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...
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)
Perhaps you’ve noticed that we don’t shy away from experiences that may result in a good old-fashioned mess. We don’t shy away from paint and other gooey and colorful media. We love to experiment with dirt and mud. We aren’t afraid to get wet, snowy or sandy. For young children, these kinds of experiences make for good memories… and great learning!
We live by and teach a couple special mantras at Calvary Childcare Center: 1) The messier the child, the better the day, and 2) Pristine isn’t the priority. If kids look a bit grubby at the end of the day, it typically means they got to:
Explore their passions, such as painting with abandon, constructing sandbox waterway systems or getting shoulders-deep in the classroom’s sensory table.
Develop practical skills in eating, for example—it takes a lot of practice and spills to learn how to use utensils, drink from cups, etc.
Engage their whole bodies in exploring the world around us, employing all of the senses and as many muscles as it takes.
In other words, our intention isn’t simply to grow your laundry detergent bill. Instead, our goal is to offer experiences to your children that will best sharpen their understanding of their surroundings and how they can enjoy life both safely and adventurously.
Not keen on messes at home? Feel free to leave them to us if you prefer—just make sure your children’s bins are stocked with plenty of extra clothes (the ones you don’t mind getting dirty). But if you’re game for a bit more hands-on learning apart from school, here are some articles that we have come to appreciate and you might, too:
"What’s the Harm If I Paint My Arm?” (NAEYC)
When Messy Is a Good Thing (Prime Time Early Learning Centers)
Why Is Messy Play Important? (Hands On)
Setting Up a Process-oriented Classroom (Community Playthings)
Nails on a chalkboard. Sledgehammers. Garbage trucks at 6 a.m. All these sounds have a reputation for wreaking havoc on our eardrums and nerves. However, altogether they seem to be no match to the grating, irritating, sharp trill of kids’ whining. Where does it come from? How can we work together to try to silence it? Together, we can do our best to win against whining!
In his book 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, Dr. Thomas W. Phelan lists six ways that kids try to test and manipulate their parents and caregivers: 1) badgering, 2) temper, 3) threat, 4) martyrdom, 5) butter up and 6) physical tactics. However, Phelan recognizes that “the most annoying maneuver used by children is a tactic that combines two of the above three favorites [badgering, temper and martyrdom]. This tactic, which drives parents absolutely nuts, is a combination of martyrdom (#4) and badgering (#1). The word describing it starts with the letter W. You guessed it: Whining!”
Phelan defines testing and manipulation as this: “efforts of the less-powerful child to get what he wants or to avoid discipline by getting his parent emotionally confused and, consequently, sidetracked.” In other words, children’s whining and other manipulative tactics are born out of frustration and the purpose to get what they want. In short, they know what they’re doing.
Curbing such behavior may seem an overwhelming task, especially since our own frustration flares when whining comes to call. The trick is for us to know what we are doing when whining occurs...
Recognizing and stepping back from our own frustration and tension may be the most important step in addressing whining. After recognizing our own emotional reactions, we are better able to assess where our children are at. Is he angry? Is she tired? Perhaps we’re in too much of a hurry? Simply looking at their basic needs and delivering some empathy may put an end to their whining on the spot.
Consistency in how we address recurring whining might also be in order. If we give in to whined requests, children learn that it’s the way they get what they want. However, if we ask them to take a deep breath and for a “do-over” in a nice voice, this pattern may eventually teach them that whining only delays—or even shuts their requests down altogether—what would make them happy.
As with any difficult situation, talking about it outside the moment of tension is bound to make a difference. We can ask them about the feelings that compel them to whine. At the same time, we can share our feelings about whining. In such conversations, we strengthen the bonds that grow mutual patience and consideration, thus overwhelming the tendency to test each other.
1-2-3 Magic offers more direction on this topic, as well as many other areas of discipline. We’re happy to loan you a copy of the book if you wish to learn more about how we handle whining at school and what discipline in general looks like here. As always, it’s a privilege and pleasure to partner with you in making the most of your experience at Calvary Childcare Center and beyond!
Despite all the centuries that have passed and the countless lives lived, there’s still no sure-fire script to follow when it comes to raising a family. However, our words as parents and caregivers remain important, particularly when it comes to offering genuine support and motivation to our children versus clichés that only zap kids’ natural tendency to experiment and to take risks. A few intentional changes in our vocabulary may make all the difference now and into the future!
So, to get us started, what is “encouragement,” and how does it compare to “praise”? Let’s begin with the latter. Whatever dictionary one may reference, the definitions of praise all involve some kind of judgment—in other words, deeming something good or bad. Encouragement, in contrast, is putting our own opinions to the side and being able to commend the effort and the willingness to try new things. Whatever the result, we help our children become comfortable with lots of trial and, with that, some error.
Why opt for encouragement over praise? It all comes down to growing children’s own sense of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-preservation—what they believe about themselves. According to HighScope, if they depend on our praise for their sense of self, we set kids up to 1) become addicted to praise, 2) distrust adults when praise seems insincere or manipulative, and 3) fear failure and avoid challenges.
On the flip side, HighScope also spells out the benefits of encouragement among kids, including 1) a feeling of being worthy and worthwhile people, 2) a healthy response to constructive guidance, 3) an ability to self-evaluate and 4) the motivation to pursue more difficult or challenging tasks. In other words, it’s definitely worth our intentionality!
