living day-to-day, life can be messy and beautiful all in one. How you handle conflict, expressions you use that are unique to your family, even names and how nicknames got started all represent you. You will find in your family quilt that some years go by so smootly–yes, it’s true. Some years are bumpy beyond measure. Your family quilt may have smooth, even stitching, it may have torn threads or even holes that have emerged. If your quilt rips in half, it can be resewn. The new quilt may be different in many ways as you piece it back together, however, remember, always, if it’s only holes in your quilt, they can be patched. Torn threads can be repaired. It takes consistency, and lots of time, but it can be done.

Let your children know through your example, what gives your life meaning. Take Pictures. Tell Stories. Share the values that define you.

With treasures our lives have been filled, Memories inside hide memories inside of them still. — Good Holmes

Have a fabulous day and think about those wonderful, cherished memories today. It’s not too early to begin planning for the holidays!

See you tomorrow!

CK

5 Little Pumpkins or is it Pixies?

Fingerplays are one of the quickest ways to help children cross the mid-line and that supports brain development. What does that mean when we say crossing the mid line? It means that both “big picture” thinking and “detail thinking” are happening at the same time. With finger plays, we find children reciting from memory and using language as well as using motion. In this case, the hands are moving.

It’s October and now is the time for Five Little Pumpkins or in this case, Five Little Pixies!

Five Little Pumpkins is a classic and can be changed to add in the characters you wish to add interest. Ideas might include goblins, trick or treaters, candy corns, scare crows, and dragonflies! You get the idea. Let the children experiment or choose the theme for this familiar verse.

And while you are thinking about pumpkins, you might try making these chocolate chip mini pumpkin muffins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together: 2/3 Cup Pumpkin Puree, 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 2 tbsp. honey, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 egg, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 tbsp. baking powder. Add as many chocolate chips as you feel comfortable with or simply add to the muffin batter once it’s distributed in the muffin tin.
Use mini muffin tins and be sure to grease the tins before adding the batter. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool and serve. Yummy! ( to my friends with allergies: I don’t have the gluten free version of this recipe and there is dairy in this recipe. Please be aware as the recipe will need to be adjusted for your children with allergies.)

There’s a chill in the air! Think I’ll go grab a good cup of coffee and settle in for some painting.

Have a great day.

See you tomorrow.

CK

Making Play Dough

Children LOVE play dough and it should be available every day. There is such good work that happens when children get their hands into the dough. There will be stages of development of course. To begin, you will see those with developing muscles tend to pound the dough with their full hands spread open. As muscles strengthen, they begin to roll the dough into balls and logs and finally they begin to pinch the dough into shapes. This, of course, happens over time and not in one sitting! When you make your dough, be sure to add scents such as all spice or cinnamon, and add color with food coloring. All the senses can be engaged when you add these elements and that adds to the interest. If you have cookie cutters, great, add those in. If you don’t have cookie cutters, look in your kitchen drawers for utensils that might be fun. Forks, rolling pins, spoons, potato mashers and plastic jar lids make great play dough utensils!

This is one of the best play dough recipes I know. Feel free to use it and share it! It makes 3 pounds so you can share it with your neighbor’s children too. (This does use flour and is not gluten free.) If you need a gluten free recipe, send me a message and I will share one with you!

Play Dough Recipe (3-lb. Batch)

3 cups flour

1 ½ cups salt

2 tbsp cream of tartar

3 cups water

3 tbsp vegetable oil

Wilton food color

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl (flour, salt, cream of tartar) and set aside.

Add water, oil and food color to cold pan on a cold burner.

Slowly whisk dry ingredients into pan of liquids.  Whisk until lump-free.

Put pan onto heated burner (medium to medium-high heat).

Cook and turn over with spatula until solid.

Turn out onto cool counter. 

Knead, knead, knead.

Flip, flip, flip until cool enough to roll into a big ball & put in a freezer gallon ziploc bag.

