Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Friday, December 4, 2020
Friday, November 13, 2020
A few weeks ago we started reading the first book of the Torah, Breishit (Genesis). It's in these stories that we meet the patriarchs and matriarchs and learn how the Ancient Israelites ended up in Egypt generations later.
A lot of "blessing" goes on in these stories. Gob blesses Abraham, Isaac blesses Jacob (a blessing Jacob steals from his brother Esau), and Jacob blesses the sons of his son Joseph, Ephraim and Menashe.
The "priestly blessing," known to many, refers to this blessing of Jacob's. It has become traditional for Jewish mothers and fathers to give their sons and daughters this blessing on Friday evenings, often right after lighting Shabbat candles.
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Every now and then I’ll come across a study that seems to confirm the importance or validity of a Jewish tradition. This happened a few years ago when I read about the research promoting the importance of the family dinner and immediately connected it with the Friday night Shabbat meal. In addition to the traditional and spiritual benefits of celebrating Shabbat as a family, there are countless other benefits to simply sitting down together a few times a week to enjoy a meal together.
Friday, October 9, 2020
Friday, June 12, 2020
Our school year started on September 3. And then it started all over again on March 13.
This has been a year none of us will ever forget.
I cannot imagine getting through this time without each and every one of you.
To every extraordinary teacher, for going above and beyond in ways you could never have possibly imagined, meeting the challenges head-on, successfully, day after day, inspiring each other in the process: thank you.
To every family, for being there for us with your kind and supportive words, for your patience as we learned something new, your donations, and your faith in us: thank you.
To the synagogue lay leadership, for working with us to overcome challenges none of us could have anticipated and for supporting us in our mission: thank you.
To the staff at the synagogue, for everything you have done, day in and day out, to help me personally and to enable the preschool to operate virtually: thank you.
Finally, most importantly, to the children, for sharing your smiles and your laughter and for brightening our days when we needed it most: thank you.
Have a wonderful summer.
See you next year!
Friday, June 5, 2020
We've always known that young children should have opportunities to play outside as often as possible. Now we're learning that being outside during this particular time helps mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Since most of us will spend most of the next few months at home, there's no better time to think about finding or creating outdoor place spaces for your children to enjoy this summer. No matter how small your yard, opportunities abound.
The National Wildlife Federation has created an incredible and comprehensive guide for families: Nature Play at Home, A Guide for Boosting Your Children's Healthy Development and Creativity. The guide explains the social-emotional, physical, and cognitive benefits of outdoor play and includes beautiful photographs and simple directions. Here are some examples of what you'll find inside:
1 Shovel level of difficulty
"Loose Parts (natural and not) include almost any found object or play material that increases play and learning. To start, gather some of nature’s loose parts already present in your yard. Children’s creativity is driven by anything that can be manipulated, changed, or moved around. Rather than purchasing toys for your children play to with outdoors, consider recycling and reusing everyday objects and taking stock of what nature provides for free!"
2-4 Shovels level of difficulty
"Adventure Pathways create opportunities for repeated exploration and adventure, even in relatively small yards. Pathways can be simple: a footpath around the edge of the site sneaking around trees and bushy plants. Complexity can be added with logs, stumps, rocks, stepping stones, and other obstacles to balance, jump or clamber around. A looped pathway is more enticing. To a child it feels like it leads to a secret place. In larger sites, other settings along the path increase the sense of adventure and mystery. Settings such as backyard habitat, gathering places, grass mazes or fairy villages work well along a pathway."
4 Shovels level of difficulty
"Vine Teepees are structures of six poles, six to eight feet long, made of bamboo, sturdy branches, or painted PVC. The poles are secured at the top and covered with climbing vines. Teepees create mysterious, natural, private, child-sized spaces."
Another very similar and fantastic resource is Nature Play at Home by Nancy Striniste. For more on loose parts, perfect any time of year, check out Loose Parts, Inspiring Play in Young Children by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky.
Have a great summer!
Friday, May 22, 2020
Celebrate Memorial Day on Monday
- Make an American flag cake (and explore shapes, counting, patterning, and fractions at the same time -- if you use strawberries instead of raspberries you can cut them in half or in quarters)
Join Us for Bike Day on Wednesday
- Check your weekly email for all the details!
Celebrate Shavuot on Friday
- Make ice cream (and explore science and math concepts at the same time)
- Why do we eat dairy foods on Shavuot? Why not?!?
