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Archive for March, 2011

Magical “Lovies”: Your Child’s Favorite Stuffed Animal

Has your young toddler started carrying around a favorite stuffed animal or blankie? Their attachment to this beloved object is normal—and can even be helpful! These “lovies” allow your little one to soothe him or herself in stressful moments and provide comfort or courage. The feeling of security is so important for a child during the transitional time of toddlerhood.

Just what is the magic behind the tattered blankie, soft pup-pup or fuzzy little froggy? These lovies help our toddlers to control their insecurities or frustrations. Many children select a lovey that is soft, comforting and calming for them to rub, cuddle or hug when mommy or daddy may not be readily available. Some may pick a lovey that reminds them of mommy or daddy. And, some may choose a lovey that seems completely odd to parents, but makes perfect sense to them in their unique and magical toddler world.

But, once your little one has become smitten—you know, the “won’t leave the house without it” kind of smitten—consider picking up a “stunt double.” If your lovey is machine washable, switch them out each week so they wear evenly. Set limits as to when the lovey can accompany your child to reduce the chance of it getting lost: “It is ok for Pup-pup to come to School, but he must stay in the cubby except during naptime,” or “Froggy can ride with us to the supermarket, but must wait in the car while we shop.”

Puppy Love: Family Pets & Responsibility

Including our children in the care of our beloved family pets can provide valuable lessons on love, kindness, gentleness and responsibility. Here are some doggone great ways (supervised, of course) children of varying ages and stages can participate.

  • Babies can begin to learn about being gentle and soft while petting a furry pet. Little ones who are a bit too rough can practice petting a stuffed animal first—it’s important to consider the safety of our children and our pets!
  • Toddlers can learn to brush a bunny, cat or dog.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers can use measuring cups to fill food bowls.
  • Preschoolers can practice learning how to tell time when given the responsibility of announcing “feeding time” of any type of pet—fluffy or scaly.
  • Older children may practice taking the dog for a walk in your fenced in yard or hold the leash while you walk with them.

How do your children help with your pet?

Goddard Systems, Inc. Joins Global Conservation Movement, Kicks Off Nation-Wide Environmental Awareness Program

Goddard Systems, Inc. (GSI), parent company to 370-plus-unit preschool franchise The Goddard School, is proud to announce it will join with over 90 million Americans across the nation to celebrate World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour 2011. To mark this global call to action on climate change, on Saturday, March 26 at 8:30 p.m. hundreds of millions of people around the world will turn off their lights for one hour.

Goddard Schools across the nation will help spread the message that by working together, the nation’s youth can make a positive impact on the environment and propel the country toward a sustainable future. Goddard Schools in 37 states will launch an entire week of activities and lesson plans beginning March 21 leading up to a big celebration for the Stepping Up for the Environment event on March 25 at 10 a.m., a day before the global event.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our teachers and children to get creative in ‘stepping up’ awareness about saving energy and the environment,” says Joseph Schumacher, CEO of GSI. “Joining Earth Hour enables our students to learn important lessons about the environment and get the message out to their families and in their communities.”

Individual Goddard Schools will integrate environmental education into art projects, science lessons and even snack time. Classes will nominate an official “Lightning Bug,” who will be responsible for always turning off the classroom lights when the children exit the room. Students will also create invitations asking parents and neighboring buildings to join them in Earth Hour.

On March 25th, Goddard Schools will celebrate Earth Hour with Stepping Up for the Environment. The event will consist of GSI’s 45,000 students participating in a day of environmentally friendly activities. At 10 a.m., schools will turn off any non-essential lighting for one hour.

“Although our schools won’t be in session during the global Earth Hour celebration, we still wanted our students to be involved in the annual event,” said Schumacher. “By holding Stepping Up for the Environment on the Friday before Earth Hour, we’re hoping many of our students will become advocates for the cause and encourage their families to participate on Saturday.”

For more information on The Goddard School and Stepping Up for the Environment, visit www.goddardschool.com/Default.gspx.

Recycling Crafts for Preschoolers

Just about everything we use on a daily basis can be given new life with a little ingenuity.  Basic crafting tools and accessories can be used to create just about anything out of something!  Below are some great recycling craft ideas for you and your children to try at home.

1.       Cardboard Tube Napkin Rings: Dress up your dining table with beautiful homemade napkin rings! Cut a few cardboard tubes (from paper towels or toilet paper) into 1 ½-inch wide sections. Younger children can decorate the rings with paint or crayons, while older children can glue on beans or beads to make fun designs.

