Friday, June 29, 2012

Unlearning – A Process You Can Help Children Avoid


Parents often tell me that they will be using the relaxing summer months to introduce or practice skills with their young children.  When I am asked for tips, I tell parents to remember one basic fact – It takes twice as long to unlearn something as it does to learn it properly the first time.  Consider how that one bit of information impacts how children are taught the following skills:

Toilet Training:  Walk into a bathroom in a home where a toddler lives and you are bound to find a small potty seat.  The potty seat is marketed as a necessary tool in your potty training process.  Consider, however, the brief amount of time that children actually use a small potty seat.  Using that seat is not the goal.  The goal is for your child to use an average size toilet.  The potty seat merely adds a step to the whole process.  If your child is trained to use the small, temporary seat, that skill has to be unlearned and transferred to the average size toilet.  Children learning to potty train need to feel safe and secure.  There are ways to ensure their safety and security without the added step of using the small potty seat.  If you feel that your child is afraid because of the size or height of your toilet, it is far more productive to purchase two items – a seat that fits on your toilet to provide a smaller, hygienic seating area and/or a step stool.  If children can sit on the toilet, not feel as if they will fall in and have their feet flat on the step stool so they don’t feel suspended in mid-air, they can learn to use the average size toilet and skip the small potty seat entirely.

Letter Sounds:  When talking with your children about how a letter sounds, be sure to pronounce the sound correctly.  Be careful not to add vowel sounds to the end of consonants.  The letter M, for example, sounds like “mmmmm,” not “muh.”  Vowels can have multiple sounds so start with the most common (a as in apple, e as in egg, i as in if, o as in frog and u as in umbrella).  Most importantly, do not expect preschoolers to master letter sound skills.  You can expose them to the knowledge that every letter has a name and a sound but they may not be ready to integrate that knowledge.  Every child is ready to master letter sounds at his/her own rate.   According to the State of New Jersey Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards, students exiting pre-k are not expected to have mastered alphabet recognition and related sounds.  Students exiting preschool should be able to “Identify some alphabet letters, especially those in his/her own name.”  So let’s think about name recognition…

Name Recognition & Writing:   We often tell parents to start introducing children to writing words by writing their names.  This is a valid beginning because their names are important to them.  Egocentric preschoolers are most interested in what is important to them so name recognition and writing tends to most easily draw them into the world of the written word.  Young children are often taught to write their names in all upper case letters.  While that is an interesting exercise in upper case letter recognition, it is not the proper way to write a name.  We know that school age children will be expected to write their names with the first letter in upper case and the rest in lower case.  Learning it correctly the first time saves so much time.  Children who have been taught only upper case at home or at preschool will resist their teacher’s attempts to teach the proper capitalization.   Preschools and parents need to be sure that young children’s names are written the way the children will be expected to write them.
Whenever working on new skills, be sure to check reliable sources to determine what expectations are developmentally appropriate for your child’s age group.  Children develop at different rates.  One child might be ready to read at age 5 while another will not be ready for another year.  It does take twice as long to unlearn a skill and no one can promise that your child will learn a skill before he/she is developmentally ready.


Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

The Case for Multi-Age, Integrated Early Childhood Classes


As an educator and school director, I am constantly seeking ways to better meet the individual needs of all of the learners in our classrooms.  In every class, we find a variety of learning styles and, in early childhood classes in particular, a variety of developmental levels.  I have researched, attended seminars, spoken to colleagues and learned that the answer is as old as the one room schoolhouse.  Each individual child can best be reached when we acknowledge that more than one developmental level and social ability exists in one age group.  Each child can be reached when more than one level of abilities is taught in one space.

Formal education in this country began in those one room schoolhouses where students of many ages learned in one space.  Students moved ahead based on their individual abilities.  As the country became more populated and more students enrolled in school, that system didn’t work anymore.  Students needed to be divided into smaller groups.  It seemed logical to divide the students into groups based upon their ages.  There are exceptions to those divisions.  Some children may skip a grade and others may repeat a grade but, by and large, age division does hit the median of abilities.  The question before us is whether or not it is beneficial to just hit the median or should we be striving to reach a broader range of abilities?

Integrated, or multiple-age classes, are beneficial to students in a number of ways.   By widening the range of ages and abilities, teachers have to get even further out of the “one size fits all” box.  While one size rarely fits all learners at any age, it is especially true in the early childhood years.  It is not unusual to have a class of 2 year olds in which some children can use scissors effectively and are beginning to write while others are not yet ready to hold scissors or writing implements.  Children who can work ahead aren’t always given the opportunity to do so while those who are challenged may struggle to keep up.  At the end of the year, some children may be promoted from that class to the next without having mastered particular skills.  If the skill sets that are developmentally appropriate for more than one age group are taught in the same space, the children can go from one teacher to another based on their ability for each individual task.  Teachers will be better able to reach the outer limits of a child’s ability and ensure that each student’s abilities and challenges are communicated to the teacher preparing the students for kindergarten.

