What are the foundational values and principles that guide our time together each day? How do we partner with parents? Learn more about our curriculum—as well as some related tips you can try at home—through our posts here...
Perhaps the concern for “kindergarten readiness” gained steam in recent years with the advent of more rigorous standardized testing in our public schools. Perhaps it’s yet another needless worry. Perhaps we’re not worried enough.
There are many theories besides these around the topic, but Calvary Childcare’s philosophy around early childhood education holds true despite society’s latest buzz words or the hopes and dreams we have for our kids. Our take? There are steps in every child’s development that are to be welcomed and enjoyed in the moment.
To help explain our point, here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive around the matter of kindergarten readiness...
What is “kindergarten readiness”?
Though there are numerous extensive checklists available online to gauge children’s knowledge in math, language and literacy, we appreciate the simple definition offered by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), with whom our center is affiliated. The NAEYC suggests that a child is ready if he or she has had “experience” in the following areas:
Listening to others and taking appropriate turns for expressing ideas and questions;
Handling materials respectfully and putting them away;
Sustaining engagement with an activity or process;
Identifying and pursuing his own interests, choosing materials and having some ideas about how to engage with them productively;
Being safe in relation to the group (staying within school bounds) and attending to personal needs (washing hands); and
Asking for help when he [or she] needs it.
Notice the use of the word “experience”—not “mastery” or “aptitude” or another similar term—which we think the NAEYC chose that term very intentionally. Do any of us ever completely master these skills, even into adulthood? Taking NAEYC’s definition into account, we believe that readiness means having had sufficient practice in the above areas; such practice opens the doorway to experimenting with counting, writing, etc.
Does Calvary Childcare Center focus on kindergarten readiness?
By NAEYC’s definition above, absolutely definitely yes… but not by any means for the sole sake of kindergarten readiness.
Our motto tends to be that every two-year-old should have the best two-year-old experience, every three-year-old should have the best three-year-old experience, and so on. In other words, learning is an adventure for the purpose and pleasure of today—not just to have something checked off the list with a future goal or deadline in mind.
Is my child ready for kindergarten?
That question, of course, can only be answered very subjectively and individually. Regardless, we remain confident that our center’s approach to learning not only enriches the lives of our students in their early years, but also prepares them well for kindergarten... and beyond!
Time and time again, local teachers tell us that they notice a positive difference in the kids who have attended our center; they applaud the children’s better-than-average skills in self-regulating, expressing and meeting needs, resolving conflict, etc. Social and emotional health and behavior, these teachers suggest, make all the difference in children’s academic success.
Whether kindergarten is right around the corner for your child or it’s still a few years away, we are committed to being a resource and sounding board for you. We consider it a great privilege to partner with you in helping your little one shine and thrive today and every day
For further reading: "Together, Our Future Is Bright!" (HighScope)
We’ve known all along that there’s something extra special about our teaching teams and what each teacher brings to the classroom and your children. However, we now have scientific proof through the StrengthsFinder assessment! Our findings make it perfectly clear that it’s through our unique individual strengths that we’re able to provide your children with a rich and well-balanced approach to learning.
The questions asked through the StrengthsFinder assessment help gauge how a person relates to others, how a person prefers to work, and what kind of pastimes and environments a person enjoys. Answers are then tabulated to determine which top five of 34 strengths—representing four primary domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship-building and Strategic-thinking—make up that person’s profile.
Of course, some new self-awareness is beneficial in and of itself, but Gallup—the creators of StrengthsFinder—has also found that people who know and use their strengths are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and six times as likely to do what they do best every day. When it comes to Calvary Childcare Center, we’ve always been engaged and invested in our work together, but we’re super excited to be even more intentional about capitalizing on our strengths for the sake of your kids!
So what exactly did the findings of our assessments show? Here are a few of our key observations:
Super high on empathy
Out of 17 total staff members, more than two-thirds of us (12 teachers) have “Empathy” among our top five strengths. Wow! According to Gallup, that means most of our teachers are really skilled in this way:
You can sense the emotions of those around you… as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective… You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings—to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life.
