Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jane Healy, Ph.D "Brain-building experiences..." and MORE!

Click here to listen to Jane Healy, Ph.D's entire presentation hosted by DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville, IL. It is a wonderful presentation on what are quality "brain-building" experiences for children.

Then, check out Melitsa's discussion about similar topics at her blog:

Additionally, has anyone seen Rae Pica's new site? Click here to check it out! She has had a wealth of really great interviews, including Kathy Hirsch-Pasek and one of my new favorite authors, Ginger Carlson (who by the way has two great blogs, one here).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What are your thoughts about celebrating the holidays in your classroom?

I have fond memories of our grade school Christmas Pageant and going to "Santa's Workshop" every year. However, I went to a parochial school and also didn't realize all the other holidays that individuals of other religions/cultural backgrounds celebrated. It wasn't until I was in high school that I felt like I missed out on learning about these important events that go on throughout the world.

Holidays are important to children, but so is making every child feel respected and understood.

In a future post, I want to know what your thoughts are on this topic: Should we celebrate holidays in the schools? I'll also share my ideas on how to make every child and family feel welcome throughout the year by providing anti-bias curriculum activities. You might be surprised to know, many children and families can share their traditions with the class without making others feel left out.


Quality Play Experiences that Build Children's Brains

I attended a lecture by Jane Healy, Ph.D last week on the importance of quality play experiences and their impact on brain development. Here are the top three thoughts I took away from the presentation:

1. What is the point of childhood?
She asked those of us this question in relation to the fact that many of us get caught up in the hurried, rushed world we live in and how many parents feel their child needs to achieve. She asks, is childhood simply a means to an end where it is simply a time for them to achieve what will eventually happen. Or, is childhood a essential time period where children should be allowed to learn with their senses, take note of the world around them and develop skills that will help build resilience and a strong foundation and become ready for the life they will lead?

2. Play should be 90% child and 10% toy.
This was a quote she shared from Joan Almon, of the Alliance for Childhood. Are we providing children with quality experiences that they can then lead on their own and take what they need from them or are we constantly leaning and focusing more on the educational values of toys and materials instead? Much of the toys today are closed-ended and do not allow children the opportunity to learn more than just rote concepts and fail to provide chidren with the stimulation they need, the opportunity to use their own minds to create, build and explore.

3. Is it the process or the product of childhood that is worth more?
Related to question one, Healy ended the presentation with this thought. The same thought that many quality educators and parents need to think about as they nurture their child's development. As far as educators are concerned, we need to provide children with experiences that may not necessarily have a "cute" end product, but a intentional process (one that is much more important than the product) and we also need to communicate how the process is much more than the product to parents. A cute cut-and-paste product looks good in a child's keepsake box, but its sad to think about how many other children have the same, indistinctive product in their keepsake boxes as well. Parents might actually enjoy knowing that while a quality experience may not have the "cookie cutter" look to it that may be aesthetically appealing, it may have a lot of meaning to their child because they used their creativity and skills to do it "all by themselves!"

Monday, October 20, 2008

Near Chicago? Listen to Jane Healy, Ph.D on Thursday!

Jane Healy, Ph.D (author of Endangered Minds, Your Child's Growing Mind, and Failure to Connect is speaking at a DuPage Children's Museum event on Thursday (October 23). If you are interested, the details can be found here.

If anyone lives near Chicago, this presentation should be excellant. Additionally, I look forward to their presentation with Lilian Katz in January.

More updates are on their way--Don't forget to vote Nov. 4!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

EC Smart Reading: 5 Articles You Should Read

1) Classic Games Help Improve Self-Control in Children

2) Child Beatings in Early Ed Classrooms

3) a recent Wall Street Journal article the Reason Foundation's Shika Dalmia and Lisa Snell argue that pre-k programs don't work or, worse, actually harm kids

...and the rebuttal from another blog: Protect Our Kids from Preschool Hype

4) Top 5 Reasons It's Okay for Kids to Take Risks

5) Toys and our children

A Few of My Favorite Parenting Sites That EC Smarts Might Enjoy As Well

As EC professionals, it is so important to remember our responsibilities to not only educating young children, but also families.

By educating, I mean spreading the word about the importance of early education, play, what quality programming means and developmentally appropriate practice. Helping parents understand the relationship between classroom activities and their impact on children's development will encourage parental involvement and also their engagement at home with their child.

Currently, I've had the opportunity to research several parenting blogs and many provide great ideas for activities to do with children but also integrate concepts like the arts, science and more.

Take a look at how these parents communicate with not only one another but also are actively participating in their child's development by providing awesome activities at home. For those of us without children, its good to keep insight....we aren't good teachers if we don't open ourselves up to learning something everyday!