Multi-age classes allow for more opportunities for students to learn from each other and model skills, both academic and social.  Children not ready to write can watch while their friends do so.  Children can help each other recognize numbers, letters or words.  Younger children can observe the example of older children who may sit longer for a story or be more confident explorers in their classroom.  Socially, multi-age classrooms in early childhood have been shown to foster a variety of friendships and help build self-esteem.  A class that spans two years allows for new, younger students to initially follow and then become the leaders themselves.   Older children learn lessons about patience, empathy and building friendships based on mutual interests rather than just on age.  Children who have had the chance to be models of academic and/or social skills will be more confident and, therefore, more ready to enter pre-k or kindergarten prep classes. 

Classes consisting of more than one age group are also more reflective of the society in which we live.  When you take children to the playground, they need to negotiate play with children of a variety of ages.  A group of playmates in a neighborhood are rarely the same age.  As children enter middle school, high school, college and the workplace, they will be increasingly placed with others of their ability and age becomes less and less important. 

In our quest to reach and challenge every child, we look forward to finding ways to further integrate the classes and meet the academic & social needs of each individual at The Early Learning Center of Temple Shalom. 


Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Personal Space – Teach Boundaries and Avoid Mixed Messages


Parents and teachers work hard to avoid giving young children mixed messages.  We want them to know that certain behaviors are acceptable all the time and others are not ever acceptable.  We know that before we say no to a request or behavior, we need to be sure that our response will always be the same.  Yet, we often give young children very mixed messages about respect of personal space.

Understanding personal space is an essential non-verbal communication skill.  Children need to learn that every person has a boundary that is “owned.”   Social interactions will be more successful if they do not invade other people’s boundaries without permission.   Unfortunately, very little time is spent actively teaching this important social skill. 

Just as we take time to model manners and teach other socially acceptable behavior, we should work with children to develop an understanding of the proper time and etiquette for entering personal space.   They should also learn that they are allowed to protect their own space.  
  • Help your child to define his/her personal space.  Ask your children to hold their hands out to their sides and spin slowly in a circle.  The circle is their personal space. 
  • When children are very young, avoid teaching them that being nice or being gentle means touching softly.  For some reason, we tend to teach young children to pet each other as a sign for friendship.  By the time the children are 3 or 4 years old, someone is bound to ask them to keep their hands on their own bodies and not to touch each other.  To a 3 or 4 year old, it must seem like a strange request after years of being told that being nice means petting people.   Being nice can mean playing nicely – playing without grabbing, pushing or shoving.  Being nice does not need to mean touching.  Petting can be restricted to pets.
  • Explain that it is okay for certain people to enter their space to hug or kiss them.  The people who are allowed in their space should be specifically named.  Tell your child, “We hug grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, parents but we have to ask other people if we can hug them.”  Which brings us to the next point…
  • Teach your children to ask permission before touching most people.  Children should be taught to ask if they can sit on someone’s lap or hug & kiss them.
  • Make sure that your children know that it is acceptable to say no when someone wants to enter their personal space.  They also need to respect other people when they do not give permission to touch.
  • Children should be taught the parts of their bodies that are private and should only be touched by parents, caregivers or doctors.

Make teaching your children about their personal space and the personal space of others a part of everyday parenting much like we do with using the words “please” and “thank you.”  Understanding the boundaries surrounding their bodies will not only become an important part of their social interactions but will also help to keep them safe.


Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Get Messy! Turn Up The Volume! Bring Sensory Experiences Into Your Home


When children leave preschool with paint in their hair, sand in their shoes or smelling like shaving cream, parents can be assured that it was a successful day full of building knowledge.  Messy, loud, smelly, delicious, eye-catching experiences shouldn’t just take place in preschool.  It is important to include sensory experiences when children play at home, too.  When children aren’t allowed to make a mess, they are deprived of sensory input that helps them to understand their world.