Friday, May 15, 2020
Read a variety of Three Little Pigs books. Ask your child how the books are the same and how they're different. Ask which one is their favorite and why. Act out the story together. Have them tell you the story in their own words. Write and illustrate a family version of the story together.
Take a walk around your neighborhood and notice all the different kinds of houses. What do all houses have in common? How are some houses different from other houses? When you get home, draw pictures of the houses you saw. Draw a picture of your own house. Draw a picture of your dream house.
Ask why the pigs' straw and stick houses blew down but their brick house didn't.
- straws, skewers, craft sticks, toothpicks, pencils, crayons, wood pieces, sticks, coffee stirrers, leaves, paper cups, etc.
- tape, binder clips, rubber bands, glue, paper clips, staplers, etc.
- Legos, blocks, K'nex, etc.
When the houses fall down, try re-building them so that they don't blow down the next time. Keep trying!
Remember, it's not about building a strong house the first time. It's about figuring out why some houses fell down and others didn't. What kinds of materials are strongest? Which design is sturdiest?
It's also about overcoming frustration and realizing that we've learned something even when our experiment has failed. We learned what didn't work. (Thomas Edison usually gets credit for that quote.)
As always, the best questions to ask during this process are: Why do you think that happened? What would happen if . . .?
From: Making and Tinkering with STEM, Solving Design Challenges with Young Children by Cate Heroman (NAEYC, 2017)
Friday, May 8, 2020
- On index cards, write each letter of your child's name
- Mix the cards up and have your child put them in order
- Once they've mastered their first name, play with their last name, their middle name, and family members' names
- Write the numbers 1-12 in the spaces in an empty egg carton
- Give your child raisins, cheerios, or other small items
- Have them fill the spaces with the correct number of items
- Talk with your children about how plants grow
- See what they know and fill in the gaps in their understanding
- Conduct an experiment to deepen their understanding
- Fill cups with dirt
- Plant orange and apple seeds, unpeeled garlic cloves, chunks of potatoes, beans, etc.
- Also plant dried fruit, cereal, egg shells, cheese, etc.
- Make predictions and see what happens!
- Spread pillows or small towels around the floor
- Have your child jump from pillow to pillow (or towel to towel)
- Don't fall in the hot lava!
- Paint (or print) with toothpicks, cotton balls, Q-tips, cut-up sponges, plastic spoons or forks, bubble wrap, yarn, magnetic letters, etc.
- Decorate an empty water bottle and fill it with beans, popcorn kernels, buttons, pony beads, etc.
- Cut a paper plate in half and staple the edges together, decorate, and fill with same as above
- Your child will LOVE dressing up in your old skirts, scarves, dress shirts, jackets, ties, costume jewelry, hair accessories, and shoes and playing with your old briefcases, wallets, purses, keys, and cell phones
- Involve your child in planning a ZOOM party
- Who to invite?
- When to meet?
- Where to meet? (everyone's backyard or kitchen, a nearby park?)
- What to eat? (everyone makes a fruit salad? or pizza?)
- What to sing/play/or talk about? What's the theme?
Friday, May 1, 2020
From The Washington Post, learn how to protect your mental energy by saying "I don't" instead of "I can't"
Sign up for (free) webinars entitled Embracing Chaos & Cultivating Presence in your Family Life offered by Ayeka
From Washington Post, the "ultimate parents' guide to education and activities"
From CNN, for reassurances that your children are probably doing just fine, the unexpected effects of quarantine
From The New York Times, learn how to stop entertaining your child and turn them into a productive co-worker
From Vox, read about why it's so important to be honest with your child about coronavirus
Friday, April 24, 2020
Our notions of screen time have changed dramatically in the past six weeks, as have our notions about just about everything else. I've come to realize that not all screen time is created equal. There is a huge difference between spending time talking with grandparents and connecting with preschool friends on ZOOM and mindlessly playing video games. Watching a high quality television show together as a family can be a meaningful experience, whereas everyone staring at their own screen during dinner most certainly is not. Using the internet to find information or learn a new skill is not the same as watching YouTube videos all day.
Price explains this by talking about the 3 Cs: consumption, creation, and connection. "Once you’ve identified your screen time 'essentials,' it’s time to think about your leisure time (or what passes for it these days). Identify which of these 'C's feels good to you, and in what doses. Then brainstorm ways to do each both on- and off-screen. Bonus points if you ask yourself what kind of consumption, creation and connection makes you feel the best."
Bottom line: Don't worry too much about screen time right now. It's how you engage with the screen that matters more than how much time you spend doing it.
