Please Vote "Yes" on 1A This November

A special message from Bobbie Watson, Executive Director, The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County:

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The County Commissioners have put a ballot measure on this fall called Worthy Cause IV, an extension of a 0.05% countywide sales and use tax which was first passed by Boulder County voters in 2000. These funds are used to provide non-profit safety net providers with funds for ‘bricks and mortar’-that is to either buy new buildings and/or expand/renovate existing buildings. I know that many of you are aware of programs who have benefited from these funds including: 

  • The OUR Center
  • The Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center
  • The Homeless Shelter
  • The Wild Plum Center in Longmont
  • Clinic Campesina
  • The Boulder Safehouse
  • EFAA, and many others.  

There con tinues to be increasing demands on all of our safety net providers. You may recall the Neighbors Helping Neighbors campaign in 2014 which passed with broad approval. Those funds go to support safety net program costs like salaries, program materials, etc. But our non-profit partners also need have up-to-date facilities in which to provide their programs.

That is why I am urging you to support Worthy Cause IV. The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County Board has endorsed this ballot measure. This extension would go until Dec 31, 2033, and revenues would be used in the following manner:

I urge you to continue to support your neighbors in Boulder County. Please vote YES on ballot measure 1A.
 

 
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Teaching Babies to Self-Regulate Themselves to Sleep

When you're this little, even a toy cubby makes a good space to curl up for a nap.

When you're this little, even a toy cubby makes a good space to curl up for a nap.

;By Shari Karmen, TLC Therapeutic Services Manager & Occupational Therapist

Sleep is so important to our everyday wellbeing. Babies, children, and adults all need sleep, along with food, to be self-regulated. Self-regulation is the ability to manage emotions and control body functions as well as maintain focus and attention. Self-regulation happens differently over the many stages of our lifespan. Self-regulation in an infant encompasses how an infant deals with a disruption (for example, a loud television) and regains control of their behavior so they can focus on what they're doing (nursing, eating, playing, etc.). In a preschooler self-regulation looks at how a child plays with others, learns to share and take turns.

If a child doesn’t have a healthy sleep and waking pattern, it makes it hard for them to learn. In babies we tend to see two issues with sleep that can cause problems with self-regulation:

1.    Fragmented sleep – many short periods of sleep, but not good long sleep cycles and

2.    Too much sleep, especially during the day. This frequently suggests a developmental issue. Daytime is when sensory stimulation occurs and the sleeping baby is not stimulated.

Parents and caregivers play a vital role in how babies learn to sleep. The amount of support given in the beginning impacts how much caregiver involvement is needed later on. This means if we teach babies early how to fall asleep in a healthy, self-regulating manner, the better off they are for sleep learning. It’s important for the caregiver to recognize:

–   Their decreased role in helping a baby to sleep;

–   Recognizing sleep cues and conditioning;

–   The infant's ability to self-regulate.

Having a consistent place to sleep is another important key to sleeping. Young infants have few self-regulatory behaviors, but as we teach them self-soothing techniques – pacifier, lovey – they become more competent self-soothers. Crying it out doesn’t work because babies don’t have the skills to self-regulate, calm, and then fall asleep on their own.

In the first few months of life babies show clear signs of sleepiness:

–   Yawning

–   Glazed eyes

–   Rubbing eyes

–   Heavy eyelids

–   Decreased sucking during feeding

–   No, or less, interest in interacting

–   Turning away from stimulation in the environment

–   Body movements become less organized

–   Fussy behavior

It’s important to recognize these cues and respond to them while the “sleep gate” is open. If you don’t catch the sleep cues within 15 minutes, “tired is wired.”

Place a drowsy baby in the crib and stay close by without touching the baby. A self-regulating baby will suck fingers, look around and then fall asleep. If the baby cries, wait for a time and then approach with a comforting voice.

If your baby continues to cry, approach and pat, but don’t pick up. Provide reassurance with your voice. If crying persists, re-enter the sleeping area with a “boring” visit. Stand close by, but don’t interact with the baby.

Encourage naps when babies are full. It’s easier to fall asleep with a full belly rather than after a baby has been stimulated with play. Between 6-8 months separation anxiety is heightened so parents are encouraged to move baby out of their room before this period if they are sharing a room.

