7 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month with Your Preschooler

 

 

 

 

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout history. It’s an opportunity to educate young children about the importance of diversity, inclusion, and the role of African Americans in shaping our country’s history. 

 

  • Read books: Reading books about African American history and notable figures is a great way to introduce children to the topic. You can find books that are specifically written for young children such as Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson,

 I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer, and Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks.

  • Art projects: Art projects are a fun way to explore and learn about African American culture. Children can create their own artwork inspired by the works of famous African American artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Lois Mailou Jones.
  • Music and dance: Music and dance are an important part of African American culture. Introduce children to different styles of African American music such as jazz, blues, and gospel and have them move to the beat.
  • Cooking: Cooking is a great way to introduce children to different foods and flavors that are part of African American cuisine. You can make traditional dishes such as collard greens, sweet potato pie, and fried chicken  and have children help with the preparation.
  • Field trips: Field trips to local museums or historical sites can be a great way to learn about African American history. Many museums have exhibits dedicated to African American history, art, and culture.
  • Role-playing: Children can role-play famous African American figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, or Malcolm X. This can help them to understand the historical context and the struggles of these figures.
  • Community service: Community service is a great way to teach children the importance of giving back and making a difference. You can organize a community service project such as volunteering at a local soup kitchen, or doing a community clean-up.

 

 

Educational Benefits of Celebrating the 100th Day of School

The 100th day of school is a significant milestone in the school year, and it is often celebrated with special activities and events. It is a great opportunity for students to reflect on their progress and to celebrate their accomplishments. There are also a variety of educational benefits that come with celebrating the 100th day of school.

 

  • Reflect on progress: The 100th day of school is a great opportunity for students to reflect on their progress and to celebrate their accomplishments. It allows students to see how far they have come since the start of the school year and to appreciate their hard work and effort.
  • Builds math skills: Many activities and events that are planned for the 100th day of school are math-based like counting to 100, making a collection of 100 items, etc. This helps students to reinforce their math skills-especially counting and number recognition.
  • Celebrate teamwork and community: The 100th day of school is a great opportunity for students to come together and celebrate their progress as a community. It is a time for students to recognize their classmates’ achievements and to appreciate the hard work and effort of their teachers.
  • Encourage creativity and imagination: Many activities and events that are planned for the 100th day of school encourage creativity and imagination such as dressing up like they will be 100 years old or making art projects using 100 items. This helps students to tap into their creativity and to express themselves in unique ways.
  • Motivation and engagement: Celebrating the 100th day of school can be a great motivator for students to stay engaged and enthusiastic about their learning. It also helps to create a positive and fun-loving school environment.
  • A sense of accomplishment: The 100th day of school is a significant milestone and it gives students a sense of accomplishment. It is a reminder that with hard work and perseverance, they can achieve their goals and make progress over time.

 

In conclusion, celebrating the 100th day of school is a fun and engaging way to recognize the progress that students have made over the course of the school year. It encourages teamwork, creativity and imagination, and helps to reinforce math skills. It provides a sense of accomplishment, motivation and engagement, and creates a positive and fun-loving school environment. It’s a way of celebrating the journey!                                                                  

Seeking and Securing Services

 

Your child starts at an early childhood center and you receive the first call about a behavior.  You carefully listen to what the teacher says and attribute it to a “bad” day.  You then receive call number 2, 3, 4, or higher.  Now, what do you do?!   Where do you turn and who can help?

Anyone residing in Bucks County can reach out to the Local Interagency Coordinating Council (BCICC).  This agency assists parents, early interventions specialists, and community partners in gathering information and making informed decisions.  The council includes parents and representatives from the Bucks County Intermediate Unit (IU), the Bucks County Department of Health, the Bucks County Department of Mental Health and Developmental Programs, and educators.  

Service agencies distinguish between Early Intervention (EI)  from birth to 3 years of age and Preschool Early Intervention from 3-5 years of age.  Please note that services may only be secured by a parent or guardian and not by teachers or administrators.