Go To Preschool/Kindergarten with ACPS every day
Go to Storytime with the Met every Thursday
Visit the Cincinnati Zoo
Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Visit Mount Vernon
Have you found other good virtual tours or online experiences? Please share in the comments section below.
Monday, April 20, 2020
I've been thinking a lot lately about what we mean when we talk about education, and I've realized that we're all talking about different things. For some, education is strictly book learning: reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. For others, it's about learning how to be an important part of a family, a community, and a society. For most, it's somewhere in the vast in-between.
It's very easy to feel stressed right now. As this crisis evolves, we're given new opportunities to feel anxious almost every day. But I believe what Teacher Tom believes, and that's that our young children will come through the other end of this just fine, especially if we follow their lead. Let them show you the way; let them show you what they're ready to learn.
Eventually, I promise, they will show you that they're ready to learn their letters. But right now, in this moment, they might need to spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get a stuck toy out of a tree, and might literally throw everything they've got at it. Let them do it. Don't make them stop to do something else that you think is more important. Let them find their own solution to a real-life problem. Let them flex their problem solving muscles and practice those skills in a relevant and meaningful way.
And when they come to you later, a little lost and needing a little direction, know that so much of what we have at home and do at home can provide delightful and meaningful experiences for young children.
Wash the Dishes
- Fill the sink with soapy water, a sponge, and non-breakables and ask your child to help you wash the dishes. (motor and social-emotional skills)
- Ask your child to separate the lights from the darks, put the detergent into the machine and push the buttons, and match the socks and fold the dishtowels. (motor, language, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills)
- Give your child the job of setting the table every day for every meal. Even if they're too young to carry plates, they can still put out the placemats, fold the napkins, and count the forks. (motor, numeracy, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills)
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Children can easily help with all but the middle steps.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Line two baking sheets with foil (to help with clean up) and then put parchment paper on top of that.
- Break 5-6 matzahs into pieces and spread them out on the baking sheets, making sure not to overlap.
- Melt two sticks of butter and one cup of firmly packed brown sugar in a medium-size pot on the stove on medium heat.
- Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2-4 minutes). Allow to boil and stir constantly for another 3-4 minutes. You'll know it's done when the mixture pulls away from the pot a little bit.
- VERY CAREFULLY pour the very hot mixture all over the matzah. Use a spatula to spread it around, making sure all matzah pieces are covered.
- Put the matzah in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 350. Let the matzahs bake for about 15 minutes. Check every few minutes to make sure they aren't burning. If they're browning too quickly, reduce the temperature to 325.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Give them a minute to get all melty, then use a spatula to spread the chocolate around. You can also add chopped nuts, kosher salt, or sprinkles.
- Put in the freezer to give everything a little time to firm up. Break the matzah into bite-size pieces. Store in the freezer.
- Try not to eat it all at once!
Monday, April 6, 2020
In Ashkenazi communities, it's usually made with apples, nuts, and spices. In Sephardic communities, it's usually made with dried fruits.
This is super easy to make with children. Have fun!
- Peel and chop three red apples
- Chop a handful of walnuts
- Add ½ tsp. ginger, ½ tsp. cinnamon, 1 ½ T sugar
- Add 3 T grape juice
Eat for breakfast all week with matzah and cream cheese. B'tayavon!
Friday, April 3, 2020
Last week, while on a walk that took me behind the synagogue, I saw the sadly neglected flower bed near the climbing tree play space. And I got an idea.
We're all taking walks and riding bikes and scooters these days. What if, when we went by the synagogue, we stopped for a few minutes to weed? I can prune the tree. And once the weeds are gone, I'll get some dirt.
And then, maybe we can transplant a few flowers from our own yards, or pick up some annuals while at the grocery store, or even some herbs, and plant them in the bed. There doesn't have to be a real plan. I think a mishmash of sun loving perennials and annuals lovingly planted by our families during this time will be absolutely beautiful.
As our community garden grows, I'll take pictures and post them here.
Thursday, April 2, 2020
- Using materials you have at home, create a sensory tub
- Large, flat bottomed plastic tub that fits on your table (an extra large Tupperware will do nicely)
- We often use a mix of uncooked rice, beans, lentils, pasta, popcorn kernels, oats, etc.
- If those are currently unavailable, try shredded paper, ribbons, cut-up straws, cotton balls, small toys like marbles, puff balls, magnetic letters, corks, bottle caps, aquarium rocks, etc., really anything that is small and scoop-able and pour-able
- If you want a messy experience, try water (and ice cubes!), dirt, sand, or shaving cream
- You can also order kinetic sand online
- Scoops, cups, measuring spoons, bowls with and without lids, etc.