Routines create predictable patterns. Babies with bedtime routines develop into toddlers and preschoolers with predictable bedtime routines. Sleep in the same location every night. Start to power down an hour before bedtime. Read books, play soft music, have a small snack, and other calming activities are pieces you can add to a bedtime routine.  Developing a consistent bedtime routine is key!

Happy sleeping!

Read more about cultivating healthy sleep habits in children:

Zzz! The Active “Sleeping” Brain 

By Brenda Lord, TLC Preschool Teacher

Sometimes you're too tired to even make it onto your nap mat before Zzz

Sometimes you're too tired to even make it onto your nap mat before Zzz

Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are busy people. Parents and teachers alike know that young children can be constantly in motion as they learn to move through and explore the world around them. As children are engaging with their surroundings, their brains are flooded with new information. We all know that sleep is important, and many assume that sleep is critical for resting our bodies, especially for active toddlers. However, research indicates that this is not the case. 

Building Brains

Surprisingly, the brain is more active when one is sleeping than awake! When young children and adults are sleeping, their brains are busy building and strengthening connections within the brain. Words, movements, and ideas that are introduced to children while they are awake get built into more permanent knowledge while they are asleep. If children or adults are deprived of sleep, research indicates that learning simply can’t happen. Also, when you are tired, your brain is not as good at filtering out distractions and focusing on tasks. Loss of sleep in both children and adults hurts attention, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and physical movement. 

Naps improve the brain’s day to day performance. These short bursts of sleep are critical for developing bodies and brains. The information from children’s rich and social learning environments in the mornings can be solidified into lasting memories during their afternoon naps. 

Creating Good Sleepers at Home

Many children thrive on routines and structure. Recognizing this, the TLC classrooms have well-established routines around quiet time. Children are used to having quiet time at the same time each day in a darkened environment with cozy blankets and relaxing music. Their bodies become accustomed to slowing down at this designated time. Establishing nighttime routines at home might make evenings more relaxed and getting children to sleep more successful. Taking baths, reading books, and snuggling together might be part of your bedtime routines. In addition, deep pressure exercises and calming yoga poses can be effective at quieting young bodies. Doctors also recommend that children should not have any screen time—computers, TV, video games, cell phones—at least an hour before bedtime. These video screens produce blue light which affects melatonin production, a hormone that signals your body that it is time to sleep. Creating and sticking to structured bedtime routines is important for helping children establish positive, lifelong sleeping habits. 

Napping is for Everyone!

Lastly, some great news for adults! Those naps that we envy our wobblers and toddlers taking are just as productive and valuable for adults. In one study, a 26-minute nap improved NASA pilots’ performance by 34 percent. Unlike our children, adults, unfortunately, are rarely able to have an afternoon snooze. Even though biologically our brains are programmed to slow down between 2-4 pm, work schedules and the realities of life usually make naps prohibitive. When you get the afternoon slump, recognize that this is normal. Nap if you are able; otherwise, try not to schedule important meetings at 3 p.m. Your body will thank you. 

Bienvenidos a TLC Learning Center!

Traducido por Lupe Morales, TLC Profesor

TLC Learning Center: Enriqueciendo el éxito de todos los niños desde 1956

Bienvenidos a TLC Learning Center, donde los niños de todas las habilidades e historiales aprenden juntos en un ambiente enriquecedor y positivo. 

El centro de aprendizaje de TLC es un centro de educación infantil temprana para infantes, niños pequeños y preescolares con un centro de terapia pediátrica en el lugar ubicado en Longmont, Colorado. Nuestras aulas preparan a cada niño para kindergarten a través de alfabetización y currículo enfocado en STEM (Ciencia, tecnología, ingeniería y matemáticas. Desarrollamos un comportamiento social y emocional positivo en cada niño, creando un ambiente de aprendizaje holístico que se centra en todo el niño. Además del desarrollo cognitivo y socio-emocional, los estudiantes de preescolar TLC participan en Yoga para niños y jóvenes atletas para el desarrollo de habilidades motrices finas y gruesas. TLC ganó el programa de 2017 jóvenes atletas del año en Colorado.