Play Dough Measurements (3-lb. Batch) These measurements, using Wilton Food Color, make the most wonderful colors. If you go to the bottom of the list, you will find specific recommendations for spice additions.

Wilton Food Color:

Yellow – ½ tsp

Orange – ½ tsp

Green – ½ tsp

Pink – ½ tsp

Teal Blue – ½ tsp

Purple – ¼ tsp

Brown – ½-1 tsp

Black – 2-3 tsps

White – 1 tbsp

Blue – almost 1 tsp

Red – 2-3 tsps

Ground Seasonings:

Apple Pie – 2 tbsp (no food color)

Cinnamon – 2 tbsp (no food color)

Gingerbread – 1 tbsp + 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp + 1 tsp ginger, 1 tbsp + 1 tsp allspice (no food color)

Pumpkin Pie – 2 tbsp

(plus ¼ tsp yellow & 1/8 tsp red)

Flavored Cooking Oils:

Peppermint – 1 ½ tbsp.

Orange – 2 tbsp

Vanilla – 2-3 tbsp

Lemon – 3 tbsp

Glitters: Use caution with adding glitter. Not recommended for very young children. Glitter makes beautiful dough but can get in the eyes. If you add it, supervise your children’s play dough time.

1 ½ – 3 tbsp

Fluorescent Paints: These are such fun to make and the children are truly drawn to the colors.

1/3 cup for every color

Enjoy!

See you tomorrow.

CK

Halloween Books and Story Baskets

Story Baskets are useable all year long and provide hand- on tools that are so necessary to young children’s learning. The stones below are the perfect size for children to manipulate and can serve as prompts to get your learners’ Halloween stories going. Through storytelling, children learn to be creative in their thinking (seeing images in their minds) and their stories belong to them. As children become familiar with story baskets, you will find they are more likely to pause and not be rushed as they turn the stones in their hands and think through what their stories might be. It takes time, but in a hurried world, it’s nice to slow down the pace and allow for creative thinking.

The books listed below are just a few of the many that you have access to through our public libraries. Goodnight Moon is such a great book and it can be pulled back out at a later time in the year to provide repetition of the information once shared.

Perhaps your little learner writes or dictates a story about Goodnight Moon. In a few months, read your child his/her story and then allow him/her to tell Goodnight Moon again. Look for details –are they adding details to their story? What is their recall of information?

If you haven’t purchased a spiral notebook for your future writers, I encourage you to get one so they can have their own journal. Remember, you are parenting and teaching for each new step. Children may not use the journal as we traditionally think of how it’s used, but giving them practice to hold it, draw in it and write their names and the date gives them much needed support that they will use later in school. It also becomes a quick resource for you to measure and easily see progress throughout the year.

Halloween may look different this year. It’s still unknown what the costumed day of tricks and treats will look like. If you worry about giving candy at Halloween this year, perhaps party favor stones could be an answer for you. Found on the Holiday page, these are available for purchase through October 10th. Each stone comes pre-bagged in a clear bag, ready to give as a Halloween favor at a preschool class party. These are easy to wash and keep sanitized and the stones are about 2 inches in size.

Wishing you the best day today!

See you tomorrow,

CK

Creations for Ages 3-93

For He shall give his angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone. Psalm 91: 11-12

Hi there!

I have had questions from readers, wondering about As You Wish Stones, so I am hitting the pause button on sharing my thoughts on early learning today so I can explain more about my art pages. Hope this answers your questions and am happy to visit through email if you would like to send a message!

As You Wish Stones has been created to support literacy development and early learning, provide access to affordable art and allow you the opportunity to participate in the creation of your stones.

Here you will find alphabet stones that encourage letter and phonological awareness as well as storytelling. Alphabet picture stones are approximately 2 inches and are flat. They are not heavy and are easy to manipulate.

