UCDC Developments
June 2013

We had a very lovely Staff Appreciation Dinner this year. For those of you who were unable to attend, we hope that you will be able to make it next year because it is definitely a night to remember. There were tears shed, laughter shared, and good company all around! I wanted to share my speech for those of you that weren't able to be there with us at the dinner.


Welcome and thank you for joining us for the evening.  The annual Staff Appreciation Dinner is the time of year that we all get to be together to honor and thank our teachers and staff that spend their days with  your children.   Attendance this year exceeds the past five years and we are honored that you would choose to spend the evening with us.  Each year we try to do some type of special tribute for the teachers and staff.    This year we chose to engage the parents and families and the result of that are the vases that are the table.  Each vase has special messages in the bottom from parents and children.  We hope that you'll each enjoy reading these messages and learning what it is that makes you so special to families.


A quick thank you to the many parents who donated the lovely auction items and items for the staff gift bags.  We were overwhelmed by the generosity this year and can't thank  you enough for any part that you played in making this evening a success.  A huge thank you to Marlene, Jennifer, Samantha and Jamie; without their planning, organization, time, creativity, and boundless energy, this evening would not be what it is.  It is definitely a team effort but the work of these particular individual speaks volumes about the level of dedication to UCDC and the respect that they have for the teachers. 


I wanted to send out some messages to the teachers that work with our children every day. To our infant staff- thank you for your nurturing spirits.  The level of comfort and trust that you provide to the smallest children in the building and to parents is astonishing.  You understand the children, read their cues, meet their needs, and provide a safe, warm, environment where they can explore and learn to trust and grow at their pace doing what works for them.  The countless other things you do throughout the day only adds to the level of respect that your colleagues and I have for you.  Thank you for making each moment special in the classroom.  Whether it is a diaper change, a bottle feeding, a round of We Are the Dinosaurs or body painting, each child feels loved and supported and knows that they matter a great deal in that moment.


To our toddler staff- thank you for understanding the sometimes volatile, unpredictable and lovable nature of a toddler.  It's hard to understand someone who does not yet understand themselves.  Yet every day you strive to get who these children are and then provide whatever it is that they need, be it a hug, a gentle limit, a guiding hand, or an activity that will help them to grow and learn.  It's a busy world in a toddler classroom and your boundless energy, enthusiasm and creativity, balanced with warmth, understanding and love helps the toddler to learn about himself and others.


To our preschool staff- thank you for your consistent creativity, for creating a stimulating environment where children can explore the growing social norms that come with being in a larger group.  Thank you for understanding that play is how children learn and that all children learn differently.  Thank you for understanding that even though they are older, preschoolers don't get it all, all of the time.  They are still learning and practicing and figuring things out.  Thank you for flying kites, building robots, creating mosaics and allowing children to use every unit block and big block in the classroom to create a structure that rivals what they do in the School of Engineering.


To our substitutes who do all of this for all of the children in the building.  Thank you for taking the time to get know children and families and for understanding that you play a significant role in a child's life.  You go without question, you support over 36 other teachers and you help every day to maintain the rhythm in the classroom and the consistency that is so important to children and families.


To everyone- thank you for  recognizing that children are individuals and  have unique needs and the time that you spend with them helps to shape who they become and  how they embrace that uniqueness.  Thank you for understanding that everything that you do matters and that you do make a difference.  Because of your support, patience, empathy, and joyful spontaneous nature children are safe, nurtured and loved and parents are confident in knowing that their children are with a group of individuals that they can trust to do their best when they are not able to do so.



Mary Beth

For Your Information...

Food Drive
UCDC had a very successful food drive this past Spring, collecting FIVE boxes of food to the food bank! Thanks so much for your generosity and support!

Weekend Events
For those of you that will be leaving UCDC over the summer due to your child starting Kindergarten in the Fall, we will miss you all deeply! We have had some requests for families to continue receiving our UCDC Weekend Events after they leave the Center. If you are interested, please email Jamie Wincovitch at jmw170@pitt.edu to remain on our mailing list for this weekly email of child friendly events in the Pittsburgh area.