Play Activities
The Artful Parent
5 Minutes for Special Needs
Unplug Your Kids
Not-Quite Crunchy Parent
Thinking Outside the Recipe and The Wondershop

Now, these are just a few of my favorites...I'm sure I share more later. Do you have any favorite blogs?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Right Back at Ya!

Click here to see what Melitsa thinks of EC Smart....Thanks for the love!

If you are looking for some quality home-grown, easy and developmentally appropriate activities(you know how much I love talking about this), check out her blog for great ideas and suggestions on how she facilitates the activities with her "little man." She also does a great job on sharing WHY the activity promotes development.

P.S. Her blog is also on my list, for future reference.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cool Mom Talking About Separation

Just wanted to share this book, I recently came about by Nancy Balaban. It's called Everyday Goodbyes. The reason? Well, its for those of you teachers or parents who have been in the same issue as Cool Mom. Separation can be tough (if you've been there, you know it). However, I and other bloggers shared our best material with her and it sounds like it has worked.

Check out the's a keeper.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Blog List--Check Out the Great Resources We Have!

A couple notes:
1.) I added a Blog List. I've been addicted to Google Reader to the point where I almost can't even keep up with all the chat going on about EC online. Please check out these blogs. You might also notice that there are a few parenting sites. These are very funny and just overall great sites that I use to keep in touch with the breeder bunch. I'm also hoping that once I have a few of my own, these sites are keeping me well prepared for what is ahead.

2.) Notice the calendar? I'm not really using it right now. However, it is up for a few days while I demonstrate its use at work.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

You've Got to Be Kidding Me!

Can anyone tell me why early childhood (and I mean all the way through 2nd grade) students should even have to worry about "homework" beyond play and exploration of their world?

Read this: Homework for Preschoolers?

Think About the Message This Sends to The Child: You've Been Kicked Out of Preschool

Have you ever been witness to a child in your class or center being kicked out? What was the reason?

I'm a firm believer that its a lack of teacher support and education that leads to preschool expulsion--its never the child's fault. Never. Read this: Kicked Out of Preschool?

The number of preschool expulsions and corporal punishment usage is a PLEA to our governments to increase professional development/education training for teachers AND create a efficient model of quality control that ensures quality in EC programs.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Where's Waldorf in EC?

During my graduate work, a woman in my class introduced the ideas of Waldorf education to me. She had mentioned that she was interested in teaching in a Waldorf school and that she really felt passionate about their curriculum.

My reaction? What in the world is Waldorf?

However, after some investigation throughout the years I learned quite a bit about the curriculum. While I stress I have never taught in a Waldorf classroom, I must say there is quite a bit to like about the curriculum in terms of its commitment to individualized lesson planning, integration of nature throughout, and rejection of high-stakes testing, negative discipline and ignoring of a child's interests and feelings.

You might be saying to yourself---"yeah, but that's not going to work where I teach." I agree, public schools (where I worked an Integrated EC classroom), child care preschools, and other early childhood programs might not be able or ready to take on such an intense of a program like the one Waldorf education provides.

HOWEVER--We can take pieces from this model to improve what is there already!

Here's just a few things I took from the Waldorf curriculum:
  • cooking activities that I planned based on some of the children's interests/ideas from conversations in the classroom (and yes, they did actually cook and cut vegetables)
  • domestic tasks related to the upkeep of the classroom and classroom pets (yes, I had pets), including washing the dishes after we cooked
  • art activities that children can imitate (weaving, "sewing" (we used plastic needles and yarn through plastic/nylon netting), painting with tempura, fingerpaints, watercolors, mud and water, etc.)
  • gardening (we planted fall mums outside and pumpkins/squash the first week of class and by the first week of october had a great patch), we also did flowers in the spring
  • meditating on seasons instead of holidays--I know this is an adjustment for some teachers and some parents, but I'm passionate about this topic.

**By the way, this doesn't mean you tell children "shhh" if they mention they sat on Santa's lap over the weekend (we talked about holidays when the children mentioned them all the time). does mean instead of making cut and paste Christmas trees, we made evergreen smelly jars and hot cocoa with peppermint sticks.

Does anyone else know anything about Waldorf education they might want to share? Any ideas on how to incorporate some of the ideas from Waldorf classrooms into a public school or child care EC classroom?

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Math Connections neighborhood at DCM

The new Math Connections neighborhood has arrived at DCM!

With many wonderful interactive, hands-on opportunities to explore math, the DCM Math Connections neighborhood is the perfect way to nurture children's emerging and early math skills. Exhibits feature activities related to patterning, sorting/classification, shapes/colors, early addition/subtraction, fractions, symmetry, size, counting and one-on-one correspondence and more....

The DuPage Children's Museum website is:

Yay for Play!

The following is a great piece recently aired by NPR regarding the importance of play and how the past couple decades' focus on technology and other "busy work" has lessened the focus on pretend play and outdoor play.

What a great article. I am very pleased to see who was involved in the discussion.