Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Memories

Halloween Memories
BA @ Kids Matter
Ah, Halloween….. 
How do I love thee… let me count the ways:
1.      The decorations,
2.      The costumes,
3.      The food,
4.      The magic, and mostly,
5.      The memories…
When I was growing up, Halloween was one of my favorite days of the year.  The week leading up to the big night, always meant a trip with my mom to the local 5&10 cent store, J.J. Newberry’s, on Main Street to pick out the perfect costume.  We would walk down the street, stop under the striped awning, enter through the big heavy swinging double doors and stroll across the wooden floors in search of the Halloween display.  There it was… a glass enclosed counter with the individual boxes of costumes stacked to the top.  Yes, costumes came in a cardboard box; nicely folded with the mask peeking through the cellophane window in the box top. 
You could be anyone you wanted to be; a clown, a witch, Howdy Doody, the Lone Ranger, Cinderella, a lion, or a scarecrow.  It was all so enticing to a six year old!  As well as I can remember, the costumes were some sort of satin material that slipped on or pulled up, over your clothes and had a plastic tie at the neck.  A picture, to represent who you were, was stamped on the front… Cinderella also had some glitter on the front.  The masks were lightweight plastic and covered your entire face. You could hardly breathe in them.  But who cared?  It was great fun!!
On Halloween afternoon, when my dad got home from work, he and I would head to the back yard. He would cut the top off our pumpkin with a big butcher knife and let me stick my hand in to pull out all of the slimy insides.  He would carve a scary face, put a candle inside, put the top back on, carry it to the front yard, and ceremoniously place it on the front porch steps.   Then, it would be time to finish homework and eat a special dinner.  My Mom always made chili and sandwiches on this occasion.   But who could eat? 
Evening was beginning and soon my best friend and I would be donning our costumes and meeting to go Trick or Treating!  As I was getting ready, I always pictured a witch flying in front of a big yellow moon with wolves howling below.   Strange creatures would be lurking behind every tree.  I couldn’t wait to get outside in the dark, cold, eerie night. 
We would go from house to house. Each neighbor would comment on how scary, funny or beautiful we were in our costumes.  They always pretended not to know who we were, even though my dad was waiting patiently on the sidewalk.  We could count on wonderful goodies like popcorn balls, homemade cookies, caramel apples, big suckers, and chocolate bars!  Oh, the magic and wonderful innocence of it all!
I can still feel the warm memories come flooding back every year about this time…..the sweet simplicity of the late fifties.  I wish it could still be like that, but it was a long, long time ago and times have surely changed.  Those times were not so bad.  It was the simple things in life that made us what we are today… big kids who still love Halloween.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Developing Cohesiveness Within A Team

Developing Cohesiveness Within A Team
Belinda @ Kids Matter
If your first thought upon seeing the word TEAM is “ugh”… you might not be a team player. Worse yet… if you cringe upon seeing the word TEAM you definitely are not a team player. What is it about some folks that make them hate team participation events? Is it a personality issue? Is it a physical limitation? What about a mental challenge? Or… just maybe, it is all three or none at all. Typically the word TEAM is a memory trigger. Our past experiences with teams leave us for the most part… ambiguous. We tiptoe around the outskirts of the team while never wanting to be right in the midst of participation.  While it’s true there is no “I” in TEAM, there are many other thoughts that can be extracted from the acronym. And I say… Totally Excel Among Many!! You get out of a team what you put in.
If you spend your life walking the outskirts of team participation then you miss out on opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute. You are cheating yourself. You are cheating your team. You will never experience the win as a team but you will surely experience the loss as a team. Team spirit drives the team to perform at each individual’s greatest for the benefit of the whole. Totally Excel Among Many!!
Push forward, strive for success, light a fire under it, all statements of encouragement. If we remain stagnant in a group the end result is that we are a detriment to the group, we pull the group down, and we are a liability instead of an asset. Your lack of participation has a rippling effect throughout the team. Have you ever noticed it is much harder to push a rock up a hill than roll one down? The momentum of the rolling rock builds and builds as it tumbles end over end down the hill, until it is stopped by an outside force. That is the same momentum of which teams should strive. Instead of pushing that non-participant up the hill and exhausting team resources, each member should eagerly race to the top of the hill and lunge forward in the challenge to the race for the bottom of the hill.
Team members should be supportive and encouraging of all team members. Each member must be open and accepting of all members’ knowledge and experience in the task at hand. No group should be totally in agreement at all times. Without the occasional disagreement the team does not grow. It’s asking how and why that motivates creativity and success. Being the “yes man” of the team is actually very similar to being a non-participant. Is “yes” the best you can offer the team? If “yes” then why? What is your experience or research to back up that response? Be a contributing member of the group!
Maybe the overall reward or outcome of the group participation isn’t something you are interested. You really don’t care one way or the other the outcome of the challenge. Reality check… have you not learned yet there is no “I” in team? Once you have been made a part of a team it really doesn’t matter what your personal feelings are, you have a team to consider now. It is your responsibility to grab that baton, as it quickly passes to you, and exert every effort to fulfill your part of the team’s participation. Whether you chose the team, the team chose you, or you were assigned the team… it is irrelevant. You are a part of something that has a purpose and an outcome. You must strive to develop cohesiveness within your team just as every other member should be participating. Totally Excel Among Many! A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Don’t be that weak link simply because you don’t want to participate in a group activity. Be a contributing member who shares expertise and learns from the experience of other team members. Go TEAM! Totally Excel Among Many!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