So is it any wonder why we tolerate—even love—helping kids develop in language, grow in emotional intelligence and take part in healthy conflict resolution? The results of our assessments show that we as their teachers are wired for it!
A bent for building relationships
Of the four domains of strengths, “Relationship-building” topped the list of our collective findings. Relationship-building strengths include Empathy, as well as Adaptability, Developer, Connectedness, Harmony, Includer, Individualization, Positivity and Relator.
We love how Leadership Vision Consulting describe people who live in and operate out of the Relationship-building domain:
They look at how individuals fit into the bigger picture, and can create pathways for them to thrive. They make strong relational connections that bind a group together around a cause, idea or each other.
Our strengths in this domain often manifest in our small group time as we gather students together to explore a specific facet of our world and our relationship to it. Throughout the entire day, we yearn to take interest in your children’s interests so that they set out on a thrilling and eye-opening journey of discovery. We do our best to make learning alongside their peers a safe, exciting and memorable experience.
When we’re strong, they’re strong
Now that we’re more aware of our individual strengths as teachers, we’re more determined than ever to help your kids recognize and capitalize on their strengths, too. We love affirming what they do well and lifting them up as experts around certain skills and subject matter. We praise God for how He has uniquely gifted each one of them to serve a special purpose in His world.
In other words, we celebrate what each one of us—grown-ups and kids alike—can do, versus focusing intently on what we can’t. That’s not to say we don’t challenge ourselves to expand and grow; we become even more confident to try new things when we have a sense of mastery in other areas.
We’ve found the StrengthsFinder assessment to be beneficial beyond our life as teachers, too, and invite you to consider taking the test and participating in Calvary’s workshop in June. We can’t wait to hear how the assessment makes its impact among your families! Calvary’s StrengthsFinder workshop>>
It’s officially springtime in Minnesota! At Calvary Childcare Center, that means we’re especially excited to start watching things grow. We read as much as we can about the fun transitions that takes place this time of year. We take nature walks to try to spot new buds and sprouts throughout the neighborhood. The Falcons (K-bound) class even cares for their very own garden right outside their classroom!
We know that watching things grow helps kids grow, too—they learn some valuable skills during the process, including how to:
Follow instructionsWhen we try our hand at growing our own plants, seed packets often communicate what kind of container to put the seeds in, how deep to plant them in the soil, where to place the pot, when to water the seeds, etc. Following precise instructions is a skill that transfers into a whole bunch of important areas of life.
Have patienceThose packets also often carry information on how long it will take the seeds to germinate. Young seed tenders are often eager to see more immediate results, but when they’re required to wait, they have the opportunity to practice the ever-important virtue of patience.
Document progressKids get excited when they notice changes, and they can take an active part in documenting just how much things have grown. They can examine photographs. They can compare pictures that they’ve drawn by their own hand. They can even employ a whole bunch of different measuring methods—from the traditional inches to the more unconventional units, such as thumbs or hands or feet—to document a growing plant’s progress. Documentation is also a good way to learn the concept of dates and other increments of time.
Reap rewardsWhat a thrill to see a plant you started from seed grow into full and glorious bloom! How especially tasty are the treats that you grew in your very own garden! When children are able to see the connection between their hard work and a tangible reward, they’re more likely to understand how some good old-fashioned patience and discipline are worth the effort.
Interested in growing some plants together as a family? HGTV offers a couple pretty cool slideshows to help you decide together what to plant. We look forward to hearing how it goes!
Source: “Art vs. Crafts” by MaryAnn F Kohl
We know, we know, you might be feeling a bit robbed. While other kids who go to other schools are coming home with adorable leprechauns made out of toilet-paper rolls and bunnies adorned with precisely placed cotton balls, your child seems to be amassing piles of the same kind of scribble art. There’s nothing discernible. There’s nothing really “cute” about it. But there are good reasons why we emphasize art versus lead kids in crafts—there’s a big difference when it comes to the impact on child development.