Story stones are designed so children can retell stories using the stones as prompts. I am happy to create stones to accompany your favorite books. The story stones are approximately 2-3 inches and are smooth. They are meant to be held and handled so children can have a tangible connection to the story.

I have created a Holiday Page where you can find games, holiday themed story stones and I have added enclosure cards, with envelopes, that can accompany gift cards. The most popular holiday set at the moment is the Nativity. The Nativity in particular, includes ten stones plus one. Stone eleven is up to you on what you might want in the set. One order recently asked for a longhorn, and so… a longhorn made it into that set!

Of course you can custom order a set, by giving a general description of what you would like. Custom sets are created using the 2-3 inch stones, mixed with 1 inch and smaller stones. You might want a host of angels or you might want a set that defines settings that are important to you. Custom sets include at least 8 stones.

Perhaps you would like a quirky piece of affordable art. In putting the stones together in a certain way, animals emerge and they are fun for a coffee table or even to place along a walking trail for others to enjoy. These are made from beach pebbles, river rocks and landscaping stones. Textures and sizes vary as do the shapes. An added bonus is the opportunity to have animals painted on both sides of the stone. (See the example below)!

Bunny on One Side, Zebra on the Other Side!
Flip me over, and find my friend, the bunny!

You might be inspired to do a stone painting party for your children’s birthday parties, or have friends over for a fun and different type of painting party. The animal creations are ideal for these parties as they give the artists an example of what is possible. If that is something you are interested in, As You Wish Stones can create bags of stones that work for your animal creation so all you have to do is add the paint and lay the stones out on the table. I would suggest using acrylic paint pens for your adult get-togethers but washable markers might be best for birthday parties –just in case there is a slip of the wrist and the paint ends up on someone’s clothing.

And last but not least, there are pocket pixies, just waiting to be a pocket friend and companion! Fun for children, they can be collected and traded. The starter set comes with twelve stones–one for each month and the stones are 1 inch, flat and smooth. Just the perfect size for a pocket companion! You can decide if you want other pixies added to a collection. The options are endless and could add whimsy to mark a birthday or do as party favors at your painting party!

Enjoy browsing and reach out anytime you have a request. After all, it is As You Wish Stones!

CK

Ah, The Book Nook

Having a place for children’s books to live gives your little learner a place to go and be alone with his/her thoughts. It’s a place of exploration as pictures on the pages spring up and imaginations begins to take place around the story. Books develop vocabulary and expressive language. Books develoop listening skills. Books allow for auditory discrimination through oral activities such as rhyming or alliteration.

In your book nook provide a wide variety of literature. Have board books, sensory books, picture books. Provide nursery rhymes and stories that repeat like The Three Bears. Include multi-cultural books, fingerplays, ABC and counting books. Story books must be present in the book nook.

Make reading to your children a priority. Just 15 minutes a day can make a world of difference in your children’s future development as readers. If your child can’t sit still for 15 minutes, it’s okay. Read a bit, take a break and return to the story later. Read with expression and point to the pictures. Ask questions that elicit a response around a picture, giving an opportunity to check for story understanding and language accquisition.

When you read, do read the entire book. Look at the cover. What is the title? Who is the author? What does the artwork look like and who was the illustrator? Read the author page. Would your children like to write a book? Even if they cannot yet read, they can be oral story writers as they dictate their stories to you.

One my children’s favorite books at Christmas, The Polar Express, inspired these stones. The bell still rings for those that believe.

Read, read and read some more. The value of reading goes well beyond the time spent curled up with a good book.

I leave you with this as today’s inspiration: We ought to hear at least one little song everyday, read a good poem, see a first rate painting and if possible, speak a few sensible words. – Johann Wolgang von Goethe:

Have a happy day.

See you tomorrow.

CK

Snip, Snip

Around age 3, you will begin to see young children come into school with the most interesting haircuts! They have discovered scissors and have decided to cut their bangs or little sister’s bangs. It’s amazing how many times this happens in a school year and how many times it happens right around picture day!