From the Director’s Chair: Halloween Costumes on a Budget!

From the Director’s Chair: Halloween Costumes on a Budget!
 Julia @ Kids Matter
          Hello all! How is everyone enjoying this fine fall weather? I know I am just about to burst at the seams over fall. It is absolutely my favorite season. It brings out my creative side, and I find myself more flowery, romantic, and day dreamy than normal!
          I always start a knitting project, which is inevitably a scarf, because I struggle to knit anything else. This year I am going to push myself and learn to knit a dog sweater for my Pit Bull, Piglet. She is white with a pink nose and ears, so naturally it will be pink, much to my fiancé’s chagrin. (He disagrees with clothing for dogs.) Pit Bulls have thin coats and she trembles in the cold. So, Pink sweater is shall be!
          I also start writing a new novel, baking new recipes for the upcoming holidays, reading haunting tales (Carrie, currently due to the movie coming out next weekend), and walking in the park more.  But, most importantly, I start my shopping list for my All Hallows’ Eve costume. Most of my materials are items already in the house. I did not grow up a wealthy child. We went without a lot and I usually made all my Halloween costumes. My grandmother and I would start designing in June, and the final project would be ready a few weeks before the holiday.
          I am a huge advocate for do-it-yourself costumes. It inspires you to think creatively. If you sit and think about what you want to be on this one night, what would you write down?  Remember, you can be anything you want! Now, take that list and think about HOW to do it UNDER $25. I did that every year of my life growing up. And every year, I shocked my mother with how creative and frugal I was! (And STILL brought home the blue ribbon)
          The following list includes my favorite costumes over the years. Some are from my childhood, and others are from adulthood. And no, you are never too old for Halloween. Even passing out candy or trick or treating with your kids should and must require a costume!  
1.   Lenore from “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe
2.   Joker Card
3.   Fairy
4.   Lightning Bug
5.   Lady Bug
6.   Persephone (Goddess of spring)
7.   Poison Ivy (Batman villain)
          The top one would probably have to be the lightning bug costume.  I will break it down to show you how I executed it and saved on costs.
Lightning Bug:
I simply wore black yoga pants, green sneakers, and a long sleeved black t-shirt. I curled my hair and wrapped it into two HUGE buns on top of my head. I fastened bright green pipe cleaners ($2 at Wal-Mart) end to end to make two long pipe cleaners, then twisted them around each bun. I also used two pipe cleaners that I twisted around a pencil to make tight curls as my bug antennae. Then, I took bright green eye shadow and lipstick ($2 together at Wal-Mart) and did a ‘beauty’ makeup. I used the green shadow on my eyes accented with black liner and shadow I already had. I also used the green and black eye shadow as blush to create green glossy contours on my cheeks! I finished that makeup with long sparkly fake lashes ($2.99 Wal-Mart) and green lipstick. The BEST part however, was my wings! I took some old wire hangers and unfolded them to straighten them out. I used two hangers per wing. I then molded the two hangers together to make long ovals. Then I took some black spandex material, which I bought at my local fabric store ($2.99 per yard- I bought 1½) and hot glued the material to the wire. I also had some black and green glitter on hand and glued some of that on them as well.
Next, I went to a party store and bought three pearly bright green balloons (39 cents each), three green glow sticks ($1 each), and green glow in the dark jewelry ($1 per tube) to wear at my wrists. I blew up the balloons to a medium round size and slipped a glow stick into each. I then cut a pair of green and black striped tights (4.99 at Wal-Mart) and used one of the legs to stuff the 3 glowing balloons into. I tied the top of the stocking closed and CAREFULLY attached a safety pin to the top knot and bottom toe. I then hot glued 2 elastic pieces (99 cents per yard) to the top and bottom of each wing/arm to hold my wings on. I safety pinned my glowing back to the top and bottom of my shirt. When my arms were resting at my sides the back was hidden, when I raised my arms, my glowing back was visible. Total cost for costume awesomeness? $23.97 after tax! That is way cheaper than most store bought costumes!
So, there you have it, costuming on a budget. What will you make for yourself this year? With your child? Sit down with your little one and find out what they want to be this year.  How can you make that happen under $25? What a Challenge!!!
Until next time! Happy Halloween and if you pass out treats… A plea from all those who are young, or young at heart- NO RAISINS!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Tradition

