Child Care


Several years ago I was given a notepad with the printed heading, “Stressed!  It’s just desserts spelled backwards.”  I enjoyed the quote and passed it on to friends, then forgot about it and eventually the pad ended up in the drawer of my desk.  You know the kind of drawer – the one full of stuff you know you will need “some time.”  Well, my life has been pretty stressful recently and that reminded me of the note pad.  I pulled it out, looked at it, and thought about it.  It didn’t help.  I’m still stressed (but I’m enjoying a very delicious quinoa and chocolate granola bar at the same time).

Change is always stressful and this is a change time of year.  School starts tomorrow and parents everywhere are preparing to turn their clocks to “school time.”  Parents of kindergarteners and college freshmen and watching their babies begin a new phase of their lives.  My mother-in-law is also beginning a new phase of her life.  At 97 she is finally giving up her independence to live in an assisted living facility.  It was her choice, but it is a big change to her and her family.

There are all types of changes that occur during our lifetimes and change frequently produces stress.  There’s a feeling that you have lost control.  If not dealt with it can lead to serious illness.  Parents and caregivers know that change is a fact of life, so the trick is to find a way to deal with it, move past it, and move on.  After doing some research on the subject, I found the following list of suggestions on how to deal with stress:

Tips for dealing with stress (from

  • Don't worry about things you can't control, such as the weather.
  • Solve the little problems. This can help you gain a feeling of control.
  • Prepare to the best of your ability for events you know may be stressful, such as a job interview.
  • Try to look at change as a positive challenge, not as a threat.
  • Work to resolve conflicts with other people.
  • Talk with a trusted friend, family member or counselor.
  • Set realistic goals at home and at work. Avoid over-scheduling.
  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Eat regular, well-balanced meals and get enough sleep.
  • Meditate.
  • Participate in something you don't find stressful, such as sports, social events or hobbies.

I’m going to try the suggestions on the list, starting with working to solve my littler problems.  I’ll talk to family and friends, try to get more rest – and maybe I’ll even start exercising.  Until then I’ll just dance with the children in the center.  That’s a big time stress buster!

Supporting Resilience in Children

(from “Exchange Every Day”)


As Parents and caregivers, we try to keep children safe by protecting them from stress and trauma.  Unfortunately, it’s not always possible.  Adults can, however, promote resilience in children by fostering protective factors that can ease the negative effects of stress and trauma.  The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as “the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress.”  "Resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change, bounce back, and overcome the odds," write Nefertiti Bruce and Karen Cairone, in “Socially Strong and Emotionally Secure.” They describe these protective factors that help strengthen resilience in young children:


Attachment: "The mutual, strong, long-lasting relationships between a child and significant adults...The attachment bonds that children form in these early years often predict the quality of relationships they will have throughout life.”

Initiative: "The child's ability to use independent thought and action to meet his or her needs....Strong initiative in the early years prepares children to safely, actively, and eagerly explore their worlds.”

Self-control: "The child's ability to experience a range of feelings and express them using the words and actions that society considers appropriate....Children with healthy self-control in the preschool years typically have strong interpersonal qualities such as self-confidence and self-esteem."

Children need high-quality care, opportunities for developing and maintaining relationships, adequate nutrition, and support from families, educators, and communities. When these and other protective factors are in place, children experience positive development and have the internal adaptive resources to cope with any trauma and stress they may encounter.


Yesterday I put a turkey hat on my head and walked into the 3 year olds’ classroom, while they were sitting down to eat lunch.  Now this is not my typical headgear; the hat consists of a turkey head on a long neck, with two dangling long skinny legs hanging from either side.  The hat had been donated and it just seemed like the thing to do at that moment.  The results were priceless:  “Miss Cindy has a chicken on her head!”  The children dissolved in giggles.  I don’t know who enjoyed the moment more, the children or me.  After a long morning of preparing lunch, dealing with paperwork, answering the phone, and all the myriad details of a typical child care Monday morning, suddenly there was joy.


“Joy” is on my mind today.  One of our pastors is leading a book study called, “Choosing Joy,” and that is her topic for her sermon this week.  I have not had the opportunity to join the group or read the book, but in creating a children’s lesson and bulletin for the Sunday service, I’ve done some reading on the topic.  In that reading I came upon a quote:  “Joy springs from within; no one makes you joyous; you choose joyfulness” (author unknown).


One of the websites I discovered is called, “Spirituality & Practice – Resources for Spiritual Journeys.”  On the site I found the following:


“Joy is an essential spiritual practice growing out of faith, grace, gratitude, hope, and love. It is the pure and simple delight in being alive. Joy is our elated response to feelings of happiness, experiences of pleasure, and awareness of abundance. It is also the deep satisfaction we know when we are able to serve others and be glad for their good fortune.


Invite joy into your life by staging celebrations. Toast moments of happiness you notice as you go through your day. Dance — jump for joy — as often as possible. Life is not meant to be endured; it is to be enjoyed.”


Now, I’m not suggesting you walk around with a “chicken” on your head everyday (although it might be interesting).  What I am planning to do is make “choosing joy” a daily gift to myself.  So now I will ignore the rain falling outside my window and focus on the laughter of the children down the hall.  And I will find ways to “Scatter joy” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) as I go through my day.  I hope you can find a way to dance through your day (and the Lee Ann Womack song and video might help!) and that you find and choose joy.

Kids and Eating Healthy

One of the joys of working as a child care director is dealing with the regular influx of new rules and regulations set forth by the great state of New York.  Many of them make sense and all of them are geared towards ensuring that children in child care are kept safe.  But, there are so many!  It can get overwhelming.  One new emphasis of the child care world is healthy eating for children – and that is something I am happy to work with.


