UCDC Developments
May 2012
Paint on Hands
In This Issue
What Is In Your Bag of Tricks? by Ammie Ribarchak
UCDC Reads - Press Here by Herve Tullet
UCDC Philosophy Explained - Screen Time for Children
We're Going on a Bear Hunt
Spotlight on Staff
For Your Information

Staff Appreciation Dinner

Friday, May 18th @ 6 PM
Please consider joining us at the University Club to honor your child's teacher and the supporting staff at UCDC. You can register at the front office.

Also, another way to contribute would be in the form of donations. We are accepting gently used household or baby items as well as gift cards for restaurants, stores or events.Thanks so much in advance and we hope to see you at the dinner! 

Plant Sale Volunteers

We will soon be seeking volunteers to help in our Annual Plant Sale on the morning on Saturday, May 19th. Keep an eye out in your child's mailbox for more information.

Pitt ID

Thank you all so much for remembering to use your Pitt ID to enter the building.


To a young child, all the world seems to focus on "ME." Not understanding the impact that their actions have on others or not understanding why something can't happen the way they want it to happen is part of the everyday landscape of a child's life. As adults, that way of life can be frustrating. Adults have the capacity to be empathetic and the ability to stop and think before acting or speaking. Most children simply can't do that yet, but they are learning. With an adult's understanding and support, children can move into the next phase of understanding expectations and consequences. They can start to become a bit less egocentric (but, not all the time) and a bit more willing to cooperate.


Some things to think about in terms of what children can't quite do just yet....


"I can't share!"- Possession is one device the young child uses to hammer out autonomy. Just as babbling comes before talking; owning comes before sharing. To fully share, a person must first fully possess.


"I can't empathize with anyone else's feelings." - Most young children are at what Piaget calls the Egocentric stage; they are unable to put themselves in the place of the actor, or to empathize with another's feelings. Saying "sorry" and meaning it, is truly impossible. Even harder is understanding the "how would you feel if someone did that to you" statement. It is really difficult to have that idea stop a child from doing something inappropriate.


"I can't tell you the truth when you set me up." - If you have seen a child do something that you dislike and you ask them if they have done it, they will probably say "no." Wouldn't you if you knew what the consequences might be? Don't ask the child if you know what has happened.


"I can't sit down for very long." - The young child is often in a quandary because a parent or a teacher is telling them to sit still while their body is telling them to move. When the large muscles in a preschooler's arms and legs are growing rapidly, they cry out for exercise. As a result, the preschool child moves all the time.


"I can't play with another child until I'm ready." - Children go through different stages of social interaction. If allowed to grow and change at their own pace they will begin to interact with other children.


"I can't express my feelings in words very well." - Children resort to physical means of communication because they don't have the words to express their frustration. You can help by giving the children words to use.


"I can't have perspective." - The only real difference between children and adults in emotional development is experience. Adults have been around a lot longer, most children have to face their own problems and deal with the world as they see it. When you are only four, you feel things more.


It's important to keep your language understandable, and your expectations realistic. Children are capable of a lot! But putting unnecessary pressure on them to perform or understand things that they just aren't quite capable of understanding yet, only sets them up for failure and you up for feeling frustrated.


All the best,

Mary Beth

What Is In Your Bag of Tricks?
By Ammie Ribarchak, Preschool 1 Toddler Busy Bags


I discovered a long time ago while working in a Preschool Classroom that I needed to have not one or two, but MANY different backup plans when it comes to working with young children.  A bag of tricks per say.  I often refer to my bag of tricks when I am talking with parents or working with students and other teachers in the building. It is a place where I store ideas, activities and songs that I can dip into when needing something above and beyond that will continue to keep children actively engaged in their day. Or to simply fill that unexpected waiting time that creeps into the day.


The general atmosphere in a classroom changes minute by minute and as a teacher I have to be ready to roll with those changes and adapt not only the activities that are available but my expectations for each child.  The same thing can be said for parenting. As a new parent I am continuing to discover that not everything is going to go according to plan, or at least according to "My" plan. I have to be able to adapt, be flexible and roll with the punches just as much as I would like my child to be able to do. As a classroom teacher and now as a parent I recognize that is my responsibility to have a bag of tricks at home too!


So what is in your bag of tricks? How do you keep your children actively engaged in their day? When you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic or sitting in the waiting room waiting for the doctor who is running an hour behind? A common trend today is to hand over our fancy smart phones or other electronic devices to fill that void. Did you know that according to the American Academy of pediatrics screen time is highly discouraged for children 2 and under and those older than 2 watch no more than a total of one or two hours a day. The first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development. Learn more here.  


So what is the solution then?   A simple solution that will help to foster critical thinking skills, positive social interactions and continue to build on your child's development is to create busy bags. Most commonly created using small 5x7 sandwich bags, each bag contains one activity. They are easy to grab and easy to store. You can throw them in your purse; keep them in your diaper bag or toss them in your car. You can create them with your children with items that they enjoy, or create them on your own. Below is a list of some busy bag ideas.


  1. Markers or crayons and small notebook for writing and drawing.
  2. Yarn or shoelace with pasta noodles for lacing or beads for older children.
  3. Finger puppets
  4. Books on CD
  5. Dry Erase Board with Marker and Eraser
  6. Cars
  7. Family photo album filled with pictures of the family
  8. Small puzzle
  9. Magnetic toys
  10. I Spy bag


These are just a few ideas. When creating your own you would want to keep in mind the age of the child, the appropriateness of the materials and what your child is interested in. You may find that having your own bag of tricks will help fill those unexpected waiting times with activities that the children can enjoy on their own or together as a family.