TLC atiende a los niños en un ambiente completamente inclusivo y deliberadamente diverso para fomentar la compasión y el pensamiento crítico en todos nuestros estudiantes. Para cumplir con nuestra misión – proveer educación integral y servicios terapéuticos de la niñez temprana para ayudar a cada niño en alcanzar su potencial más alto – estamos calificados en el nivel cuatro por Colorado Shines. 

Nuestros salones de infantes, de niños pequeños y preescolares están abiertos durante todo el año para servir mejor a nuestras familias. El salón de infantes de TLC sirve a niños desde ocho semanas de edad. Nuestros salones de niños pequeños sirven a niños hasta 2 1/2 años de edad. Nuestro programa de preescolar sirve a niños de hasta seis años de edad. Todos nuestros salones de clase sirven a niños con desarrollo típico (que no se ha identificado ninguna necesidad especial o retraso en el desarrollo), al igual que a niños con retraso en el desarrollo o necesidades especiales. Salones de clase diversos son parte de nuestro modelo de aprendizaje totalmente inclusivo.

La terapia física, ocupacional y de lenguaje para niños de hasta 12 anos de edad ofrecida aquí en el mismo lugar permite al personal de TLC identificar retrasos en el desarrollo y necesidades especiales en los niños tan pronto como sea posible y proveer una intervención temprana para mejorar resultados a largo plazo. 

  Los estudiantes de TLC son de origen diverso, y estamos muy orgullosos de nuestros salones de clase totalmente inclusivos donde los niños con habilidades típicas (que no se han identificado necesidades especiales) aprenden y juegan al lado de otros niños con retrasos en el desarrollo o necesidades especiales. Salones de clase inclusivos promueven compasión y cuidado a los niños y se benefician ambos, niños con habilidades típicas y niños con necesidades especiales.

TLC fue fundado como The Tim Center en 1956 por familias locales, y ha servido a la comunidad con la más alta calidad de cuidado de infantes, de niños pequeños, preescolares y terapias pediátricas desde entonces. 

Tome un recorrido por nuestras instalaciones, aprenda sobre nuestros programas de Educación temprana de niños y nuestros programas de terapia pediátrica, lea nuestro blog, vea nuestro último boletín, hojee nuestro informe anual, o pónganse en contacto con nosotros para más información y programe un recorrido por nuestras instalaciones. ¡Nos complaceremos de tenerlos aquí! 
 

Celebrate Pollinators with Kids

June is pollinator month in Colorado, and you can learn more about these critical critters (bees, hummingbirds, moths, butterflies, wasps, beetles, and more!) at Save Our Pollinators Day tomorrow from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at the Jefferson County Courts Administration Building (100 Jefferson Parkway, Golden CO). 

A bee covered in pollen

A bee covered in pollen

When most people (especially children) think of bees, they think of honeybees. Did you know honeybees aren't native to North America? While a welcome immigrant to this continent (honeybees were brought over in the 1600's to make honey), we have hundreds of native species of bees and pollinators who also need our care and appreciation. As most bees are not aggressive (and only lady bees have stingers), it's important to teach our children to appreciate these garden friends, without whom we wouldn't have 70% of the produce we eat. If you're having a healthy snack right now, thank a bee!

We're serious - let's thank the bees! First, get to know some of the bees that are native to Colorado. These include: metallic green bees, sweat bees, cuckoo bees, wool carder bees, leaf cutter bees, mason bees, carpenter bees, squash bees, digger bees, bumblebees, mining bees, and so many more! Each prefers a different kind of nest, with some, like the squash bee, burrowing beneath squash blossoms, and others, like the leaf cutter bee, making nests out of cut-up leaves to secure in a safe spot, like a hole in a wood post. 

A shallow dish with rocks and water provides a safe place for bees and butterflies to land take a drink

A shallow dish with rocks and water provides a safe place for bees and butterflies to land take a drink

Only 12% of Colorado’s bees like to live in a colony in a hive (known as social bees). The majority of Colorado bees are solitary, and would love to find an inviting bee house waiting for them in your yard (or a bare patch of dirt to dig in, or an old log they can burrow into - there are so many options for providing bees with a safe habitat).