MaryAnn F. Kohl is an author and the leading expert on children and the importance of art. According to Kohl, when it comes to art, it’s all about “exploring, discovering and thinking” and “encourages a child’s originality and unique expression with an unknown outcome”—in other words, it’s all about the process. Crafts, on the other hand, require “no original thinking” and are purely imitations. Though crafts can be used to reinforce a learning theme, says Kohl, “art is a unique form of creativity that inspires each individual child to be original and inventive and to think for himself.”
Art & crafts compared
Going a bit deeper, Kohl contrasts art and crafts in this way:
Art is creative, unique and original, while crafts are similar (or identical) to other children’s.
Art comes from within the child, while crafts are directed from the adult.
Art is open-ended, while crafts are directions-oriented.
In art, the process is valued over the finished product, while with crafts, the finished product is valued over the process.
Art is about self-expression, while crafts are about copying and imitating.
Kohl notes, however, that this doesn’t mean that a finished piece of art isn’t to be valued. Instead, it becomes “a by-product to their creative exploration, sometimes it is a way of telling what they experienced.”
Learning through art
For most, art is art is art. Could there really be more to it? According to Kohl, art makes a profound impact among kids in several key areas of learning:
Thinking & reasoning skills - Art helps kids develop their ability to solve problems, plan, organize, measure, etc.
Language skills - Art helps kids represent their ideas symbolically and use their memory and vocabulary to describe their work.
Physical skills - Art helps kids improve their hand-eye coordination and motor skills.
Emotional skills - Art helps kids grow in self-expression, purposefulness and sense of self-worth.
There is so much more we could cover on this topic, so we encourage you to investigate other resources on becoming a home that appreciates artistic effort over final product. We close with a good summarizing insight from Kohl: “It’s a great feeling to relax and trust that your child is learning from art. Feel good that you allow the children you care about to create from their own explorations and ideas. Remember that, more than anything, it is the creative process that is most important for a child’s learning through art. The final product is the delightful by-product of these precious early experiences with creativity—like a road-map of the learning that just took place.”
"Inspiring Wonder & Curiosity"—this is the theme of our upcoming conference with ELEA (Evangelical Lutheran Education Association), which is taking place right here at Calvary for early childhood teachers on Feb. 9-10. We are particularly excited to hear from Dr. Rebecca Isbell, who is the proponent of and expert on inspiring children to be creative thinkers. Since her platform is also one of ours, we'd like to share just a few of her thoughts on the topic, specifically how our own creative pursuits as adults affect the curiosity of our children.
Today’s headlines are shouting “Creativity is declining.” Other news networks are reporting the growing need for “Thinkers and Innovators.” Young children are some of the most creative people in the world. How can we provide a nurturing place that will support and encourage young creative thinkers? How can opportunities be included that allow children to think in different ways: visually, scientifically, verbally, musically and kinetically? How can young children remain creative adults?
Part of the answer lies in nurturing our own creativity as we raise young children. In her book Nurturing Creativity co-written with Sonia Akiko Yoshizawa, Isbell offers five suggestions (page 76):
Be childlike. In our busy lives, it can be easy to overlook or stop appreciating the beauty of our world. Find happiness around you by enjoying both the small and the more significant things. Take time to examine new ideas and materials and reexamine old ones. By taking pleasure in the beauty around you, you can recapture a sense of wonder and better understand how children feel each day.
Be open to new experiences. Trying something new challenges you to think and explore in innovative ways. Commute to school or work using a different route or mode of transportation—instead of driving, take advantage of the first warm day of the season to ride your bike to work. Wear a hat or other item of clothing that you’ve never worn before. Try a new recipe with different ingredients, or create a dish using what you have on hand. Take a class. Seek out a different genre of book or music than what you typically read or listen to, or sing [to your child] a song you haven’t shared with them.
Foster a playful attitude. Experience the intrinsic joy of playing—with different materials, stories, and words. Relearn the power of playfulness, the motivation it inspires, and the enjoyment you receive from it.