Halloween Tradition
Kim @ Kids Matter
As soon as my children could walk, I would doll them up in cute Halloween costumes and we would go trick or treating!  They were so cute the first years; barely able to even say trick or treat.  I’m sure many of you remember how cute your children were and what that first “twik or tweet” and “tank you” sounded like.  It brings a smile to my face.  We would go to all of our relatives and friends homes and show off our cute toddlers. 
Each year as they grew older, we would carve the pumpkins.  It was a BIG scary ordeal when they were little. As they got bigger, the pumpkins had to be “cool” looking.  We had to decorate inside the house, make cookies and of course, decorate them.   I always found myself buying candy at least twice because by the end of the month, when we actually needed the candy for the night, it would be just about gone.
I remember warm trick or treat nights. I remember others when I had to drive the car up and down the street. The kids would pop out of the car, run up and visit a couple houses, and then run back to escape the frigid autumn air.
Now, my daughter is grown. This year she has her first toddler, Maddie, who will be a kitty cat.  She will be just three days shy of one year old, walking, and has no idea what we are doing.  My daughter has painted and carved pumpkins this year.  She has decorated the house but not bought candy.  She will take Maddie trick or treating down Main Street in town.  Trick or treating is a little different now than when my children grew up.  They also have the “Trunk or Treats”, which I think is a fabulous idea.  New traditions are being made before my eyes.  It is so much fun for me to watch my daughter carrying on old traditions and creating new ones.
I have so many memories; old and new.  Whatever the tradition… it’s all about how much family and Kids Matter!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Costs and Benefits of Disposable VS. Reusable Diapers

The Costs and Benefits of Disposable VS. Reusable Diapers
Robin @ Kids Matter
Many parents struggle with the decision of whether to use disposable or reusable diapers.  Disposable diapers are easier to use both at home and in child care centers.   However, it is better for the environment and a more cost saving option to use reusable/cloth ones.  Paying for disposable diapers has been found to be one of the top causes of stress for low income parents and is a stressor for parents above the poverty line also. 
Economics: The costs has a cost calculator to show how much your baby will cost. ( )   It estimates one month of disposable diapers to cost $72 vs. $19 for cloth diapers that you wash and reuse.  That is a savings of $636 per year by using cloth diapers.  Depending on the cost of diapers in your area, and the age of your baby, the cost of disposable diapers may be much higher.  Reusable diapers do require an initial investment in the original purchase of these diapers, but that money is quickly regained in savings.  Instead of having people bring boxes of disposable diapers to baby showers, they could each bring a pack of reusable ones to help offset this cost. 
Carbon footprints: The green side
Even the most environmentally friendly disposable diaper leaves a bigger carbon footprint than cloth diapers.   The most biodegradable ones still have a portion of material that can’t decompose completely.  Cloth diapers are not only reusable, but also are more biodegradable when they are disposed.  According to the Real Diaper Association, disposable diapers are the third most common consumer product found in landfills today, and may take up to 500 years to decompose.  ( )
Maintenance: The work
Cloth diapers are more work.  They need to be washed, folded, and sometimes stuffed with a liner.  Picking up a new package at the store and going to the trash can to throw a used disposable one away, is much easier.   Also, using cloth diapers when traveling can also be troublesome because of having to carry the soiled diapers with you and the availability of laundry facilities may be limited.  Carrying plastic bags to wrap dirty ones in is fairly easy, but another option is to use disposable ones at times such as these.  Many childcare centers these days will work with you to allow you to use reusable diapers during the time your child is there.  The important thing here is to provide them with an easy and hygienic plan for how to store the soiled ones until you pick your child up. 
If you are interested in finding out more about using reusable diapers, the website for the Real Diaper Association has a user’s guide with tips to help you along the way.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween Party: Make it fun, not painful

