UCDC Fall Playground
UCDC Developments
November 2011
Dear Families,

Child on walkA milestone is defined as "an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development."


We talk a lot about milestones at UCDC.  Many events are marked by celebration or acknowledgment of a successful shift in development.  As a parent and an educator I am always aware of the significance of children navigating the slippery milestone slope and how much credence adults give to these memorable times in a child's life.  While we all know that children develop and meet milestones at their own pace and on their own schedule, we still look for certain things to happen at a certain time, and these moments often define who a child is and how we interact with them.


Time goes incredibly fast when you are a parent.  I know that I encounter times of sadness when I think about my daughter when she was a baby and a toddler.  It's often hard to really remember what those days were like, but I can usually recall the significant milestones.  Sometimes she'll ask me about the dates of some of her "firsts" and sadly I cannot conjure up those dates, but the feeling that I get when I think about them is enough to make me realize how important they were.

I've been reading a lot lately about powerful interactions and how important it is to slow down and be in the moment with a child.  Adults need to "be present."  Slowing down for a moment so that you can be intentional in your interactions is crucial whether you are a parent or a teacher.  After you opt to be present, you are then able to make connections and ultimately, extend learning or build relationships.  With my many roles as a parent, a sibling, a professional, and an educator, I recognize the need to be so much to so many different people.  Our greatest role in life and our most important job is to be a parent and be there for our children.  Before you know it, kids are in kindergarten, then middle school and suddenly you're talking about college choices.


This month I'll be experiencing a very monumental milestone with my daughter.  She will be turning 16 and I am honestly shocked and a little nervous about it.  It seems like yesterday that we were playing, painting, baking cookies, and reading together.  Now we're shopping for homecoming dresses (shopping on a whole different level!), discussing the merits of tanning (there are none much to her dismay), and finally- the big printing of the first chapter in the learners permit book (I surprised her with it).  It's amazing how quickly she was able to internalize all of that information (not so much with algebra) and was ready for chapter two.  She assures me if she were to get her license as quickly as she possibly could, that her driving will be as much to my benefit as hers.  I'll never have to go to the grocery store again or take her to her friend's house, the mall, or the movies.  I am encouraged by this, as some days I pull in and out of my driveway five or six times.  I'm sure my neighbors wonder where I go so often.   


So as I traverse this new territory, of milestones with a child who is getting older fast, I highly recommend and encourage you to spend as much time with your children as possible.  Each period in a child's life has such incredible moments, but they go by very quickly and are replaced with new and different and just as important moments.  Children eventually start to need you a little less in some ways and more in others. They want and need support, but are also learning about independence and making choices and decisions on their own.  Throughout this journey I've learned that being there in the moment while children are younger sets the stage for a healthy, supportive, reciprocal relationship when they get older.  Cherish and enjoy each moment that you have with your children...



Mary Beth 




"To be in your children's memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today." -Anonymous


UCDC Reads - Infant 4
Hand hand fingers thumb

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb

Written by Al Perkins

Illustrated by Eric Gurney


Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb is a fun, colorful, and gleeful book featuring monkeys as the main characters.  It helps our infants to learn body parts as it identifies the hand and distinguishes between fingers and thumbs. The fingers and thumbs wear rings and the hands do different jobs like picking fruit, drumming, playing and holding hands.   It works with sound and cadence as the monkeys drum, strum and "zum." Our children were so interested in the book that we expanded on it, bringing in a few drums for our children to drum along on!


It is a favorite in our classroom amongst the infants and the parents.  One of our infants always becomes very excited and starts moving immediately when we read the book.  We found out that it is a favorite at her home and on a recent trip to see family, one of her cousins acted out the entire story and entertained her completely.   


Parents join in the sing-song story as they drop off or pick up the children.  It is short enough to hold most of our infants' attention and they can join in the beat of the story from wherever they are and whatever they are doing in the classroom.


In This Issue
UCDC Reads - Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb
Learning to Talk - Teaching Even our Youngest Children
Song Lyrics - I Am A Pizza
Spotlight on Staff - Mary Beth McCulloch
UCDC Philosophy Explained
University ID Cards

We pride ourselves in the fact that we have a secure building with only one way in for parents, families, and visitors. This entrance is armed with a camera and a swipe card system in order to ensure that the people that come in belong in our building. Those people are the staff and families of the Center, which makes up about 75% of our front door traffic. In addition, we have students, visitors, delivery people, and facility people coming into the Center on a very regular basis. These people do not have access to the building with the use of their University ID. Therefore, the office staff must buzz them in every day.