Read about creative people, their work, and the things that inspire them. Many artists and creative thinkers remember powerful experiences from their childhood, special places where they could imagine and create, and people who supported their ideas, art, experimentation, or music. They talk about the freedom they felt in play and a significant person who recognized their creative ability. Their stories indicate how important early support is for the developing thinker, artist, scientist, or musician. Find something that inspires you—a photograph, quote, story, or piece of music—and let it help you create or think in new ways.
Grow professionally. Read professional books or journals, attend conferences, collaborate with colleagues, and visit other classrooms and programs to learn the latest information and spark new ideas. These experiences can help you expand your thinking and consider new approaches…
We are grateful for the opportunity for us as your teachers to “grow professionally” at the ELEA conference. We thank you for how you support these experiences and realize their shared benefit. We look forward to applying what we learn in our classrooms and seeing your children continue to blossom in their sense of curiosity and wonder!
More exercise. Less junk food. A better balance between work and home. Needless to say, resolutions abound this time of year. As for Calvary Childcare Center, we remain resolved to helping children and families know and experience Jesus’ love in real and deeper ways. If this is also on your heart for your family this New Year, we offer a few ideas on how to enrich your faith journeys in 2018 and beyond:
Read the Bible together every day - This step seems obvious to most people, but we all have experienced seasons in our lives when such a routine falls by the wayside despite our best intentions. Consider making it a morning, bedtime or mealtime practice to delve into a Bible story together, perhaps using The Beginner’s Bible that all Calvary Childcare families receive upon enrollment. Once you plant the idea, we wager that your children will be the ones who will best keep everyone accountable to the plan!
ABC Praise - The alphabet is not only a foundational tenet of learning in the early years, but also a great source of fun! As children begin to master their ABCs, they enjoy experimenting with it in new ways, be it with spelling, sounding out words, growing their vocabulary, etc. How about using the ABCs to talk about and praise God? Each day, pick a letter from the alphabet, then reflect together on what word or words beginning with that letter describe special qualities of God (e.g., the letter “L” helps us remember that God is love). Visit these sites to print out and create your own “ABC Praise” jar—take turns drawing a letter from the jar every day:
Praising God Using the Letters of the Alphabet (Missionaries of Prayer)
Alphabet Praise (Crosswalk.com)
Pray for your children every day - What a privilege to bring all of our hopes and fears before the Lord. Whether we need encouragement to get through potty training, tantrums, etc., or feel full of gratitude for the joy our kids add to our lives, prayer is there and God is here with us. In addition to our concerns of the here and now, God also invites us to pray for our kids’ distant futures: their careers, spouses, etc. We recommend The One Year Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids as a daily devotional to inspire your prayers in this way.
Claim God’s promises for them - In his book Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children, author Mark Batterson presents many creative ideas on how to surround, protect and guide our kids’ lives with the power of prayer. One of the most compelling things he suggests is dedicating an entire Bible to claiming God’s promises over our children—reading it all the way through on their behalf and making personal notes in it to affirm God’s desires for them. There are many Bibles on the market these days that feature wide, lined margins and ample room for writing!
Though we love teaching children about Jesus, we are by no means the end-all, be-all source of what works for all kids and all families. That’s why we welcome your adding your voice to the conversation. What do you do as a family to grow in Christ? What do you think has made a meaningful impact among your children? Share your thoughts here in the Comments section or on our private group Facebook page. We look forward to supporting each other and partnering together in leading kids and families into a growing relationship with Jesus!
Though Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, we venture to guess that most of our families still have a substantial amount of Christmas shopping left to do. We can only imagine the requests your little ones are presenting to you this year—and the dreams you plan to make come true—but may we offer just a few simple suggestions on some good gifts from a child development perspective? Here’s what jibes with our center’s philosophy on early childhood enrichment and healthy growth:
Add - Too often, we think we need to get our kids something entirely new to them—the latest greatest this or that—when they would rather have a bigger supply of a tried and true item they love. Add to their magnet tile collection so that they can build even taller towers. Add to their stash of art supplies while taking into account what colors or textures or effects they might currently be missing. Add to their costume collection with new clothes or props.