Snip, Snip, they are telling you it’s time to teach the skill.

Children need practice in learning to hold and utlize scissors and they need an adult to be present for supervision. This means coaching them the proper way to hold scissors and providing stiff paper to start so it’s easy to hold and cut. Think about using old postcards or index cards that are no longer needed. These are a good size for holding in your child’s hands and the paper is not going wilt why your young learner is practicing the skill of cutting.

If you have not yet invested in children’s scissors, I would recommend Fiskars (c), rounded tip safety scissors. The rounded tip prevents punctures. These children’s scissors tend to cut well and they are shaped well for holding in developing hands. These can be found on Amazon, if you are looking for a quick resource.

Cutting with scissors is one of the best ways to support bilateral coordination which means your child is now using both sides of his/her body at the same time. It’s a skill that is needed everyday. Learning to walk uses this skill too. Of course this skill supports your children”s growing independence.

Scissor practice also promotes hand-eye coordination and strenghtens hand muscles. It is one of those activities, just like tearing paper, or hole punching or pounding golf tees into a pumpkin that is necessary to build hand strength before a child can easily hold a writing instrument. Scissor work also helps with concentration. If you watch children learning to fringe or cut with the scissors, you will find they are focused on the task at hand and most young children, when the time is right, want to learn how to use scissors. They are interested. Just like adults, when they are interested in something, they will give it more attention for a greater amount of time.

Other items your children might use to practice cutting: Play dough, clay, leaves or flowers, straws, or they can cut pictures from magazines or catalogs -(this could be fun as the holidays approach and they cut out what they want on their Christmas wish list!).

Last but not least, give your children a variety of lengths to cut. Start with fringing, and later add lines. The more rehearsal they have, the sharper their skills will become. As they become more sturdy, they can move into construction and creative thinking can be released as they make puppets or paper bag vests to wear. They may even want to create a hungry caterpillar by cutting out pictures of what he ate and later gluing those pictures to a piece of paper. Ah, gluing -another learning opportunity and in the process of gluing the pictures, they are learning sequencing and practicing story-telling!

Story Stones, inspired by Eric Carle’s book. Such a great tool for hands on story telling!

Have a wonderful day and I will see you tomorrow!

CK

It’s Beginning to Feel Like Falling Leaves

I know this sounds silly, but having Saturday football on TV -even if it’s not the true roar of the crowd in the stands, still makes my heart go pitter patter! I love college football and rooting for my teams makes me know that fall is here and it’s time to think of packing away summer. I’m ready to pick out pumpkins, take morning walks in less humid weather and watch the leaves float down across the back yard.

With your children, there is so much that can be touched and manipulated outside. Leaves may be changing colors where you live and they are sure to be falling, where ever you live. Pick up a big bag full and lay them out for painting. Maybe your children want to add colors, maybe they want to create faces by adding acorns or rocks, maybe you can do math by sorting the leaves by color and shape and then counting. Add a math activity by measuring the leaves and maybe this is a time you bring in a study on how animals and plants have similarities and differences. Do trees eat? Do they breathe? How do they breathe? Do they drink water? Do they grow? Think of all the ways you can study and compare with learning what trees and people have in common!

It won’t be long before you will need to begin discussions about Halloween and if you are already entrenched in discussions about what is needed for growth, you can roll right into a discussion on bones and skeletons. Bones are such a fun way to study the body and if you have a nice collection of paper towel and toilet paper rolls, put those out in a big basket for free choice and let your children build skeletons. (If you feel your children need a guide on how to lay the “bones”, you can always draw a skeleton out on butcher paper, so they have a giant floor activity.) This supports your visual learners and gives a sensory experience at the same time. Bones can lead to discussions about broken bones and x-rays (if you have a printer, let your child pretend to take an x-ray by placing his/her hand on the screen and printing onto paper.)

