'Tis the season - no matter what you celebrate, believe in, or do in the coming months; may this time of the year be joyous, memorable, and most of all, a time to treasure with your children.
Gifts- both giving and receiving become a focus for many this time of the year. Friends, relatives, and grandparents will want to shower your children with many things that are either popular or desired and may or may not be at the top of your "wish list" for your child. The desire to buy the biggest and the best sometimes overshadows the real need for a child to have a certain item. Stores are overflowing with options that are intended to delight, educate, and stimulate young minds. Websites offer a plethora of items that parents, family, and friends often feel can't be ignored when it comes to offering variety and options.
But, when is too much, too much? How many toys does a young child really need? When is quality a bigger factor than quantity or size? How much does a child truly miss out on if they don't have the latest gadgets and popular choices that are marketed so strategically to adults and unfortunately to young minds as well. Marketing trends are aimed at the youngest children and these trends sometimes have the capacity to do more harm than good. The implied "necessity" that trends take on is fast becoming more important than providing materials and toys that provide true value to young children.
Some things to think about before making that purchase:
Screen Time- two small words that evoke a multitude of emotions and responses. We firmly believe at UCDC that limited or eliminating screen time for young children has more value than allowing it. Screen time contributes to obesity, sedentary lifestyles, attention issues, decreased social ability, and sleep issues. There is more research to substantiate that the earlier children use mobile devices, iPods and social networking sites, the harder it is for them to disengage from these tasks when they are older. Healthy communication skills become less necessary and therefore children become less able to communicate successfully. Merchandise is marketed as "educational" and "proven" to educate the youngest learners, yet in many cases, they do not yet have the cognitive capacity to actually benefit from the activity.
Make purchases wisely - for my close to twenty years at UCDC, we have always believed in the benefits of materials and toys that:
Are open-ended or divergent- materials that may be assigned a use by a child other than the use it may have been intended for, may have more than one acceptable solution, or may have more than one acceptable set of rules for play. Most construction materials, hardwood unit blocks and Lego blocks (without company printed instructions), natural play materials including sand, clay and water and imagination generating games and activities.
Provide opportunities for children to engage in a process rather than focusing on a product. Materials that foster creativity and opportunities for sensory exploration or experimentation, like collage materials, paint, assorted markers and crayons, a variety of paper. Making play-dough, goop and other doughs and clays provides that opportunity for children to engage in using a math and science based activity which does produce a product. But children are then able to use the product in a creative way. Limit the toys that are intended to be used in one way only, toys that over stimulate, toys that are gender specific, and toys that promote violence.
The following link has some great information and things to think about when considering appropriate play opportunities- www.truceteachers.org
Physical play versus sedentary - outdoor play, good nutrition, family activities and physical activity have a lasting impact on a child's health and the future of our planet. Increases in preventable illnesses and diseases are largely related to the changes taking place in our culture. You have the ability to have an impact on whether or not your children grow up understanding the importance of lifestyle choices. Visit www.healthykidshealthyfuture.org for great information on nutrition, physical activity, and family fun. Rather than buying toys and items that deemphasize the importance of physical activity, focus on materials and activities that promote movement, balance, exercise, spatial awareness, and togetherness.
Free play and ample time to play - Old cardboard tubes, used Styrofoam packing, scraps of yarn, sticks, dirt, boxes, string, old blankets ... these may seem like ordinary objects you might naturally want to toss out or not include as "play" objects. In the hands of your child, they are gold. They are building blocks of a powerful learning experience called open-ended play. A child engaged in open-ended play is simply going with the flow. He is exploring open-ended materials - objects that have multiple uses and infinite possibilities. There are no expectations, no specific problems to solve, no rules to follow, and no pressure to produce a finished product. It's all about free play - the freedom to invent and discover. He may end up making a cool castle for his action figures, or a funky pile of old cardboard tubes, used packing, and scraps of yarn.
By simply fiddling around with a wide range of materials, your child practices a wealth of brain-boosting skills that will serve him in school and throughout his life. Just think of what it takes for him to make sense of the unstructured nature of the materials - imagination, creativity, vision, and patience. Dealing with the infinite possibilities before him takes a big leap of faith. Making something no one has ever seen before requires trial and error and problem-solving and offers him the chance to create order and express meaning. Giving children plenty of unstructured time to play, invent, discover and explore is beneficial to all children. You play a vital role in these kinds of activities. Providing a variety of materials and time and space for children to engage is very important. Rather than loading up and driving to a destination for kids to "play," create an environment at home that allows children to feel safe taking risks and using materials in unexpected ways. Boosting brain development and communication skills happen quite naturally during free play.