I have never met a parent who has never had any eating issues with his or her child.  It’s the nature of children to test, question, and push limits and food they have some control over.  So the potential for disputes exists.  You may have heard some of these phrases, or even used them yourself:  “If you don’t eat one more bite you are going to be in trouble;” “See, that didn’t taste so bad, did it;” or, “stop crying and I will give you a cookie.”  The problem is that each of those phrases can have a big negative impact on developing a child’s healthy eating habits.


One way to increase a child’s willingness to try something new is by using positive language as it is introduced.  Use phrases that point out the sensory qualities of the food:  “This is a kiwi – it tastes sweet, like a strawberry.”  Help children recognize when they are hungry or full:  “Is your stomach telling you that you are full?”  Give your child the feeling that he or she is making the choice:  “Which one is your favorite?”  “Everybody likes different foods, don’t they?”  An important factor is removing food as a reward.  Using a cookie as a treat when a child eats his or her vegetables makes some foods seem better than others.  Reward your child with attention and kind words, hugs and talks.


Child care programs in New York State are now required to “be in compliance with the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program meal patterns.”  Our program is now distributing pamphlets called “Together We Can Raise Healthy Children,” to each of our families.  Our parent’s bulletin board contains a number of informative articles and ideas for families of young children, relating to health and good nutrition.  To learn more about the CACFP, check out their web site at  PromiseLand will also begin offering a “recipe of the week” on our Facebook page.  Check out the recipe for our child-friendly “Super Smoothie.”  It’s simple and delicious and perfect for a hot summer day!

Getting the Bugs Out

It’s definitely summer – hot, sticky, and buggy!  Many of the children at the center are apparently delicious, at least to bugs, as a lot of them are sporting a variety of bug bites.  There are over the counter sprays you can purchase, but most of them are not good either for children or the environment.  A PromiseLand parent / board member just sent me a link to a site with some recipes for homemade bug spray, using items you may already have at home.  They look simple, sound like they would smell pretty good and, according to my “source,” are working for her daughter: she doesn’t mind wearing it and she has fewer bites – so, the link and recipes are printed below!


Essential Oil Bug Spray

·             Essential oils: choose from Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Cajeput, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Mint

·             Natural Witch Hazel

·             Distilled or boiled Water

·             Vegetable glycerin (optional)

How to Make Homemade Bug Spray with Essential Oils

1.          Fill spray bottle (I used 8 ounce) 1/2 full with distilled or boiled water

2.          Add witch hazel to fill almost to the top

3.          Add 1/2 tsp vegetable glycerin if using

4.          Add 30-50 drops of essential oils to desired scent. The more oils you use, the stronger the spray will be. My personal favorite mix is: Rosemary, Clove, “Cajeput,” Lavender, Cinnamon and Eucalyptus… it works great and smells good too!

Fresh or Dried Herbs Bug Spray Ingredients

·             Distilled water

·             Witch hazel or rubbing alcohol

·             Dried herbs: peppermint, spearmint, citronella, lemongrass, catnip, lavender, etc. I recommend using at least one herb from the mint family. Basil is also said to repel mosquitoes and I’ve used fresh basil leaves in the garden with great success before!

How to Make Bug Spray from Fresh or Dried Herbs

1.          Boil 1 cup of water and add 3-4 TBSP of dried herbs total in any combination from the above. I use 1 TBSP each of peppermint, spearmint, catnip and lavender, and also throw in a couple of dried cloves.

2.          Mix well, cover and let cool (covering is important to keep the volatile oils in!)

3.          Strain herbs out and mix water with 1 cup of witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. Store in a spray bottle in a cool place (fridge is great because then its nice and cool!)

4.          Use as needed. Added bonus: it smells great and is very refreshing to the skin!

(Thank you to

Summertime Mondays

By now the novelty of summer is starting to get a little “old,” and the kids are starting to run out of ideas for things to do.  Here are a couple of projects from the Family Fun magazine I just received in the mail.  Enjoy!


Printing with Solar Power:   Use loops of tape on the back side of a piece of construction paper to attach it to a table in a sunny spot outdoors.  Have your child choose some small fun objects to lay on the paper.  You can secure lightweight items with more tape loops.  Leave the paper with the objects in place for 4 to 5 hours, checking occasionally to remove any blown grass or leaves.  Try not to move the objects; by examining the paper you’ll be able to see when the print is sharp and finished.

            What’s happening?  The same rays of sunlight that can burn skin is causing a chemical reaction in the paper’s colored dye.  The reaction causes the dye to break down and fades its brightness.

            What to print?  Letter magnets, nature finds, school supplies, action figures, kitchen tools.  Let your child’s imagination run wild!


Marshmallow Delights – without the need for a campfire: 

1.  Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in a small bowl (check the package for directions).  Place ½ cup crushed graham crackers in another bowl.  Line a tray with parchment paper.  Quickly dip one marshmallow at a time in the chocolate then in the cracker crumbs and let them cool on the tray.  You should have enough for 12 treats.

2.  Teddy Bear Crunch:  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Mix 2 cups chocolate Teddy Grahams with ¾ cup mini marshmallows and spread out on the tray.  Melt ½ cup white chocolate chips and drizzle over the other ingredients.  Let cool, then break into pieces before serving.

Something to Think About

This past Sunday my husband and I walked into church and the first thing we saw in the lobby was a chalkboard.  That is unusual in itself, but printed at the top in large letters was a question:  “Before I die _____________.  Below that were blank lines for people to fill in their response.  Well – that made me stop and think. 


I didn’t write anything on the board and didn’t see anyone else write on it either, although it was certainly making people stop and look.  Off and on during church I thought about the question and at one point my husband and I questioned each other on what our possible responses might be.  Even when our pastor talked about the board and the issue during her sermon, I still did not have an answer.  She read off wonderful things from her personal list and while I agreed they were all worth doing, none of them touched my heart as being the THING I wanted to be sure I did before I died.  We both left without putting our responses on the board.


