Encouraging Self-Directed Learning in Kids

by Amanda Boldenow, TLC Development Manager & Parent

Cultivating curiosity and independence in children are the first steps to helping children become self-directed learners. Self-directed learners know how to use resources to find answers to questions or to learn skills to solve problems. Self-directed learners do not need micro-managing from an adult to help them complete tasks or projects, (but it's important to recognize the difference between asking for assistance from an adult to complete a task and relying on an adult  to make sure the task is completed).

Self-directed learning is not a trait that some children are born with and others aren't; it is a skill that can be taught and nurtured in all children from a young age. So how can you help a child become a self-directed learner? Below are a few steps you can take to help a child gain independence and drive: 

Have Patience and Remember Kids are Capable

When a child is struggling to complete a task, whether the task is tying their shoes or a math problem, it can be tempting to step in and complete it for them, thinking we are "helping" by showing them how the task is done properly. To help kids discover their own capabilities, have patience as they struggle through something new and difficult. Let them make a wrong turn in pursuit of figuring out a problem, and be there to encourage and advise as they wrestle with the difficulty. Ask questions, such as: "What do you think would happen if we tried it another way?" "Where could you look to find help figuring this out?" "Where could you go to learn more about that?"

Encourage Effort Over Success

Studies have shown that children who are praised for their effort at completing a task, rather than completing the task itself, are more likely to put effort into future difficult situations. Praising success in children can teach children that success, rather than the process of learning something new, is what is valued, and thereby make them afraid of failing at future endeavors. Children who are afraid of failing are less likely to try something new, whereas children who are praised for effort are encouraged to continue putting forth effort into new and increasingly difficult challenges.

Connect Play Time to Learning Experiences

Nurture a child's interest by connecting what they enjoy to the wider world. If a child likes building, help them expand on their interest by introducing engineering and architectural concepts. If a child likes sculpting with clay, help them explore structures that animals sculpt in nature, like swallow's nests or bee hives. 

Allow for Free Play

It's also important to remember that children inherently learn while playing, so allow time for uninterrupted, unstructured play, where children can fully use and explore their imaginations and creativity.

Create Opportunities for Exploration

Creating opportunities for children to learn can be as easy as leaving paper and colored pencils in easy reach for children to use when inspiration strikes. It can entail making sure that utensils for making a bowl of cereal are in easy reach so children can learn to take care of themselves, and take pride in their independent skill. 

Nurturing self-directed learning is a combination of allowing for free and loosely-guided play and activities. Children thrive in routines, but making sure that their routines include open-ended exploration fueled by their own curiosity can help lead to independent kids with a life-long love of learning.

TLC Celebrates 60 Years in 2016!


Help to encourage the community to support TLC Learning Center;

introduce new people to your business!


Recently, TLC Learning Center made front page news when it announced a unique fundraising initiative. Called the 16/60 Diamond Anniversary Pledge Drive (so named because 2016 is our 60th anniversary), it works like this: people sign up to give TLC $16 or $60 (though, we’re happy to take any amount) per month. In addition to knowing they are helping to fund essential programs, scholarships, and staff, members also enjoy “perks” from local businesses. That’s where you and your business come in!

We’re asking you to join other TLC Partner’s (such as the award-winning LEFT HAND BREWERY) in offering 16/60 supporters fun, exclusive perks. For February, Left Hand is offering “a special TLC-exclusive flight of beer.” (It’s capped at 50 recipients.)

Our partners have offered us a few different options for what they felt might be good perks. Likewise, we’d love to get your thoughts on what you might be willing to offer should you decide to partner with us. And of course, we’re delighted if it means introducing new faces to your business!

Give us a call at 303.776.7417 and ask to speak with David Obuchowski (Interim Development Manager), or Matt Eldred (Executive Director) about becoming a partner. Or, if you prefer, email David at dobuchowski@learningwithtlc.org.

Colorado Gives Day will be Here Soon!

On Tuesday, December 8, 2015, thousands of donors will come together to support Colorado nonprofits. Last year, a record-breaking $26.2 million was raised for Colorado nonprofits. Donors like you helped TLC raise $20,350! 