2.       Bottle Cap Magnets: Use paint, felt, markers and more to decorate bottle caps.  Glue a small magnet to the back and put them on the fridge. If you have a lot of bottle caps, you can make several in the same color and arrange them in different patterns and shapes on your refrigerator.  The possibilities are endless!

3.       Milk Jug Flower Pot: Cut an empty milk jug in half and place heavy tape or felt around the edge of the opening. Poke a few small drainage holes in the bottom. Paint or decorate the outside of the jug any way you like. Add some small rocks to the bottom, fill with soil and plant your favorite flowers or herbs!

*An adult should oversee all activities.  Activities may not be appropriate for all ages.

Keeping in Touch: Family Newsletters

Nowadays it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with family and friends. Email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and such allow us to keep our loved ones (and the world) apprised of our every action. But in the age of 140-character limits, sometimes it’s difficult to get the whole story across.

Most commonly used at holiday time, family newsletters are a great way to keep family and friends both near and far up to date on all of your family’s happenings throughout the year as well. Set aside some time every few months (or every month, if possible) to jot down the latest news, with details—trips, activities, milestones, birthdays, promotions, etc. You can send a mass email or post it to your blog, but consider sending “snail mail” versions on decorative paper (preferably decorated by the children) to very special family members like grandma and grandpa. It’ll be a nice surprise in their mailbox and they’ll anxiously await each new newsletter!

If you’d like to take your newsletter to the next level, take a family vote on a name for your newsletter like the “Griffin Gazette” or the “Thompson Times.” Add sections for jokes and riddles, upcoming events and a family photo or two. Working together as a family to compile your newsletter is a great way to foster collaboration and communication while having fun!

Outdoor Activities & Park Play with Your Children

A day at the park may seem like ‘just another day,’ but learning and bonding experiences flourish at the park!

Pack for Safety

Include drinking water, sunscreen, hat, water to wash as well as wipes for hands, sneakers or other closed-toed shoes, a change of clothes or a towel for the seat, small first aid kit for those little scrapes and a small trash bag to keep the earth litter free.

Expect to Get Dirty

Going outside is about the freedom to explore and the only way to explore is to touch it, and yes, it is dirty–it’s outside! Dirty does not mean ‘germy.’ Roll in the grass, stomp in the mud, touch the frog and splash in the puddles.

Infants & Teacher with Bubbles CInfant to Six Months

  • Pack for safety: A blanket to crawl on and a sturdy pair of pants for crawling on rough surfaces. Be prepared to change diapers on the go.
  • Be prepared to climb and crawl yourself. This is the best way for you to ensure your child’s safety. Watch for items going into your child’s mouth.
  • Hydration: The outside air and activity increases the amount of fluids you both need to consume. And while you’re packing the water, pack a snack.
  • Point, name and describe: As your child explores, point out the details; name objects and talk about your experience.

First Steps (12 to 18 months)

  • Pack for safety: Bring a blanket and a sturdy pair of pants for crawling on rough surfaces. This is not the place for skirts or dresses.
  • Plan for breaks and pack snacks, water and a few books.
  • Dig and touch: Collect items to further explore when you get home.
  • Walk the trail with your little one on a riding toy. Don’t forget the helmet.
  • Park Play Etiquette: If your little one finds a playmate, ask the other parent if both of you may join in the play. Your child will learn to ask for your approval before playing with strangers and the parent of the other child will appreciate this overture.

Toddler and Get Set (18 to 36 months)

  • Plot the potty path!
  • Bring balls to throw and kick or bean bags and a bucket.
  • Move beyond the park and walk a trail or explore a nursery. Go to the stream, lake or pond and skip rocks. Turn the rocks over to find creepy, crawly things.
  • No breaks required–but pause for a moment to re-hydrate.
  • Look through binoculars–even two toilet paper tubes offer a new view of the world.
  • Tent it! A pop-up tent is an instant playhouse.
  • Take an umbrella and put on your galoshes–take a walk in the light rain.

Preschool to Pre-K (36 months +)

  • Lie down and look up: Children like to see the world from a different perspective.
  • Picnic: Let your child be a part of packing the necessities and preparing the sandwiches.
  • Play “I Spy” or “I Hear.”
  • Read or draw under the trees.
  • Bring a magnifying cup for bugs and objects to view. Research your bugs and objects when you return home to learn more about each.