Monday morning I walked into work.  To get to my office I walk directly through the church lobby.  The chalk board was still there and every blank space was filled with wonderful thoughts and hopes for the future.  I could squeeze on my answer, but I haven’t completely thought it out yet.  What I know is that my job gives me an incredible gift as well as an incredible responsibility.  I touch the lives of children every day and have done so in this place for almost 20 years.  What I want is the opportunity to continue to do that for as long as I can – and to do it even better.


So, I guess that would be my response if I was going to write one (but I’m not going to).  I am, however, grateful for the question and the opportunity it gave me to think about my life and my future.  Children are such an incredible gift.  Each one of God’s children deserves to be surrounded by love.  I am incredibly blessed to have been given the chance to be a part of the world of children.  And now I’m going to leave my office, find some children, and play a rousing game of “Ring around the Rosie.”  

Geocaching, Combining Technology with the Great Outdoors

Child Care Council Article by Pam Patrick


As a child I loved to play Hide and Seek.  I don’t know if it was the thrill of hiding and waiting to be found, or the excitement of trying to find whoever was hiding.  It was great fun back in the days before technology took over almost every aspect of our daily lives.  Today’s children are so engrossed in technology that many don’t get the outdoor exposure that we had a s children.


A great way to combine the technology that kids are so fond of with the great outdoors is to go “Geocaching!”  All you need is a computer at home and a handheld GPS or mobile phone with downloading capabilities.  A geocache is a hidden container which can be any size, hidden anywhere outside, and containing a logbook of some sort.  Players register at for free and can search for geocaches by location via the website.  Download the coordinates to your GPS and it will point you in the direction of the cache.  Then, you follow your compass to look for the cache.  Once you find it, simply sign your name in the logbook, replace the cache as you found it, and then log it as found on the website.


My family has found caches as small as the tip of a finger, high up in trees, under fallen logs, in the woods, and in very public areas.  The thrill is in finding them, wherever they may be.  It’s a great family and kid-friendly activity and a fun way to get outside, get some fresh air, and get everyone moving!


For more information, go to  You can sign up for free and get started right away!  For more information visit or

Helping Children Cope with Change

Children love routines and rituals.  They like knowing what to do, where to go and what to expect.  But things in life change and that can be upsetting, especially for children.  I don’t like change, either, and PromiseLand is going through some changes.  A much-loved staff member is leaving.  One new staff person has been hired and we will soon add another new person, also.  There are many changes children go through:  moving to a new home, a new baby in the house, starting kindergarten.  We can’t avoid change, but we can help the children in our lives deal with it.


Prepare them in advance:  Talk with your child about the changes that are going to happen.  Listen to them and let them know that their feelings are important to you.  Reassure your child that even though things change they will still be loved and safe.


Listen to their concerns:  Talk to your child about how they are feeling about the change, sympathize, and say that it’s okay to be a bit nervous or worried.  Put yourself in their position and consider how it might affect them.  Make yourself available to talk over their concerns and try not to play down their worries.  They will then be more likely to confide in your about how they are feeling.


Reassurance:  Reassure your child that he or she isn’t making the change alone and they will always have you to support them.  Their life experiences are limited compared to yours and this change could feel overwhelming for them.  Sit down with your child; ask how he or she is feeling, and talk about things you can do to help.  Don’t ignore their worries.


It takes time:  Once the change has been made it may take a while for your child to get used to new routines and ways of doing it.


Help them see it as an opportunity:  If you present the change in a positive way it can help your child see the change in a better light.  Get some paper and make two headings, good and bad, and write down with your child what you think are the negative and positive aspects to the change so they know that it’s not all bad.


How children might react to change:  Children may react to the change by becoming withdrawn or uncooperative. There may be tears and tantrums. Changes can result in disturbed sleep patterns, a loss of confidence, subtle changes in behavior, a loss of attention or a reduction in academic performance.


Try to teach your children that change is a part of life. Some things change all the time, like the sky, and others never change, like their date of birth, but even the most unwelcome changes have positives.

Summer Vacation

Today is the first day of summer vacation for the children in our school district, as well as many others in the area.  One of the children in our program attended kindergarten this past year, so this is his first taste of “summer vacation.”  He is so excited!  My granddaughter just completed 1st grade and she too is excited about this taste of freedom.  Having been through this once before, she is now an “expert” on the subject of what summer vacation is and what it should be used for.


As an adult who is long past that period of my life, I find myself envious of their freedom.  I do NOT want to go back to my childhood and do it all over again, but the idea of weeks of unscheduled time is incredibly appealing.  But we adults are all too ready to fill up the hours of vacation our children face.  So we schedule them for camps and lessons and sports and the two months of summer race by and are gone.


I have discovered that the older I get the faster time passes.  A day seemed to last forever when I was young, but not anymore.  Those of us who are adults, and have the great good fortune to spend time with children, need to allow those children the luxury of time to just “be.”  A child finds it easy to stop, look, and watch a snail oozing its way down a sidewalk.  We need to stop, too, whether we are with a child or alone.  It’s summer.  I love the music of Porgy and Bess.  A song from that musical, “Summertime,” illustrates the wonder of summer beautifully:  “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.”  The music is slow and drawn out.  You can feel the warm breeze and the heat of the sun as you listen to it. 


So on this first day of “summer vacation,” find the time to take a vacation each day.  If you can find a child to do it with, that’s great, but you don’t need one.  Just stop what you’re doing, get a cold glass of something wet and delicious, lean back in a chair, and just feel God’s world around you.  Happy vacationing!