Family Vacation Secrets
By Sandi Blum, Toddler Four

Whether you cringe at the thought or jump for joy with excitement, it's that time of year again for vacations.    


During the summer months, schedules tend to be more relaxed, older children are off school for the summer, and the majority of people plan a vacation.    Planning a family vacation can be a very intimidating task, but it is a fabulous opportunity to take an extended amount of time to be together.


You may be planning a destination vacation that includes car or plane time which will take a great deal of consideration and organization, and if this is the case, there are some great tips below.  However, that kind of vacation may be too difficult with very young children.  Don't forget about small vacations you can do right in your own city.  Consider some of these getaways and activities for your summer.


  1. Take a drive in the country and share a picnic lunch.
  2. Take a trip to the beach.   Raccoon Creek State Park and Moraine State park are about an hour away, Ohiopyle about one and a half hours away, and Pymatuning Lake and Presque Isle (Erie, PA) about two hours away.
  3. Go camping.  There are many campgrounds around this area or pitch a tent in your back yard.
  4. Build a fire and have a wiener roast with s'mores for dessert.

If you are planning a bigger vacation that entails a car or plane ride consider some of the following tips.


How to keep your vacation from turning into a trip:

  • Pack more than you will need.  It may seem like you are over packing but it will be beneficial in the long run.
  • Fill a bag with crayons, paper, books, and a snack for those occasions when you have to wait like in a restaurant.
  • Let children pack their own backpack to hold essentials they will need in the car, airplane, or hotel room.  You may be surprised by the quiet activities they will choose.
  • Know how much your child can endure.  If your child can only manage one activity a day, don't force more than that.
  • Ask your pediatrician for a referral.  It is reassuring to have the name of doctor when you're in a new town.
  • Try to get a non-stop flight.  The extra cost will be well worth less transitions and hassle.
  • Find a hotel with a pool.  Children always have spare energy at the end of the day to spend at the pool or beach.
  • Pack some disposable cameras or purchase inexpensive cameras for each of your children.  The images may be crooked or fuzzy, but you can view what your child saw as important on the vacation.
  • Always pack extra batteries!!

Tips for traveling in the car:

  • Break your trips into small segments.  Stop to play at the park or explore a new town.  If you are able, plan the majority of your trip for the night and after dinner so your children will be sleepy.
  • Give your children atlases or maps to look at as you go along, and let them view pamphlets or brochures.  Give the some choices in planning and what they want to do as they review the pamphlets.
  • Give children their own music to listen to.
  • Get some audio books to listen to.

Tips for traveling in the plane:

  • Try to reserve bulkhead seats where there is more room for children to spread out and play on the floor.  Take small blankets and put them on the floor for the children to sit or lie down
  • If you're on a particularly long flight.  Call ahead and order your child a special kid's meal.
  • Pack extra food for your children.  Snacks will help with hungers pangs until food is served.
  • Don't forget chewing gum.  Even if you don't normally give this to your children they will help to relieve pressure in the ears.  Pacifiers or bottles do the trick for babies.
  • Don't forget extra clothes for the children and even an extra shirt for you in case of spills. 
  • If your child is in diapers, pack extra.  Also, pack wipes in several different locations.  And don't forget plastic bags for the soiled diapers.  No one wants to smell "that" on a plane.
  • Take time getting off of the plane.  You will feel less frazzled.  Conversely, be prepared to board when you hear the crew's announcement for young children.
  • As soon as your child falls asleep, take a nap, read a book, RELAX.  You deserve it.

Now you have your vacation spot chosen, you are prepared for anything.  What are you going to do when you get there?  There are often many diverse activities, sites, and attractions in all different sized cities.  If your plan was to go to the beach, research some different spots to explore while you are there.  Some things to consider include aquariums, zoos, arcades, bowling, movies, county/state fairs, harbors, performances, museums, national parks, amusement parks, or wildlife watching (whales, fishing, boating, forest hiking).