These stones allow children to put the skeletons in costume! Found on the Holiday Page.

We will look at pumpkin activities soon. So. Much. Opportunity. For. Literacy, Math. &. Science. It’s time to dust off those songs and finger plays! Here’s one to get you started. Mr. Pumpkin, Mr. Pumpkin, Eyes so Round, Eyes so Round. Halloween is coming. Halloween is coming. To our Town. To our Town.

Have a great day!

CK

Fruit of the Spirit

22″But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

Fruit of the Spirit stones . These stones are found on the Art Stones page and each flower is paired with one of the attributes so beautifully written in Galatians.

In this simple passage, we find such good rules for raising children. It reminds us, as adults, to keep our emotions in check and to lead with patience, and love and to be faithful and have self-control. We have to remember, we have been practicing these qualities for years. Our young children are still learning and their emotions need to count. Each and every one.

Young children express themselves with enthusiasm and sometimes reckless abandon. What is certain is their expressions of happiness, kindess and joy cause us to smile, while thier frustrations and projections of anger leave us sometimes stumped and stunned. These moments give us the opportunity to model self-control and patience.

When you find your young children expressing anger, there may be a physical display of force attached. You may see screaming paired with kicking, biting, hitting, scratching or spitting. Children may not have the language skills to release these emotions verbally.They are still expressing themselves by “doing” and not yet by speaking.

If this happens, let them know you can see they are angry–validate the action. Move them to a safe place to get those emotions out– and separate yourself. These are their emotions and you are teaching them to self-soothe. Fair warning, they may bounce off the “thinking pillow” and follow you. Pick them up, make no eye contact and put them back in their safe space for expressing big emotions. This may take a good amount of time, but you are teaching, so invest the time up front. It avoids a confusing message later and soon enough they will understand where they are to go when they are overly frustrated.

When the anger gives way to catching a breath and screams turn to gasping sobs or tears, this is the exact moment to step back in. Scoop them up and validate again–“Wow, I could see you were really upset. ” Once they have calmed down, you now have the space and the time to talk about what happened. It’s a teaching moment and you can help them think of better choices next time.

It’s so important to remember that children do not wake up in the morning with the intention of ruining your day or theirs. When tantrums occur, your role is to help them learn to calm their bodies, calm their voices, and calm their emotions so they can get back to the job of playing!

Hope this gives you a peek into handling tantrums. If you need support, I would be delighted to coach you. Send me an email at: clkatrana@gmail.com.

Have a great day.

CK

The Importance of Art

Today I draw a squiggle, Today I draw a curve, Today I see a page of lines-I’ve made from many swerves.

Today I hold the crayon tight, I bring it to the page, My fist is wrapped around this stick, Of colorful green- sage.

Soon I’ll hold my pencil up, In a tripod grip, I’ll draw my face or write my name, I’ll learn to use the tip.

From the squiggles and the lines, I’ll learn to draw and write. With some time and unforced play, I’ll learn to do it right! ck (C)

Art, it’s such an important tool for learning problem-solving (what will your learner put on the paper and where will he/she make a mark?). If your children don’t like what’s on the page, they can cover it all in black! (And btw, this is a developmental step.) What if they want to add blue trees to the self portrait? This is a form of planning.

Art is a tool for pre-reading readiness as children move through the developmental stages of random scribbling, to drawing open circles, moving to closed circles and beginning to draw self-portraits with eyes and a smile and possibly a big bow in the hair. Once you reach this stage you are seeing pre-reading in action. Pictures are representational thoughts and that is what letters are too.

Maybe your children could paint tennis balls and create the planets? This set is from beautiful round beach stones, that have been formed by the ocean! If you are interested in a planet set, let me know as this set is SOLD.

