UCDC Developments
December 2013


I love the holidays - I really do. But the part that I don't love is the fact that we have officially entered the season of mass commercialism. Stores are teaming with people at all hours of the night in order to buy the perfect gift for every recipient on their list. I attempt to avoid this facet of the holiday season, but with limited success. It's everywhere.


Children become overwhelmed with commercialism and experience an overpowering need to possess things. The commercials are persistent and plentiful. Children are being targeted at a very young age and commercials are everywhere. They are present during TV programming and on the radio. Not to mention plastered on billboards on the road and even on busses that drive by your impressionable children. From your child's morning cereal (you notice that Shrek is eating your child's favorite cereal too) to their evening diaper change (yes, media characters adorn even their diapers), your child is being targeted as a consumer at a VERY young age.


How do we combat this? The answer is that we can't make it go away, but we can focus on togetherness and family this holiday season as opposed to the merchandise. It feels good to give gifts and it is important to help children experience this feeling of joy by emphasizing gift giving and de-emphasizing gift receiving. Focus on what this season means for your family and use it as a time for family bonding. 


Make memories and enjoy this time that you get to spend together during our winter break. Here are some ideas to slow down this holiday season and take time to enjoy each other.

  • Build and decorate a gingerbread house with your family
  • Go sled riding or tubing together
  • Have a movie/game night
  • Go on a family hike
  • Start a family time capsule
  • Make gifts for family/loved ones
  • Have a sleep-out in the living room
  • Share a homemade dish or meal with a neighbor or friend
  • Host a potluck with friends or a cookie baking party
  • Take part in a family dance party
  • Enjoy a special weekend breakfast
  • Make and decorate a "Thankful Box" with your children and deposit notes regularly including things that you are thankful for
  • Go through old toys and donate them to children in need
  • Spend time with each of your children individually
  • Share babysitting with friends/family and enjoy a date night. Grown ups need their time together too!

And don't forget to spread out your celebrations or traditions to allow them to be fun, relaxing and enjoyable.


Enjoy the holiday season,


Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator


In This Issue
Helping Children Manage Stress
Duksung Visit
Important Dates!
Song Lyrics - Under A Shady Tree
UCDC Philosophy Explained - Teacher Turnover
UCDC Reads - Eat Up, Gemma
Helping Children Manage Stress
By Lynda Stiger, Toddler One

Children experience stress in their lives, as do adults.  However, in lacking the skill set which adults possess to manage it, they can become more readily affected.  Stress can stem from a new family situation (moving, a new baby, a career change) or an event which a child experiences (transitioning to a new classroom, illness). All of these influences shape one's coping mechanisms and compels children to deal less effectively with everyday life.  Children manifest the symptoms of stress in ways which are exemplified by their level of development. Younger children are less capable than older ones in managing their emotions. Loss of appetite, difference in sleeping patterns, lack of focus, all or more of these symptoms may be apparent to the adult as signs of childhood stress.


Physiologically, all our bodies react to stress in similar ways- rapidity of heart beat, accelerated breathing, muscle tension.   With children, teachers frequently see this manifested as nervous energy, those who are trying to vent their emotions through extreme physical activity. Sometimes, stress has the opposite effect, as seen in the child who is lethargic and listless.  Our role is to perceive these stressors and provide both guidance and strategies for children to manage their feelings. Certain situations may not be stressful for adults, a special outing or event such as a birthday celebration, but may promote feelings of anxiety and resistance for children.  A consistent pattern of accelerated family activities may be overwhelming for a child as well.  Throughout these difficult circumstances for children, keen adult observation skills are paramount in order to help children alleviate their stress.


Children need to have their emotions recognized and validated. Their adaptability to new situations is contingent upon children's ability to realize and express their feelings, thereby minimizing stress.  Younger children may react more effectively to positive touches/hugs rather than merely engaging in conversation, the meaning of words can become lost when emotions are intense.  Their acceptance of this intervention is indicative of the ability to self-regulate their behavior and move forward.  Adults play a critical role in this process- assessing the needs of the child and planning a strategy which provides clarity and resolution for them. Adult stressors can provide an impetus for children to reflect on their own behavior and benefit from positive adult modeling.  As this is verbalized for the child, "I'm upset right now so I'm going to calm myself down," the child realizes the commonality of emotions through this shared experience.  An impetus for children to reflect on their own behaviors during stressful situations is created as adult's model appropriate reactions to anxiety.  Relaxing music, soft lights, yoga, can create a sense of repose for adults and children.  It is additionally important that children are provided the opportunity to play out their feelings through imaginative activities such as drawing, puppetry and books.  Creating stories with similar circumstances and feelings (social stories) provides a validation of emotions generating opportunities to express them in a less intimidating and personal manner. Also, consistently maintaining routines may not circumvent anxiety, but should diminish its effects.