This year, our goal is to raise $25,000, and we need your help!

How: Mark your calendar for December 8th, and plan to join all of Colorado in giving a gift to your favorite charities, which we hope includes TLC Learning Center, through www.ColoradoGives.org. If you like to cross things off your to-do list, you can pre-schedule your gift now!

If you'd like to go the extra mile in helping children and families this year, create your own fundraising page on www.ColoradoGives.org. Click “Sign Up” as a “Donor,” and create your free Colorado Gives account. Then, create a fundraising campaign by selecting “My Campaigns.” Designate TLC Learning Center as your non-profit organization of choice. Name your campaign (example: “Matt’s TLC Fundraiser”), then give it an easy web address next to “URL” (example: www.ColoradoGives.org/MattLovesTLC).  You can add photos and a personal appeal video if you like. Enter your fundraising goal, and  then submit your page for approval. Once it’s approved, share your fundraising page web address with your friends, family, and co-workers through email, on Facebook, or however else you’d like.

When: You can start now! You can pre-schedule your gift at Colorado Gives today, and your contributors can schedule their gifts for December 8th right now, too! So there’s no worry about forgetting to take part when Colorado Gives Day comes.

Why: Your fundraising dollars go directly to children with special needs and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds so that they can attend our high quality early childhood education programs and pediatric therapy programs. TLC’s  inclusive programs build strong minds, strong bodies, and a strong sense of compassion in all kids. AND, the 1st Bank $1 million Incentive Fund means your Colorado Gives Day dollars are matched, earning even more money for TLC.

Bonus: Gifts of $250.00 or more to TLC qualify for the Colorado Childcare Contribution Tax Credit. Click here to learn more. 

Thank you so much for your continued support!

PS - our Christmas Tree Festival tickets are on sale now! Have you got yours yet?

Support TLC with a Camera Snap!

TLC is now on Shoparoo! That means you can help earn money for TLC's education programs, pediatric therapy programs, and scholarships for children in need simply by taking a picture of your grocery receipt using the Shoparoo app. If you have an iPhone or an Android phone, download the Shoparoo app, choose TLC Learning Center as your school of choice, then snap a photo using the app whenever you make a food or beverage purchase (grocery stores, convenience stores, etc.). Your receipt will earn points for TLC, which will translate into a check for or programs in August! 

Shoparoo is school fundraising made easy: the free app turns pictures of your everyday shopping receipts into cash donations and sweepstakes entries for our school! Yep, it’s that simple. All you have to do is shop as you normally do, snap pictures of your receipts with the app, and voila Just shop, snap, earn!

Get started helping TLC today:

1. Download the free Shoparoo app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
2. Select TLC Learning Center from the list and start taking pictures of your receipts - shop anywhere, buy anything!
3. The first 20 supporters at our school will earn an extra $1 donation from Shoparoo for their first receipt!
4. Earn even more Roo Points, or cash donations, by inviting others to join using your personal referral code.

There’s no limit to how much money we can raise with Shoparoo - the more supporters, the more we will raise for TLC. Check out shoparoo.com to learn more about this awesome app!

 The Shoparoo app for TLC Learning Center on an iPhone. Keep track of how much your support earns for TLC! (You can enter your name or enter as "anonymous," and all receipt information is confidential)

The Shoparoo app for TLC Learning Center on an iPhone. Keep track of how much your support earns for TLC! (You can enter your name or enter as "anonymous," and all receipt information is confidential)

Thank you for your support!

Want to help TLC in other ways? Be sure to check out our How to Help page for other easy fundraising opportunities, like Amazon Smile and King Soopers cards.