As you can clearly see, the office staff member at the front desk spends a great deal of her time checking and double checking the front door in order to ensure the safety of all of the people in our building. In addition to this they are answering phones, helping parents at the front desk, and helping staff in the office. Using your ID every day allows them to manage the multi-tasking and safety issues while they are at the desk. So, PLEASE USE YOUR UNIVERSITY ID TO ENTER OUR BUILDING!

Thanks for your immediate attention in this matter!
Inspiring Quote
"When children learn that giving is more rewarding than taking; when they learn that they can't control everything, but they are masters of their own souls; when they learn to accept people whose difference they fear, and that pleasure is found in the power in helping others; when they learn that the value of one's life is best measured not by possessions acquired, but by wisdom shared, hope inspired, tears wiped, and hearts touched; when they learn that happiness and lasting contentment are not to be found in what a person has, but in what he or she is; when they learn to withhold judgment of people, knowing that everyone is blessed with good and bad qualities; when they learn that every person has been given the gift of a unique self and the purpose of life is to share the very best of that gift with the world...When children learn these ideals, they will no longer be children - they will be blessings to those who know them, and worthy models for all the world's children."

-David L. Weatherford

Save the Date!

New Venue

The annual UCDC Staff Appreciation Dinner will be held on Friday, May 18th, 2012 at the University Club.

Keep your calendars clear and join us for this annual event that honors the teachers and staff who take such great care of your children!

Learning to Talk - Teaching Even our Youngest Children by Katie Foltz (Infant 4)

Walking the halls of UCDC, it's a phrase you hear often -  "Use your words."  All of our teachers here place a lot of emphasis on language development from infancy through preschool, and we try to encourage children to speak for themselves, ask and answer questions, and talk to us about what they see going on around them.  Our youngest children do not yet have the words to express their needs and observations, but they are still communicating and developing language skills on a daily basis.  Teachers here are always cognizant of what they are saying throughout the day; discussing with children what we see going on around us, modeling speech for children, sharing stories, and taking advantage of teachable moments.


Children's learning of language begins well before they are actually generating spoken language for themselves.  Newborn babies use sounds, gestures, and crying to communicate with their caregivers about their likes, dislikes, and needs.  Research has found that when caregivers are more responsive to young infants' communication and understand their interests and needs by really listening to them and their cues, these children have significantly higher vocabularies by their third birthdays.  The research also found that the type of language used makes a difference, with children developing much richer vocabularies when highly descriptive language is modeled for them in their early years.  As children start to babble, then approximating words, we can elaborate on what they are saying, teaching them how to put their words together into sentences.  When a child says what sounds like, "Truck," you can say, "I see that big dump truck driving down the road." You might also add, " It must be going to a construction site.  What do you think it is going to do when it gets there?"  Even when children's vocabularies are still very limited, it is important to remember to allow them time to respond for themselves, modeling the turn-taking pattern of conversation.  We encourage children to use their words as they get words, and help model the words for them when they do not yet have them.  In an infant classroom, this can be difficult to balance, because some children truly do not have any words to use.  When a child points and makes noises to request more of something, for example, we try to model the language, asking them, "You look like you are trying to say, 'More.'  Do you want 'more' carrots?"  As children start to better approximate words, such as, "More," we encourage them to use their new words to communicate.      


In addition to helping them use their words to tell us about their wants and needs, children also learn a great deal of language from engaging in rich conversations with others. This might seem obvious while reading stories or doing a science experiment, but it is equally, if not more important during all the "routine times" we have throughout the day.  Especially for very young children since so much of their day is filled with eating, sleeping, diapering, dressing, and bathing.  Although their days, and yours, are already so busy, these routine times can provide you with some of the best opportunities to share stories.  At mealtimes, it is important to talk with children about the healthy foods they are eating, the colors they are seeing, the textures they are experiencing and the temperatures they are feeling. Taking advantage of these teachable moments not only broadens their vocabularies, but also teaches them about themselves and the world around them.

In From Lullabies to Literature, the authors write about the impact of "sharing stories" on early language, defining stories as the narrating of events, either real or imaginary.   Communicating and sharing stories not only helps children develop their language skills, but also helps to strengthen the relationship between the child and their caregiver.  One way that the teachers try to help support the parents in this is by sharing information about your child's day. Everyone does this differently, but each classroom shares information daily with parents, whether verbally, with written notes, or using photographs.  Knowing about your child's experiences throughout the day can help frame your questions and discussions with them, hopefully avoiding the "I don't remember," responses when asking about their fun day at school.  Even non-verbal children can engage in a conversation with you when you know what they did while you were at work.  "I see that you went for a walk and saw two big brown dogs.  Were those dogs out for a walk like you?  Did they wag their tails?"  These informal conversations about daily life make a big impact on early language development.   