Throughout these processes, children begin to understand that while stress is difficult to manage, it is a task which is attainable, particularly as they see adults do so.  Having children succeed is an affirmation of their independence and self-control, anchoring their confidence in future goal attainment.





Elkind, David.  The Hurried Child, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1988.

Children and Stress: Caring Strategies to Guide Children, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, 2009.

Family Resiliency: Building Strengths to Meet Life's Challenges, Iowa State University Extension, Ames, Iowa.


2nd Annual International Student Hosting Opportunity
One of our students from last year presenting a lesson to the preschoolers.
Beginning on January 17th, 2014, the University Child Development Center will be hosting two undergraduate students from Duksung Women's University in Seoul, South Korea for an International Practicum Program.  All of the women are studying Early Childhood Education and they will be in Pittsburgh with ten other students from the University.  All of the students will observe and assist in early childhood classrooms at either our center, Falk, Carlow Campus School or Carnegie Mellon's Children's School, as well as participate in workshops and activities that will be planned for them.  They will also visit cultural attractions geared for young children in our area and visit the other host schools.  

The students that will be placed at UCDC will complete their practicum in Preschool 2 and Preschool 4.  Last year, we hosted four students from Duksung and it was a very educational and interesting experience for the children and the staff at UCDC.  Many staff participated in the welcoming event which was held at UCDC and also spent time with the students during some of the outings that were planned.


Last year, we asked for volunteers to be the host families for the students at UCDC.  We had two lovely families work with us to provide housing, meals and some transportation while the students were here for the two weeks.  This year, we are in need of one family to serve as a host family for the two students that will be at UCDC. We are in need of a family who lives close to UCDC and Carnegie Mellon to provide housing and some meals for the two practicum students from Sunday, January 19th through Sunday February 2nd. This will help to reduce the cost of their practicum experience and provide an opportunity for them to experience family life in Pittsburgh, which is an essential component of the experience.   Proximity to UCDC is essential so that the students can use public transportation or carpool with UCDC teachers to get to and from our school. 


Dr. Sharon Carver from CMU is coordinating this experience for the third time and will provide valuable information to the host family, which will make the experience as seamless as possible.   Both families who hosted last year found the experience to be valuable and beneficial and will be able to provide assistance and information for this year's host family. 


Please contact Mary Beth McCulloch at mbm12@pitt.edu if you are interested in this hosting opportunity or to request additional information.  We invite all families to be involved in this international practicum and to share ideas for strengthening the experience for families, children, and staff.  


Thank you!


Important Dates!
  • Save the Date for UCDC's Annual Staff Appreciation Dinner will be held on Friday, May 30th, 2014. 
  • Debbie, one of the Children's Librarians from the Carnegie Library will visit UCDC the fourth Wednesday of every month.
  • UCDC's Pajama Day is Thursday, December 12th. Donations of new and unused pajamas for a child birth to age six will benefit Jeremiah's Place.
  • Vision Screening for children three years and up will be January 27th through the 30th.
  • Experimental Child Psychology undergrad student observations will be conducted in preschool classrooms from February 10-28th.

  • Speech, Language, and Hearing Screenings for children ages three and up will be held March 5, 19, and April 2

  • Nutrition/Dietary Students will visit UCDC on February 4th.

Song Lyrics by Preschool Three
Under A Shady Tree by Laurie Berkner

tree Although this song may not be seasonally appropriate, we all know that it's helpful to go to a warm and sunny place in our minds to shield us from the cold and dark days of winter.


When this song was introduced to the children, we asked them to give themselves room to lie down on the floor and enjoy the song.  While listening, they raised their arms and swayed along to the reggae beat.  Later, often after coming in from gross motor play, they initiated this activity themselves and asked the teachers to put on the song.  One of them always runs to turn out the lights and then rushes back to enjoy it with their classmates. 