The busy bags pictured were created using pencil cases and not sandwich baggies. Using pencil cases works well because you can store them in a three-ring binders and just grab this on your way into the doctor's office or restaurant.  


UCDC Reads - Press Here by Herve Tullet
By Preschool 1  Press Here

Press Here by Herve Tullet is an interactive book that allows children to take part in the story telling process. On each page a set of directions is provided for the reader to follow to see what will happen next. The children enjoyed taking turns pressing on the yellow dot to see what would happen on the next page, or to tilt the book to the right to find that they have moved all the dots to the right side of the book on the following page.  


This book made us giggle, made us curious and made us interested to find out what would happen next. The author has done a wonderful job keeping us all captivated and focused until the completion of the story. We loved this book so much that we began to explore other titles from the author that are equally charming. If you are interested in this story you may also want to check out these other titles by the same author; The Game of Finger Worms and The Game of Lets Go.



UCDC Philosophy Explained
By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator


Why don't you have TVs or computers in your classrooms at UCDC?


This is a great question and one that elicits a bit of debate among early childhood educators. Some believe that computers have a place in the preschool classroom, while others are avidly against it. At UCDC, our curriculum is play based and we believe that children learn best through hands on exploration of physical materials. We provide activities that foster creativity, test their problem solving abilities, challenge their bodies, and employ all of their senses.


The age group we serve is very young and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) actually recommends that children under age two have no exposure to screens ("screens" include television, computers, iPhones, iPads, Leapsters, videogames, etc). It is recommended that children older than two years of age average about one to two hours of screen time per day. So with this knowledge, we are aware that children might watch a TV show on the way home or at home (30 minutes) and have small tidbits of time on other mobile devices (iPhones, iPads, etc), which all adds up. In order to help minimize total screen time, we eliminate it at school completely.


Also, since TV is a passive activity, there is research supporting the fact that too much TV can delay speech, inhibit play, and decrease social interaction. When your children are at school, they have prime opportunities to interact with others and learn amazing socialization as opposed to actively using a computer, watching a friend use a computer, or watching TV. Media and technology are not appalling, but it's important to find a balance since the older the child gets, the more attractive media becomes to them and the more difficult it may become to set limits. As with anything, it's best to maintain a balance of opportunities.


Here are some ideas to help set limits while your child is young.

  • Limit screen time to 1-2 hours per day (or none at all if your child is under age 2).
  • Keep screens out of your child's bedroom.
  • Turn the TV off at mealtimes.
  • Set a good example and limit your viewing as well.
  • Watch TV together and talk to your child about what is on the TV.
  • Teach your child to ask whether it's OK to turn on media so it doesn't become a habit.
  • Set a time limit and stick to it.

Technology is here to stay and it does have many benefits and is extremely attractive to young children. But, they will have ample opportunities to use screens as they get older and we feel that these experiences are best left for then.


It might also be noted that whatever technology that is taught now, will soon be obsolete. If we use this time to teach creativity and imagination, these skills will last a lifetime.



We're Going on a Bear Hunt
Song Lyrics by Toddler 1  Going on a Bear Hunt

The children in Toddler 1 are great fans of the song, We're Going on a Bear Hunt. They can be heard chanting along with the teachers all over the building! There is also a book to accompany this popular song, so your children can experience this childhood favorite many ways.

Take a minute to check out the words and next time you see Toddler 1, you can go on a bear hunt along with them!

We're Going on a Bear Hunt


Going on a Bear Hunt (tap legs in walking rhythm)
Gonna catch a big one
I'm not afraid
What's that up ahead? (shade eyes)

Oh no! Tall grass
Can't go over it (hands high)
Can't go under it (hands low)
Gotta go through it
Swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish (wave arms back and forth)

Repeat all of the above, and replace the part in italics with

A wide river
Splish splash, splish splash, splish splash, splish splash (swimming motions)


Yucky mud
Squish, squish, squish, squish, squish, squish, squish, squish (stepping motions)

A dark forest
Stumble, trip, stumble, trip, stumble, trip, stumble, trip

A big snowstorm
Hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo (wave arm, cover face)

A dark cave
Tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe (tiptoe stepping motions)

What's that?
Fuzzy fur
Big eyes
Wet nose
Sharp teeth
It's a bear!

Back through the cave  Tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe (tiptoe stepping motions, double time)

(Retrace steps at double time)

We're not going on a bear hunt again!


Spotlight on Staff
Marlene Schenck, Business Manager Marlene Schenck
How long have you worked at UCDC?  
8 years

Where are you from?

Born and raised in Pittsburgh.


What is your favorite children's book?

I enjoyed reading Dr. Seuss books and the Berenstain Bears series to my children.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An occupational therapist, but ended up being a special education teacher.


What is something people may not know about you?

I am the proud mother of 4 beautiful daughters and 3 adorable granddaughters! My husband is king of the castle!


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

To the beach...any beach! I find it so peaceful!


What is your favorite type of music or favorite artist?

Anything but rap! I like the "oldies" and new music and listen all the time.


What is your favorite movie or TV show?

I enjoy TV comedies like the Big Bang Theory and romance movies (I have to alternate with "action" movies with my husband!)


What do you do to relax?

Bake goodies, take walks with my husband.


What is the best part about your job?
Working with the dedicated staff of UCDC and interacting with the children every day! It's the perfect environment in which to work!   
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