Halloween Party: Make it fun, not painful
Belinda @ Kids Matter
What child wouldn’t love a Halloween party? For that matter… a lot of parents are quite fond of them as well! But… when you think of “party” do you get the idea of something huge, costing lots of money, and taking up an absurd amount of your time? Maybe that seems like more work than you feel you can afford both financially and time wise. How about if I told you that doesn’t have to be the case? What if you could have a party for 4-8 children for under $50 and it take no more than three hours of your time including the actual party time? Is it sounding better? Well, let’s get started!
What do kids love most? BALLOONS! Decorate with streamers and balloons and you’ll have a hit on your hands! Don’t spend money on expensive fancy balloons; just buy ordinary solid color balloons. If you want to decorate them blow them up before the party and draw Halloween characters on them. Balloons and streamers will cost you about $4.
Food and drinks
No need to get all into planning a big feast. It’s a fun holiday and all the kids care about are the sweets! Schedule your party for between lunch and dinner or after dinner on a night when there is no school. Buy the prepackaged decorated sugar cookies. Use your time for preparing games, not baking. Games are much more exciting! Cookies will cost you about $8, more or less, depending on how many you want each child to have. I wouldn’t go more than two a piece, or then you will be dealing with sugar rush chaos! As for drinks, I would stick with something simple like apple juice or the prepackaged kid’s drinks.
You have to set the mood of the party and kids love music! Take a few minutes and visit this link at Dream English Halloween to get some FREE music. If you don’t care for these search the internet for free Halloween music.
Every Halloween party has to have pumpkin painting! Don’t worry… there will be no messy paint spills to clean up with this one. You can either purchase one pumpkin for each child (approximately $5/each) or double the kids up on the pumpkins. Buy a package of black Sharpie markers ($4) and before the party pre-draw face outlines for the kids to fill in.
Face painting is such a great activity for children. How often do they get to put paint on their faces without getting into trouble? This is really a treat for them! If you are doing your shopping at Wal-Mart pick up their KIDS CRAFT Face Paint Mega Set for $6.57. Don’t forget the brushes if you don’t have any at home. (That’s at most another couple dollars.)
GAMES!!!! The excitement rings throughout your house! Mummy Wrap is a great game the children will love. Grab a roll of toilet paper from your bathroom and some scotch tape. If you are participating in the game the kids will have a ball turning you into the mummy! If you choose not to get in on the game allow the kids to mummify whoever wants to do it. Spooky Memory Game is a free game you can printout from Spoonful. Follow the directions for printing and playing as provided on the website. Find the Eyeball is an icky game and we all know how children love to get icky! Cook a package of spaghetti from your pantry. You can even throw in some food coloring while it cooks. Be sure to over cook the pasta. Drain it thoroughly and coat it with a little vegetable oil so it is really slimy. Purchase a pack of ping pong balls ($3) and with your black Sharpie, draw an eyeball on each one. Allow the marker to dry and the pasta to cool. Drop the eyeballs into the pasta and have the kids find the eyeballs (without looking of course).
At the close of the party, hand out treat bags filled with yummy candy. Treat bags will cost about $1 or you could use the old fall back… sandwich bags! The candy you choose will probably be the most expensive item for the party besides the pumpkins. I would suggest a bag of Sather’s Kiddie Mix ($4.48) and then some type of little chocolate bars. You want to leave the candy until the end and let them have the sugar rush at home!
Don’t be afraid to use what you have in your home to cut down on the costs. Most of us have paper plates and napkins or paper towels for the cookies. No need to get all fancy, again, the kids only care about the fun and sweets! If you are like me you have a cabinet full of sippy cups to cut down on the messes by the wee little ones or if you opt for the prepackaged drinks that is one less thing you have to think about… cups.
Have a great time with your Halloween party! Laugh, enjoy, and create memories that will last a lifetime!