Go outside all year long–visit http://www.scdconline.org/PDF_files/weatherwatch.pdf to know what is considered safe outdoor weather for children.

Snacks That Stack Up

Are your preschoolers turning their noses up at the same old snacks? Transform ordinary snacks into the talk of the playground.

  • Substitute multigrain crackers for bread, and create layers of turkey, tomato and cheese for the snack that really stacks up!
  • Use cookie cutters to add the wow factor to everyday cheese slices, bread, pineapple, wholegrain waffles, cucumber and more!
  • Try whole wheat or flavored tortillas instead of bread. Simply spread on a little peanut butter, cream cheese or low-fat yogurt, add diced fruits or veggies, roll it up, and viola– your little ones will be raving.

Gardening with Young Children

Teaching your child how to garden is a fun, hands-on learning experience that encourages patience, imagination and environmental awareness.  The best part about learning to garden is that it’s something your family can enjoy together, indoors or out!

Before you begin, talk with your child about the whole gardening process to peak their interest and help them become excited about the experience.  You could also pick up a children’s book about gardening or visit a children’s gardening Web site.

When you’re ready to start, gather a few supplies and child-appropriate tools—soil, seed cups, watering cans, etc.  Take a trip to the garden center together to pick out your supplies and seeds or seedlings for planting.  Some great plants for children to start their gardening experience with include sunflowers, snow peas, cherry tomatoes and strawberries. Read seed packets and plant tags—anything with easy care and a short growing season are perfect for little ones to plant! Be sure to acknowledge that some non-edible plants can be poisonous.  Check the National Capital Poison Center Web site for a list of some poisonous plants and always supervise your child while gardening.

Now that it’s time to plant, choose your location. If you have a large garden, section off an area or, if you don’t, use an old sandbox filled with soil as your child’s own special garden. Encourage your child to care for their plants throughout the entire process—from seed, to seedling, to mature plant, to harvest. How exciting it will be when the whole family is enjoying the fruits and vegetables they raised all on their own!

Grandparents to the Rescue!

Infant Boy WalkingOur energy-filled children can exhaust even the most active of grandparents—and us for that matter! If we are lucky enough to be able to count on beloved grandma,  great-auntie or another older family member to provide care for our little ones while we steal a few hours for ourselves, a night away or even just a less chaotic run to the market, a few advance preparations may help put our minds at ease.

  • Consider setting up the pack-n-play or nap area and a changing area on the main level to help alleviate the extra trips up and down the stairs for diaper changes, clean bibs, forgotten binkies and blankies.
  • If your child requires a specific diet, bottles or is just plain picky, prepare all meals/bottles in advance and place in a bin in your fridge. Clearly communicate what snacks are and are not okay for your child to have—a little spoiling now and then is acceptable, but some treats may be choking hazards or not age-appropriate, e.g. cookies may be fine, while chewing gum, hard candy and lollipops are not.
  • Pre-arrange your child’s sleeping area to include only the items that your child is allowed to nap/sleep with and communicate that to your caregiver. Remind grandma that the baby does not get an extra blanket and must always be placed on her back to sleep and your toddler may not bring additional toys or wear barrettes to bed.
  • Be sure that all dangerous items including cleaning supplies and medicines are out of reach, including anything that your caregiver may have brought in his or her suitcase or handbag.
  • Post (and point out) a clear list of emergency contact numbers, including your pediatrician’s office, Poison Control, a neighbor (if available) and your cell phone number—in emergencies, even memorized numbers may be forgotten. Encourage grandma to give you a call with any questions or to make the appropriate call if she feels help is needed.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

A great way to start the gardening experience is to help children see what happens when a seed is given the proper amount of light and water. Using beans and a few simple supplies, they can watch as the beans sprout roots and grow, grow, grow!

Supplies needed:

Bean seeds (any type will work)

Paper towels

Clear container (jar, cup or plastic bag)

Spray bottle filled with water

1.      Fold a paper towel and place inside the clear container.

2.      Moisten the paper towel until just damp with water.

3.      Place a few beans on the paper towel and mist lightly with water.

4.      Place the container in a sunny location.

5.      Mist lightly with water each day and watch the roots grow!

As an added activity, have your little one keep a “seed sprout journal” in which they draw pictures of their sprout as it grows. On top of experiencing science and nature, they’ll also enhance their creative and fine motor skills as they draw!