Art increases hand-eye coordination and it allows those muscles in wrists and hands to practice and strengthen. Think through what tools you will use. If you have a toddler, provide them a paint brush with a knob on the end. If you have an active learner that doesn’t want to experience art at the easel or the table, take him/her outside, provide a spray bottle with paint, and let the spray painting begin. (If you don’t want paint in the bottle, that’s okay–use water!) You can also provide a bucket with a painter-size brush and have your children paint the fence with water. Are they going to get wet? Probably, but it dries and the experience has been fun and beneficial for growth.

If you don’t have access to an art easel or it causes you to feel stressed out because the art area can be messy, take the paper outside.

Here are a few ideas to get you started as you have fun with art and your children!

Colored ice curbes made with food coloring. Freeze cubes on popsicle sticks. * Cut veggies and fruit in 1/2 – green peppers, apples, ptatoes. Use these for stamping. * Dip a fly swatter into paint and “swat” the paper. * Gather acorns, drop into the paint. Lay paper inside an empty shoebox. Roll paint-soaked acorns across the paper. * Use pine branches as brushes. * Paint with toothbrushes. * Tie a bunch of rubber bands to the end of a pencil or stick and use as a paintbrush. * Dye eggshells and make a collage. * Drop water balloons onto paper covered with wet paint. * Paint to music and allow the strokes to follow the beats of the music. * Use toothpicks or Q-tips to draw in wet paint already on a page. * Roll play cars and trucks through weat paint on a page-to make tracks. * Add color into shaving cream and let your children mix the cream with different colors– best done on a smooth surface outdoors. *Gather flowers, sticks, rocks and leaves. Put them out with a touch of glue and create self portraits from nature.

Remember to pay attention to muscle groups. Big muscles (upper arm) must have exercise and be developed before the real work begins on fine motor (hand muscles).

Have fun and when your children create a masterpiece, avoid asking, “What is it?” Choose to say instead, “I love your masterpiece. Tell me about it!” By allowing your child to describe what’s been produced, you have opened up an opportunity for conversation. Be sure to display the work. It’s an important non-verbal validation of your children’s efforts and they will notice!

Hope you have a fantastic day.

See you tomorrow.

CK

Before Writing Begins

If you have a verbal learner, it’s likely stories are a joy for them. But what about your spatial learners–those that like to build with blocks? They will likely enjoy time at the easel and they will enjoy story stones because there is something to hold and manipulate. See the set for The Hungry Caterpillar–it’s perfect for using vocabulary, and begins the introduction into using the ABC stones for story telling.

On the back of the stones, you find green circles to represent the caterpillar. As your child turns the stone over he/she discovers what the caterpillar ate.. and ate … and ate!
Can you spy what the caterpillar ate looking closely at the wings?

Literacy is approached from every angle when you are living in the world of early learning.

The desk set allows children to scribble, draw pictures, learn to hold a writing instrument, begin to write letters and later, learn to string letters into words.

But…. before children begin using the tabletop, they need to strengthen muscles that support fine motor in the fingers and that begins at the easel or in the playdough or perhaps using squirt bottles.

It’s a fact that large muscles develop before small muscles. It’s for this reason, that children begin to “write on the wall.” Their bodies are telling them, I need to strengthen my upper arm muscle so I can be ready to use my small muscles later to write. When your children begin to show signs of wanting to write on the wall, provide them activities that allow them to move those muscles.

Here are few examples to get you started:

Art Easel activities, (children can paint a fence with a bucket of water)– it gives the motion and there is no clean up!

Provide a refrigerator box (or a very large box) and let them paint with washable paints. These boxes can become a straw house or a fire station or Santa’s workshop!

Provide a rubber hammer for hammering golf tees into a pumpkin. This is a great thing to do in October when pumpkins are plentiful. You can also use thick Styro-foam packing sheets for easy hammering. It’s the motion you are trying to achieve to work the muscles. To extend the learning, draw patterns on the pumpkin and have your builder hammer the tees along the pattern.