- How many scoops will it take to fill that bowl?
- Can you make me a chocolate cake?
- Help me clean up everything that fell on the floor!
- Social-Emotional - can be a very calming and soothing experience for some children
- Language - vocabulary development, conversation skills
- Cognitive - math and science concepts, open-ended exploration and discovery
- Physical - learning to use all senses to take in information
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
- Birds are busy building nests right now. Go on a walk and look for nests.
- Notice the different materials the birds use.
- Notice how big the nests are and how many birds and eggs fit inside.
- Say, Hey! I wonder if we could build a bird nest just like these birds!
- Pictures of birds and nests (find online)
- Paper (to shred)
- String, yarn, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, etc.
- Packing materials
- Small sticks, leaves (mud!)
- Small rocks to represent eggs, a small toy or stuffed animal to represent the bird
- Why do you think the birds chose those materials to build their nests?
- What materials do we need to build our nest?
- What shape should your nest be?
- I wonder why your nest fell apart.
- What would happen if . . .
- Is your nest strong enough to hold one egg (rock)? Two? Three? What about the mama bird? Let's test it out!
- 15-30 minutes
- Easy to revisit as the weeks go on and you notice more birds and nests in your neighborhood
Learned and Practiced
- Social-Emotional - connecting with nature, learning about families and relationships
- Language - using descriptive words
- Cognitive - learning more about animal habitats, problem solving, scientific inquiry, close observation, perseverance
- Physical - getting exercise, fine motor work
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
- Give children boxes to build and play with and just step back. Their creativity will astound you.
- As many cardboard boxes as you have (delivery boxes, egg cartons, shoe boxes)
- Scissors, tape, glue
- Extras like buttons, string, colored paper, markers, stickers, pom-poms, etc.
- I wonder what we could make with this box?
- I wonder what would happen if . . .
- What do you want to make? How will you build it? What do you need?
- All day
- Design a city
- Make a model of your house
- Build a rocketship
- Social-Emotional - this engineering activity will evolve into a dramatic play activity
- Language - vocabulary development, giving and following directions
- Cognitive - exploring concepts such as spatial relations, balance, design engineering
- Physical - fine motor, hand-eye coordination, hand muscle strengthening
Monday, March 30, 2020
- Start with a question (I wonder how you . . .) or a statement (I've always wanted to . . .).
- Do some research. Use the internet. Ask your spouse. Borrow a cookbook. Call grandma.
- Build, bake, practice, experiment. Make mistakes. Try again. And again.
- Do some more research.
- Keep at it. Make a goal. "When we get really good at baking, we should try baking our own challah" or "We're going to practice and practice with building and constructing until we're ready to build a birdhouse."
- Don't give up. Persist. Let your child see that you're capable of learning, too, even when it's hard. All of us can always learn something new.
- Have fun.
Friday, March 27, 2020
Activity: Bird Feeders
- I found these instructions online.
- Such a great tactile experience!
- If you don't have or can't easily find birdseed, there are lots of use-what-you-have-at-home recipes to be found online.
- Toilet paper roll
- Scissors and string
- Shallow bowl
- Why do you think we need the honey?
- Where should we hang the bird feeder so the birds can eat from it but the squirrels can't? And we can see it?
- How long do you think it will take for the birds to eat all the food? We have to keep checking every day so we know when it's time to make another bird feeder.
- 10-15 minutes to gather the materials and make the feeder
- Thereafter, ongoing
- Social-Emotional - teamwork, connecting with natural world, caring for animals
- Language - vocabulary, following step-by-step directions
- Cognitive - planning and problem solving
- Physical - fine motor planning, development of all five senses
Thursday, March 26, 2020
Find 30 minutes today to teach them to do something you're already really good at. Playing the saxophone? Building a flower box? Making pasta sauce from scratch?
Yes, they're young. Very young. But that doesn't mean they can't learn something from you. They'll take from the experience what they're capable of taking away.
If nothing else, may this time remind us that it's moments like these that matter more than anything else.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
- Another rainy day?
- Build a fort inside!
- Sacrifice a corner of your family room for hours of guaranteed fun. Children love to play in forts!
- Couch cushions
- Stuffed animals
- Books and small toys
- The wall keeps falling down. I wonder why. How can we keep the walls standing up?
- Do you want a door? Or a window? How can we build one?
