January 2013

I am a procrastinator by nature.  I don't like it, but I've come to accept it  to some degree and I've also tried to conquer it to some degree. Some people are list makers and actually get around to crossing things off of their list before losing it or making a new list.  Sadly, I'm always making new and longer lists. But I do get things done - things that truly matter and that have a high level of importance.  Sure, there are things that slip through the cracks and things that I wish I would have done. But I've learned, as I'm sure that many of you have, that some times, what is happening in the moment, not what you make happen in the moment, is much more important.  Paying attention to the people and things around you; your children, nature, beautiful things, and family should trump your to-do list at all times.  I guess that balance is the key- as it is with so many things.  We balance our work with our personal, our down time with our busier activities. We balance our wants with our needs and so many other things in our lives.  Often there are experiences that challenge us and make it difficult to keep the balance, days that it's hard not to procrastinate or days that you just can't shorten your list.  On those days, this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, gives me hope and warms my spirit- so I thought I'd share it with you. All the best in the New Year!


"This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, love to complete your life."

  - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Mary Beth McCulloch, Director


Helping Young Children Cope with Death
By Shelley M. Martin, Head Teacher, Infant Three


Oftentimes, death is a subject we choose not to think about until it presents itself in our lives.  It's often an uncomfortable subject for adults, and how to handle it with young children is something we may struggle with when the time comes.  Preparing ourselves ahead of time for the questions and conversations that will inevitably occur after a death will help to make the process a little easier for families who may struggle with what to tell a child.


When talking with young children about death, it can be even more uncomfortable than talking to older children.  Young children have no perspective when it comes to death.  Oftentimes, the death of a family pet is the first time a child will be presented with the concept and many questions are likely to arise. " Where is my dog?  Why can't I see him?  Will he be ok?  Did I do something to make him go away?"  These questions and many, many more are often asked by children for months after a pet is gone.


So what if the death is a grandparent or other family member, or someone special in your neighborhood?  These are all people who make up your child's life, who they know as being a part of their world.  Do we talk to young children about death in these instances or do we think they are too young to understand?  If we talk to children, how do we begin?  How do we know they understand and how can we assure we are not making death "scary" for them or saying the wrong things?


Understanding Your Own Feelings


The first thing we must do is to get a handle on our own feelings.  Most parents will wait until they are confronted with a death to start thinking about how to introduce the topic to their child.  This can be difficult because a parent may also be dealing with the loss.  Thinking about your feelings and experiences with death beforehand will help you better explain to your child how you felt when your cat died or when your grandpa died.  This will help give your child the sense that everyone experiences loss, that it is universal, and they are not the only ones to ever experience these feelings. 


The Circle of Life


There are many opportunities to teach children about death as a part of life.  Many times we ignore such opportunities because we want to shield children from death, but seizing these opportunities can help teach that death is part of the circle of life.  The changing seasons, the dying blooms on the flowers in the garden, even the death of a family pet are opportunities to teach children this concept.  When children feel they are allowed to talk about death, and that their questions are good ones and matter, they will cope better when confronted with death. 


Including Children in the Grief Process


Oftentimes, our instinct is to shield children from the pain we feel during a death.  By doing this, we force our children to deal with death later, possibly subconsciously for the rest of their lives.  They may think it's not ok to cry or talk about their feelings or ask questions.  Your job, instead, should be to let them know it's ok to cry and that, while painful, that pain is a natural part of living and will not always feel so strong.  Being honest with children is sometimes difficult for us when it comes to death but giving children real answers to the questions they ask is best.  They only need as much information as they ask for, and for young children this may be the same questions over and over or questions you wouldn't imagine them asking.  A child may wonder what a dead person eats or if they use the potty.  How we phrase our answers to their questions should be truthful and short.  Allow them to ask more questions if they need to.  Stay away from terms such as "Grandpa's gone away" or "Mrs. Smith went to sleep."  These types of responses only confuse small children and cause more fear, often more than just saying a person died. 


Keeping Memories Alive


Go out of your way to help keep the memories of the loved one alive!  Life is to be celebrated, and special memories are ways we comfort our own spirit.  Making a special photo album or going out to eat at the restaurant you always frequented together will help show it's alright to have memories and remember someone who has died.  As long as we talk about that person, laugh or cry about them, that person lives on for us!





"Talking with Young Children About Death":  Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (pamphlet)

The Caring Place:  A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families 1-888-224-HOPE

UCDC Philosophy Explained - Loose Parts
By Jamie Wincovitch, Education Coordinator
Parent Question: I am amazed by all of the creativity that I see in the classrooms, yet I question some of the materials used. Why the use of random sticks and rocks?

At UCDC, our philosophy speaks to very open-ended play with freedom of choice and an emphasis on creativity and new ideas. This is clearly reflected in the choice of the toys that we purchase for the classrooms. These toys are ones in which the child does the work of playing (i.e. unit blocks) as opposed to the toy playing for the child (i.e. a battery operated robot). The more open-ended the toy, the more staying power it gains. We want children to be able to use a toy many different ways, with their creativity as the "battery" of the toy.


With that being said, we use "random sticks and rocks," otherwise known as "loose parts," in order to allow them to explore materials that can be used with no specific set of directions. Loose parts are materials that can be natural or synthetic. They are often found objects, nature items, or other random pieces. These materials can be used alone or with other materials and there is no right or wrong way to use them. When children engage with loose parts, creativity and imagination are tested. Their use supports open ended learning since they can be adapted and manipulated in many ways.


