Category: Social Emotional

Bedtime Books to Move Mini-Readers from Day to Night

Beyond helping children gain basic literacy skills, reading can be a huge piece of building warm and loving family bonds. From babies to preschoolers, reading is an important piece of family connections and establishing routines. One of the most important book traditions that we can establish with our children is bedtime book time. Taking time every single night to read a book helps your child settle their busy brain and relax into a blissful sleepy time.

We conducted a very informal survey to find out which books have made a lasting impression on Hoosier families and got some great ideas:

  1. Good Night Moon – Written by Margaret Wise Brown and Illustrated by Clement Hurd
    This wonderful book about a mother rabbit putting her baby down to sleep was hands down the winner in our informal poll. Everyone loves how the words flow and lilt as everything in the room is told “good night.” Good Night Moon is a timeless treasure!
  2. Llama Llama Red Pajama – Written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
    A cute story from the Llama Llama series came is also beloved. Mother Llama puts her baby down to bed but Baby llama still needs her – a dance familiar to anyone who has managed the long haul of toddler bedtimes. The rhyming words and soothing repetition make this one a got-to bedtime book.
  3. Guess How Much I Love You – Written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram Rabbits are popular characters for sleepy children’s’ books – maybe because they are so cute and cozy – and this very sweet book provides a lovely touchpoint at the end of a day. A parent rabbit and fluffy baby telling each other, over and over and over, how much they love one another in increasingly meaningful ways. Many moms and dads like to repeat the sweet messages to their own little ones as they read.
  4. Good Night Owl – Written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
    When a strange noise disturbs Owl’s rest, he has to investigate! This newer, beautifully illustrated book is as popular at baby showers as it is at bedtimes. The 2016 book recently won a Geisel Honor Books Award from the American Library Association, making it both family and librarian-approved.
  5. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train – Both written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
    Have a little one obsessed with vehicles of all kinds? These books, written in poetic and colorful language, offer the perfect way to wind down for kids who love anything on wheels. Indeed, as these books make clear, sometimes we need to make sure large machinery is properly put to bed as we help our little ones head to dream land.
  6. The Going to Bed Book – Written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton
    This book is short and sweet, perfect for babies and young toddlers – and it introduces the math concept of opposites like big and small. The sing-song story follows silly animals as they go through their bedtime routine. From brushing teeth to being rocked to sleep, the calming, rhyming story is perfect for bedtime.
  7. It’s Time to Sleep, My Love – Written by Eric Metaxas and illustrated by Nancy Tillman
    From the illustrator of the popular On the Night You Were Born, you can expect the same beautiful illustrations and heartfelt message. This is another lovely selection if your little one love cuddly time or you want to increase your bond, giving your family a great opportunity to relax and share how much you love one another.
  8. Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey – Written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
    This lovely bedtime book comes in both board book and standard story book printings — and either way, it offers beautiful illustrations of boys, girls and fanciful creatures who carry these diminutive dreamers to fantasy locations. Light on text, but heavy on dreamscapes, each page offers a chance to talk and notice the illustrations together.

We hope you and your little ones enjoy these books and that everyone in your home can get good night’s sleep! (We know how difficult that can be in these early years, but we also hear that it gets easier. We can dream, right?)

We’d love to hear your suggestions too – please feel free to share your family’s favorites in the comments below.

Cover image by Flickr user Lars PlougmannCreative Commons license.

Teaching Children the Art of Giving

Four year old Kennisyn overheard a conversation between her parents discussing donating to the United Way of Central Indiana. Kennisyn chimed in and told her parents that she would like to donate also. Each day for one week, Kennisyn took money from her pink piggy bank to school and donated to the United Way collection jar in her class. Kennisyn even asked other family members to contribute to her classroom jar and help raise money for children in need.

Teaching children the art of giving develops kindness, compassion, and caring for others.  Anne Frank said “How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” At any age, we can all make a difference in someone’s life by showing compassion through our giving, acts of service by volunteering, or other forms of community outreach.