In Lower Bucks County for children ages birth to 3 years of age, reaching out to Merakey is the starting point (www.merakey.org).  Merakey case managers will work with families to answer questions and to obtain the evaluations needed to start the process. Pennsylvania requires services to begin within 14 days from approval of the individualized family service plan (IFSP)Statistics reveal that 99.97% of eligible  infants and toddlers receive services at home or in community settings.

For children ages 3 years to 5 years of age, the process begins with completing a request form through  Bucks County Intermediate Unit (PEI Screening Request Form – Formstack).  The Bucks County IU is the non-competitive sole source provider of services to students with disabilities contracted through school districts in Bucks County. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be completed within 30 calendar days after the evaluation teams issue the report and put into action within ten school days after completion. Services may be delivered in the preschool setting or at home. 

Many parents fear the stigma associated with evaluation and services.  Please note that there  must be a qualifying diagnosis to start the process.  The plans must be evaluated yearly to determine the need to continue or terminate delivery of services.  

The earlier the intervention begins, the better the outcome. Studies cite endless positive benefits without any detrimental effects.  Any quality child care program will be more than happy to assist  you in navigating through the process. An inclusive program values student differences and supports each child’s learning needs to the greatest extent possible.

 

Community Outreach

 

 

 

Community Outreach 

Children’s sense of community expands as they grow and develop.  School community is typically the first exposure to a group setting outside of the home. We define community here as noted in Merriam Webster’s dictionary as “a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society”.  

The goal of any stellar early childhood education program is to continually expand the child’s community to allow them to experience and contribute to the world around them. It is our obligation to create global citizens ready  to respond to diversity and be socially responsible.

Community offers:

  • A sense of belonging
  • An opportunity to practice social-emotional skills
  • An understanding of resources 
  • An ability to boost self confidence
  • A chance to forge new friendships
  • Creations of intergenerational relationships
  • New skill acquisition

Joining school initiatives for community outreach or contacting local charitable organizations in the area will give ample occasions for children to impact the greater community. Some simple examples of this are as follows:

  • Food, toy, or clothing drives
  • Litter collection
  • Community gardening
  • Working in a soup kitchen
  • Creating performances for senior centers
  • Trike-a-thon or any athletic marathon

The possibilities are endless and the benefits never-ending.  Lead by example.  Give of yourself. Celebrate diversity. Practice kindness. Never underestimate the compassion and understanding of your child. “We are very, very small, but we are profoundly capable of very, very big things.”  – Stephen Hawking

Technology in the Early Childhood Years

 

 It is very common for parents to ask about policies in early childhood programs relating to technology and technology usage.  When speaking of technology we are encompassing a broad area including television, video games, smartboards, iPads, and social media.  Although some research suggests that some preschoolers are familiarized with digital devices before becoming familiarized with print (Hopkins, Brookes, and Green, 2013), there is no body of scientific evidence proving detrimental long-term effects.  In fact, major changes in the brain resulting from screen time is highly unlikely. (Mills, 2014) Early childhood programs can effectively integrate technology to reinforce fundamental skills, encourage physical movement, and make real world connections.

Unsure about how much screen time is too much for young children?  Check out these guidelines established by the World Health Organization:

0 minutes/day for children younger than 2 years of age

Infants (under 1 year of age)

  • should experience interactive floor-based play
  • 30 minutes of prone time (tummy time) for those not yet mobile
  • 14-17 hours of sleep (0-3 months) or 12-16 hours of sleep (4-11 months)

Children 1-2 years of age

  • 180 minutes of physical activity 
  • 11-14 hours of sleep
  • No greater than 60 minutes of sedentary time (including stroller rides or sitting)
  • No screen time for one year olds
  • Less than an hour of screen time for two year olds

 

60 minutes or less for children ages 3-4 years of age

Children ages 3-4 years of age

  • 180 minutes of physical activity
  • 10-13 hours of sleep
  • Less than an hour of sedentary time
  • No greater than one hour of screen time   

 

In conclusion, follow the ancient adage:  “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”   Providing stimulating and engaging opportunities throughout the course of day promotes these healthy habits.  By doing so, children will not request nor miss screen time. The easiest way to achieve this… lead by example.  Turn off your cell phone and computer and read a book, play a game, or exercise.  The gain to all is well worth it!