You can help thank bees and celebrate pollinators with your children by making your home and/or yard pollinator-friendly through habitats and flowers. A green lawn without flowers is like a desert to a bee - no food, water, or place to rest in sight. Here are a few ways you can make a flower buffet and rest stop for busy bees with your own little busy bees:

 

Plant these flowers as suggested by the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Sonya Anderson, via The Denver Post

Spring: Crocus, tulips, snowdrops, hellebores, lenten roses, poppies, crab apples, serviceberries, false forget-me-nots (also known as brunnera), creeping Oregon grape, sweet alyssum, snapdragons, blue flax, pasque flower, mock oranges, currents, gooseberries, columbines, and bachelor buttons.

Summer: Salvia, lavender, catmint, yarrow, yucca, bee balm, black-eyed Susans, penstemon, snapdragons, verbena, coreopsis, echinacea, milkweed, agastache, blanketflower, gayfeathers, rabbit brush, button bush, and herbs like fennel, dill, oregano, and parsley which support both the immature and adult forms of butterflies (let them go to flower for the nectar).

Fall: Asters. autumn sages, Mexican sages, and goldenrods.

While we love bees, let's not forget our other pollinating friends, like hummingbirds! There are 11 species of hummingbirds that arrive in Colorado in April and will stay till September, drinking nectar and pollinating our plants while they're here. Plants that hummingbirds love include:

  • Flowers with red blossoms and a tubular shape. But they also feed on pink, orange, peach and purple flowers.
  • Bee balm 
  • California fuchsia
  •  Lobelia
  • Catmint
  • Columbine
  • Delphinium 
  • Firecracker penstemon 
  • Garden phlox 
  • Honeysuckle 
  • Indian paintbrush 
  • Maltese cross 
  • Pineleaf penstemon 
  • Salvia
  • Spider flower
  • Sunset hyssop 

(via Beauty of Birds). Remember if you put out a feeder for hummingbirds to keep it disinfected and clean. Dirty hummingbird feeders can cause an infection in hummingbirds that leads to starvation and death. 

A bee house that can be purchased at a bee supply store or built at home. Each tunnel has cocoons for leaf cutter bee eggs. The Plexiglas cover lets children peak at the progress the momma bees have made in laying their eggs and taking care of their young! When these eggs hatch, they'll fly out into your garden looking for food from flowers. (Image via The Bees Waggle)

A bee house that can be purchased at a bee supply store or built at home. Each tunnel has cocoons for leaf cutter bee eggs. The Plexiglas cover lets children peak at the progress the momma bees have made in laying their eggs and taking care of their young! When these eggs hatch, they'll fly out into your garden looking for food from flowers. (Image via The Bees Waggle)

Switching Hats: Teacher to Parent

By Amanda Brunning, TLC Preschool Teacher & Parent

TLC Infant Lead Teacher Debbie Van Thuyne with a friend

TLC Infant Lead Teacher Debbie Van Thuyne with a friend

I have been working with and teaching children with special needs and their families for the past eight years. I have been through many emotional roller coasters with parents and have been a part of many conversations where parents just needed to vent and I was happy to listen. I tried to be as much help as I could, but before becoming a parent myself, my view was limited and I couldn't say that I knew what it was like to parent a child with a disability full time.

Teachers in early childhood have kids from four to eight hours a day before they go home and we're off duty. We work with the children in a controlled setting and on a consistent schedule. We have extensive training and on-hand tools that we can draw from and utilize when a child is having a hard time. Life outside the classroom - with families, in public places - is very different and far more unpredictable than classroom life. As a teacher, I have preparation and immediate assistance for handling trying situations and behavior on top of my primary job of helping teach children educational skills and positive social behaviors,  but when a person becomes a parent, there's very little preparation for the next 18+ years of caring for and raising children of any ability. Children don't come with handbooks, and parents have to learn as they go.
 