Tools for Communicating with Children

By Kirsten Asbury, Occupational Therapy Student

Often, it can be difficult to communicate with a child who is still navigating the world. As teachers and as parents we may be getting pretty good at reading into the situation and understanding a child’s personality to know what they are trying to communicate. More likely than not, though, it is a trial and error process. Sometimes, when the child cannot communicate their needs, they may act out in the form of more crying, taking what they want from another child, or throwing a fit. These ways of communication can be effective if they get the child what they want, but there are positive, more effective tools we can give children to help them communicate to the best of their ability. 
As an Occupational Therapy student, a former TLC teacher, a care giver for a boy with Down Syndrome, and the daughter of a Sign Language Interpreter, I have a few pointers for using positive communication with children:

First, use simple and direct language. Children are still developing their ideas about the world and how they want to express themselves. Sometimes they need a little guidance on what to talk about. For example, when I was leading story time and asked questions about the book, I might have asked if the children thought the character in the book was sad? When they said yes because he had a sad face and I was also showing a sad face, I asked why the character is sad? Some children wanted to talk more about what made them sad or how to cheer up the character, but I did not lead them on with a million questions, I kept it simple and let them guide the conversation.

If the child is not at this communication level, a great method to communicate would be with choices. I used choices as a communication tool when working as a caregiver for a 9-year-old boy with Down Syndrome who was none verbal. Give the child two activity options, or even a yes or no question. Use your left and right hand to represent each option. For example, I would ask the boy if he wanted to go swimming (signaling my left hand) or go to the park (signaling my right hand). I would hold out my hands and he would point to the hand for the activity he wanted to do, and then I would repeat the answer.

Another great way to communicate non-verbally is through sign language. At TLC we use sign language everyday to communicate with children. We use it during songs, at snack time to ask a child if they want more, and throughout the day as they engage in play and table activities. Sign language offers many benefits for children: they are able to learn about Deaf culture, they are able to communicate non-verbally, especially with their non-verbal peers, and it can help them communicate when they might not know how to articulate what they want to say. Another great benefit of sign language is the use of fine motor skills. As a future Occupational Therapist I have great respect for the amount of fine motor skills that children are expected to master. So, the more they exercise those skills in a fun learning environment or at home, the more prepared they will be when it comes time to hold a pencil and communicate through their writing. 

TLC Parent Testimonials: We Love Our Families!

By Amy French-Troy, TLC Parent and Volunteer

I am an educator and my school has referred several students to TLC for evaluations and therapy over the years. While I was aware that TLC had a preschool for special needs children, it wasn’t until we were searching for a new school for our son, that I discovered that TLC is also an inclusive preschool that purposefully mixes children of all types of backgrounds and abilities in an effort to raise more empathetic, compassionate, and conscientious kids. After a tour of the school and reading about the school’s mission and curricula, we knew that TLC was the right place for both of our children (at the time, TLC had just added the infant/toddler program and we were thrilled to enroll our baby daughter, as well). 

In the last year, TLC has far exceeded my expectations as both a parent and an educator. The manner in which faculty and staff blend academics and social emotional skills should be a model for more schools. Since beginning kindergarten, several teachers have commented on my son’s ability to mediate tricky situations between peers and I know that this in great part due to his time at TLC. I have also been impressed with the amount of differentiation that teachers afford students, and their ability meet each child where they are and design a learning plan that will help each student to reach their full potential. I would recommend TLC to any parent who is looking for a school that fosters diversity, compassion, and lifelong learning. It feels so good to be able to leave my children in the care of such caring professionals whose aim it is to not only teach kids academics, but the life skills needed to be kind and caring members of society. 

Vote for TLC for Longmont's Non-profit of the Year!

Do you think TLC Learning Center has done great work for children and families in the Longmont community? If you believe in our mission - to provide comprehensive early childhood education and therapeutic services to assist each child in reaching his or her highest potential - and think we've done well at meeting our mission through our fully inclusive infant, toddler and preschool education programs for children both with and without special needs, as well as our pediatric physical, occupational, and speech therapy services, then please vote for us!

Visit the Longmont Chamber of Commerce page to vote here, or download a copy of the voting ballot in PDF here. You can type directly into the form and save it if you open it in Adobe Reader, or if that doesn't work, type your answers into the body of an email and send to Kathy Stevens at the Longmont Chamber of Commerce, at kstevens@longmontchamber.org

TLC's contact is Executive Director Matt Eldred, (303) 776-7417.