From the time babies are born, they understand their world through their senses.  They look toward new voices and noises.  They react when their milk for formula tastes different.  As soon as they can grasp items, they put them right into their mouths.  Babies need to see, feel, hear, smell and taste literally everything.  It is only adult intervention that begins to change this instinctive behavior.  Babies would learn on their own when they shouldn’t touch something because it is too hot.  They would learn that some items taste good and other things should not be put in their mouths.  There is no need, however, to wait for the baby to get burnt or ingest something dangerous.  We can and should protect them and, in doing so, we automatically limit the sensory experiences available to them.  It is imperative that we recognize that children in the preschool years still need experiences that engage their senses and it is our duty to provide safe ways for them to explore.  When planning time to play with your preschooler this summer, consider including the following items:
  • Shaving cream:  Drawing and writing in shaving cream is a multisensory experience that attracts young children.  Shaving cream has a distinctive smell and texture.  Children can learn new vocabulary just from touching and smelling it.  Shaving cream is, for example, smooth, foamy, light (in weight and color) and white.  It smells fresh, sweet and clean.  Children can use their fingers to draw pictures and, if they are developmentally ready, write letters & numbers.
  • Pudding:  Worried that your young child will eat the shaving cream?  Then use pudding instead.  Pudding can be used for the same activities as shaving cream with the added bonus of being edible.
  • Dough:  Pinching dough helps children to develop the fine motor muscles necessary for writing.  Rolling it, shaping it and molding it will help to build all of the muscles in their hands.
  • Finger paint:  This staple of preschool classrooms should also be a staple at home.  Finger paint engages the child through multiple senses.  Work with your child to mix colors to learn about cause & effect.
  • Paper for Ripping:  Ripping is an important preschool skill that is too often overlooked.  Ripping requires children to use oppositional motions and small motor muscles.  Set a bin aside for paper that your preschooler is allowed to rip and crinkle.
  • Recordings of Familiar Sounds:  Young children love to listen to sounds and try to identify them.  Spend time listening together.  Look for recordings of nature sounds, animal sounds and different instruments.  Hone those matching and hearing skills with fun listening games.
  • Mystery Box:  Cut a hole into a box so that your child can reach into it but can’t see the contents. Change the contents often so you can play “guess what you feel.”  This game is a great vocabulary builder.

Remember, the messier, louder and smellier the better!  Do you have other ideas for appropriate sensory experiences with your preschoolers?  Feel free to comment and add them to the list of ideas!


Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Enter The Egocentric Mind of a Preschooler


Anyone who has raised a preschooler or taken child psychology courses knows that preschoolers are egocentric.  They see the world from only their point of view.  The only things that matter to them are those things that impact them directly.  This egocentric point of view skews the way they look at the world and their capability to react to events and people in it.  As parents and educators, we sometimes wonder what the children are thinking and why they don’t seem to behave in ways that adults expect.  When interacting with preschool age children, always remember:
  • They will only remember things that are important to them.  You can tell a preschooler the same thing over and over.  If it isn't important to them, they will not commit it to memory.  Their ego-centrism is the cause for having to repeat the same directive over and over again.  I was recently outside a store when a child who was running, fell and scraped his knee.  His mother said, “How many times have I told you to walk?”  I’m sure she told him to walk quite often.  Walking rather than running is simply not important to that child.  Putting toys away may not be important.  Brushing teeth before bed may not be important to your child.  Being quiet in the library may not be important.  When dealing with young children, be prepared to patiently repeat yourself.  They are not purposely defying you.  They just haven’t committed it to memory.
  • They cannot be ready until they are ready.  No amount of coaxing in the world will get a preschooler to move to the next thing until they are ready.  It is true that they can be motivated.  Seeing you leaving the room without them is a motivator.  It can make them ready – or it can lead to a tantrum.  Preschool children are not interested in your need to move on.  They will move when they are ready.  They will play with others when they are ready.  They will read and write successfully and with purpose when they are ready.  Until they are ready, trying to force knowledge into their heads is counterproductive.  Academic activities will merely be imitation and done to please an adult.  They will do what you ask so that they can get finished.  They will do what you ask simply so they can move onto a more enticing activity.  True learning can only take place when a preschooler is developmentally and emotionally ready to receive the lesson.
  • They cannot be truly empathetic.  Preschoolers cannot relate to someone else’s pain.  When young children accidentally or purposefully hurt someone else, they often cannot tell us how the hurt child feels.  The question needs to be rephrased to include them.  We ask young children, “How would you feel if he did that to you?”  When you ask the question that way, they will often say, “I would feel hurt” or “I would be sad.”  The discussion about any incident regarding someone else is always most effective when we relate it to the child we are speaking to because they can only feel their own point of view.  This lack of empathy also explains why children say things to others that seem mean.  Children are very quick to point out when someone looks different from what they consider to be the norm.  They cannot understand that the other person might not like the things they say.   It is important to have the conversations about empathy to guide children and to help them see acceptable boundaries for behavior.  The ability to feel empathy typically begins to be internalized at approximately age 5-6 when they begin to become much less egocentric.


When observing preschoolers, take time to note their behavior, modes of interaction and methods of play.  There are a plethora of behaviors that are derived from their egocentric view of the world.  I hope you will take time to watch the preschoolers in your life and add to this list by commenting on this article.


Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

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