"It is a fair guess that anyone who has been attracted to the field of education possesses a good dose of empathy. We want to help. We want to make a difference in people's lives, especially children's. This is a wonderful quality, and one to celebrate, but it comes with potential danger. I urge all of us, myself included, to be sure we are keeping ourselves grounded through the strong roots of self-nurturing and self-understanding before we want to share out empathy with others. If we offer our love and care to others from a place of internal strength, everyone's inner gardens will grow better."
I recently read this in an online professional newsletter and it really struck a chord with me. Taking care of oneself allows a person to have a greater capacity for taking care of others. Being a teacher or a parent is all about the other people and children in our lives. Most of us would do just about anything for the children that we care for and love, and giving that much of oneself is a complex and emotional task. I know that at the end of the day, teachers have genuinely and willingly given so much of themselves to the children and families entrusted to our care, that when they get home to their loved ones, they are tired and drained. From experience, I know that it is a good feeling to have been able to make such a difference in the lives of children and families, but it is also emotionally exhausting at times.
This is why it is so important to be kind to oneself. It's important to take time to take care of your own needs, stay healthy and get plenty of rest. Sometimes it's more than just slowing down; it's what you do or don't do after you slow down. We talk a lot about being in the moment with children and focusing on the task at hand. In our society, there is such a buzz about multi-tasking and how this is a valuable skill. I actually wonder whether or not it actually complicates life and doesn't allow us to take good care of ourselves. Taking the time to understand the importance of the task at hand and to be able to understand our own needs and limits is very important. Taking the time to do this allows us to see our capacity for what we can accomplish and allows us to recognize when it's time to take a step back.
The other important thing that resonated with me is how our approach to self-nurturing and self-understanding as adults impacts what children learn and believe about the importance of taking care of oneself. Slowing down, being reflective, eating healthy, exercising, being passionate about things, doing enjoyable activities and talking about those things to children is an important part of our job as parents and teachers.
In the coming months, life may get even more complicated as we embark on the holiday season. Remember to keep in mind that it's okay to ask for help, it's okay to not attend every event that you are invited to, and that sometimes less is more. Remember that taking care of yourself is important and if you are exhausted, you're likely to be less patient with your children and family which places added stress on everyone. Remember to take some time for yourself and to congratulate yourself on your accomplishments, rather than your shortcomings. Make a short to-do list rather than a long one and if you can, involve your children in tasks that make sense. Have fun and work a little less.
"Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are. Your finest work, your best moments, your joy, peace, and healing comes when you love yourself. You give a great gift to the world when you do that. You give others permission to do the same: to love themselves. Revel in self-love. Roll in it. Bask in it as you would sunshine."
~ Melodie Beattie
Promoting Self Regulation in Young Children
By Traci Schunk-Kolb, Infant Four Associate Teacher
Parents and caregivers have a very important job during an infant and toddlers' early development and it is important to be aware of this importance and deliberate in this endeavor. We need to help our children develop self-regulation skills during these early years, as these skills are vital to a child's success in relationships, academia, problem-solving and future career.
Self-regulation is the ability to assess what one is experiencing and interpret it in a way that will help to regulate thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Self-regulation develops slowly over time. For example, we see it develop in our infant room when it comes to meal times. The very young infant cries when he or she is hungry, and we immediately put a bottle in the warmer while we do our best to comfort and soothe the child until the bottle is ready. As the baby grows and begins to eat at the table, we see a progression from crying and demanding food to clinging to the person preparing it. Finally, we notice the young toddlers acclimating to the predictability of the routine, which includes washing our hands, sitting at the table, and putting a bib on. Following this routine, one teacher will continue preparation of the food, while the other passes out highchair trays or plates, utensils, drinks, and finally, food. The children learn to be patient during this routine, sometimes joining in song or conversation while we wait. This is a gradual process, and we help form predictability by talking about what is happening, with language such as, "I am going to test the ziti to see if it is cool enough," followed by "yes, it is. Here is some for Ethan's plate, and Ju Ju..." and by reassuring that food is coming.