When families make giving and volunteering a normal part of their lives they will teach their children strong core values as they demonstrate these values in action. This philosophy is also true for educators who create a classroom learning environment that introduces and encourages children to practice social tolerance and respect for all people regardless of religion, race, socioeconomic status, gender, age, etc.  There are many creative ways families and educators can teach children the art of giving. The following are a few thoughtful ideas for families and educators to help children become involved in their local community.

  1. Thinking of You: Have children draw or paint a picture of their choice; frame the picture and give to a local hospital where the patients are fighting a terminal illness. Sometimes knowing that someone is thinking of you gives these patients hope to continue fighting their illness.
  2. Charitable Giving: Children can raise money through a lemonade stand; bake sale, art sale, etc.  Allow the children to choose an organization and donate the proceeds to that organization.
  3. Acts of Service: Ask family, friends, and classmates to donate items to create care packages for the homeless.  Donations may include food such as crackers, packaged fruit, or water; personal hygiene items such as soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste; socks, hat and gloves, etc.  Allow the children to help pack the sack lunches or care bags.

A simple Google search will generate many other ideas to help families and educators teach children the art of giving.  So search away and make giving and volunteering fun for the children in your life.  Follow the child’s interest and remember no deed is too small when the act of service stems from a heart full of kindness, compassion and most importantly, love for humanity.

Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

The time has come; your child has turned five and soon will be heading off to begin a new journey into kindergarten. This life event can be exciting and scary for both you as the parent and your child. As a Pre-K Program Manager, a common question parents ask me is “What does my child need to know for kindergarten?”

After working in an early childhood setting for more than 11 years, I have watched many children transition into kindergarten. Yes, your child may know how to spell his name, count to a certain number, or know his phone number. However, I think there are two key traits that you can help develop in your child to be ready for the big day.

SOCIAL SKILLS

Involve your child in some type of social environment, whether that’s child care, pre-school, pre-K, or play groups. These types of group settings will help support your child in preparing her for the social environment of kindergarten. This is where your child can learn how to communicate, listen, and take turns. These environments can also help your child come out of her shell and be willing to speak up for help when she may need it.

SELF-CONTROL

This trait can be difficult at age five – goodness; sometimes it’s difficult for adults! Nonetheless, your child should have a good sense on how to transition into different activities, follow rules, and respect property and materials.

SOME TIPS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION EASIER FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD:

CONNECT WITH YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL

Call the school and see if there is a day to visit and meet the teacher. Many school corporations offer kindergarten round-ups or jamborees. These events can provide guidance on enrolling your child, but they also provide some great interactions for your child. He may be able to step on a school bus, tour his new classroom, meet his teacher and make new friends.

GET A HEAD START ON YOUR CHILD’S NEW ROUTINE

Begin your child’s morning routine about a month away from the first day of school. Change of routines can be tough for anyone. If you begin early, it will hopefully be less hectic when the important day comes.

READ UP!

Read books about the first day of school to your child as the day approaches. When I was a pre-K teacher, I began reading books at the end of the year to prepare the students for their next journey. The Kissing Hand by Audrey PennWemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate are all books that I had on rotation during this time period. These are great books to start the discussion with your child about how they are feeling with the transition to kindergarten.

Children begin kindergarten from all different backgrounds and experiences. You as a parent know your child the best and need to make sure you’re her strongest advocate. Throughout your child’s education, make sure you are engaged, focused, and a participant in your child’s schooling.

What to Look for in an Infant Room

Every parent’s worst fear is leaving their child with an unsafe child care provider. Just looking around the care provider’s room can give you insight into how safe your infant is and the quality of care they will be receiving. A few things to observe and evaluate are your child’s caregivers, the quality of the room, toys and supplies in it, and the importance your child’s center places on parent communication and family engagement.

CAREGIVERS: WHERE ARE THEY AND WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

Excellent infant caregivers will be constantly engaged with the infants both physically and verbally. Infant caregivers should spend the majority of their day sitting or lying on the floor with the infants, talking about the infant’s actions “You have the measuring cup in your mouth. It is metal. How does it feel/taste?” and talking about what is happening around them “Aiden is reaching for your hand.”