Participating in a family vacation is a great way to spend an extended period of time together.  It is a great break from work for you and a break from school for your children.  Take the time and make the most of it.  With the right preparation, planning, and patience, it can be a relaxing, pleasurable, and entertaining adventure for everyone.


For more information including helpful tips on packing, family friendly vacation spots, and more try these links.



UCDC Reads by Toddler Four
Colors: The Rainbow of the Natural World (Author Unknown)

One of Toddler 4's favorite books right now is Colors: The Rainbow of the Natural World.  The book contains photographs of life forms including plants and animals, as well as non-life forms like stones and oceans.  It categorizes the different entities by color or shows different colors of the same object (eg. different colored apples). 


This book has sparked a great deal of vocabulary extension.  The children are learning names of new fruit, flowers, animals and more.  Along with all that, they are enhancing color recognition and learning new names for different shades of a color including eggplant, plum, and lilac.


The book is so well liked because the children can showcase their abilities to identify colors and name objects, as well as satisfy some curiosities and their drive to explore and learn.  



Song Lyrics by Preschool Four
Flitter, Flutter, Butterfly

Preschool Four has been learning songs about butterflies to celebrate the emergence of the crysalids that are in their classroom. Here is one of the songs that they enjoy.
Flitter, Flutter, Butterfly 
(tune: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)


Flitter, flutter, butterfly,
Flying in the big blue sky.
Flutter high and flutter low.
Flutter fast and flutter slow.
Flitter, flutter butterfly,
Flying in the big blue sky.

UCDC Philosophy Explained
By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator

Parent Question: When will my child learn how to _________________ (crawl, walk, read, insert any developmental milestone here)?


Answer: As parents (me included), we so badly want our children to succeed. We want them to be happy and content in life. In some of our eyes, part of this happiness lies in "normalcy." (Sidebar - I have to say, "normal" is a word that I hate to use when it comes to child development because "normal" typically includes a huge span of time and behaviors and should not be used to define a child.) But, basically, we want our children to have similar abilities to their peers in order to allow them to fit in. This is what drives our questions of "When will my son get teeth?" or "How come that 9 month old is walking and my 13 month old is still crawling?" Some other common questions include "When will my son learn how to read?" and "When will my daughter start to play cooperatively with others?"


It is human nature for us to want for our children. It is human nature for us to care for our children. But, it is important that we, as parents, are able to realize AND accept that all children develop at different rates and at different times. It is also important that we are able to understand and accept that our children may turn out differently than our expectations.


The range of "normal" for any developmental milestone is wide. For example, children are expected to walk independently between the ages of eight to eighteen months. That is a HUGE age span, but anytime within that time frame is considered "normal development." There are many things that we can do to support the development of a new skill, but we can't make it happen. We can support the fact that every child is different and they will reach each milestone at their own pace.  Although, if you do have concerns about your child's development, please don't hesitate to talk to your child's teacher. They are highly trained in these matters and they have a great insight into your child's abilities.)


Our goal as parents is to help our children to become contributing members of society. The contribution that they make should be one that allows them to feel successful, happy, and content with their life. Accepting your child for who they are and will become is something that we must face in order to allow them to do just that. It is our job to support them in their efforts, accept their differences, and foster their growth in a way that supports them as the person that they are.

Toddler 3 Teachers
Spotlight on Staff
Toddler Three

Take a minute to learn about the amazing teachers of Toddler Three!


If I looked in your refrigerator, what would I find?

  • "You would find very little- I hate to cook and love to eat out with friends." - Kristen
  • "What WOULDN'T you find is the question you should be asking me. I live with my parents and my mother is always prepared for 'END of DAYS' (keep it in mind guys - our pantry is ridiculously full) or any stray friends or family that may stop by. It's an addiction, I think, keeping an abundance of food around. But, I cannot complain. How many people my age can come home from work and ask, 'What's for dinner?' or 'When are we gonna eat?' Thanks, Mom."- Amy
  • "You would find gluten free items, milk, orange juice, condiments, and eggs." - Kathy

What new hobby/talent have you learned in the past five years?