 

Discipline: Bridging the Gap from Dependency to Self-Sufficiency

 

As every teacher knows, education is ever-evolving, as all sciences. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to bring Abbi Kruse, a certified instructor from Conscious Discipline  and a leader in the field of social-emotional learning, for our back-to-school professional development day.  

Conscious Discipline ® (Bailey, B.A. (2015),  Conscious Discipline: Building Resilient Classroom, Expanded & Updated Edition, Loving Guidance Publishers) equips students with the tools to respond from the higher centers of the brain rather than react with the lower centers of the brain.  This model requires the shift from a model of compliance to a relationship building mindset.  Conflict is viewed as an opportunity for growth. 

Changing our perspective on behavior management is essential.  In the United States, 60% of adults report having adverse early childhood experiences. The impact of COVID is now evident based on the newest study out of Stanford University. Researchers at Stanford used a structural topic model to effectively analyze 38,171 parent responses from April 2020 until April 2022. Although some aspects of daily life have shown improvement (i.e. restrictions, employment opportunities, etc,) challenges with well-being and emotional distress continue to escalate.  

Conscious Discipline ® has seven skills:

  • Composure
  • Encouragement
  • Assertiveness
  • Choices
  • Empathy
  • Positive Intent
  • Consequences (natural, logical, & problem-solving)

These skill sets compromise the core competencies:

  • Safety
  • Connection
  • Problem-solving skills

Start simply by ensuring safety first, building connections, and allowing consequences to occur.  Try these acronyms to get you started on this new approach:

NARCS to create a safe environment

Noticing 

Asserting (not being permissive or authoritative)

Routinizing

Composing

Securing a safe space

REJECT (to reduce undesirable behaviors)

Rituals for connection

Encouragement

Jobs

Empathy

Choices (limit to 2)

The school family

Change begins within us all and may be transferred to our children.  Shifting mindsets to create independent, responsible, compassionate world citizens may be cumbersome, but the results are surely well worth the effort.  In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

(Bailey, B.A. (2015),  Conscious Discipline: Building Resilient Classroom, Expanded & Updated Edition, Loving Guidance Publishers)

The Powerful Effect of Music on Brain Development

 

Music is an essential part of any quality early childhood education program. The benefits start in-utero around 27-29 weeks from conception and continue throughout one’s educational tenure and beyond.  

What do we mean exactly by music?  According to Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition: “an artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner”.  Music can communicate-via tone- what words cannot adequately express.  

Embryos may hear sounds in the womb around 18 weeks including the mother’s heartbeat, breathing, and digestive sounds.  Between 27-29 weeks they can hear voices and low frequencies allowing them to hear the pitch and tone of a song, but not the lyrics.  

Howard Gardner, psychologist and author, best known for his theory of multiple intelligences added Musical Intelligence to his list of learning styles and approaches.  Those who exhibit a propensity for music are sensitive to sounds, rhythms and tones and are typically able to play, sing, or compose music.

Music has physiological implications on the brain.  These include:

  • an increase in dopamine production (associated with pleasure & reward centers)
  • lowers stress hormones (i.e. cortisol)
  • increases serotonin & other hormones related to immunity
  • Increases oxytocin, a chemical that fosters ability to connect to others 

This is largely due to the fact that music impacts three different parts of the brain:  motor, visual, and auditory cortices.  