Finally, if I didn't explain it well enough, just observe a child. Spend a lot of money and buy them a big fancy toy. Watch as you pull this toy out of the box and see them hop right in (to the box) and enjoy it for hours on end. My point exactly.

Spotlight on Staff
Infant Two

The teachers in Infant Two are a dedicated and close group of women. Take a moment to learn more about them.

What is your most cherished childhood memory?
  • "My most cherished memory was as a young child into my teenage years getting to spend time with my Granny everyday learning about her and my family before she passed away. She also spoiled me!!!!" - Tiffany
  • "Passing nut rolls out to all the teachers in my grade school as a thank you for their hard work." - Steph
  • "There's too many to just pick one!  I would have to say I'm just grateful I come from a close-knit, loving, fun family.  We all have great senses of humor and we laugh constantly.  We're also very theatrical and growing up, my dad had a camcorder so needless to say, there are a lot of interesting and probably embarrassing videos at my parents' house...WHICH, my dad just informed me that he is converting to DVD...GREAT." - Emily

If you weren't a teacher, what would you be?

  • "If I wasn't a teacher I'd be a pediatrician. It's actually what I really wanted to do and I would love to follow in my mom's footsteps and be part of the medical field." - Tiffany
  • "Probably a nurse." - Steph
  • "A make-up artist or a clerk at a record store (if only you could get benefits at that job!)" - Emily

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

  • "I don't think I really have a favorite quote." - Tiffany
  • "'That's it, Fort Pitt'- My gram used to say that all the time when I was little." - Steph
  • "'Que sera, sera' (what will be, will be) ~ It's from the popular song written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, performed by Doris Day.  It's tattooed on my arm and it's a great reminder to go with flow, live in the present, and to not get stressed out about things you cannot change." - Emily

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

  • "I'm most proud of being the first in my family to attend college and obtain a four year degree. It was something my mom always wanted for me and to know that I made her proud makes me proud, too." - Tiffany
  • "I ran my first 5k in October - the Color Run!" - Steph
  • "Baking homemade Easter bread with only a little help from my mom." - Emily

What was your favorite food when you were a child?

  • "My favorite food was anything Italian. Still is!" - Tiffany
  • "It's a tie between grilled cheese and PBJ." - Steph
  • "Plain spaghetti with a TON of Parmesan cheese!" - Emily

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

  • "If I could learn to do anything it would be to build websites or work with computers. Technology fascinates me." - Tiffany
  • "To juggle" - Steph
  • "Speak every language known to man.  Fluently." - Emily

What chore do you absolutely abhor?

  • "I absolutely, without a doubt, abhor doing laundry, folding it and putting it away!!!!!!" - Tiffany
  • "Laundry!!! It never ends!" - Steph
  • "Doing dishes and scrubbing floors.  And shopping of any kind." - Emily

When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?

  • "What free time???" - Tiffany
  • "Relax and watch TV with my husband." - Steph
  • "Napping or Netflix" - Emily

What story does your family always tell about you?

  • "My family always tells about how I was a not so 'good' kid and how I used to torture my sister." - Tiffany
  • "Probably a story about me crying-- I'm a crier. Happy things or sad things. I cry." - Steph
  • "The one about when my mom made me laugh so hard while we were eating that I choked on ravioli and she had to give me the Heimlich maneuver." - Emily

What was your favorite childhood toy?

  • "My favorite childhood toy was a rocking horse that was handmade for me." - Tiffany
  • "BARBIES!!!" - Steph
  • "We were big into Barbies and baby dolls." - Emily
In This Issue
Helping Young Children Cope with Death
UCDC Philosophy Explained - Loose Parts
Spotlight on Staff - Infant Two
UCDC Reads - Peek-A-Boo Forest
Parenting Guides Available through OCD
Song Lyrics - We Are the Dinosaurs
UCDC Reads
by Infant Three

Peek a Boo Forest

By: Lamaze


Peek-a-Boo Forest is a cloth book about different animals in the forest. Each page has fun, bright crinkly flaps with different animals to touch and feel that tells you where they live. 


It's fun for babies and toddlers to discover, learn, and read about woodland animals. Peek-a-Boo Forest is a great size for small hands and is washable as well. It also has a soft handle, making it easy to carry. This book will keep your baby interested and engaged.


Happy reading! 

Parenting Guides and Columns Available through the Office of Child Development
The University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development is offering a series of parenting guides. "You and Your Child" is a series of plain-language, easy-to-use parenting guides that summarize the best practices for raising healthy children. 

Each guide is based on current parenting literature and was written by the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development and reviewed by a panel of child development experts and practitioners. The "You and Your Child" series offers information and advice on 50 parenting topics such as: Temper Tantrums, Sharing, Nightmare, Separation Anxiety, Finicky Eaters and 45 more valuable topics. 

Take a few minutes to peruse through these guides and columns 
Song Lyrics
By Infant One
The babies and young toddlers of Infant One have been fixated on the Laurie Berkner song, We Are the Dinosaurs lately. The children's faces light up as they hear the song played and they march or move to the beat of this catchy tune. 

If you are interested, click here for the lyrics and get marching with your child at home!