Water, Water Everywhere

This morning, when I walked out to the playground, I noticed a very large chalked message written on the parking lot:  “Rain, rain, go away!”  It was obviously teacher written, but it echoed the sentiments of every child (and adult) in the center.  Enough rain!  Water and rain is the focus of the news.  Texas has too much of it (so do we!).  California doesn’t have enough…



Tuesday morning it started pouring – torrential rain.  Within a short time it was running into one of our lower level classrooms, both through the window sill and at the base of the outside wall.  It’s not the first time we’ve had water in there from the rain, but this was the worst I’ve seen in the shortest amount of time.  Thank goodness for volunteers and shop vacs!  Our volunteers (Paul and George – thank you!) worked for several hours sucking water out of the carpet.   It felt like a huge disaster and then we learned that the church just down the street got hit with major flooding in their whole lower level.  Today we have a soggy carpet, but the air conditioner, dehumidifiers, and fans will dry it out.  They have a dumpster and two vans from a professional cleaning service as they tackle their mess.



And so I am again reminded that no matter what happens, life goes on.  It will probably rain again tomorrow, and life will go on.  We will clean the carpet, repaint the walls, toss out some stuff that probably needed tossing anyways, and life will go on.  Thank you, God, for this wonderful world of sun and rain, clouds and blue sky.  Our currently damp classroom will soon look and smell new, fresh, and wonderful. 



Meanwhile, we have a killdeer nest with baby birds in the middle of our back parking lot.  A volunteer (another one – we LOVE volunteers) put up a protective open tripod over the nest and marked it with a pylon, so no one would drive over it.  With so much rain, it was probably the driest spot the mother could find.  I can see it from my office window and watch the bird parents keep watch over their home.  Life indeed goes on, and it is good.

5 Reasons Kids Love Stuffed Animals

I love “Google.”  It constantly amazes me that I can sit at my computer any time, type in any question or phrase, and get hundreds of responses in seconds. (Well – minutes.  I have an OLD computer.)  Today I was sitting in my office trying to think about what I wanted to write about.  As I looked around for inspiration my eyes fastened on all the stuffed animals I have throughout the room.  They sit on shelves, benches, chairs, and even hang from an old coat rack (just the monkeys, of course).  So I googled “children and stuffed animals” – and got article after article after article…  You get the idea.  The one that caught my eye is now the title of this blog:  “5 Reasons Kids Love Stuffed Animals.”



If you asked a small child why he or she liked stuffed animals, I’m sure you would get a variety of answers, like, “because,” or, “I just do.”  Children don’t think out their reasons for doing things, but they do love stuffed animals.  I see it every day at work, I know from my own experiences as a child, mother, and grandmother.  According to the article named above, children love stuffed animals for the following reasons:



1.   “They encourage nurturing.”   According to the article, the first reason listed is that children like stuffed animals because it gives them something to boss around, after being “bossed around all day.”

2.  “They’re always smiling.”   I love the phrasing, and he’s right – I just never really thought about it.  Stuffed animals are always welcoming and loving!

3.  “They give the best hugs.”   I’ve gotten some really great hugs from short “non-stuffed” people, but hugging a well-loved stuffed animal is a great feeling.

4.  “They’re easy to clean up.”  Now, I haven’t found anything that is “easy” for a child to pick up.  Stuffed toys are soft and you can usually just toss them on a bed, shelf, or bucket – but it still requires that the child is willing to pick up anything at all. 

5.  “They’re dependable.”  I would put that first on the list.  No matter how tough a child’s day has been, their favorite stuffed animal is right there to make things better.  They don’t mind being stuffed in a suitcase (my granddaughter can get an incredible number of stuffed animals in her suitcase when she comes to visit.  It doesn’t matter if there’s no room for clothes).  They’re willing to travel any place, at any time.


Finding Happiness (adapted from an article in Family Fun magazine)

I just read an article that caught my eye.  The first sentence said, “What would bring true happiness to your household?”  The article goes on to say that according to research, lasting family happiness isn’t about momentous events or acquiring more things.  It’s about learning to savor life’s small pleasures – together.  My instant reaction to that statement was, “duh.”  It seems so obvious.  But, in thinking more about it, the difficulty is making the time and effort to take and enjoy those “small pleasures – together.”


Happiness is a goal worth seeking and it’s something over which we have a fair amount of control.  Happiness is not somewhere over the rainbow, as Dorothy discovered.  It’s right in your own backyard.  Now, if you ask a child what will make their family happier you’ll get the kinds of responses that Family Fun magazine did, when they did a happiness survey of nearly 300 families:

·         A real Pokemon.

·         A dolphin.

·         A sailboat that has a room in it.

·         All the Lego sets.

·         More hugs and kisses.

·         A library full of books (I vote for that one).

·         Dogs that pick up their own poop. (That breed of dog would sell out in no time!)


According to “experts” and the latest research, trying any or all of the following five things can result in upbeat kids and increased family joy.  In the process you will build stronger family bonds, which adds to the bliss.  “Close family relationships is a key predictor of overall happiness, according to Jeffrey Froh, PsyD, a psychology professor at Hofstra University and author.”


1.  Commit acts of kindness:  Declare a weekly “Three Good Deeds Day” where each person has to do a trio of thoughtful acts then discuss them at dinner; Keep a happiness fund and donate together to a favorite charity; volunteer together (check out for project ideas).


2.  Laugh out Loud – a LOT:  Yes, laughter really is the best medicine.


3.  Jump for Joy:  A recent study at the University of Michigan found that subjects who performed movements associated with joy – jumping, skipping, holding their shoulders open wide… - experienced a boost in mood.


4.  Unplug for a while.


5.  Go play outside.  In one study, even five minutes of what researchers call “green exercise” – physical activity in nature – was shown to boost mood and self-esteem in all age groups.

Gardening with Children

There is a magical interaction when you mix children with dirt.  The result, besides dirty children, is almost always FUN.  When you let a classroom of children loose in a big plowed pile of dirt, and tell them to dig holes, you just stand back and watch them focus on the task.  To an adult, it’s work.  To a child, it’s joy.