Evidence proves that early music education may:

  • help solve complex problems
  • moderate emotional states
  • help  language acquisition
  • improve memory

Research shows support in achievement in developmental milestones:

  • Literacy – including phonological awareness & comprehension
  • Mathematical competency – including spatial-temporal and reasoning
  • Social-Emotional- assisting with self-regulation 
  • Physical – including fine and gross motor skills
  • Creative- encouraging thinking “outside the box”

Music may easily be incorporated into every aspect of learning both at school and at home.  The stimulation of alpha waves in the brain creates a sense of calmness. In the words of Louis Armstrong, “Music is life itself.”

 

 

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

 

 

It is quite astounding that SEL has become such a hot issue politically.  What exactly is Social Emotional Learning? According to the leading source, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning – 2020), SEL has 5 major areas:

 

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self- management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Responsible decision-making

 

SEL is the very foundation that allows all higher-level thinking to evolve.  Any research-based curriculum draws on the knowledge of basic human development.  Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943) exemplifies this through the use of a pyramid.  The largest task-and foundation of learning-is meeting the physiological needs (food, sleep, basic needs), followed by safety and security, to lead to love and belonging.  Once these needs are met sequentially, self-esteem will develop, and self-actualization can occur.  In summation, children need to feel school as an extension of home where they can count on the adults around them for support. 

 

Whereas traditional preschool programs are sensitized to the need of delivery of curriculum to support SEL, Pennsylvania is only one of three states to have fully designed standards for SEL benchmarks from K-12.  (Illinois and Kansas do, as well).  Brain research has indicated that emotion and cognition are interwoven processes. (Bell & Wolfe, 2007).  The positive impact of SEL inclusion has been further substantiated by studies indicating a gain of 11 percentile points in achievement, increase in prosocial behaviors, improvement of attitudes toward school and reduction in depression and stress (Durlak et. al., 2011).  John J. Medina, developmental molecular biologist specializing in the isolation and characterization of genes involved in human brain development, has concurred that including SEL in curriculum benefits academic gains.

Ensuring proper messaging continually of respect and appreciation for all living things and celebrating diversity is essential.  An uncited quote that was recently published on LinkedIn states this urgency quite eloquently, “Teaching emotional intelligence should be as much of a priority as teaching kids their ABCs.”

 

Building Positive School Culture

 

 

Whenever offering a tour to a prospective family, it is always suggested that they view our social media platforms to get a glimpse into our school culture.  What exactly is meant by the term “school culture”? This term is the shared beliefs, attitudes and values of a program and the application of these principles amongst staff, students, and families.  According to Harvard University, a school culture is created by promoting positive traits such as collaboration, honesty, and hard work.  

Here are some traits to look for in any educational program:  

 1.  Building a positive school culture starts with leadership. Your experience starts from the moment you make that inquiry.  An unfavorable first impression is a lasting one. When seeking an early childhood program, it is essential that emails and phone calls receive prompt attention.  If a program is responsive to the children’s and families needs prior to entry, they should be equally or more supportive once you are enrolled in the program.

2.  Social media platforms will give you a great deal of information.  It is true that a picture paints a thousand words. Viewing FaceBook, Instagram, and even the website will yield priceless information:

  • Demographics
  • Snapshot into a typical day
  • Celebrations 
  • Curricular focus

3.   Communication is consistent, positive, & prompt.  Most programs will have an app for daily updates. Do not assume that the program permits two-way communication.   All apps will allow teachers to send messages,  but not  necessarily reply to incoming messages.  A stellar program should respond to all messages promptly and never  surpass 24 hours.

4.    Surveys precipitate action plans. Any quality program should send out parent surveys at least biannually and initiate an action plan to address any issues brought to light. 

5.  Create opportunities for meaningful parental engagement & involvement. Involving the parents during these trying times is more important than ever.  Just like the need for     children to feel connected, that need exists for families, too.  Schools should offer back- to-school night, parent-teacher conferences, family events outside of school hours,  celebrations, etc. 

6.  School culture is a mindset. Positivity perpetuates more positivity.  Building and maintaining teacher morale along with creating trusting relationships with families and children will ultimately yield happy, successful individuals.