In the craziness of our daily lives, it is easy to forget about the impact the small moments have on our children's development. So the next time you are driving home from school, taking a walk in your neighborhood, or trying to get a squirmy child dressed, try to remember to take advantage of the time together by modeling language, engaging in rich conversations, and sharing stories together.    


From Lullabies to Literature: Stories in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers by Jennifer Birckmayer, Anne Kennedy, and Anne Stonehouse, Copyright 2008 by The National Association for the Education for Young Children.

Learning to Read the World: Language and Literacy in the First Three Years by Sharon E. Rosenkoetter and Joanne Knapp-Philo, Copyright 2006 by ZERO TO THREE.



Song Lyrics - I Am A Pizza

This song is an absolute favorite of the children in Toddler 3 and the kids can be heard chanting this song in their room, in the gym, and on the playground. If you are brave enough to click on the link, it will also be guaranteed to be stuck in your head as well (just ask ANY office member!). Enjoy!  


I am a pizza

With extra cheese

From tomatoes

Sauce is squeezed

Onions and mushrooms


I am a pizza, ready to go


I am a pizza


No anchovies

Or phony bologna

I am a pizza

Order by phone

I am a pizza, please take me home


I am a pizza

Peppers on top

Out of the oven

Into the box


Into the car and

Upside down

I am a pizza, dropped on the ground


I was a pizza

I was the best

I was a pizza

Now I'm a mess!

Spotlight on Staff - Mary Beth McCulloch, Director

Mary Beth McCulloch is the Director of UCDC and has been part of UCDC for many years. Please take a minute to read a bit about her.


How long have you worked at UCDC?

I've have worked at UCDC for almost 19 years.


Where are you from?

I have lived in West Mifflin all of my life and I live within walking distance of all three of my siblings.


What is your favorite children's book?

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch- a very humorous spin on the typical prince and princess story.


What is your favorite movie or TV show?

Top Chef and Project Runway. I love seeing all of the different personalities and the creativity that the challenges inspire.


What is something people may not know about you?

I love to fish, especially when I'm at my cottage. I put on my own bait, but have to bribe my brother or daughter to take off any fish that I catch!


If you could go on a trip anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

I would love to visit Czechoslovakia, which is where my grandparents were from.


What is your favorite UCDC memory?

When we moved into our new building, which was so much more child friendly in comparison to our old building.


What is your favorite UCDC lunch?

I'd have to go with the pizza and salad. Yummy!


What are some of your hobbies?

I love to read, I enjoy going to flea markets and antique stores, and I like to bake.


What is the best part about your job?

The best part of my job is talking to the children. I love to ask them questions and use new and different words with them. It always puts a smile on my face and I really enjoy hearing the unexpected things that they have to say! I also love when classroom teachers share new activities that they've done with the children.  I get excited when activities are spontaneous, open ended, and creative, all of which provide optimal learning experiences for children.

UCDC Philosophy Explained: Answers to Common Parent Questions

By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator

How do you handle discipline at UCDC?

The teachers at UCDC will equitably use proactive discipline techniques, positive guidance (i.e. giving attention to the positive behaviors), redirection (i.e. moving a toddler that is climbing on the table to the climber in the classroom), planning ahead to prevent problems (i.e. creating successful seating arrangements in group time, making sure there is enough space for children to play safely in each area), encouragement of appropriate behavior (i.e. specific praise), consistent and clear rules, and involving children in problem solving to foster the child's own ability to become self disciplined.  They will also guide children to develop self-control and orderly conduct in relationships with peers and adults through modeling and direct interactions.  Aggressive physical behavior towards staff or other children is unacceptable and the teachers will intervene immediately when a child becomes physically aggressive to protect all of the children and encourage more acceptable behavior.  Teachers will also use approaches that are consistent, clear, and understandable to the child. 

Time-outs are not used as a form of discipline at UCDC because time-out can be socially stigmatizing to a child, it usually doesn't meet this specific child's need to be included, and it only teaches them what NOT to do as opposed to what we want them TO do. The teachers are there to guide your children into acceptable behaviors and this is done through a wide variety of techniques that appear to be effortless on the part of our teachers. They really do amazing work!

Newsletter Committee

Mary Beth McCulloch - Executive Editor
Jamie Wincovitch - Editor and Production Manager
Corrie Anderson - Photographer
Wendy Colbert - Editorial Staff
Jennifer Sneddon - Editorial Staff