  • "I recently started to scrapbook and I am becoming more obsessed with crafting with Pinterest ideas." -Kristen
  • "How to ride a unicycle while juggling. Ha! Just kidding. I am learning the many different ways to braid hair...French, Dutch, to name a couple. My daughter, Chloe (8 years old) pretends to be a Pop Star, so we get ideas from Disney stars or YouTube and experiment. It's more challenging than you would think...especially dealing with the tears. As I am pulling another braid tight or taking out a hair band that's been tangled into her hair I remind Chloe, 'Beauty comes with a price.'  hehehe." - Amy
  • "My new hobby is using Pinterest to find new ideas for our classroom." - Kathy

What is the most creative activity you did with your children in your classroom this past month?

  • "I really enjoyed doing our egg and celery experiment (placing an egg in several different liquids to see the effect the liquid had on the egg and putting celery in colored water to see how it gets its nutrients) with the kids and watching it change." - Kristen
  • "We spray painted the back side of UCDC. Oops... sorry Kristen... they were gonna find out about it sooner or later ... once they reviewed the video tape." - Amy
  • "Using a water bottle as a stamper to make flowers." - Kathy

What is your favorite piece of clothing? Why?

  • "My rainbow polka dot pajama pants- comfortable and perfect." - Kristen
  • "My pajamas because they are so comfy. And, when I put them on I know that sleep, wonderful sleep, is not so far around the corner. (One of my favorite activities.)" - Amy
  • "My Pittsburgh Penguins T-shirt because I love hockey!" - Kathy

Who has made the biggest impact on your life so far, and why?

  • "My family-I have two wonderful parents and two amazing sisters they are the best thing in my life and made me who I am today." - Kristen
  • "My children have made the biggest impact on my life. It's challenging to put it into words...my life is so much richer having them in it. It is like going from seeing the world in black and white to seeing it in color. They give me love, make me feel happy, challenge me to be a better person, help me maintain a positive attitude and they keep me young, yet make me feel so old sometimes. Ultimately, they are a few of my partners through this experience called life and I love them and they love me. We want each other to be happy. What else could anyone ask for?" - Amy
  • "My Mom - She was such a strong woman and a great mother and she inspired me to be the same." - Kathy

What makes you laugh?

  • "Being with my friends and family, working with toddlers everyday always makes a laughable moment." - Kristen
  • "When someone does a happy dance when something good happens to them and they get really into it. It makes me so happy! And proud of them for letting it all hang out." - Amy
  • "All my Toddler 3 Children." - Kathy

What makes you cry?

  • "Anything and everything- I cry at commercials and anything remotely sad. I am very emotional and cry all the time- happy and sad tears." - Kristen
  •  "When I hear about someone hurting a child in some way. Things that I find in the news that make me so very sad...you know the ones, about bullying and worse...just terrible." - Amy
  • "Sad Movies and TV shows" - Kathy

How many pairs of shoes do you own?

  • "Over 30- I am in the beginning steps of being on the show, Hoarders.'" - Kristen
  • "Too many to count, I am ashamed to say." - Amy
  • "8" - Kathy

What was the best thing before sliced bread?

  • "Rainbows" - Kristen
  • "This is a tough one... there are so many great things in this world...but, the thing I have missed a lot recently, that I think used to be sooo great is when everything was closed on Sunday. I know... it's so old fashioned, but, I seriously think that if everyone was forced to slow down for one day a week, then, I think we would all benefit - everyone - whether you have a family or not. We need to take better care of ourselves and not run ourselves down or spread ourselves so thin. A day when nothing is open and few have to work would be glorious! Is that cheesy?" -Amy
  • "The beach!" - Kathy

If you had a thousand dollars to give away, what would you do with it?

  • "I would give it to my credit card bills-I think they would like it." - Kristen
  • "I'd send it to the most recent victims of the latest catastrophe....like the people in Oklahoma whose homes where just devastated by that tornado." - Amy
  • "I would donate it to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer in honor of my mother." - Kathy