 Visit the school, chat with current and former families, meet the staff and follow your instincts to make a well-informed decision.  This quote by Dr. Joseph Murphy, Associate Dean at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education eloquently summarizes  the vital importance of school culture:  “Seeds of change will never grow in toxic soil.  School culture matters.” 

     

      

      

Daytripping

 

 

DAYTRIPPING

 

With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to plan for a day or a weekend away with your little one(s)!  Whether it is a fun ride with family to lull an infant to sleep in the car seat or an adventure with preschoolers, there are many local attractions nearby! 

 

  1.  Take a ride through the covered bridges of Pennsylvania to absorb some history for the adults and soothe infants into a peaceful slumber. Visit the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society to plan your route:  buckscountycbs.org
  2. Enjoy the display of flowers, trees, fountains and architecture at Longwood Gardens.  Late summer is ideal to take advantage of the sites in full bloom.  www.longwoodgardens.org
  3. Collect seashells, soak up the sun, enjoy the amusement rides and games, and check out the aquarium at Jenkinson’s pier in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. www.jenkisons.com
  4. For a quick ride, check out Kids Castle, an amazing playground located in Doylestown, PA. www.savekidscastle.org
  5. Is your little one obsessed with cars, and trucks, and things that go?  Check out Diggerland, the only construction theme & water park amusement complex in West Berlin, NJ-just 20 miles from Philadelphia!  www.store.diggerlandusa.com
  6. Love to explore nature?  Check out Churchville Nature Center, an environmental area of 65 acres in a nature preserve. www.churchvillenaturecenter.org
  7. Keeping in the same vein, check out Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed in New Jersey, a 265 square mile area crossing 5 counties.  www.thewatershed.org
  8. Adult libations paired with a petting zoo are available at ShadyBrook Farm during their Friday night, “Music on the Patio” series.  www.shadybrookfarm.com
  9. Looking for a “pick your own” farm experience, check out Terhune Orchards, a 250 acre sustainable farm in Princeton, NJ. www.terhuneorchards.com
  10. For the animal lovers, check out the llama farm & events at Woodsedge Farm in Stockton, NJ.  www.woodsedge.com
  11. Animals, farming, and history prevail at Howell Farm in Lambertville, NJ.   Check out their events at www.howellfarm.org/calendar  Sheep shearing, corn planting, and hog slopping are some of the upcoming events.  
  12. For the art lovers, check out the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA.  This is one of 5 locations throughout the US. www.crayolaexperience.com
  13. To accommodate the youngest to the eldest in your group, try American Dream, an amazing mall  in East Rutherford, NJ.   This state-of-the art complex offers mini golf, an aquarium, indoor surfing, Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, indoor ski resort, Legoland, water park, ice skating rink, and more!  www.americandream.com  
  14. For the blossoming engineer, check out Legoland Discovery Center in Philadelphia.  www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com/philadelphia
  15. Animal lovers can enjoy a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo.  www.philadelphiazoo.org
  16. For the tactile-kinesthetic explorer, try the Please Touch Museum, a museum designed specifically for children to allow them to play with purpose and use their imagination.  www.pleasetouchmuseum.org
  17. An amusement park specifically designed for small children is Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA.  www.dutchwonderland.com
  18. For those learning about nursery rhymes and classic children’s characters, a great day out may be had at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township, NJ.  www.storybookland.com
  19. Looking to get some energy released indoors, try Playpad, Bucks County’s 5,000 square foot indoor play space for children up to age 9.  www.playpadbucks.com
  20. Sesame Place is always a great day out that is close to home in neighboring Langhorne, PA.  www.sesameplace.com

 

This is just a small glimpse of the many things that our area has to offer.  Whether you have one of these destinations in mind, an alternate destination, or just taking a ride in the country, spending time engaging with your child/dren is a great way to support social-emotional learning and create bonds to last a lifetime.