Stuff a brown lunch sack with torn newsprint. There are two systems at work: tearing the paper works on finger strength, stuffing the paper into the sack provides bigger muscle work. These can be decorated in November as turkeys. (Perhaps a Thankful Turkey that can be passed around the table so each person holds the turkey and says what they are thankful for!)

During the Christmas and winter holidays, set up a gift wrapping station. Use safety scissors for cutting, tape for pulling and I would suggest using newpapers and magazines for your wrapping paper. Provide stickers and just for fun–give them a marker to make their mark on a gift tag. Tags can be homemade from scraps of paper. If there is no interest in writing, do not worry, there will be other activities to support pre-writing later on when they are ready. At the end of the day, unwrap and begin again. This is such a messy, zany fun activity. Have your children hunt through their toys to decide what they want to wrap.

We will explore the Art center soon! There is much to do at the easel.

Have a great day!
See you tomorrow.

CK

The Value of Outdoor Play

Play looks different than table work. At the table, learning is sometimes stiffled. If invitations to learn are overly directed by the teacher or a parent, exploration for creative thinking and problem solving get buried by the tasks at hand.

Outdoor play allows children to imagine and explore. How many times have you been rushing to the car, only to have your young one discover a roly-poly? They are telling you, in that moment, that the world is a beautiful place. They are telling you to slow down and marvel at the tiniest of delights.

Do you garden? Teaching children how to garden is such a gift and there is such great science involved. Just letting them dig in the dirt, allows them to take in musty smells, feel dirt between their fingers and maybe, if they are lucky, they will find a worm.

Do your children like to paint? Let them paint colorful rocks to go in the garden. If you want garden markers to go with their rocks, let me know. I am happy to create them for you! Below is a custom set of 14 stones, all veggies. Your children can place them in the garden with the rocks they paint.

Perhaps your children need the time to unwind in the sand box and create a structure. Maybe a walk around the neighborhood provides an opportunity to collect treasures! The following picture was shared in a group I follow and I am not the owner, but I think it shows what is possible, just in picking up sticks!

Outdoor play allows children to practice life skills. Really! You will see children practicing determination when they successfully learn to climb the ladder to the slide and come down “all by themselves.” You see hard work when they practice over and over the art of “pumping” when on the swing. Outside, you may find they practice and learn about teamwork and communication as they volley a ball back and forth. Children, naturally and instinctively, are setting goals, without verbalizing it. Internally, they are learning to master skills through persistence, and grit. They are learning to accomplish new challenges. The smiles they share show they are owning their accomplishments.

A worthy goal for all who parent and teach young children should be to celebrate and embrace all the lessons found outdoors. These lessons are necessary as children grow. Go outside and catch your breath..or a roly poly. You will be glad you did.

Have a happy day.

CK

Alphabet Stones as Math Tools

How many stones represent living creatures? How many represent something non-living? Let the counting begin!

What What? Alphabet Stones as Math Tools? Oh, yes, it is true. These stones are meant to be used in a variety of ways as a quick and ready resource for play. At home, they are especially quick to pull out while you are making dinner and your children are at the kitchen table. In the preschool classroom, these can be pulled out as a quick station set-up as you work on your rotations for the children.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Living vs. Non-Living

Real vs. Imaginary

Animals vs. Non-Animals, How many legs for each living creature?

What do you see that can be found in the sky? Must stay on land? Can be found in the water? Could do all three?

Soft vs. Hard

Extend the learning:

After sorting, have your children count and then write the total downs down by classification. Which has more? Which has less? You are now giving practice in number recognition and writing. It’s all connected and because it’s hands-on, you will find the children will stay with the learning a bit longer.

If you have a piece of light yellow construction paper, use that as your child’s sorting mat. It is the best background color for working on to hold a young learner’s attention. Blue is calming, red is stimulating and yellow is “just right.” (If you laminate it, you can use it as a playdough mat too!)

Stay tuned, tomorrow we will look at ways to use the stones in other activities that are quick and easy.

CK