Tag Archives: parenting

Story time? Start talking!

Ever think to yourself, “There has to be a way of reading with kids that’s more fun and engaging,” or “This book would be great, except it has too many words”?

Well, think to yourself no longer, and start talking! Dialogic reading is a great way to engage with children, and it’s all about creating a conversation using the book at hand. You don’t have to read the words, and in fact I recommend you NOT read the book word for word but rather LOOK at the pictures and TALK about what you see. Children learn more from an open-ended and interactive activity where they have control over input and direction. This could not be truer than in the emergent reader!

Since this method relies on the conversation, it switches the traditional roles we play when we think of reading with children. Typically we think of reading where the adult reads the words while the child listens; in effect the child becomes a passive listener. In dialogic reading, the adult prompts the child into conversation and, depending on the child’s response, expands on what they said. With dialogic reading, the child becomes an active participant.

Photo courtesy of Harris County Public Library.

Photo courtesy of Harris County Public Library.

Great prompting questions when you’re reading might be: “What do you see?” “What do you think is happening?” “What do you think might happen next?” Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here. You are simply talking about what the child sees and they can have pretty extravagant imaginations! You have the opportunity to build children’s vocabularies by providing them with new words, and can also expand their knowledge by offering new contexts and asking them to reflect on their own experiences.

I find this method also works very well when introducing a book for the first time. As you “walk” through the book and talk about the pictures children gain a sense of what is happening and begin to make predictions for what comes next, an important cognitive skill to develop.

When we allow a child to express themselves, whether right or wrong, accurate or incorrect, we allow them to think creatively about what they see and think about the world around them. The details and getting the answer right are not important at this time (they’ll get that later). Dialogic reading creates the freedom for a story typically presented in a formal book format to take on a new life. It allows for natural discovery and for new interpretations of what is seen.

Some great books to consider for Dialogic Reading are:

  • Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu
  • Any of the many excellent books from Books by Tara
  • And then it’s Spring by Julie Fogliano
  • The Bear and Friends series by Karma Wilson
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley
  • Not A Box by Antoinnette Portis
  • Rosies Walk by Pat Hutchins
  • The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
  • Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

But you can use any book, anywhere!

– Josh

The Best Job in the World

Joy StoverOn October 8 at 7:35 p.m., I was blessed with my third little angel, Kenneth Abraham. During my pregnancy so many people asked if I was planning on going back to work. My reply? “Of course! Why wouldn’t I? This is my third baby!”I thought I would just jump right back into the swing of things because I was such a pro, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think this one has been the hardest transition for me because I know he is my last!

As my older two were growing up I used to say, “I can’t wait until he can roll over,” or “I can’t wait until she can talk,” but with Kenny I want to cherish every smile, every tear, every cry and every giggle! He slept for 8 and a half hours last night and while a part of me is jumping for joy that we have a sleeper, I am feeling sad that the midnight “dates” he and I shared in the rocking chair by his bedroom window snuggling close together every few hours are going to dwindle away. I’m even becoming a little jealous of his caregiver because she often gets to see more of him than I do.

Those of us who care for these precious little ones have such a huge responsibility. Have you ever stopped and thought about who you are caring for each day? Mother and Father’s sweet baby, Grandma and Papa’s dear little ones, Auntie’s little stinker… what an undertaking! In the office we often use the phrase “success by six” to describe just how important early childhood is. Children’s brains are developing at such a high rate and it is our responsibility to make sure we aid in this process, which means knowing the rules and regulations and learning about what is developmentally appropriate in our professional development each year. We aren’t baby sitters, we’re child care professionals! Being a mom, being an early childhood educator… they’re both the best job in the world.

Making Children Happy: At What Cost?

As a mother and a frequent observer in child care programs, I’ve noticed a trend in teaching as well as parenting: we seem to be focused on making our kids HAPPY. Of course I believe this is important (who doesn’t?), but I wonder what we are teaching children and what the consequences of our focus might be. Wanting children to be happy all of the time can lead to missed opportunities for growth and learning.

At the grocery store recently, I overheard a mother trying to keep her two children well behaved as she moved up and down the aisles. They were begging for the little cheap toys that hang from the shelving units. She said that they weren’t there for toys and they didn’t have the extra money for them, but the children’s pleas became more intense and louder. In the end the mom ended up letting her children pick a toy for some peace and quiet.