Self-regulation is easier for some of us to develop and maintain than others. This is due to a combination of the temperament we are born with, physical sensitivities, sensory development, stressors we are subjected to, the modeling our primary caregivers demonstrate, and opportunities provided to practice the skills. There are potential problems when one either under-regulates or over-regulates emotion. For example, under-regulation of emotions like fear, anger and frustration can result in thoughts and behaviors that interfere with learning social knowledge and skills. Over-regulation can lead us to resist interactions and therefore "lose opportunities to acquire and practice basic social competencies" (Katz, L. and McClellan, D. pg. 3). Part of self-regulation is our social disposition, some of which is thought to be inborn according to Katz and McClellan, like our disposition to learn, to be curious and to form attachments to others. Other parts are strongly developed and influenced by the modeling provided by the important people in the child's lives. What we do and how we handle situations gives the observing child a frame of reference. Examples of various characteristics that can become strong tendencies or dispositions include curiosity, humorousness, creativity, impulsivity, reflectivity, affability, avarice, and quarrelsomeness. Some other tendencies include one to be accepting, friendly, empathetic, generous, cooperative, argumentative, antagonistic, bossy, self-absorbed or persistent.
It is believed that much of children's patterns of emotion regulation are well established by the time they reach their preschool years. Hence our need to be well aware of and assist our children starting at infancy! All of the resources I have explored strongly emphasize modeling. Obviously, some adults are better at self-regulation than others, and we all tend to be better at it when not under extreme distress. It is important to be self aware and seek the guidance we need to do our best job at self-regulation. In addition, the way we help our children with this skill changes as the baby grows and develops. Initially, we provide everything they need, including a warm, safe, nurturing environment, where all of the child's basic needs are met. With time, we create predictability and begin to recognize, respect and acknowledge feelings the child demonstrates. We also model and give cues to the child and eventually withdraw adult support. It is important to know the level that the child is ready to reach and realize that the younger the child, the more he or she will be inconsistent in his or her self-regulation skills. We also need to realize that the development of skills is uneven. For example, the skill to control the impulse to take a taste of another child's food may be present one moment but not the next, so we need to be ready to offer differing levels of support.
Recently I had the opportunity to observe an 18 month old demonstrate some self-regulation skills. She was extremely sad that her parents were not home. She sat on the couch lethargically and was crying. She was also saying "no," and not interacting with others. Acknowledging that she was sad seemed to be received, but when assistance was offered such as hugs from me or hugs from her brother, she declined. She picked up her baby doll and started patting it. I asked her if that was her baby's bottle on the floor. She smiled, nodded, picked it up, and returned to the couch with the baby and the bottle and started to feed the baby while humming to it. I said to her, "it looks like you are feeling better," and she nodded her head. I told her that sometimes when I am sad, I feel better when I take care of the babies in our room and give them love too. After this comment, she got a great big smile on her face, popped down off of the couch and began running around, playing, laughing and joyously interacting with her brother immediately and for the remaining several hours that I was there.
I think the amazing part of participating in this interaction was to see how clearly everything ties together from recognizing and interpreting emotions, to the motivation that results from successfully thinking and then behaving in a manner that works for the child.
In summary, the development of self-regulation is complex. It requires strong relationships and attachments to others to foster. The desirability of self-regulation is culture dependent, and it is not as important in a culture that is more reliant on community and in one that doesn't place high value on early independence.
I highly recommend exploring some of the resources I used and other resources available, to further increase your understanding of this process of developing self-regulation and how to best guide our children along the path of achieving it.
\Bailey, Becky, Fostering Self-Regulation in All Children, 2010 Loving Guidance, Inc., www.ConsciousDiscipline.com
Bilmes, Jenna. Beyond Behavior Management: The Six Life Skills Children Need to Thrive in Today's World. Red Leaf Press, 2011.
Elliot, E. and Gonzalez-Mena, J. Babies'Self-Regulation: Taking a Broad Perspective. Young Children, January 2011.
Florez, Ida, R. Developing Young Children's Self-Regulation through Everyday Experiences. Reprinted from Young Children, July 2011.