My husband and I had been going through the adoption process for several years, and nine months ago we were matched and placed with a 7-month-old little boy with Down syndrome. I would love to say - with all of my experience and degree in early childhood and special education - that I was prepared. In truth, I did not feel prepared at all. I knew that this beautiful little boy would need pediatric therapies and that TLC would be the perfect away-from-home-home for him when I went back to work, and that the therapists would work with him both at our house and in the TLC infant nursery, and that was a huge relief when I felt overwhelmed. I was so thankful for all the help from my co-workers in getting his therapies and early interventions in place and for helping the process of transitioning our son into our home go as smoothly as possible.

After he arrived, every day was a new experience and a new visit to a new doctor. In the first few months of having our little boy we saw so many different doctors and with each doctor we felt overwhelmed at what this new doctor could say or what that visit could bring. His therapist became my go-to when I was unsure what advice to take, what direction to go, or when I was trying to figure out if something going on with him was normal for his diagnosis, or when I needed guidance on what I needed to do to help him grow and develop. His infant teacher at TLC is my other go-to when I have a parenting/infant question, and I no doubt ask her a million questions a day. Debbie (the TLC infant teacher) has also listened to me vent about everything from difficulties getting him to sleep to doctors appointments that we came away with no answers or nerves about surgery. These people have become part of our support system and we are so thankful for them. In stepping into the role of parent of a child with special needs, I'm finally getting to walk in the shoes of the parents of kiddos I've worked with throughout the years, and I feel even more connected to them and struggles that come with parenting young children.
 
Switching hats to the parent roll has opened my eyes to so much of what families with children with special needs can be going through. I hope that my new roll as this beautiful little boy's mommy can help me grow as a teacher and better support the children and families better that come into my classroom.

Through all the struggles, the late nights, spit ups, and parade of questions, I wouldn't change a thing, and I'm so grateful to my TLC support group.
 

Putting Toys Away: Tips for Fostering Language While Keeping Your House Clean(ish)

By Grace LeVasseur, TLC Speech Language Pathologist

TLC student Daphne has fun with a combination of toys and cardboard boxes at home.

TLC student Daphne has fun with a combination of toys and cardboard boxes at home.

I love picking out the perfect toy for a play session. Finding a motivating toy for a child can spark engagement to help best instruct specific speech and language skills. However, as a mom of a toddler, I know the reality of caring for these toys and the constant picking up and putting away of books, dolls, puzzles, play food, and more. Is there a way to balance exposing your child to developmentally appropriate toys/play while also keeping a clean house?

Maybe not all the time. However, given the steps below, language skills like attention, following directions, categorization, requesting, and pretend play can be fostered even during clean up. 

Step 1: Dump toys on the floor (pick a corner!) and sort. Why? Embrace the mess! What is your child drawn to out of all those toys? Which ones need to go? 

Language learning opportunity: categorization/following directions: Have your child assist you in the sorting/organizing their toys. You can do this simply and increase difficulty. 

•    "Find a book!"
•    "Grab all the books!"
•    "Put the books on the shelf"
•    "Put the books on the shelf and the animals in the basket"
•    "Put the big books on the shelf and the little books in the box"

 
 

Step 2: Put those toys in containers or reclosable bags. Why? Putting toys in their assigned groups helps a child make associations. For example, if a child pulls out "pretend foods," their experience with each fruit and vegetable reaffirms the multitude of specific "foods" within that category. 

Language learning opportunity: requesting: Is your child showing interest in the zipped up bag full of blocks? Let him/her ask to open the bag! You can do this simply and increase difficulty.

•    "I see you want to play with the blocks!"
•    "You are <insert here the action your child is taking to show you she is requesting such as reaching, pointing, nodding head, or even saying "open!">"
•    Incorporate a "script" to repeatedly use every time you open an item
o    "Knock knock, open!"
o    "zzziiiippppppp, open!"
o    "Is it stuck? Oh, you need help, 'help please! Open!'"
•    Additionally, while having a clear container creates an opportunity to label the contents inside, a colored/blocked container allows for a child to guess what's inside. 

 
 

Step 3: Put half of those containers away in another room. Why? This helps your child focus on the toys available, removes clutter (less cleaning for you), and makes for a more interesting toy after they've been out of sight for a while. 