You should hear the caregivers announce what is coming next, “I’m going to wash my hands and get your bottle warmed up” or “You’re bottle is ready, and I’m going to pick you up so we can wash your hands”. You might also hear a caregiver respond to an infant’s cry with reassurance when involved in a caregiving moment with another infant, “I can hear you crying, you are safe. I am feeding Sam right now and will feed you next.” The caregivers should be aware of each infant and available to meet each infant’s needs by placing themselves near the infants and engaging with the infants.

SUPPLIES: ARE THEY GOOD QUALITY AND AGE APPROPRIATE?

Here’s a short list of items that compliment an infants’ explorations:

  • Shatterproof mirrors
  • Balls
  • Items to grasp such as rattles
  • Items to chew on such as teethers
  • Blocks
  • Measuring cups
  • Buckets
  • Items to fill buckets that cannot fit in baby’s mouth
  • Sturdy furniture to pull up on and cruise around
  • Books that represent the routines in their world
  • A variety of colors

These items are open ended and allow for infants to begin problem solving. None of the items should be broken or hazardous to infants.

FAMILY: IS IT WELL-REPRESENTED?

Each infant’s family should be represented in the room through photos, favorite books, songs, and culture. Photos might be found on cribs, in photo books, on the floor, on walls or shelves-anywhere that the infant might be able to see the photo. We also hope that when possible, family members will stop by the room or stay for a few minutes at drop off or pick up to show the infant that the infant room is a safe place for exploration.

Although there is an endless list of things a parent should look for, this is a good start to feeling comfortable with your infant’s care provider. If any of these things are missing in your infant’s room, talk to a teacher in the room to express your concerns. If you need help finding high-quality infant care need you, Child Care Answers can help. Their Child Care Referral Specialists can be reached at 1-800-272-2937.

Cover image by Flickr user Anthony DoudtCreative Commons license.

Making Meal Times Positive

Family Style Dining

I know your schedule is jam-packed with work, child care drop-offs, sports, lessons, and play dates. But what about meals as a family? It’s easy to rush through them, but meal times are an important part of child development. Meal times are more than just feeding your child; they are a chance to learn socialization, healthy eating habits, independence, and table manners. As a monitor for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, I often remind providers they are shaping children’s eating habits for the rest of their life, and parents can often benefit from similar advice.

SO WHAT DOES A POSITIVE MEAL TIME LOOK LIKE?

To begin with, serve meals family-style, and try to follow consistent times for each meal. Children need predictable patterns. Knowing when to expect breakfast, lunch, and snack helps set the stage for their day. A routine of washing their hands, setting the table, and knowing what to expect during the mealtime will make the meal run more smoothly. When children use child-sized utensils, cups, plates, and serving dishes, it sets them up for success when serving themselves. I know it can get messy for children to serve themselves, but think of this as a learning experience. Sometimes a mess is going to happen while learning. Just keep a positive attitude about it.

During the mealtime, sit with your children, and interact with them. Talk about the food you are eating. Help the children learn to serve themselves. Take the chance to introduce table manners. All of these actions help children learn how to socialize during the mealtime. You set the tone for the entire meal. If you are rushed and stressed about the meal, the children will feel the same way. Encourage healthy eating habits and manners by modeling them for your children.

HERE ARE SOME QUICK TIPS TO START MAKING MEALTIMES A MORE POSITIVE EXPERIENCE:
  • Have your children help. Assign the children jobs, such as cleaning and setting the table. This allows them to feel more engaged about the mealtime, and it will be less work for you.
  • Serve children appealing foods. Think about the texture, color, and temperature of the foods. Try to offer a variety of colors to make the meal more interesting. Serve familiar foods along with something new.
  • Let children lead. Remember – you set the mealtime scene and offer healthy foods. Children should have the freedom to choose what they eat and how much. Don’t buy into the clean plate club. Children are very good at self-regulating how much food they need. However, you can encourage them to try new foods.
  • Start small. Changing the way your serve your meals can be scary, but start small. Perhaps you begin by starting a routine before the meal, or just have the children serve themselves the fruit or vegetable. You do not have to change everything overnight. Set goals and slowly integrate a positive, family-style dining routine into your day.

Cover image by Flickr user Phalinn OoiCreative Commons license.