All nominations are due to the Longmont Chamber of Commerce on September 25, 2015.

Thank you!

The Listening Program

By Lindsey Blechle, TLC Occupational Therapist 

Sound is all around us. We are constantly processing auditory input from our environment. As I type this I can hear cars driving down my street, a train in the distance, the wind coming in my window, my computer humming, birds chirping, and an occasional alert on my phone. It’s a lot to take in as I try to focus on this one task. 

The act of hearing is passive; it is simply the ability to sense sound. The act of listening is active; it is the ability to take in and filter out sound. Auditory processing is dynamic; it is how the brain organizes what it hears. Children with sensory processing challenges often struggle with all three forms of auditory input. The act of hearing may be overwhelming when the sensory system perceives sounds as being too loud. The act of listening to directions in a classroom may be challenging when classmates are talking, pens are clicking or the hallway is noisy. For children that are struggling with the act of hearing and listening, processing auditory information correctly at a higher level adds a whole new challenge. I became a certified provider of The Listening Program because of the positive effect I saw the program make in pediatric patients with auditory sensitivities. 

The Listening Program by Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) is a therapeutic music program focused on improving sound brain fitness. The music is performed by ABT’s own award-winning Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble. The music then undergoes neuroacoustic modifications to provide the sound contrast needed to train and improve sound perception.  These modifications improve discrimination, reduce sensitivities and direct attention. 

The Listening Program modification techniques work with the brain’s plasticity to improve overall function and shows benefits in the following areas:

Perception                        Attention                              Memory
Motor coordination         Language                            Listening
Auditory processing       Spatial awareness             Flexibility
Problem solving               Decision making               Self-regulation
Sensory processing        Sequencing                         Inhibition
Social engagement        Creativity                             Brain health 


The Listening Program includes many therapeutic programs to target specific areas of intervention:

  • Level One – balanced training adaptable for all listeners that focuses on all frequency zones (full spectrum, sensory integration, speech and language and high spectrum). This is the best program for children with sound sensitivities and the most recommended for TLC Learning Center’s pediatric population. 
  • Sleep – sound neuroscience for a restful night’s sleep 
  • Sound Health – Music of Learning, Music for Concentration, Music to Relax, etc. 
  • This music can be played over speakers and throughout all environments
  • Music for Babies – Sleepy Baby, Peaceful Baby, Playful Baby and Cheerful Baby
  • Spectrum – foundational training with a focus in the sensory integration frequency zone, for the extreme sensory sensitive listener. 
  • Achieve – intermediate to experienced training with a focus in the speech and language frequency zone. 

The Listening Program is now available at TLC Learning Center as another therapeutic tool for our pediatric clients. 

Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.
— Yehudi Menuhin

For more information visit The Listening Program, or contact TLC for information on occupational therapy and The Listening Program. 

Teaching Handwriting in the Digital Age: Is it Worth it?

by Christy Griffith, TLC Occupational Therapist

In the age of technology with kids texting, clicking, and typing on a computer from a young age, do we really need to continue focusing on teaching good handwriting?  Many schools have decreased their focus on teaching this skill, and many no longer teach cursive letters at all. However, current research shows that handwriting is still a crucial skill and offers great advantages to those children who do practice and master both printing and cursive writing.

Here are some of the top reasons to make sure your child learns to write properly by hand:

It improves their brains. Research has shown that children  who have formal handwriting training learn their letters faster,  have improved language fluency, and  their acquired knowledge becomes more stable. Handwriting training also helps coordinate the right and left sides of the brain, stimulates intelligence, and builds pathways in the brain that improve mental effectiveness. Handwriting engages different brain circuits than keyboarding does. Children who received structured handwriting instruction and practice regularly had brain scans that looked more similar to an adult’s than their peers who did not participate in handwriting instruction.