Monday, October 21, 2013

From The Director’s Chair: The School Ager’s Lament

From The Director’s Chair: The School Ager’s Lament
Julia @ Kids Matter
          How many times do you hear in a day from anyone under the age of 13, “I’M BORED!”? I can tell you when I was an educator and had the luck of working with school agers, I heard it frequently.
          So what do you do with those, ‘getting too old to go to a baby daycare’, school age children who are just too cool for school? First, before we get into activities, we have to think about why older kids are so much harder to please and keep entertained.
          Kids now are very technologically advanced. Between TV, gaming systems, computers, cell phones, and tablets your child is entertained 24/7. Kids are also way over scheduled. They have dance, T-ball, fall ball, soccer, karate, swimming, basketball, scouts, etc.  That crazy list could be in just one household and between only two kids!  And, summer, albeit the best time of the year for kids, is actually the most challenging time for them! The reason for this is because kids crave structure. Structure is what they face for ten months out of the year while in school, whereas, while on summer vacation, structure takes a back seat.
          So, now that we have our reasons for our moody adolescence, let’s try and figure out ways that we, as early educators, can keep them entertained and structured over the summer break.  A good tool is getting ahead of the game before these school agers even get out of school in the spring.  Newspapers and local parenting magazines run summer activity bulletins in their publications in the month leading up to summer. These are a treasure trove of ideas and potential field trips!
          Most schools, however, cannot afford to send school agers on field trips every day. If this is the case with your school, work your budget rigidly in the winter months so that you can plan some really knock out trips when you do get to go in the summer.  Some examples of these would be: movies, bowling, a local sporting event, mini golf, laser tag, roller skating, a kid’s themed pizza place, etc. All of these and more could have your school agers jumping with excitement.  But is it enough? The answer is no, not even close!
          While they are on the trip they will have the best time ever, but as they ride back to your center that feeling of boredom and dread starts creeping in. Sounds silly, right? But let’s think about this and try to understand why that isn’t enough. I’m going to give you a scenario that I think you, as an adult, may identify with.
Sunday Morning: Sleep in. Awaken. Let out dog. Feed dog and cats. Make coffee. Drink coffee while curled up in comfy window chair with book/newspaper. Enjoy silence. Significant other/children awaken. Breakfast/Brunch. Go to movies. Call Mother, because you are overdue and can’t put it off any longer. Stop at mall. Buy shoes. Go home. Make a lovely Sunday dinner. Curl up with loved ones and watch The Walking Dead. Hit pause. DO LAUNDRY! And BAM! It hits you, hits you strait in the heart, better than Daryl Dixon can strike a zombie with an arrow. Tomorrow is Monday. Grrrr Monday. BOO Monday! And just like that, your beautiful Sunday is shattered!
          Now, THAT is how a school ager feels every time they return from a field trip. So, what do you do now? The answer is once again structure. Kids need it, want it, and function better when they have it! So, here is a list of activities they can work on, in the center, to keep their minds busy and creative between those field trips:
Class Newspaper/Blog! Have them create their own ideas, interview, write, and edit on paper or computer! The possibilities are endless. Set it up so they have a voice to write about and critique what they do, where they go, what they eat, see, etc. Summer journals are also a way to get them writing about their summer adventures.
Politics! Have them elect class officers. Work on campaigns, speeches, budgets, and everything in between. Create a congress out of the rest of your class; have them work on issues that children can help control in their communities like recycling, donations for local food banks, and child safety initiatives.
Talent Show! Have them work on acts for a talent show to close the summer. Invite parents and charge minimally for concessions to raise money for something their classroom needs, or maybe a really AWESOME field trip to end the summer! If some don’t want to be on stage, have them work on backstage things like costumes and props, concessions, or program design.
Well, that is about it from the Director’s Chair! Until next time… Keep those kids busy!!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Gift of Organization

The Gift of Organization
Belinda @ Kids Matter
Ahhh! The frustration of giving the perfect gift for a baby shower! You don’t want to be blasé and just pick up the first thing you find. You don’t really have the time to peruse the long list of registered gifts. You want something that will last, but worry about buying clothes too big. Then you have the option of purchasing a beautiful lavish blanket and bedding but reality kicks in and you know in a few months it won’t be so lavish anymore. So… what to buy, what to buy… hummm? Have you ever considered the gift of organization? It’s a gift that will grow with the baby and be a complete blessing to Mom and Dad. Just think about this… how much time have you wasted searching for documents you needed for an appointment? How many times have you thought, “UGH! Why didn’t I put all those papers together?” This is the perfect opportunity to help someone else by giving them the gift of organization.
How about purchasing an expandable folder? Now, I know this doesn’t seem like a present to flip over but I assure you, one day the parent will come to you and exclaim, “You have no idea what a lifesaver your gift was to us!” They come in assorted colors and can easily be creatively decorated with the baby shower theme or any theme of your choosing. You can even personalize it with the baby’s name. The presentation of the gift is only limited by your imagination. So, think bold and outside the box.
The inside of the folder should be attended to as well. I know, from personal experience, that if we don’t go ahead and map everything out; the gift will not be utilized for its intended purpose. The more work the giver puts into it the more useful it will be to the recipient. The inside should be labeled preferably in order of events from birth. One suggestion would be to label the first file ‘birth records’. In that folder the parent could keep important documents such as the birth certificate, hospital documents, finger prints, foot print, vital statistics and possibly a CD containing all those beautiful arrival pictures taken moments after birth. (A quick tip… you could design a CD holder in the file for the parent to place yearly CD’s of pictures as the child grows. It’s not only for organizational purposes but also great memento storage.)
The next label in the folder should include medical records for the doctor, hospital, dentist, WIC, and immunizations. Keeping a record of trips to the doctor and the purpose of the visit is always a good thing. Years later when your grown child asks, “Did I ever have the chicken pox?” you can go straight to the box and give a definite yes or no along with the date and details. An insurance file should immediately follow the medical records. That way all the records will be in the same order and if there is a need to reference a medical visit for an insurance claim, all documents are right at the finger tips.
The remaining files should include labels such as: daycare, school (preschool – 12), and college. This would also be the perfect place to keep financial records directly related to the child such as savings accounts, bonds, and insurance policies.
If used for its rightful purpose, this expandable file folder will reach capacity long before high school. The chances of the parent purchasing additional folders are greatly increased in order to keep up the organization that makes life so much easier. This would also be a great gift for a college student. Inspiring organizational fortitude was best said by Florence Kennedy, “Don't agonize. Organize.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