Language learning opportunity: Attention/following directions. Is your child all done playing blocks? Using "first, then" language can help transition between activities and/or increase the time spent on the activity. 
•    "Are you all done playing blocks?"
•    (no)
•    "Oh, you still want to play with blocks! Let's stack up up up" <Voila 2 more minutes of play!>
•    "Are you all done playing blocks?"
•    (yes)
•    "Oh! First, we put the blocks in the box, then we can eat our snack!"

Step 4: Use what you've got around and outside the house. Why? This is a free and functional way to optimize vocabulary development with household items and role play of daily routines. 

Language learning opportunity: pretend play. Not using that cardboard box lying next to the recycling? Can it be transformed into a house? A kitchen?
•    Play Peek a boo! around the pretend house going in and out, flapping the doors open and shut
•    Act out daily routines: pretend to eat, sleep, wipe the floor, etc.
•    Extend these routines to include other toys: feed the doll, put the teddy bear to sleep, clean up the kitty's spilled milk, etc. 

I'll confess, I'm actually not a neat freak. To be honest, my living room is usually messy... However, considering from time to time that cleaning can also be an opportunity for play and interaction, making "putting toys away" that much more fun and meaningful for you and your child. 

Gardening with Preschool Children

By Jen Willette, TLC Preschool Teacher

Have you ever wondered how to involve your child in gardening? Involving children in the gardening and growing process can be exciting for both you and them (even if the initial thought strikes the fear of randomly dug holes, plucked seedlings, and mud - mud everywhere - in you). In addition to teaching botany, biology, ecology, the life cycle, and the deliciousness of a fresh veggie picked from the garden, gardening also teaches children many skills, from problem solving, to planning and implementation, to patience, and finally how to appreciate and enjoy the satisfaction of hard work, a job well done, and the final product: delicious, nutritious vegetables. Here are a few simple ways to get your children involved gardening:

1.    Soil preparation: Children love to dig in the dirt! Invest in some quality child-size gardening tools and dig in the garden with your child to prepare the soil for seeds or seedlings. Removing the old and preparing the bed for new will help children learn about the season of spring and ecology of soil, and that in order to grow, we sometimes have to remove the old stuff! This can be done even with young two year olds.

2.    Go seed and plant shopping with your children. Allowing them investment in this process will make gardening more concrete for them. Try to choose plants that mature quickly, along with those that take longer to mature. An example of this would be radishes (28 days) to pumpkins (90-100 days). Let your child pick a few seed packets that they can take ownership of from selecting, to planting, to caring for and harvesting. If your child is very young, seed packets make excellent rattles they love to shake as you shop.

3.    Planting is fun, however, it is one of the shortest processes of gardening. Talking about what plants need to grow and get bigger at this time helps children understand more about why we do certain things, like adding compost and making mounds for melons. Teaching children how good soil, water, sun, and air that can move around helps plants grow will help the children see that all living things need different things to grow. 

 
 


4.    Watering! Who doesn’t love to play in the water on a hot summer day? Giving the plants a good soak on a hot day is important. Sometimes you can even see the difference in five minutes from a droopy plant to a happy plant, creating a great moment to talk to kids about the plant's response.

5.    Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! Make it a point to look for different types of insects and living things in your garden. On a good day, you could spot a ladybug, spider, robin, and a snake all lounging about in your garden. All of these are important to the health of your garden and make it exciting to have a scavenger hunt to search for something new. Ladybugs, spiders, and robins all eat "bad" bugs that can chew away at your plants, and snakes help keep your garden clear of rodents and other small critters that would otherwise enjoy chewing on your carefully cultivated plants.

6.    Weeding: I would love to say that children like to weed, but lets be honest…they don’t. Save yourself some frustration and do most of this yourself. Showing kids that weeds (plants we do not want) will also grow with the plants that we do want is a good skill for them to learn. Children who did not know the difference have pulled many plants that were meant to survive. To help cut down on weeding, you can implement companion planting techniques and teach kids about how some plants help each other grow better. For example, planting certain herbs around and between vegetables both helps the vegetables grow and suppresses weeds. Bonus: you have more fresh herbs to use in the kitchen!