We are the proud new owners of a large garden space.  It replaces the very small shaded corner we’ve had to use the last few years.  The area is well fenced, in full sun, and the dirt is rich and ready to use.  We have seeds and small potted plants all ready to go into the holes the children eagerly dig.  As the garden “supervisor,” I’m going to make sure that there is some order to the way things are planted.  The children will enjoy the project even more if their efforts are successful.  In the past we harvested tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini despite the small space we used.  My hope is that this summer our garden will produce enough to be used in meal preparation for the children’s lunches – as well as veggies to share with others.


Today’s children often have no idea that the vegetables they eat come from seeds planted in someone’s dirt.  They “know” their food comes from Wegman’s!  When children plant a garden, they have the opportunity to “create” food.  They can plant, water, weed, harvest, and then eat – and they are the ones that did the work.  For a young child, that is an amazing experience.  It’s pretty amazing for a grown-up, too.

Essential Touch

I have never considered myself a “touchy-feely” type of person; at least not with adults.  With children it’s a totally different matter.  During the normal course of my work day I give and receive multiple hugs, sit on the floor surrounded by children, and regularly am gifted with sticky kisses on my cheek.  I hold and rock babies, tickle feet and tummies, and sometimes just place a calming hand on the shoulder of a child that is having a difficult time.  This is a typical day at PromiseLand.


The sad thing is that this is not the case at many centers.  Many early childhood educators are confused and ambivalent about the touch connection with children.  They hate the idea of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers essentially spending their days without the nurture and stimulation of human contact, but they worry about how to protect the children and themselves in a climate of concern about abuse.  Many Americans have found minimal touch and no touch policies safer.  The belief that somehow too much touch will spoil a child also keeps young children from receiving sufficient physical contact. 


Research and practical wisdom offer a clear answer:  young children need positive human touch, and lots of it, in all forms – carrying, holding, a backrub, a hug, a pat, a high five, rough and tumble play, even massage.  Nurturing touch from caregivers is essential for children to feel loved and secure.  Scientists now know that touch is absolutely required for proper physical and cognitive development.  As early childhood educators we need to see touch as more than just a “feel good kind of thing.”  We need to realize that touch is a physiological and psychological need.  It benefits both the giver and the receiver.


So, now I’m going to walk out of my office and how the hall – and get myself a hug!

The Out of Sync Child

“Do you have a child who seems to always be on the go?  Is your child very tactile?  Does your child have a difficult time keeping his or her hands to himself or seem to struggle recognizing personal boundaries.  What is often seen as a lack of social skills can actually be an unmet sensory need.  These children often seek out sensory experiences such as touching, stroking, hand shaking, tapping, skipping or drumming as an attempt to meet those special sensory needs.


For the child who has a high need for sensory input, it is important to reflect on your environment and consider how those sensory needs are being met.  Children who demonstrate sensory seeking behavior may benefit from some of the following types of experiences and support:


·        Opportunities to MOVE! All children need frequent opportunities to move their bodies in different ways throughout the day; however, it is especially critical for the child with high sensory needs to have these opportunities. Their bodies crave movement.


·        Many HANDS-ON activities. The child with sensory-seeking behavior may have a more difficult time with learning experiences that allow for less movement. Large group experiences need to be limited for all children but especially children with high sensory needs. Hands-on learning is critical for the child with high sensory needs. In situations that are less hands-on, providing a small object or material to manipulate, may help a child who has high sensory needs focus.


·                                 Help the child better understand PERSONAL SPACE. For a child with sensory seeking behaviors, being in close proximity to another child often invites touch. Consider visual cues, such as a carpet square during group time, to help the child better understand personal space.


Teachers and family members who find creative ways to meet a child’s needs for sensory input show children that they are respected and valued.  And children learn how to use the same strategies to be more successful as they grow and learn.


NAEYC’s publication Young Children has an article with more information on meeting the sensory needs of young children.


As a former teacher, I also found the following books by Carol Kranowitz helpful:


The Out-of Sync Child:  Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder
The Out-of Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition:  Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder”


This article was provided by Lori Schonhorst, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Early Childhood Specialist.

Come and Play With Me

“Look at me!  Look at me!  Look at me now!  It is fun to have fun.  But you have to know how.”  - Dr. Seuss.


My husband and I are fortunate in that our granddaughter lives fairly close and this past weekend we were able to have her spend two nights with us.  She is six (and a half, as she makes sure to point out).  After dumping her suitcase and checking out her room, the first thing she said was, “Grandma, will you play with me?”  So we played.  This is our normal routine when she visits.  When I was young, playing was second nature.  My mother would open the back door and tell us to “go out and play,” and we did.  We would play all day, coming home only for meals or when called by a parent.  Children know how to play.  It is their domain.  They live and breathe it.  Unfortunately, play too often gets squeezed out of an adult’s daily schedule.


“A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who does not play has lost forever the child who lived in him.” – Pablo Neruda.


I love to play.  It allows me to unwind, to relax, and to center myself.  As an early childhood educator I have the opportunity to play with the children in the center on a regular basis.  We build towers and knock them down.  We sing silly songs and dance around the room.  We make stuffed animals talk and “eat” wonderful breakfasts of spaghetti, strawberries, and cookies that they prepare in the kitchen area of the classroom.  I follow their directions as they create the world we are playing in.  They are making connections through play, forming attachments to caregivers and each other.  They gain confidence in their motor skills.  Their language skills grow.  The entire world is full of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes to explore.  Their world is painted with pretend. 


For a child, play is the world.  Life starts with, “let’s play!”  The words, “I don’t want to play anymore,” can free you from any situation.  Our world needs more play, so when a child takes your hand and whispers, “will you play with me,” drop everything and go.