From The Director’s Chair: Lights! Camera! Prop Box Action

From The Director’s Chair: Lights! Camera! Prop Box Action
Julia @ Kids Matter
Prop box? What’s a prop box, you ask? Well, it is actually a very important tool used by teaching staff in a classroom. Its purpose is to promote creative thinking. A prop box is needed for every theme each week, per classroom. It is a small box or plastic tub containing homemade or inexpensive items or ‘props’ to aid in teaching the weekly theme.
Every month you should be putting together a teacher packet with the weekly themes. These packets should not only offer ideas of circle time subjects and daily activities, but it should also include at least two prop box lists and ideas. Each prop box should contain items for five areas of development: cognitive learning, language and speech, health and fitness, social/emotional behavior, and creative expression. It’s also a good idea to have several prop boxes in your office as examples of inspiration for the teachers. Below is an example of a weekly preschool theme which includes some prop box items.
Week: September 1-7
Theme: Apples
Cognitive Learning
Have several large cutouts of colorful apples numbered1-10. Make sure to laminate these apples! Then have small matching pompoms to represent small apples. Ask each child to count the number of apple cut outs. The number appearing on the apple should be representative of the number of miniature apples glued to the larger apple.

Plant apple seeds! Have a few Styrofoam cups with apple stickers in your box. Have the children plant the seeds and watch them grow with sunlight, water, and care. Have the children document daily on the ‘Apple Chart’ what is happening to the plant.

Language & Speech:
Read the story of Johnny Appleseed or any story of how apples are grown and used. You can build story visual aids, like puppets, to help while you read. These can be as simple as a paper bag puppet or a plastic apple. Keep these books in your prop box until after the week is over. Make an apple butter verses apple sauce Venn diagram! The Apple Venn Diagram (charts with overlapping circles that indicate how much different groups have in common) should be laminated and HUGE. Oversized laminates are a must for most ALL of your prop box themes! You can draw two giant apple shaped outlines that intersect one another, instead of the traditional circles. Have each child (allergies permitting) split a biscuit in half and taste apple butter on half and apple sauce on the other. Have them describe what is unique about each. Write all words and thoughts within the Venn diagram. Children LOVE Venn diagrams. (For those of you that are a little skeptical at the age appropriateness of this activity, they will beg you to do more of them!)

Health & Fitness:
Do apple bowling! Use a good sized plastic apple as a bowling ball. You can take a few paper towel rolls and color apples all over them, or maybe cover them with apple themed shelf paper! Create an ‘apple bowling alley’ center where the children can bowl.

This may be one of my favorites! Home Living/Kitchen Centers are the place to make apple pies! Your prop box should have a few tin pie plates, brown felt pie crust, rolling pin, oven mitt, felt apple slices in many colors, and spices.  Ask the kiddos to make you an apple pie using an apple pie recipe and teach them how to follow it step by step.

Creative Expression:
Apple shaped sponges as well as apples make for wonderful apple art! But the sponges will keep better in your prop box! Make sure you are stocked up on red coloring supplies. Have green pipe cleaners to be worms, and paper towel rolls to be tree trunks!

WHEW! What a week in the classroom that will be! Just think how much more fun the lessons will be when you build prop boxes! Let your imagination run wild. Most things can be made from regular supplies you have around the centers.
I can tell you this… my classes loved all of my prop boxes. From pigs to bunnies to rainbows or bugs, behavior is easily managed when minds are busy learning through play!
Until next time! Keep directing those teachers, children, and families toward their very best futures!