Consider - We call them “learning toys” or “open-ended toys” but, to kids, they’re just plain fun. Consider gifts that will help them master certain skills and explore the world around them. Puzzles, books, music and board games are great options. Dolls and puppets—the kind that don’t talk, walk or do another trick on their own—also fit the bill.
Avoid - This probably goes without saying: You guessed it, we’re not a fan of electronics. When it comes to videos or electronic games, there’s not much left to your own child’s imagination and creativity when it comes to independent or interactive play. The more that such media gets played on repeat, the more our children’s minds are likely to get stuck there, too.
No matter what our kids get for Christmas this year, we all know what’s going to happen in the end: The empty box will be their absolute favorite. More than anything, we hope that the month ahead will offer great gifts of quality time and special memories shared together. Enjoy it!
Other resources on gift giving:
We love books! At Calvary Childcare Center, we don’t just see reading as a critical life skill but, just as importantly, as a great source of joy and an effective conduit for quality time together. That’s why storybooks are part of our every day, and that’s why storybooks seem to hold a special power beyond words on a page.
If your family would also like to take advantage of all that reading has to offer, we recommend keeping a special eye out for books that will help you and your family to:
Reflect on your daily life - It’s so exciting to see something we experienced at the park, school or another favorite hangout within the pages of storybooks. We may resonate with what the authors portray, or we may notice substantial differences between our world and that in which the characters “live.” When we notice differences, we naturally grow in our curiosity around what other people see, think and feel in their unique experiences. This results in a greater sense of appreciation and empathy for others.
Engage your child’s interests - No matter their current interests (or obsessions), we can always find at least one or two books that are related. Give them ample rein to make their own book choices, even if your library bag is stuffed to the gills with anything and everything on princesses, butterflies, dinosaurs, vehicles, robots, outer space, etc. Then be prepared to read them over and over again—repetition leads to mastery in young minds.
Act out the story and related plot lines - This is one of our favorite things to do with books at Calvary Childcare Center. The Puffins in the Transition classroom often act out Bible stories at Jesus time. In recent years, the Turtles in the Preschool classroom have invited their families to re-enactments of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Gingerbread Man” and other beloved stories. We also encourage the children to stretch their creative muscle a bit and to expand the plot—for instance, this year, the Gingerbread Man was chased by a scuba diver in the Turtles’ production! Consider how you can add some drama—the good kind—to your home and reading routine.
Don a spirit of creativity and adventure - Whether we’re 4 or 44, books are often the inspiration behind our trying new things, visiting another part of the world, establishing new relationships, etc. Let’s share in that gift of discovery with our kids, especially when it comes to the best adventure book ever written: the Bible!
Get it? READ! It’s really as simple as that. Make it a routine. Do it together. The rest will come naturally the more we make reading a priority every day! And we can’t wait to offer your family some really fun ideas around making the most of your storybook time in November. Don’t miss our “Beyond the Storybook” Family Event on Friday, Nov. 10, where you and your little ones will enjoy free hands-on activities that will bring some beloved storybooks and characters to life—explore a variety of fun learning experiences through the eyes of some best-loved bears, pigs, monkeys, caterpillars and pigeons. No RSVP needed unless you plan to attend the pizza dinner beforehand ($5/person or $15/maximum per family); please RSVP online for dinner. We look forward to seeing you there!
Suggested resources on reading:
The Secret to Raising Readers (Janet Lansbury)
Fall in Love with Reading (NAEYC)
Bonding Through Reading (NAEYC)
Ghosts and goblins. Monsters and mean guys. All kinds of bumps in the night. It’s natural for children to grow into some rather intense fears, though it pains us to see the scary realities and “imaginaries” of this broken world find their way into our kids’ consciences.
How can we as grown-ups best help the children we love to cope with their fears? We need 1) to help our kids learn to express their feelings plainly and accurately and 2) to be alert to how they sometimes use the concept of fear for other purposes, even against our authority as caregivers. It’s a delicate balancing act of being both sensitive and savvy.