Happy Earth Day

45 years ago today, April 22, more than 20 million Americans took part in the very first Earth Day celebration.  In parks, streets, and auditoriums people demonstrated for a healthy sustainable environment.  That first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. 


On that first Earth Day, I marched with the students at SUNY Geneseo through the streets of town.  Now I’ve dated myself.  Even worse, I was an “outside agitator” as I didn’t attend Geneseo at the time, but was a freshman at Elmira College!  I was simply visiting some friends on campus that weekend, with no idea that I was going to have the opportunity to be a part of what would become an international movement.  It’s the only protest march I ever participated in, but being a part of that was something I will never forget.  We didn’t expect the crowds that marched, or the many people that watched from the sidewalks.  We certainly didn’t expect the news cameras and reporters.  For a small town girl, it was a pretty exciting evening!


Now, 45 years later, I’m still celebrating Earth Day each April 22, but I’ve also tried to do my best to keep “Earth Day – everyday.”  As a caregiver for young children I always try to emphasize good stewardship of the gifts God has given us, including this beautiful planet.  At PromiseLand, individual classrooms will do projects, the Pre-K class has created a bulletin board display for our Parents’ Board, and we will all enjoy “dirt cups” for afternoon snack.  You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten chocolate pudding sprinkled with crushed Oreo cookies, complete with gummi worms!


You and your family can celebrate “Earth Day – Everyday” by creating an Earth Day jar together.  All it takes is a clean empty mason type jar, scissors, pen, and scrap paper.  Use the scrap paper (recycle – reduce – reuse!), to write ideas of projects your family can do on a weekly or monthly basis that will help the earth.  Write each idea on a slip of paper and put the papers in the jar.  Have your children decorate a scrap of paper to label your jar, then choose a piece of paper each week or each month and do the project!  Some examples of what you could put in your jar include:  plant a tree, volunteer at a recycling event, appoint a “watt watcher” to make sure lights and devices are turned off when not in use, plant a vegetable garden, pick up trash in your neighborhood, or join a conservation group or program in your area.


However you choose to mark the day, take the time to smell a flower or wave to a bird flying by.  And remember, that this world is a gift that we need to care for, and then pass on to our children.

Resilient Children


(Adapted from the NYSAYC Reporter winter edition article, written by Jenna Bilmes.  She works with the California Department of Education to develop training materials for teachers.

According to noted child psychiatrist, Dr. Bruce Perry, successful people have several key qualities in common.  They can attach to others in a healthy way.  They can deal with strong emotions.  They feel that they belong to a larger group and they can solve problems that arise.  These are four of the qualities that researchers call “resiliency factors.”

Children without these skills may hurt themselves or others.  They may destroy property and seem to lack compassion.  When faced with a challenge, they may have a tantrum, withdraw, weep, or quit trying.  They may have no interest in pleasing adults unless they get prizes or rewards.  Ideally children will develop these resiliency factors at home in the first five years of life, with support from teachers and child care providers.  Even children over five years of age can benefit from resiliency boosts.

Here are five sure-fire ways to put your child on the path to resiliency.

1.  Use encouragement instead of praise.  Research has found that the constant use of phrases such as “good job” or rewards and stickers reduces a child’s feeling of self worth and competency.  Instead, try phrases such as “You did it!” or “You figured it out!” or “That was very smart of you.”

2.  Teach children the beauty and wonder of close relationships with others.  Rock and sing to your child. Smooth lotion on each other’s hands.  Read books together.  Tuck your child into bed at night.

3.  Establish regular routines, rituals, and celebrations.  Have a regular routine for getting reading in the morning and going to bed at night.  Start family rituals such as going to the library every Saturday morning.  Celebrate more than birthdays and holidays – celebrate a loose tooth or the first day of spring.

4.  Acknowledge and label feelings…yours and your child’s.  Children can’t learn to manage emotions they can’t identify.  If your child kicks his feet because he can’t get his shoes on, try “I see that you are very frustrated” and then ask if there is something you might do to help.  Acknowledging and labeling children’s feelings, does not mean they get their own way.  It means that before you enforce your limit, you reflect back to the child that you understand how they feel and that the feeling has a name.

5.  Teach children that problems can be solved.  Model how you yourself solve everyday problems.  When children have problems, talk them through the process.  Help brainstorm ideas and then help your child choose how to solve the problem.

When you make it a habit to weave these approaches into your daily interactions with children, you will begin to notice that they ride the bumps and bruises of daily life with more calm and confidence.  You will have given them the critical skills they will need to succeed for the rest of their lives.

PromiseLand Fun

After spending time working with finances, I needed a break.  There’s no better way to cheer up a morning than walking up and down the PromiseLand hallway.  That guarantees a smile.


The two year olds have divided themselves by gender, totally on their own.  The boys are happily singing while stacking blocks on the shelf.  As soon as they were all neatly stacked they knocked them down, then started again.  Apparently endless fun.  It was snack time for the dolls on the other side of the room, as several different dolls were seated at the table, and being fed an interesting variety of play foods.  It was “learning by play” in action, with the classroom teacher ready to engage as the children practiced verbal skills, social skills, fine motor skills and large motor skills.


The three year olds were in a more directed activity.  They are talking and reading about mice this week and had just finished making mice using heart shapes.  Imaginations soared, so pigs and other animals were created also.  The children are learning to work together in small groups, as they practice fine motor skills, social skills, and verbal skills.


Our babies are completely engaged in exploring their environment.  Everything is new and wonderful to them – their laughs and babbling drew me into their room.  I got to play ball and stack blocks.  We did some animal sounds and names.  Mostly I just watched and enjoyed seeing them toddle from activity to activity, totally absorbed in their play.  You can almost see the brain cell activity as they focus on new tasks they have devised.


It’s a typical Monday morning.  What a wonderful way to start the week.