Monday, October 14, 2013

It’s The Little Things

It’s The Little Things
Belinda @ Kids Matter
When we are young we look at life in a completely different manner than when we get older. During those impressionable youth years we impatiently await the ‘grand events’ in our lives. A preschooler thinks kindergarten is the greatest thing since sliced cheese while the kindergartner thinks the first grader rocks and the ‘big kid’ on the bus is merely a fifth grader idolizing a middle schooler. As our children grow and leave the nest, we parents tend to remember the small things, the little things that light us from within.
One Mother’s Day, many years ago, I came home from work exhausted. The kids seemed super energetic that day, for some unknown reason, but isn’t that always the case when the parent is exhausted? They were flittering around the living room anxiously describing that day’s events to me. One of my sons was having a really hard time waiting for his turn because he had something so special to give me. It was something he had made at school for me in honor of Mother’s Day. He clasped the construction paper firmly against himself as he jumped up and down with excitement. “I made this for you, Mommy,” he smiled as he turned the card around. It was a beautiful card with butterflies all over it. All the children turned at once to read the oversized card. Suddenly, everyone burst out laughing except the son who made the card. He stood with the look of confusion on his face. The kids turned to look at my reaction and there I sat with big eyes and an open mouth. The sound of laughter filled the house. My son wanted to know why everyone was laughing.  He didn’t understand at all. He shouted, “It’s not funny! I made this for Mommy!” I then asked him what it said and he told me. Unfortunately what he thought he had written in his little second grade hand writing was not at all what he wrote. The pretty card covered in butterflies simply read, “I love you Mommy! You’re as beautiful as a butt fly!”
That is a moment I have cherished for so many years. The sound of laughter in my home filled my heart. It was the smiles on my children’s faces and the unity of family that settled deep within my memory for me to recall years later as my children went their own ways. There were many smiles and many memories created through a house full of children. Life wasn’t always grand and, as children do, there was lots of bickering but we can choose how we reflect on our life. We can seek out the positive and remember the smiles and laughter, or we can forget that happiness ever crossed our path and focus solely on the sadness. The reality of family life is that there are good times and there are bad times. Choosing to acknowledge the good times and forgiving the bad times can only improve your quality of life, for a happy heart inspires a peaceful soul.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ask Lots of Questions

Ask Lots of Questions
BA @ Kids Matter
During high school and college I worked every summer as a camp counselor at “Camp Little Acorn,” our local YMCA day camp.  It was a wonderful experience for me. For eight weeks in the summer it was attended by lots of children. Each day after the flag raising ceremony, the children had a schedule of fishing, hiking, archery, riflery, camp crafts, nature studies, boating, and a flag lowering ceremony.  Each day the children were transported, by bus, to the YMCA pool for a swim before going home.
On the first day of one particular camping session I gathered all of the children in my group around me to sit and get acquainted. One very important thing for a counselor to find out was if a child could swim. Any child that could not swim was required to remain in the shallow end of the pool with a counselor. All of the children in my group could swim except one little boy. So I made a note to myself to keep him in my mind. 
Our camp was bounded by Houston Creek on two sides. Although in most places, you had to wade, some places were actually deep enough to float a boat. And, of course, the children also went to the pool every day. At that time, the pool was a small (and I mean small) indoor pool located in the basement of the YMCA.  The pool was from 3 ft. to 8 ft. deep and was about the size of an in-ground backyard pool. Slippery concrete floors surrounded it with a few windows strategically placed for ventilation. 
Each counselor had been given trained on first aid, CPR, water safety, and boating safety… we were also given a limited amount of training on lifeguarding. There was always a trained lifeguard on staff. Camp counselors took turns on “pool duty” which involved standing in street clothes, around the side of the pool and watching the children. Sounds easy, but it was a small pool and there were lots of kids! When they got in the water it was a noisy, crowded and busy place for sure! The lifeguard needed all the help he could get.
Well, on the first day of this particular session I was put on “pool duty”. No big deal, I had done it many times. I always kept my eyes and ears open because I took my job as a counselor quite seriously. I had been assigned to the deep end of the pool by the diving board. 
Each child waited patiently in line for their turn on the board.  When you got on the board you were to wait until the previous child had made it to the ladder before you could dive or jump off the board. We had been trained to watch as they went off the board and safely made it to the ladder and then watch the next child. That day was no different than any other as swimmer after swimmer went off the board… over and over again.  And then it happened!!!
I looked over and there he was… the little boy who could not swim!! It took only about 30 seconds but seemed like it was an eternity and all in slow motion. He was smiling, running, and jumping off the diving board. My mind was telling me, you know he cannot swim!
This little boy, without a care in the world, plunged into the eight feet of water and promptly sank straight to the bottom. I kid you not; he was on the bottom of the pool looking straight up at me with his big eyes and totally in shock. I can still see him to this day. I prayed he did not try to take a breath down there! Without thinking I, along with the lifeguard, immediately jumped in after him.  We pulled him to the side and up the ladder.  He was spitting water, coughing, snot was flying, but he was fine.  I took him to the locker room, dried him off, and he got dressed.  We spent the rest of the day in the gymnasium.
As we sat on the bleachers in the gym, me with wet hair, wet shoes, wet clothes, and still a bit shaken, I asked him what he was thinking when he got on that board and jumped off.  “You told me this morning that you can’t swim.” I reminded him. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I can’t swim, but I know how to jump off stuff! I jump off my bed all the time!” 
Well, I learned my lesson that day. Be sure to ask all of the right questions… even if you are not sure what they may be! Too much information is better than not enough. Just think like a little boy and it might just save someone’s life! Or, at least, keep you from getting soaking wet!  
Kids……you gotta love ‘em!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fire and Burn Prevention