- Do you think I can stand up in your fort? Why or why not? Could we build it tall enough for me? Why or why not?
- 20-30 minutes to build
- Hours to play
- Social-Emotional - teamwork, independence (taking ownership of the space)
- Language - pre-reading and writing (if you make signs for the fort!)
- Cognitive - planning, organizing, problem solving, engineering, imagining
- Physical - heavy work
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
- While the sun shines today, take a walk around your neighborhood to collect 10-15 found objects: small rocks, twigs, leaves (old and new), flower blossoms, etc.
- Once home, create a piece of art using the found objects.
- You could create a collage, a 3-D monster, a rainbow, or anything!
- A bag
- Some patience
- A limitless imagination
- (and some paper, cardboard, glue or tape, maybe some scissors, etc.)
- I spy with my little eye . . .
- What do you want to make? Maybe we could look for objects to help you make it.
- Look what we found! What could you make with these objects?
- Why do you like that object? Why did you pick it? What makes it special?
- Our challenge is to find only 10-15 very special objects. Which do you like more? Which one do you want to keep? (By limiting the choices, you make the end product more special.)
- 30-60 minutes to walk and gather
- 20-30 minutes to create
- Social-Emotional - patience, the art of conversation, making choices
- Language - building vocabulary (use new and interesting adjectives to describe what your child has found)
- Cognitive - making a plan, executing a plan
- Physical - large motor (walking is great exercise!)
Monday, March 23, 2020
We're all finding new ways to stay connected, and a lot of those new ways involve the computer. While it's socially responsible to maintain a safe distance from others right now, that doesn't mean we have to isolate ourselves completely from those in our immediate neighborhood.
Today, while it rains, help your children make cookies, bread, paper flower bouquets, pictures, crafts, or friendly notes. When the sun comes out, take a walk and leave the gifts on your neighbors' doorsteps. Stay connected.
Friday, March 20, 2020
- Yes, you can make your own playdough!
- It's easy and it's better quality. It lasts longer. It's softer.
- And, if you add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, it also smells delightful!
- Our teachers swear by this recipe.
- Once the dough has cooled a bit, your children can help you knead it.
- Cream of tartar
- Cook pot and spatula
- Food coloring (optional)
- Spices (optional, but highly recommended)
- Cookie cutters, rolling pins, etc
- Ziploc bags
- What color do you want to make? We only have red, yellow, and blue food color. How can we make purple? Or green? Or orange? Can we make a rainbow of colors?
- It's Friday! Would you like to make playdough challah for the table?
- 10-15 minutes to gather and mix the ingredients
- Playdough should last for weeks and weeks if stored properly
- Social-Emotional - cooperation and collaboration
- Language - following directions (reading a recipe)
- Cognitive - counting, measuring (following the recipe)
- Physical - large muscle work to knead, small muscle work to play (both essential for holding a pencil down the road!)
Thursday, March 19, 2020
- Read any version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with your child
- Wonder aloud what the bears might have done about the broken chair. How would they have fixed it?
- Wonder aloud about things that have broken that you've had to fix. Share how you did it.
- Pretend that the bear family has come to your "Fix-It Shop In the Woods" and asked you to fix Baby's Bear Chair.
- Cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, craft sticks, egg cartons, etc
- Tape, glue, paper clips, brads, rubber bands, etc (aka "connectors")
- Scissors (children will need help cutting cardboard)
- Paper, markers, crayons, markers
- How will you build the chair?
- What do chairs need?
- Where does Baby Bear sit?
- How can you build a strong chair that won't fall down?
- Why do think Baby Bear's chair broke but the others didn't?
- What do you think will happen if . . .
- Tell me about your chair.
- What part needs to be stronger to keep the chair from falling down?
- 30 minutes (at least!)
- Find a weight of some kind (maybe a small toy) to test the stability of the chair. If/when it falls down, try again!
- "I have not failed. I've just found 1000 ways that won't work." - attributed to Thomas Edison
- Social-Emotional - cooperation, collaboration, tenacity
- Language - vocabulary
- Cognitive - cause and effect, problem solving, scientific process/inquiry
- Physical - fine motor, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness
Take pictures of your child's creations and share them in the comments section below!
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
PBS KIDS is sending a daily email with activity ideas. A bit screen time heavy, but the activities are appropriate for preschoolers.
BoredToddler has daily activity plans with things found around the house.
KidLit RADIO is one of the best book podcasts I’ve found. The stories are told in an engaging way and are sometimes familiar.
Authors reading their books on Instagram:
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