Galinsky, E. Mind in the Making, 2010.
Katz, L. and McClellan, D. Fostering Children's Social Competence: The Teacher's Role. Volume 8 of the NAEYC Research into Practice Series. 1997
Warhol, J. New Perspectives in Early emotional Development. Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, Ltd. Pediatric round Table series: 1998.
Song Lyrics - Five Little Pumpkins
By Toddler Three
Toddler Three is a big fan of this seasonal fingerplay. Amy reflects on the children's reaction to this silly song:
"Shortly after I taught our class this song, Kathy had the wonderful idea of flicking off the light when we say "OUT goes the light!" - just for a second or two. The kids loved it and squealed with delight! Now, they know it's going to happen if Kathy is by the light switch, and when the light goes out everybody screams and laughs before we continue with the last bit. When it's finished everybody says, "YAAAAAAY!" and claps."
Here are the words:
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate. (Hold up one hand showing five fingers)
The first one said, "Oh my it's getting late." (Show one finger when you say "first" then tap where your watch would be on your wrist when you say "...getting late")
The second one said, "There are bats in the air." (Show two fingers when you say "second" then put your hand above eyes - like you're shading them from the sun and look up in the air)
The third one said, "But we don't care!" (Show three fingers when you say "third" then shrug and do a dismissive gesture with your hands)
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run." (Show four fingers when you say "fourth" then jog your arms like your running)
The fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun!" (Show five fingers when you say fifth then throw your arms up in the air in an excited gesture)
Then, WHOOOOOOSH! went the wind (swirl your hands around when you exclaim "whoosh!")
And OUT went the lights (clap when you say "out")
And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight. (Show five fingers again then roll your hands as you say, "roll out of sight")
UCDC Philosophy Explained
By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator
Parent Question: I feel like the children go outside when it is very cold. What is your outdoor weather policy?
At UCDC, we believe children need to get outdoors at least one time per day (if not more). In the cold months of winter, this is no different. There are many reasons for this philosophical belief ranging from physical health to emotional well being.
For one reason, we believe that connecting with nature is extremely important for young children, especially now when childhood is changing drastically to include more sedentary activities. We also know that kids move...constantly! The outdoors is a great place for them to practice and perfect their gross motor movements. Another great reason is that sunlight makes people happy (to put it simply) and gives us Vitamin D (very important for optimum bone health).
A very common myth that may inhibit people from having children play outdoors is the idea that cold weather makes a child sick. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "cold weather does not cause colds or flu. But the viruses that cause colds and flu tend to be more common in the winter, when children are in school and are in closer contact with each other. Frequent hand washing and teaching your child to sneeze or cough into the bend of her elbow may help reduce the spread of colds and flu." This practice of sneezing or coughing into an elbow is a practice that even our youngest toddlers are taught.
According to the guidelines set forth from Keystone STARS (Pennsylvania's Quality Assurance Program that we participate in), they believe that...
"Children are expected to go outside when the forecast temperature/wind chill is above 25 degrees, the forecast temperature/heat index is less than 90 degrees, there is no precipitation falling, and there is no current air quality alert. It is understood that given these parameters there may be portions of some days that do not meet the conditions of weather permitting since forecasts are generally targeted to a point in time in the day."
We feel very strongly about getting children outside every day, making sure they are safe and comfortable while doing this. Therefore, UCDC's weather policy takes into consideration the "feels like" temperature, which is simply what it feels like outside while considering the wind chill and heat index. We also consider the precipitation falling and then we will make decisions on our outdoor adventures. For example, we wouldn't go outdoors in a torrential rainfall when the temperatures are in the 40's, but we may purposefully choose to take the children on a stroll through summertime sprinkles if it's warm.
In order to make sure children stay safe and comfortable when outdoors, we don't stay out for long periods of time and we watch for signs of discomfort in the children in order to determine when to return indoors. In the summer, we provide lots of drinking water, always use sunscreen, and look for signs of overheating in children. In the colder months, we ask families to dress their children in several layers in order to keep them dry and warm. We also ask families to bring in hats and mittens on cold days. If you're unsure of how warm to dress your child, a good rule of thumb is to dress them in one more layer than an adult would wear in the same weather conditions.