The following song speaks to the importance of time spent together. During this busy season and in the future, make it a point to extend opportunities for your child to just play; with you, with materials, and with nature.
By Tom Hunter -1992
What do you remember from the time you were a child?
Do you think of moments memory knows well?
Are there little things, like trinkets, you carry with you now,
That trigger stories memory wants to tell?
Like the people or the places, the toys or food or games,
Like family trips or chores or how you played,
Is it painful, is it pleasant, is it somewhere in between,
Are there things you always wished that you could say?
May the memories wrap their arms around you,
May your childhood take you by the hand,
And may what you remember find healing when it hurts,
So the memories will protect you when they can.
What songs and smells and gathering come easily to mind?
What have you learned of love from who loved you?
Do the memories need forgiveness to free them from the past,
And find a future you can still make new?
And what about the children you find around you now,
Are you making time to sing and talk and play?
So some day they'll have memories of love and being loved,
Protection that can never go away.
Have a great holiday season,
|SAVE THE DATE!|
UCDC Staff Appreciation Dinner to be held on Friday, May 18th at the University Club.
Please plan on attending!!!
| Spotlight on Staff|
Interview with Emily Daller, Infant 2
Emily Daller is a beloved, hardworking, and fun-loving teacher who can be found in Infant 2.
How long have you worked at UCDC?
I have worked for UCDC for about 4 ½ years.
Where are you from?
I am from the South Hills of Pittsburgh (Brookline, Beechview, and Mount Lebanon, to be exact).
What is your favorite children's book?
Hmmm, it's tough to choose, but probably The Song and Dance Man, by Karen Ackerman, or I Love You Through and Through, by Bernadette Rosetti-Shustak. I'm also a HUGE fan of Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume.
What is your favorite movie or TV show?
There's a LOT... but one of my all-time favorite movies is the Hayley Mills version of The Parent Trap, and I still love to watch old Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
What is something people may not know about you?
I'm a lefty!
If you could go on a trip anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
I would love to visit Baia e Latina and Calabria in Italy where my family is from.
What is your favorite UCDC memory?
Laughing. Laughing with kids, parents, and coworkers - especially Ginia, Steph, and Miss B, bless her soul.
What is your favorite UCDC lunch?
My top three, in no particular order, are mac n cheese day, pierogie day, and chili day.
What are some of your hobbies?
Going to see bands, hanging out with my dog, Leroy, baking, doing crafty things, spending time with family, and trying to keep my plants alive.
What is the best part about your job?
Having eight little people to dote on each day who are in wonder of their world and are so anxious to discover and learn ~ and being able to watch them grow up into preschoolers who still yell, "HI, EMI!!" when they see me.
| Fostering the Emotional Needs of Toddlers|
By Lynda Stiger, Toddler 2
Toddlers feel intensely, their hugs can be amazingly tight as they try to convey their feelings of love. Their level of joy is as deep as the sadness they can feel when their parents leave or they become injured. The challenge facing adults is to help toddlers express and balance their emotions appropriately - an immense task. Children of this age are only beginning to verbalize their needs, lacking the ability to adequately express them. Hence, children often resort to temper tantrums or aggression as a means of venting their pent-up emotions. According to Greenspan, tantruming is a result of frustration, an inability to complete a task or to communicate a desire to understand ones feelings.
The skill needed to redirect an urge to act in a harmful manner is based on a major milestone which children must master - the ability to form a mental representation of their wants and needs. This begins when children learn to construct an image of a person who is not present. For example, children undergo separation anxiety when their parents leave, feeling a great sense of loss. As they mature, children begin to understand that this sadness can be counterbalanced with the mental representation of their return. In the meantime, their focus can be placed on pleasurable activities of their own design. Children thus begin to integrate their minds and emotions, linking ideas with feelings - a tremendous accomplishment!
As children grow, they develop their perspective of the world. They form new concepts in their understanding of people and events as their experiences broaden. This empowers them to assume more challenges, either socially (i.e. with peers), cognitively (i.e. in their choices of tasks), or motorically as they become increasingly adept or more verbally proficient. The enormity of this process may result in the development of fears and insecurities which can be acted out in inappropriate ways. Adults can feel hampered in their attempts to prevent them, but the goal is to encourage children to use ideas to guide their emotions. Helping children remediate this at the toddler stage requires that adults assume the role of being an ego-support to them. In this manner, adults can clarify feelings which children may be unable to process and provide appropriate behavioral alternatives.