There are other ways to keep children occupied during situations like this one. What about having helpers to pull things off the shelf and put them in the cart, or marking items off of a list? Children are getting something more substantial than a toy out of involvement like this. They get to have fun with their parent and feel that they are contributing toward getting the job done! We have similar opportunities in child care programs, and know all too well how impossible it can be to keep an entire classroom of children 100 percent happy unless we’re engaging with them in meaningful ways.

When we “give in” we run the risk of teaching children that if they act out enough they will end up getting what they want in the end. This won’t lead to anything more than temporary happiness, and doesn’t prepare children very well for the reality of school or work. Wouldn’t it be great if all your boss wanted to do was make you happy? While that’s part of the deal, we all have responsibilities and those often come first.

Sometimes it can hurt our hearts to be the one to say “no.” But helping children to understand that there are boundaries and they won’t always get what they want are important ones for parents and teachers to impart.

Parents are a Child’s First Teachers

4C’s Debra Chin knows you want encourage the children in your care to be independent, but if you give them too much freedom, they may get confused, misuse the freedom or make the wrong choices.  On the other hand, if you use the benefit of your experience and make all their choices for them, you could compromise their ability to make their own decisions. Read on for Debra’s experience as a mother and educator! What’s yours? – Karen

Many times, people have told me that I should back off and let my child do everything for himself, that it would help my child to learn about responsibility and become an independent individual. There is no doubt about it, as a parent I want my child to become responsible and independent. Yet, as much as I appreciate parents advocating for children, this advice sometimes makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I question how I define responsibility and independence, how it is defined for my family. I can’t stop wondering if I am a potential obstacle to my child’s learning. For me and my family, true responsibility comes from humbly consulting with the experienced, respectfully taking input from unfamiliar perspectives and supporting each other’s needs as a group or as a family. In the process of coaching my child to become responsible and independent, am I training my child to consider only his opinions, or to learn from others’ perspectives, as well?

Thinking of how I communicate with other parents made me think of how we communicate with families in the early childhood field. I reflected on how I responded to parents when I saw them spoon feeding their child, helping their child get dressed or immediately providing a solution to the problem that their child encountered. Do I confront those parents? Because I am knowledgeable in the early childhood field, does that mean I am right? Do I say “Excuse me, I don’t baby children. I let them feed themselves, dress themselves and do many things by themselves. That’s developmentally appropriate practice!”

If I did say these things, how would those parents feel about the program or about me? Many families may not define independence the same way that I do, and some things may be more important in other families, like mutual helping, interdependence or obedience to elders. In my family, we believe that children won’t be able to develop a true sense of responsibility nor become a truly independent individual until they learn to work through conflicts collaboratively with others, to take care of others’ needs and knows how to serve as a helping and contributing member in a group. But that’s just us, and I need to remember that it’s different for every family, and every child.

Family is our children’s first group experience in their life. Honoring each family’s way of life and valuing each family member in each child’s life is essential to building positive relationships. From there we can begin to meaningfully support a child’s learning and development as a whole! Only through a positive relationship with families, who have built a foundation for the children in our care, can we call what we are doing developmentally appropriate practice.

Get in There and Play!

I just had the pleasure of spending some time at the beach with my kids. I truly enjoyed watching them run in and out of the waves, jump into the swimming pool and play games that needed nothing electronic! For the first day or two, I sat idly by watching their fun and listening to them giggle endlessly. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I shouldn’t sit by and just watch their fun, I needed to participate in it with them from beginning to end. And so I did. I enjoyed being knocked around in the waves with them, playing water tag with them and holding hands as we strolled leisurely down the beach searching for the best seashells we could find.

Like parenting, teaching is something that we need to do with the children we encounter each and every day. We must engage and interact with the children through all of the experiences that we offer to them, be it outside time or group time. On occasion, I have seen teachers hide in the corner of the playground or stand quietly by as the children ride bikes and kick balls and create their own experiences. I often wonder, what’s missing from that experience not only for the child but also for the teacher? On the playground, children have the opportunity to use their imaginations and create games with rules all of their own making. They have the opportunity to be leaders and explorers. Teachers have the opportunity to observe the children as they lead and explore and create these games with rules all their own. They also have the chance to observe large muscle activities and have conversations with children about curious new subjects like dirt, or maybe a sound they’ve never heard before.