So how can our words reflect our desire to be more encouraging? It’s a matter of making a few changes in our conversations with kids:
Instead of: “Good job” or “Awesome!”
Use: Something specific, such as “You put your clothes away without my asking,” or reflective of what your family values, such as “You listened very closely” or “You did it yourself!”
Instead of: “What a pretty picture!”
Use: Something about the details, such as “You used a lot of colors in this” or “You picked something interesting to draw.”
Instead of: “You could have done better here” or “These still look a bit messy.”
Use: Something that puts our standards aside and commends the contribution, such as “You worked hard to put away the towels.”
Instead of: “You are so smart” or “You are so strong.”
Use: Something that applauds effort, such as “You tried doing something new.”
In the busyness of our day-to-day lives, we may gravitate toward using the words and phrases that we’ve become accustomed to hearing ourselves—it may be difficult to adjust at first. But intentionality and a little thought are key to the whole practice of encouragement. As a result, over time, encouragement becomes our more automatic response. Most importantly, for their lifetimes, our children are more likely to grow a healthier inner voice that challenges them to take risks, to simply do their best and to live life more adventurously.
We continue to feel so privileged to walk alongside you during this special time in your children’s development. We see everyday how you take their best interests to heart and long to see them realize a phenomenal future. We commit to being sources of encouragement to them… and to you!
In January, we shared how we use small-group time to concentrate on nurturing child/teacher bonds and growing in fine-motor development. This month, we turn to how our large-group activities all revolve around experiential learning: music and dancing and games, oh my!
At Calvary Childcare Center, large-group time takes two forms: 1) activities involving the entire classroom and 2) opportunities that bring all ages together. At the heart of all large-group experiences is active learning, such as singing, movement and reenactment.
Our HighScope curriculum promotes five “ingredients” for active learning within large groups:
Materials: Abundant supplies of interesting materials are ready to use and available to children. Materials are appealing to all the sense and are opened-ended; that is, they lend themselves to being used in a variety of ways to expand upon children’s experiences and to stimulate their thoughts.
Manipulation: Children handle, examine, combine, and transform materials and ideas. They make discoveries through direct, hands-on and “minds-on” contact with these resources.
Choice: Children choose materials and play partners, change and build on play ideas, and plan activities according to their interests and needs.
Child language and thought: Children describe what they are doing and understanding. They communicate verbally and nonverbally as they think about their actions and modify their thinking to take new learning into account.
Adult scaffolding: Adults both support children’s current level of thinking and challenge them. Adults encourage children’s efforts and help them extend or build on their work by talking with them about what they are doing, by joining their play, and by helping them learn to solve problems that arise.
Active learning may take the form of singing with instruments, dancing with scarves, acting out Bible stories and playing cooperative games that have no winners or losers (Hide & Seek is a favorite game of this nature, and students tend to come up with lots of ideas on how to make it more fun and interesting). The secret to ultimate success, according to HighScope, is “shared control.” As teachers, we set the course with “adult-sized decisions” around how we’ll begin our time together (i.e., music and movement), then the students are given rein to make “child-sized choices” that provide cues and ideas to make large-group time really fun (i.e., dancing like different kinds of animals).
An added benefit? Large-group times build a sense of community in and among our classrooms. Friendships bloom from using our imaginations and simply having fun together. Confidence and creativity are nurtured through just the right mix of listening and letting loose! Let us know if you have any questions about how you can initiate active learning at home, too. We’ve got lots of ideas for you!
We had a great time last month hosting the ELEA Conference here at Calvary. What an incredible honor to showcase our classrooms and programs, and what a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in growing our skills and know-how in early childhood development. Heather Shumaker, our keynote speaker, brought us some great insight on helping kids take risks and honoring their rights to discover and play on their terms (within some safe reason, of course). We think it’s interesting, empowering and affirming stuff—we hope you do as well!
Heather has written two books on effective parenting (and effective teaching, for that matter): It’s OK to Go Up the Slide and It’s OK Not to Share. In both books, she challenges common adages and practices that have been deemed “right” by our society. When it comes right down to it, why can’t our kids talk to strangers? Do they really have to say they’re sorry? What’s really behind the temptation to swear and punch and rebel? In asking ourselves these questions, we’re not saying we should intentionally put children in life-altering harm or throw all kinds of discipline out the window. Instead, it’s about putting their development first, and that means experimenting and experiencing with the world around them. That means taking risks!
At the conference, Heather gave us nearly 30 reasons why risk helps kids. Among those reasons? Taking risks in their early years helps children develop persistence, learn to fall, judge danger, deal with setbacks, take reasonable chances, live up to their potential and become safer for the long run! Of course, there are “risks to risks,” including skinned knees, hurt feelings and frustration. There are also risks on the adult side of the equation. When we allow kids to take risks, we may feel guilty, anxious or unneeded, and we may have to invest more time in coping with the “mess” of our kids’ risks. But trite as the saying has become, we know where risk leads: reward! We celebrate that in our classrooms every day… and we pray that for your families, too!
Interested in diving deeper into this topic? We will have numerous copies of both of Heather’s books available at the front desk for you to borrow. We look forward to hearing what particular chapters speak to you and, as always, how we can partner together in this exciting—and risky— season of your children’s lives. Take courage—kids are worth it!
Heather Shumaker’s website>>
Amazon.com: It’s OK to Go Up the Slide>>
Amazon.com: It’s OK Not to Share>>