  • Cursive handwriting is faster. Studies show that cursive handwriting is faster than printing or keyboarding, so allows children to write better. Research has shown that elementary students tend to write more complete sentences, give longer answers, and complete their work more quickly when they use cursive writing. High school and college students can take notes during class lectures faster as well.
  • It improves the memory and understanding of content. Just the physical act of writing something down, whether it is a list, a sticky note to ourselves, or notes in class, improves our ability to remember what we wrote down.  And when our handwriting is efficient and effortless, we can focus more on the content of what we are writing rather than the physical act of forming the letters. This comes with lots of practice, which is not always provided in school to the necessary levels.
  • Some things still require handwriting, like taking notes in some classes, exams such as SAT still have essay portions that are completed by hand, some college professors and teachers still require handwritten assignments, tasks such as writing checks, medical prescriptions, quick lists or reminder notes, etc. are usually still completed by hand. Legibility is very important for these types of tasks.  Students score higher grades and test scores when teachers can easily read their handwriting.  

At TLC, our preschool classrooms offer age appropriate pre-writing activities in fun, multisensory ways to introduce letters, drawing and writing to children. Our teachers utilize the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum as well.  On-site occupational therapists help children learn to write both print and cursive, and improve handwriting delays in children ages 5-12. 

How to Help the Pickiest Eaters

By Shari Karmen, Occupational Therapist and TLC Therapeutic Services Manager

Oh the picky eater! Some kids are super picky, some are “normally” picky, and some are selective or problem feeders.

Normal picky eating typically begins between 18 months and three years and is usually over by six years old. These kids will have food jags where they want to eat PBJ for lunch every day. They are looking for control and typically thrive well despite their picky eating habits.  Some kids are more picky and will want PBJ for lunch every day, and then will switch it to grilled cheese, but with an occasional PBJ thrown in.  Selective or problem feeders will want a PBJ, but it must have a certain type of bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Then they will decide they no longer want it. The difference is they will not add a new food to the repertoire, but instead will limit what foods they will eat even further.

Picky eating can be stressful for a parent who worries about their child's nutritional intake and teaching them to eat and try a varied diet. There is help for the parents of picky eaters, though. Below are a few ideas you can try at home.

Ten Ideas for Feeding Your Picky Eater:

1.    Involve your child in meal planning and preparation. This includes making a shopping list together, going to the store together, wearing an apron to help prepare food, and then letting your child help in preparing the food. The child's task can be as simple as tearing lettuce for a salad, as long as they are involved with the process.

2.    Use fun props and place settings for mealtimes such as colorful cups, fun placemats, and curly straws. Give you child choices and control in what utensils they use (the color of their plate, etc.)

3.    Keep a mealtime routine. Have meals at the same time every day. Create routines within the meal such as washing hands, setting the table, and then clearing food away after the meal.

4.    Eat with your child. Mealtimes are social so talk at the table, but not about what your child is not eating! For tips on engaging your child in conversation, see some of our previous posts on speech and language activities for kids.

5.    Use the timer on your phone so that your child knows how long the meal will last. Have an alert go off 2-5 minutes before the 20-30 minutes dedicated to mealtime is up. This helps everyone know that there is an ending to the meal.

6.    Watch mealtime language. Don’t bombard your child with questions or constantly say “take a bite”. Talk about the color of the food, how you can hear him crunching, and the texture of the food. Read some of our tips on using responsive language with kids.

7.    Focus on the meal rather than the TV, smart phones, and other electronic devices. You can have music playing, but keep the TV and toys away from mealtime.

8.    Reward your child for positive behavior outside of the mealtime with non-food items. Feeding can be very emotional, and linking food with a system of rewards can have a negative outcome for some kids.

9.    Only put a small amount of food on your child’s plate. Sometimes seeing three servings of three different foods can be overwhelming. 

10.    Encourage your child to try new foods. If he can tolerate the food on his plate without eating it, that’s success. Slowly up the ante by having your child touch, lick, and/or kiss the food. Eventually he will take a bite. Remember it takes 20 tries before a child likes a food.

If you feel like there are other factors impeding your child’s ability to eat, seek help from an Occupational Therapist or Registered Dietitian. An Occupational Therapist addresses motor skills, sensory components of eating, how to use your muscles in your mouth from feeding, and much more to help children move away from the habits of selective or problem feeding.