We know the feeling—there are just some things that give us the creeps, even into adulthood. Our own experiences with fear should compel us to deliver a lot of compassion when our children show signs of being afraid.
Where we sometimes error in addressing kids’ fears is in providing too much information. For instance, if a child is scared of a certain stuffed animal, we might go on to say something like, “Yep, he sure does have beady little eyes and a funny look on his face.” Such comments only add more fuel to the fear fire. Instead, allow them to express their own feelings and offer their own observations in your conversations.
Another way to help is to equip kids to take part in addressing their fears. You can offer ideas such as shooing away the monster together, taking some deep breaths, spraying ghost repellant around the bedroom, etc. Don’t forget that such experiences also open doors for us to talk about God’s goodness and His not wanting us to be afraid—that He is there to help us and that He offers guidance around preventing fearful experiences, too.
The bottom line when it comes to legitimate fears: Kids need to be reassured that they’re safe.
Sometimes kids say they’re scared but they’re not really scared at all; sometimes they confuse fear with other strong feelings, particularly nervousness. As caregivers, we can help them to overcome the tendency to say “I’m scared” and to help them label their emotions more accurately. This is an important life skill, so let’s make the most of every opportunity to hone it.
Somewhere around age 3, children also begin to notice that fear can be used to manipulate us. They claim that something is scary and, as a result, get to put off bedtime just a little bit more or assume control in another way. When this occurs, it’s important for adults to consider what children are really seeking and develop strategies for meeting those needs and avoiding the whole fear factor to start with. Such manipulative tactics may take some time to beat, but in time, our extra attention and patience are worth it.
Especially as Halloween approaches and scary stuff seems rather unavoidable in stores, on TV, etc., let’s commit to doing our best to help our children grow wise and courageous when fearful things beckon. Our prayers continue to follow you and your families as you face the challenges of this world together.
Other resources on fear:
“What Kids Are Scared of—and Why” (Parents)
“Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias” (KidsHealth)
“What’s Too Scary?” (NAEYC)
As our teachers eagerly begin the next school year, we’re reminded of the importance—and joy—of our jobs… and how kids can share in that experience! At Calvary Childcare Center, we believe that allowing children to be responsible for certain functions and to address certain needs is critical to their development in a number of ways...
Solving problems - It seems that spills and other minor mishaps occur every other minute in our classrooms, but we try to make such problems into important teachable moments. Instead of providing a solution outright, we like to pose the question “What do you think you could do about it?” Eventually, children naturally know that they can take care of problems on their own, whether they get a paper towel to clean up a mess or put away toys that are in the way of another activity.
Learning cause and effect - The lesson can be as simple as realizing that when a switch is down, the lights are off, and when it’s up, they’re on. Children marvel at cause and effect, and we are committed to helping them experience fun and practical ways to see this concept in action.
Mastering skills - The specific roles that our children play in the classroom do not change from day to day. Instead, we give them a full week to master the tasks at hand, giving them the opportunity to improve on their performance compared to the day before and to grow in confidence. In other words, the power of consistency has power when it comes to jobs, too. Every day, all children help with putting away their lunch bags, folding their blankets, wiping tables, etc.
Building community - We present jobs as an important way for kids to take care of their classrooms and their friends. In so doing, they not only learn how to contribute to the good of the whole, but also grow a keener sense of compassion for those around them. At Calvary Childcare Center, there are no awards for jobs well done—instead, we teach that what we do for each other is simply what it means to be part of a community.
Perhaps you’d like to consider how some of these principles could be better implemented at home too! As a first step, we recommend taking a look at age-appropriate chores, then making your family’s plan. Have fun with it!
Typical Children’s Jobs at Calvary Childcare Center
Line leader (a coveted position)
Line ender (also known as the “caboose”)
Book helper (picks out books before naptime)
Light helper (turns lights off and on at naptime)
Teacher helper (assists teacher with various jobs)