A sign hangs on my office door.  It says, “You are now entering a ‘Shalom Zone.’  In this room all will strive for a feeling of peace, acceptance, and enjoyment of all relationships.”


I created the sign over a year ago, when I was writing a Sunday school lesson on the concept of “Shalom.”  The Hebrew word, “shalom,” conveys what God planned for the creation.  Shalom means that people are in a good relationship with God, with themselves and their bodies, with their neighbors (all other people), and with the earth.  For people to be in shalom means that their life is balanced and that they relate to the whole of what surrounds them with a peaceful spirit. 


Sometimes when I read the paper or watch the news, the number of horrible things happening in the world is mind-numbing.  I wish I could gather up every child in the world and place them into a world where food, good health, education, and love were shared equally by all.  Nicholas Wolterstorff, in Until Justice and Peace Embrace, stated that “a society characterized by shalom combines peace, justice, and enjoyment of all relationships so that all peoples can flourish in their lives, and that they can also delight in their relationship with God.”  That is a world I would choose to live in.


Now, that world of shalom can seem to be an impossibility, but “impossible things are happening every day,” according to the Fairy Godmother in Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.  Besides, Mother Teresa stated that “a smile is the beginning of peace,” and a smile is an easy thing to start with.  If we as parents, guardians, caregivers, and friends of young children strive to create shalom zones in our lives, the ripples will spread.  We know that our actions and even simply our presence affect and change the children in our lives.  As they grow with the concept of shalom, they will spread it to the friends, families, and others they interact with.  The ripples can grow to tides of love and compassion.


This is Holy Week, the week we remember and prepare for the miracle of God’s love for us.   Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” (John 14:27).  I hope that you will find ways to end each day with thoughts of peace; to begin each day with thoughts of peace; and to continue thinking thoughts of peace throughout this day and every day.  Shalom. 

Children and Technology

“When it comes to technology in early childhood, the pendulum often swings between a belief that very young children should experience no screen time to a belief that as early as possible children should be exposed to technology. As early educators and parents it is our role to help support children’s overall development and well-being;  but figuring out what is truly best for our youngest charges can be a daunting task. 


Fortunately, one of my favorite early childhood resources – Zero to Three â€“released a research report Screen Sense:  Setting the Record Straight—Research-based Guidelines for Screen Use for Children Under 3 Years Old. The work is a collaborative effort between researchers in BOTH media and early childhood, providing a balance of both perspectives.  Research is clear that young children learn best through close relationships with adults and hands-on experiences, but technology is here to stay so it is important to find meaningful ways to incorporate it into the contexts that young children best develop and thrive.  It is possible to find a balance between all and nothing, and the balance lies with meaningful engagement with technology that enhances hands-on learning and interactions with others.  The full Screen Sense report is available at Zero to Three, as well as user-friendly documents that summarize key points:  Screen Sense:  Setting the Record StraightUsing Screen Media with Young Children; and 5 Myths about Young Children and Screen Time.”


Information provided by: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Children at Play

I’ve just returned from nine days at a resort on the beach in Mexico (it was wonderful!).  My husband and I had the opportunity to spend hours lounging in the sun, reading, swimming, and people watching.  As a veteran early childhood educator, I focused on the children and there were a lot of them.  They came in all ages, sizes, colors, and languages.  While some of them came with siblings, for the most part they came not knowing any other child at the place.  Despite language and experiential differences, the children immediately formed groups of playmates and I would see them regularly playing near or in the pool together.  The first time I heard the shouts of “Marco,” “Polo,” brought back memories.  The game my son and his friends played in our backyard pool in suburban upstate New York was also the focus of fun in a resort pool in Cancun, Mexico.

Too often, as educators and parents, we forget the importance of play in our children’s lives.  These children were on vacation, so play was primary, but in their everyday lives, especially for school children, play is taking a back seat to academic rigor.  Standardized testing is a huge reality, beginning in kindergarten.  It leaves little time for “play” in the average school day.  We need to remember that play is more than just an opportunity to be noisy and get messy, although those things are important.  Play is the most important way that young children learn.  In an article by Sandra Waite-Stupiansky, PhD, a professor of Early Childhood and Reading at Edinboro University, in Pennsylvania, she states that, “Through play children learn about the social, physical, emotional and cognitive worlds around them.”  When children play with others they learn reciprocity and mutual respect.  They learn resilience and perseverance when obstacles come in the way of their play.  They learn to stretch themselves as they challenge themselves to jump higher, build taller, and concentrate longer.  Through play children have the opportunity to try on adult roles, and learn to deal with tension and stress.  They play monsters and superheroes 


in the classic battle of good versus evil – and of course, good always wins.


Play is learning at its best.  It is authentic, natural, and intrinsically rewarding.  What could be better?  Now, go outside and find somebody to play with!

Parenting Help (?)

As a parent, grandparent, and teacher, I frequently read articles and books about child development.  Information abounds and I am often overwhelmed with the amount of information that is available.  But when you are having difficulty dealing with an issue, it can be comforting to “Google” the question and let the experts deal with it.  This is not a new thing.  Parents have always looked for advice or encouragement in dealing with a problem.  And in the past, as now, there were always experts to help out:


“Put the baby in the corner and leave it there… Handle the baby as little as possible… We strongly protest against the haphazard, promiscuous kissing of babies.”  (From the 1916 book, The Mother and Her Child)


In an 1894 manual, Dr. Emmett Holt advised:  “Crying is the baby’s exercise.”  He advised against playing with the baby until it was 6 months old, as play was thought to cause nervousness and agitation.


A U.S. government baby manual from 1932 recommended starting toilet training by the end of the first month.  The mother should hold the baby “over the chamber, using a soap stick, if necessary, to start the movement.”




I don’t recommend any of the “suggestions” listed above.  It’s amazing how ideas of raising a child have changed.  There are two books I do recommend:  Reading Magic, by Mem Fox and Mind in the Making:  the Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, by Ellen Galinsky.  They are two very different books, but each provides some valuable insights into aspects of child development that are helpful for anyone raising or working with children.