So, as the cold weather sets in, please send the appropriate clothing for your child in order to allow them to stay safe and warm!
UCDC Reads - Everywhere Babies
By Infant Four
Everywhere Babies by Susan Myers and illustrated by Marla Frazee is a new Infant 4 favorite. Featuring illustrations of babies around the world, the book explores the common routines of babies across varied cultures and communities. With its soothing rhymes, Everywhere Babies always seems to make our children smile.
Our favorite page seems to be, "Every day, everywhere, babies are kissed - on their cheeks, on their ears, their fingers, their nose, on the top of their head, on their tummy, their toes." Our friends giggle as we point to, tickle, or kiss each spot, often pointing to themselves and showing us their noses, toes, and tummies.
Spotlight on Staff
Take a minute to read about the amazing teachers of Preschool One. They are a dedicated teaching team with a lot of talent!
What would you tell someone who is thinking about sending their child to UCDC?
- "Get on the wait list!!" - Ammie
- "I would tell them that it's a smart move!" - Jennifer
- "Start with a visit and get on the waiting list." - Cheryl
What was the last movie you went to see at the movie theater?
- "Les Miserables" - Ammie
- "World War Z" - Jennifer
- "The last movie I saw was Grown-Ups 2 with my husband, Bill, and another couple. It was date night!" - Cheryl
How would a good friend describe you?
- "As 'Mother Hen' - I was often the responsible one out of the group and took care of everyone." - Ammie
- "Funny!" - Jennifer
- "Funny, caring and loyal." - Cheryl
Where did you work when you were in college?
- "When I was at home for the summers, I worked at Wendy's and UCDC. While I was attending IUP, I worked in the Media Resource Room in the Library as well as the HUB." - Ammie
- "I worked as a waitress at The Tomato Patch on Route 30. I was the worst waitress ever!" - Jennifer
- "I worked at Pizza Hut." - Cheryl
How would you describe yourself in three adjectives?
- "Busy, tired and forgetful! All thanks to my lovely two year old son!" - Ammie
- "I think I am loving, funny, and outgoing." - Jennifer
- "Pleasant, kind, and considerate." - Cheryl
What did you watch on TV last night?
- "I am sure it was something on the Sprout Channel." - Ammie
- "Homeland" - Jennifer
- "Nashville" - Cheryl
What is your favorite tradition from your childhood?
- "Sharing family meals together at my parents and grandparents houses (and now at my house)." - Ammie
- "The Italian Christmas Eve dinner of the Seven Fishes." - Jennifer
- "Baking with my sisters and Mom. My Mom doesn't bake so much now but she sure likes to direct us, sample everything and tell us that we made too much!" - Cheryl
Where is your favorite place to eat?
- "Franklin Inn Mexican Restaurant on Rochester Road in the North Hills, of course! When I manage a date night, it is any Japanese Steak House. Any other time it is Eat N Park...Kids eat free from the salad bar and since my son doesn't eat much, it's the best place for us!" - Ammie
- "Shiloh Grill in Mt. Washington" - Jennifer
- "Anywhere that has Italian food." - Cheryl
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or deceased, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
- "Someone with little bit more money and a lot more free time to enjoy all that life has to offer. Or a food truck vendor, I think it would be awesome to own a food truck!" - Ammie
- "I want to be rich. I want to be Oprah. I want her money, but not her responsibilities." - Jennifer
- "Mary Poppins, she's practically perfect in every way!" - Cheryl
What is your favorite time of the day?
- "Night time, so I can snuggle up with my family on the couch!" - Ammie
- "8:00 at night. Sitting, watching TV, with a glass of wine and my fiancÚ." - Jennifer
- "Early in the morning, before my boys get up, with a cup of hot coffee." - Cheryl
Just a reminder that UCDC will be closed Wednesday, November 27th through Friday, November 29th. Wednesday will be a Professional Development Day for the teachers, while Thursday and Friday will be Thanksgiving Recess.