So, the next time you visit the playground or take a walk around the neighborhood, ask yourself, how can I enhance this experience for children? Participate, enjoy and capitalize on all opportunities that are presented to you, even if that means you get a little dirty. I promise, the memories you will create with children will be that much more meaningful because you were there right along with them, not watching from the side lines.

Boys vs. Girls

My husband and I were coming home from a weekend trip and stopped in a well known superstore. As we were walking through the store, I was stunned by what I saw in the toy section. There, hanging above the toys, bigger than life, was a sign that said “Girls” over one aisle of toys and a sign that said “Boys” over another aisle of toys. I couldn’t believe what I saw! I quickly went to see what this store deemed as “girls” toys and “boys” toys, and I can’t say that I was surprised by what I found.

The “girls” section was predominantly pink with dress-up clothes, pretend kitchen items and baby dolls. The “boys” section was dark colors, mainly blue, with action figures, train sets, and cars and trucks. This store was promoting to parents (and the public) that girls should play with dolls and boys should play with trucks! What century was this? Had I stepped into some type of time warp?

Knowing that my colleagues would be as shocked as I was, I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures. As I was documenting this atrocity and loudly complaining to my husband about the store having the nerve to suggest what toys girls and boys should play with, he nonchalantly stated, “They mark the clothing with boys and girls and you don’t get upset.”

This stopped me in my tracks. He was right. I hadn’t thought twice about the clothing sections being labeled “girls” and “boys,” so why was I so upset about the toys being labeled? Was it really OK to label some items, but not others? Should stores not label anything? What if a girl wanted to wear “boys” clothes, would that be OK? And if it is OK to label clothes, why not label the toys, too?

These questions made me start thinking about my own children (now teenagers) and the toys that they preferred when they were younger. Both of my daughters did prefer the traditional “girls” toys even though I purposefully bought trucks and trains for them. And I know my young nephews always preferred cars and action figures over baby dolls. So, is it so wrong for this store to encourage what seems to come naturally to children? Yes, I think it is.

Even though some research shows that genetics play a strong role in toy preferences among different sex children, I still feel that children should be exposed to all types of toys during their childhood. And since most children aren’t the ones shopping for their own toys, stores should not be labeling toys as “girls” or “boys,” because it discourages some parents from purchasing the opposite for their child. Leaving the section just labeled “Toys” suggests that all toys are appropriate for either girls or boys. The choice of which toys to buy then is based on the individual child’s interests, which should be the most important factor!

So, what about the clothing section? Well, I have always liked men’s jeans better anyway, and labels can’t stop me, either!

Shocked on the Sidewalk

I just overheard a very disturbing conversation. I couldn’t stop listening, and I imagine my mouth was wide open as I heard 3 mothers talk about their children. “When he does that I put hot sauce in his mouth,” one said, to which the other responded, “Well, you know you can use Ivory soap, that’s okay.” Then they all laughed. I was not laughing. It is not okay.

I was dumbfounded. I still don’t exactly know what to say. I am going to try to pull myself together and make something of this.

I know this happens. Children can be challenging, especially when they are learning independence and how to communicate. When children misbehave, there are a variety of reasons for the misbehavior. Generally adults are pretty impatient, and expect children to behave like miniature adults.

When I was in kindergarten I acted out a lot. I broke my teacher’s special heart-shaped pencil. I put a whoopee cushion under my teacher’s chair. By her standards, I was probably labeled a “bad kid.” Truth of the matter is, I didn’t have enough to do, and I was trying to get some attention. My desire to have time with my teacher and to be cared for by her manifested itself in these misbehaviors. I might as well have been screaming “PAY ATTENTION TO ME, I NEED YOU!”

Adults often have their own agendas for children and inappropriate expectations. Children act out, and they are punished instead of getting to the root of why the child acted in a certain way. The most appropriate way to handle a child’s mistaken behavior is to look into why the child behaved a certain way and then what the adult can teach or model so that the child responds differently next time.

It takes a little more time than grabbing a bottle of soap or winding up for a spanking, but no child should ever suffer like that.