Children and Nature


I am sitting at my desk and working, but all too often my eyes are drawn to the sun shining through the window.  It is cold and everything is covered with snow, but I want to be outside.  Today I leave for nine days of beach living.  The current temperature at my planned destination is 86°.  I will spend every possible moment outdoors, soaking in fresh air and sun, exploring my surroundings, and simply enjoying the beauty of this incredible world God created.


It is so important for everyone to spend time in nature.  The frightening fact is that today’s children spend less and less time outdoors, for a variety of reasons.  As Mary Rivkin stated in her book, The Great Outdoors, “Children’s access to outdoor play has evaporated like water in sunshine.  It happened so fast, along with everything else in this speed-ridden century, that we have not coped with it.”  The National Recreation and Park Association did a 2010 study which found that spending time in nature resulted in higher levels of Social functioning, Psychological functioning, and Physical health in both children and adults.  So why aren’t we all outside?


Mary Rivkin lists 7 things that create barriers to outdoor play:

·         Concerns about safety - traffic

·         Concerns about safety – stranger danger fear

·         More people, less play space

·         Pollution and other environmental issues

·         Family schedules that limit outdoor play

·         The loss of recess time at school

·         The “Screen Time Phenomenon”


In our climate I would add an 8th:  there have been days this winter that we simply could not take the children outdoors.  The wind chill factor was so low that it would have been dangerous, even with the children clothed appropriately.  The “cabin fever” this has created this winter has intensified my desire to make as complete a use of our center’s natural surroundings as possible.


Surprisingly, even when it is nice we have children who simply do not want to go outside.  Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods, quotes a fourth-grader from San Diego:  “I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”  We can dangle all the research facts we want in front of our children’s eyes, but until they learn the magic of the outdoors it will be hard to unplug them.


At our child care center we have the incredible gift of owning more than 15 acres of land, most of which is undeveloped.  A stream runs at the edge of the property; deer pass through frequently; we see rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks all the time.  Our goal is to make better use of this resource.  The project is still in the planning stages, but we intend to transform our traditional playground into a natural adventure zone.  We have lots of ideas, but until the snow melts the ideas must stay on paper.  Meanwhile, when the temperature finally gets into the double digits, we will enjoy the snow, building snowmen, climbing the mounds of snow at the edge of the parking lot, and sledding down our hill. 


I, however, will be ambling along a sunny beach. 

Reading with Children


It’s cold outside and it’s snowing.  Nothing new for this winter but I am seriously in need of warmth and green!  On a day like today all I want to do is curl up in a big chair, with a warm blanket, and a good book.  (Ice cream would be nice, too, but that’s another blog.)


Books are a vital part of my daily life.  I have always loved reading and have devoured books since I was a child.  While I don’t remember my parents reading aloud to me, there were always books in the house and both of my parents enjoyed reading.  When my son was young I read aloud to him all the time.  Now that I am a grandmother, I have the double joy of seeing my son reading to his daughter – and I have frequent opportunities to read to her, too.  Needless to say, she is as big a “bookworm” as her father and me.


There is a wonderful book by Mem Fox, called Reading Magic.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is this:  “If every parent understood the huge educational benefits and intense happiness brought by reading aloud to their children, and if every parent – and every adult caring for a child – read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.”  That fact is supported by years of research.  According to a joint position statement of the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC):  “The single most important activity for building the understandings and skills essential for reading success appears to be reading aloud to children.”


Based on research and my experience in raising and working with children, reading aloud can and should be done any time, any place, and with all ages of children.  Mem Fox refers to the joy of reading together as a “chocolate experience.”  I encourage each of you to spend some “chocolate time” with your child.  Listed below are Mem Fox’s suggestions for twenty books that children love.  Pick up a book, cuddle with your child, and forget the snow and cold.  I hope you all enjoy some “chocolate time” today and every day.


          I Went Walking by Sue Machin

          Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

          Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin, Jr.

          Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

          Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman

          Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

          Where’s Spot? By Eric Hill

          The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

          Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

          Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd

          Rascal the Dragon by Paul Jennings

          Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

          Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan

          Who Sank the Boat? By Pamela Allen

          Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss

          Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

          We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

          Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins

          The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont

          Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst


Ice Cream for Breakfast


It's International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day!  I love ice cream.  I eat a bowl of ice cream almost every night - and now I get to eat it for breakfast, too.  A former pastor at the church, Alison Schmied, first introduced me to Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.  We have decided that it deserves to be observed each year.


“Life’s short, eat Dessert First” is a well-known phrase that has been used by a lot of people for reasons both flippant and serious. Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day is one of the more serious.  Its purpose is to increase awareness about childhood cancer. For children for whom every day is a blessing, it only makes sense to indulge in life’s little pleasures, and Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast day brings that opportunity to everyone.


"Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast day was created to commemorate the 9 wonderful years of a young girl named Malia Grace, born on February 18, 2001, and who passed away after a long fight with cancer on Dec 7, 2010.  She was an inspiration to everyone, glowing with the kind of enthusiasm for life that childhood is made of. She embraced knowledge and learning with every day, getting outside whenever possible and drinking in her short life with a passion that made every day an adventure" (  


At first the day was celebrated by a small group of close friends to remember Malia Grace's life.  It went on to become a day to honor all the children who have or are battling childhood cancer.   Celebrating "Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day" is best done by joining people around the world for an ice-cream breakfast.  You can join the PromiseLand fun by sending a picture of what you are eating and who you are eating with to and we can add it to our Facebook page.


So dip your spoon into a scoop of creamy goodness and know that it is for a good cause.  As we enjoy the treat with the children at PromiseLand, we will share a prayer for all of those children who have fought or are fighting cancer.  

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