Fire and burn Prevention
Robin @ Kids Matter
Fire prevention week is October 6-12 in Lexington.  This is a good time to make sure your fire extinguisher is in working order, review your family preparedness plans, or make one if you haven’t yet!
Every day at least one child dies from a home fire.  One of the leading causes of residential fire deaths and injuries for children under the age of 10 is playing with a heat source, which includes lighters and matches.  From these incidents, children under age 10 account for 93 percent of deaths and 38percent of injuries.  Open flames are not the only things that can cause injury.  Kitchen equipment and drinks account for more than half of all scald and burn injuries.
Fire and burn safety essentials
Ø Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in sleeping areas.
Ø Replace smoke alarm batteries once a year.
Ø Make and practice a fire-escape plan.  Have two ways out of every room.
Ø Store matches and lighters in locked cabinets.
Ø Make the stove a “kid-free zone.”
Ø Never leave the kitchen unattended while cooking.
Ø Keep hot foods and liquids away from children.
Ø Place space heaters at least 3 feet from anything that could catch fire.
Ø Set water heater to 120 degrees (Fahrenheit).          
For more information, contact Safe Kids at 859-323-1153 or

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

From The Director’s Chair: The Kinder Garden

From The Director’s Chair: The Kinder Garden
Julia @ Kids Matter
"Children are like tiny flowers: They are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers." - Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) the founding father of Kindergarten.
Kindergarten has come quite a long way from when I entered the hallowed halls of Glendover Elementary in 1981. We only went half a day for one thing. Most of our day was spent with cookies, juice, Alphabet Buddies, a nap, and the Electric Company. Nice day, huh? These days, Kindergarten is one of the hardest years a little one will face as they begin their academic career. I have known parents who are pulling their hair out over the amount of daily work and homework sent home with their 5 year old child. So, what can we, as early educators, do to aid these wee babes as they march, determined with their oversized backpacks, into their scholastic life? The answer is simple; get them ready with kindergarten prep!
               On that note, let me ask you this… Are your Preschool classrooms up to par? Are the teachers you have in place aware of the role they play in early education? Are your Learning Centers helping them in their educational quest? Is your curriculum outside of the same old rote style teachings of the alphabet and days of the week songs? If you answered no to any of these questions, believe me, you are not alone. So let’s break the questions down one by one, shall we?
·        Are the classrooms up to par? Work with your teachers on rearranging the classrooms every 3 months. I know it is a lot of work, but by changing the room around, you are giving the children a somewhat ‘new’ room. They get excited with change which may promote well-mannered behavior.

Just remember the golden rule of room arrangement. Book Center should be in a quiet area of the room and away from the doors. Block Center should also be away from the doors and certainly away from books (it is often a noisy center). Keeping these centers away from doors is a safety precaution for fire drills.

·        Are your teachers aware of their role? Teachers in this age group can get downright tired and overworked trying to come up with new and exciting ways to keep 3, 4, and 5 year olds interested in learning rather than playing. Well, the answer is in the statement.

Your centers should be set up with things that children can learn through play. A great Science Center, Math Center, Writing Center, and Word Center can really help. Also, reaching out to your local elementary school kindergarten teachers can be a gold mine! Ask if your teachers can come observe for a day or two. Have staff pepper the kindergarten teachers with questions of what they expect in their new students and what centers they utilize in their classrooms.

·        Is your curriculum really teaching the children? Curriculum is the foundation of a truly great class. If your budget does not afford you the top of the line curriculum plans, there are always ways around that. Group trainings are a great way for your staff to get familiar with lesson planning. Websites like Scholastic and Dr. Jean can really help your teachers! Also, give them a ‘lesson planning hour’ where they can find a quiet place away from the classroom to research and plan. Hold them accountable for these lesson plans as well. Make sure you have final say on all lesson plans a week before implementation.
Giving them a road map every month also helps greatly! As a Pre-K teacher, I worked at a few day care centers. At one, I was completely on my own for planning. At the other center, I was given a packet every month with the weekly themes, work sheets, ideas, inspirational quotes, and a teacher professional development project. This extra guidance made all the difference in the world!
If you work in the office alone, ask a lead teacher to take on the monthly project of creating a packet for staff to follow. I assure you, it works wonders in your classrooms; the teachers will love you for it!
               Well, until next time folks, remember- Children are like flowers in a garden. They each are unique, beautiful, and require individual as well as group care. Give them the tools they need to succeed both academically and emotionally. Grow your garden well!