Greenspan advocates that parents engage in floor time with their children. Taking play cues from their child, a parent guides the fundamentals of cooperative play. Concepts such as turn-taking from a simple game of peek-a-boo or hide and seek form the basis of learning reciprocity. Children also learn how to manage feelings - disappointment over a collapsed block tower or sadness when a doll "cries." As children begin to realize an array of feelings, they practice "safety net of expression," under their parents' guidance. Participating in floor time promotes a "leveling of the playing field" between parents and children as adults focus on the essence of play - loosing oneself in the pleasure of a self-designed reality. Children benefit from these parental modeling experiences which can be extended to their peer interactions.
At birth, a child is supplied with the basics to promote sustainability- food, shelter and clothing. Yet parents and extended family provides much more for the child, an atmosphere of nurturance. Beyond this, the obligation of parents and meaningful adults is to guide children toward being socially responsible individuals. Beginning with learning about feelings and how to manage them, parents are the genuine first teachers for their children, modeling the acceptability of emotional expression. It is little surprise that the love and admiration which children feel toward their parents is well-placed, for they are their real heroes.
First Feelings , Greenspan, Stanley and Greenspan, Nancy Thorndike, Viking Penguin Press Inc, New York, 1985.
Great Kids, Greenspan, Stanley, Da Capo Press, Philadelphia, Pa. 2007
| UCDC Reads|
The Wheels on the Bus
By Maryann Kovalski
A wonderfully simple story which continues to delight us is "The Wheels on the Bus" by Maryann Kovalski. Based on the familiar song, this book does a clever rendition in which two sisters are accompanied by their grandmother on a shopping spree. Their grandmother remains dependable throughout but is challenged in their wait for a bus to take them home. To appease their impatience, she sings "The Wheels on the Bus." The illustrations relate a humorous version to the song as the bus passengers endure a harrowing experience.
The children never tire of this book, choosing to have it either read or sung. It naturally engages them as they can choose to participate in the "reading" of the song as it is the majority of the text. The story also offers the possibility of bus play which the children initiate. The multi-faceted aspects of this book make it a must-read.
| UCDC Philosophy Explained:|
Answers to Common Parent Questions
By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator
Why doesn't my child do worksheets at UCDC? Will she be ready for school?
At UCDC, we believe that children learn best through play. Math skills are discovered through block play, social skills are honed as they negotiate through conflict in the dramatic play area, and science is learned as they dabble in the water table. All of these hands-on experiences teach the needed skills that some worksheets offer, but in a more meaningful and authentic way.
In order to allow children to make sense of their own world and experience their own discoveries in an authentic way, we provide a wide variety of open-ended or divergent materials. These learning materials can be used by the children in any way and they may have more than one acceptable solution. This includes unit blocks, Legos (without directions), and natural materials such as clay, sand, and water. We also offer children dramatic play experiences which enable them the ability to learn problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Worksheets also address some of these skills and experiences, but without the true impact of hands-on learning.
All of these materials and hands-on experiences will prepare your child for school and enable them to be successful in an academic environment by giving them the necessary skills that were taught in an authentic and meaningful way.
| Song Lyrics from Preschool 3|
Miss Mary Mack
Miss Mary Mack is a Preschool 3 favorite right now. The first three verses are the traditional lyrics, but if you scroll down, you'll be able to read the additional silly lyrics that their children like to add. Enjoy!
Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back.
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 50 cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the fence, fence, fence.
They jumped so high, high, high
They reached the sky, sky, sky
And they didn't come back, back, back
'Til the 4th of July, ly, ly!
Preschool 3 likes to jazz up the song with two additional silly verses.
She went upstairs, stairs, stairs
To make her bed, bed, bed
But she bumped her head, head, head
On a piece of cornbread, bread, bread!!
She went downstairs, stairs, stairs
To bake a cake, cake, cake
But she made a mistake, stake, stake
And she baked a snake, snake, snake!!
Mary Beth McCulloch - Executive Editor
Jamie Wincovitch - Editor and Production Manager
Corrie Anderson - Photographer
Wendy Colbert - Editorial Staff
Jennifer Sneddon - Editorial Staff