Under A Shady Tree by Laurie Berkner


Under a shady tree, you and me

Under a shady tree, you and me

Under a shady tree, you and me

Under a shady tree, you and me


Can you fell the breeze blow by?

Can you feel it on your face?

This is our special place.


Under a shady tree, you and me...


Can you feel the soft cool grass?

Can you feel it with your toes?

We can sit here while it grows.


Under a shady tree, you and me...


if you want to close your eyes

And sleep beneath the tree

You can rest your head on me.


Under a shady tree, you and me...

Under a shady tree, you and me...




UCDC Philosophy Explained 
By Mary Beth McCulloch, Director
When a teacher leaves UCDC, why does it sometimes take so long to find a replacement?

Typically, most of the staff that choose to leave UCDC do so because they've graduated, are moving, or have decided to stay home to be with their own children while they are young.  While it's not unusual for us to have turnover, we are lucky to experience it far less than some other childcare centers.  We are also lucky to have center substitutes (Cheryl, Erika, Amanda and Ciara) to cover for extended absences which allow us to stay true to our philosophical approach of having as much consistency in a classroom as possible.  We know that this is best for young children and parents and also for the remaining staff.    


When teachers do move on, we know that the loss of a loving, supportive teacher and colleague is very difficult to experience for both children and adults.  For many parents, it almost always seems like the new person could never be as exceptional as the old person.  The foundation of the work that we do is built on relationships, and when you lose a significant person, it does feel like things may never be the same.  Our ultimate goal is to make sure that they are.


This leads me to my answer to the question posed above. When it comes to hiring new staff, I will never settle for mediocre or someone who might get better after spending some time with us.  Because of this approach, it often takes time to find the type of candidate that we looking for from the pool of applicants.  Candidates are required to submit a cover letter and resume through PittSource, and initially we look for candidates to meet the basic qualifications which include working with the age level that we are hiring for and an educational background.  There are a variety of ways that candidates can meet (and in most cases they exceed) the state, NAEYC, and Keystone STARS requirements for staff qualifications.  After this phase, we ask candidates to come in for an interview with me (the Director) and at least one other staff member. When we finally get to the interview phase, I am much more interested in the feeling that I get from a candidate, and how genuine they seem to be about working with the age group that we are hiring for.  Not all preschool teachers can be effective infant teachers and vice versa.  We then take the time to show candidates around the Center and ask us questions that they may have. We will share a lot about the expectations of the work at UCDC and the type of philosophy that we are committed to.  If and when we are as confident as we can be about making an offer- I make my recommendations to the Human Resource department for various levels of approval.  Once we have approvals (which can take some time), our employment specialist will reach out to the candidate (again, this can take some time) and make an offer.  Sometimes all ends well when someone accepts and can start in two weeks or less or does not end well and we have to start all over!  Thus, putting us in the position of still not having a new teacher!


Sadly, the field of Early Childhood and Early Care and Education has not progressed in increasing monetary compensation and recognition of teachers. These people play a significant role in the lives of young children and families and the long term results of a child having a quality early care experience has an impact on everyone's future.  The high qualifications that we require at UCDC plays a role in the pool of applicants applying for our positions.  Sometimes there are not that many qualified candidates because they have found work in other areas that are higher paying and more respected.   Hopefully there will be changes in the future which will increase our ability to identify outstanding candidates who are dedicated not only to the field but ultimately to UCDC as well. 



UCDC Reads by Toddler One
Eat Up, Gemma by Sarah Hayes


"Eat up, Gemma" is about a little girl who refuses to eat. Told from her older brother's point of view, Gemma does whatever she can do to get around eating a meal. Until, one day at church, Gemma spots a woman's hat, which displayed delicious fake fruit! "Eat up, Gemma" she says and tries to eat the grapes from the woman's hat. Gemma's brother later come s up with a clever way for Gemma to eat her food, and replicates the woman's hat by using real fruit, a bowl, and a plate. Sure enough, Gemma "ate up" which made her brother feel very proud!


To extend this book in the classroom, we created a sorting activity to distinguish between fruits and vegetables. By using our play kitchen supplies, we began to discuss which food items were a fruit and which items were a vegetable. This helped give the children knowledge about the two, and how they were different. If something was neither a fruit nor a vegetable, then that item fell into the neither category. Finally, as we read "Eat up, Gemma," we sorted the items Gemma tries to eat and placed them into our fruit and vegetable table.