7.    Harvest time: This is often the most enjoyable part of gardening for children; seeing what their seeds turned into brings great satisfaction. Harvest your produce with your child and point out things that you notice: the root system, the size of the leaves, how many fruits the plant produced. 

Gardening is not a guaranteed success. It is often a trial and error and the same is true of gardening with little people. The most important thing is involving them and allowing them to have some investment in the garden. Learning the value of hard work is a skill that will be useful for the rest of their lives. Most of all, have fun and enjoy the time with your kids.
 

Exploring Science with Preschoolers

By Kathy Porter Peden, TLC Teaching Assistant

I love watching children learn about the world around them. They are such eager explorers and anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with a preschooler knows they are full of questions and curiosity.  

Sometimes, as teachers or parents, we are reluctant to dive into science topics and activities with our young kids, but I encourage you to give science with preschoolers a try. Here are four common fears with teaching young children science, and tips on addressing and overcoming those fears for a fun and engaging activity:

1.    "Science is intimidating.  I don’t know much about the subject my child or class is interested in."

  • You don’t have to be an expert in astrophysics before you start talking about space and stars with your children. You can teach them a vital life lesson by admitting you don’t know all the answers but you’d like to learn something new.
  • The children’s section of the local library has great beginner science books. Many have just a few words and great pictures.
  • You can find some great information and some really good videos on the internet bu make sure to screen these before sharing with your children. Not everyone has the same standards for what a child should see.

2.     "It seems too complex for young children."

  • Children grasp way more than we give them credit for. Think of all the amazing learning they have done in a few short years! Even if they don’t understand all the intricacies of a subject, having fun exploring it now will likely leave the door open to add to their understanding in the future.
  • Preschoolers LOVE big words. Science is chock full of impressive vocabulary. You can teach them one or two big words relating to the current topic and give simple definitions. Give them the opportunity to discuss and use the words several times and you will see their pride as they talk to others using that vocabulary. Recent “big words” in our class have been: nocturnal, echolocation, translucent, opaque, condensation, evaporation, and precipitation. 

3.    "It might not work right. I tried before and it was a flop."
  

  • Well, yes, that does happen. Things don’t always go the way we expect but even failures can be learning opportunities. Talk with the children about their ideas. “Why do you think it didn’t work?” “What should we do differently next time?” “Do we want to try this again to try something else?”
  • Try not to impose your own expectations on their exploration.  If you hear yourself saying, “That won’t work. Do it this way,” you might need to back off and let them do their own research. Last year I had one of those moments when my little students wanted to plant a huge mango seed along with all the lettuce and pansies we were starting for our garden. My first reaction was to explain that mangoes do NOT grow well in Colorado but looking at their eager faces, we stuffed it into a jar of dirt. They watered it and watched for weeks.  I was just ready to throw it away, assuming it was just a moldy mess when I saw a big green shoot was erupting from the ground. We transplanted it into a real pot and it’s a sturdy little mango tree these days. Every time I see that tree-let I am reminded that sometimes following a child’s curiosity can land you in a beautiful place.  

4.    "It might be messy."

  • Well, yes.  There is that.  You can take that into account and minimize the mess.  Do the messiest stuff outside.  Use a drop cloth or work in a dish tub or on a cookie sheet.  Keep towels handy.  Encourage the kids to wear their lab coats (paint smocks)

As you explore science with your children remember to:

Keep it safe.  Make sure your materials are safe for impulsive and fast moving little people.  Supervise closely.

Keep it fun.  Exploration and discovery and laughter are fun.  Memorization drills are NOT fun.

Invite the wonder.  Model asking questions and pondering the things your children ask about.

"I wonder why…?"

"I wonder what would happen if …?"

"I wonder how that works…?"

I hope you have fun exploring the world and seeing it through the wondering eyes of the preschoolers in your life.
 

Tips for Feeding a Picky Eater

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Children can be tougher critics than Michelin inspectors at meal time, making it difficult to figure out how to get necessary nutrients off their plates and into their tummies. Chronic pickiness becomes even more concerning when worrying whether your child is a typical picky eater or has a selective eating disorder. Some signs to look for to help determine if your child is more than just a picky eater include:

  • A restricted range of foods willingly eaten (usually less than 20).
  • Crying when presented with new foods as opposed to simply pushing the food around or away.
  • Refusing groups of foods with similar characteristics (no soft textures, no vegetables, etc.)
  • Never eating with the family and/or always having a separate meal.

If you suspect your child’s picky eating goes beyond what’s healthy for a varied, balanced diet, and your child isn’t showing signs of growing out of their pickiness, a pediatric therapist can help. Therapists, like those at TLC, can help children learn to tolerate new textures and tastes in food, help decrease a child’s anxiety at mealtime, address physical hindrances to eating safely, and more.

Wherever your child lands on the spectrum of pickiness, here are a few tips to help your child better enjoy mealtime, embark on new food adventures, and ingest more nutrition from a wider variety of foods:

  • Keep meals and snacks on a schedule. Kids will be more likely to try new foods if they’re hungry and know the mealtime routine. Set daily times for three meals and two snacks, so your child will learn to anticipate when food is coming, and how long they’ll have to wait if they choose not to eat what’s on their plate.
     
  • Let children feed themselves. Children like the independence of being able to feed themselves, and can better self-monitor their portion sizes and when they’re full. If there are multiple offerings on the plate, the child can also have the power to choose what items on the plate they wish to eat.
     
  • Wait. This one may be the hardest on the list. If you push the child to eat, they’ll resist. If you make a show trying to encourage the child to eat, they’ll not eat to keep the show going. If you applaud and reward when they do eat, they’ll learn that delaying eating merits praise. So the best thing to do? Set the food down, and wait for the child to show interest (or not) on their own.
     
  • Don’t allow old standbys to be an equal option to new foods. When plating, add a mix of new and favorite foods (while keeping a balance of protein, veggies, fruits, and high-fiber starches in each meal), while keeping the serving size of an old favorite small enough that won’t be enough to fill up on and ignore the new food. The more new foods you introduce to your child early on, the less picky they’re likely to be when they’re older, so keep those new foods in rotation.
     
  • Put dinosaurs on the table. Or a book. Or a small toy. My daughter likes to alternate between eating her food and dancing rubber dinosaurs across the table. This helps keep her happy when she wants to take a break from eating. She’s also been known to use the dinosaur’s tail to stab the food like a fork.
     
  • Let kids be involved. Whether it’s standing at the counter with you and “cutting” up a banana while you cook or letting them choose from two options what they’d like to eat, having a child involved in the meal selection and preparation process increases their investment in mealtime, and thus their engagement.
     
  • Tell a story before or along with the meal about the meal. Children are wired for stories, and incorporating the meal prep process, the eating process, and how the food nourishes the body into a story can help get kids excited to eat their food.
     
  • Make meal time play time. Let a child touch, poke, smash, and explore new foods. Helping a child get used to new foods is the first step towards taking a bite. Encourage play by letting children roll peas across a table, build with carrot sticks, mold rice into shapes, make faces on their plate, and more. Help your child associate meals with joy.
     
  • Let your child determine when they’re finished. Even if you don’t think your child has had enough to eat, respect their communication of “finished,” whether its verbal, a head shake, sign language, or another signal.
     
  • Feed each other. Allow your child to give you a bite of food (or three), then see if they’ll let you give them one.
     
  • Sneak the vegetables in from time to time. My toddler never turns down a banana zucchini muffin.
     
  • Start early, be patient, and model healthy eating habits. It takes repeated exposure to some new foods for a child to begin to tolerate, and even like, that food. Present new foods often as soon as your child is eating solids, be patient if they refuse to try the food and don’t force them to eat it, and model eating it for them (with gusto).

It may try your patience, but for the typical picky eater, repeated exposure and working to make meal time enjoyable will pay off as a child grows and their palate expands. If your child continues to insist on an extremely limited diet, demonstrates continued extreme resistance toward new foods, isn’t getting the proper nutrition or is failing to gain adequate weight, it may be time to get some help. Talk to your pediatrician and schedule a consultation with a pediatric therapist.

Here’s wishing many licked-clean plates in your child’s future!