Friday, April 3, 2020

Our Community Garden

We had such plans for our gardens and grounds this spring! We wanted to build new garden beds, clean up the flower beds, and create a beautiful natural play space for the children around the climbing tree.

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.

Happy spring!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Sensory Tub

Activity: Sensory Tub

  • 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.
Questions and Prompts
  • 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!
  • Ongoing
Skills Learned and Practiced
  • 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

Bird Nests

Activity: Build a Bird Nest
  • 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
Questions and Prompts
  • 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

It's a Box!

Activity: It's a Box!
  • 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.
Questions and Prompts
  • 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
Skills Learned and Practiced
  • 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

Learn Something New, Together

Following up on last week's post about sharing a skill or talent with your child, today learn to do something new with your child. Try a new recipe. Learn some Hebrew words. Find a YouTube video on making paper origami. The point isn't what new thing you learn to do, it's that you show your child how to learn something new.

  • 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

Bird Feeders

I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping and I remembered the bird feeders we have at school. The birds had just started coming almost every day and the children loved standing at the window and watching them.

Activity: Bird Feeders
  • 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
  • Honey
  • Birdseed
  • Shallow bowl
Questions and Prompts
  • 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
Skills Learned and Practiced
  • 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

Share a Hidden Talent or Skill with Your Child

There is a lot that you know how to do. Your child doesn't yet know how to do a lot of things. And they love you and look up to you and want to be like you and want to spend time with you more than anything.

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

Build a Fort

Activity: Build a Fort
  • 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
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Stuffed animals
  • Flashlights
  • Books and small toys
Questions and Prompts
  • 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
Skills Learned and Practiced
  • 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
Personal Note
My son always wanted to sleep in the forts that he and I built. He would take hours long naps and would sleep well beyond his normal morning wake-up time, even when I was working nearby in the kitchen. There's something about the small spaces - I think children love that it's their special space.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Found Object Art

Activity: Found Object Art
  • 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.)
Questions and Prompts
  • 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
Skills Learned and Practiced
  • 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

Connecting with Neighbors

Yesterday, several children in my neighborhood used sidewalk chalk to draw a huge rainbow crosswalk from their house to another house across the street. It lit up the neighborhood.

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

Make Your Own Playdough

Activity: Make Your Own Playdough
  • 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!
  • Once the dough has cooled a bit, your children can help you knead it.
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Cream of tartar
  • Water
  • Oil
  • 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
Skills Learned and Practiced
  • 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

STEAM Challenge - Baby Bear's Chair

Activity: Baby Bear's Chair
  • 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?
The MOST IMPORTANT Questions and Comments
  • 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
Skills Learned and Practiced
  • Social-Emotional - cooperation, collaboration, tenacity
  • Language - vocabulary
  • Cognitive - cause and effect, problem solving, scientific process/inquiry
  • Physical - fine motor, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness
Making and Tinkering With STEM, Solving Design Challenges with Young Children 
by Cate Heroman (NAEYC)

Take pictures of your child's creations and share them in the comments section below!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

More Activity Ideas and Great Literacy Resources

Following up on my last two posts, here are some great resources to help you plan Activity Time, Story Time, Quiet Time, and playing school. A huge thank you to Hattie, an ACPS preschool teacher and preschool mom, for sharing these ideas with me. I'm especially excited about KidLit Radio and Mo Willems Lunch Doodle!

If you've found resources that you think others would appreciate, include them in the comments section below.

Mo Willems Lunch Doodle every day at 1 pm on the Kennedy Center website.

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:
Mac Barnett
Oliver Jeffers

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Writing Center, Dramatic Play, and Pen Pals

Activity: Writing Center (AKA school or office)
  • Turn a section of your dining room or family room into a writing center.
  • Encourage dramatic play such as school or office.
  • Older siblings can join in the fun, especially if playing school.
  • Children can work in their office while parents are teleworking in theirs.
  • Table and chairs
  • Scrap paper, envelopes, mailing labels - make good use of your junk mail!
  • Notebooks, folders, binders, sticky pads, business cards
  • Pens, markers, pencils
  • Scissors and tape
  • Staplers and hole punchers
  • White board or cork board
  • Old cell phones, computer keyboards, calculators, any other "gadgets"
  • Ongoing
Extension: Pen Pals
  • To maintain connections with family and friends, have your children write letters and draw pictures to drop in the mail. How exciting it will be to get a response!
  • Similarly, create an email account for your child (something anonymous like kittycat123) and have them send messages to family and friends. Check the email together at the same time every day to see if they've gotten a reply.
Skills Learned and Practiced
  • Social-Emotional - dramatic play teaches cooperation and creativity and writing to pen pals builds connections and/or strengthens relationships
  • Language - children will practice pre-reading and pre-writing skills and build vocabulary
  • Cognitive - this kind of dramatic play encourages planning and problem solving
  • Physical - all the fine motor activity helps strengthen the muscles in the hands
Personal Note
I still have vivid memories of playing office in my grandparents' house when I was 4 or 5 with supplies my grandfather would bring home from work. The notepads has his name on them! I answered the rotary phone, made appointments in a large spiral ledger, and used an antique adding machine in ways that seemed very important. It should come as no surprise that I played school as well. A lot. Activities like this can keep a child happy and busy and learning for days.

Thoughts or suggestions? Comment below!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Schedules and Routines

Image result for schedules clipartSchedules and routines help children feel safe and secure and can also help parents feel in control. In these next few weeks schedules and routines will help provide your family with a much needed sense of normalcy.

Sit down with your children to discuss your new daily routines. Involve them. Write the schedule out, find or draw pictures to go along with it, and post it in a central location in your house. Refer to it often. 

Below is a recommended generic schedule. Young children don't understand 10 am, but they do understand "after breakfast." Whatever schedule you end up creating, ideally it would contain all of these elements:

  • PLAY TIME - Unstructured play time is essential right now. Children still need the time and the freedom to explore on their own in their own way in their own time. Allow at least an hour for unstructured play time. 
  • ACTIVITY TIME - This is not "academic" time! Please don't feel as if you have to resort to worksheets or flashcards or online games to create a meaningful experience. Children still learn though play, even when they're at home in this unique situation. We will be offering you suggestions daily on this blog and there are an abundance of ideas to be found online right now.
  • SNACK and MEAL TIMES - Take advantage of these opportunities. Give your children responsibilities in the kitchen: snapping beans, chopping soft veggies with butter knives, mixing ingredients. Give them the silverware to dry and put away. Most importantly, sit down together at regular times to eat and talk and enjoy each other's company.
  • CHORE TIME - It's never too early to give your children chores! Young children can fold underwear and match socks, put their toys away, dust furniture, and help unload the dishwasher by putting the silverware away.
  • QUIET TIME - Everyone needs quiet time, which is not the same as nap time. Children can be expected to spend at least 30-45 minutes every day in their bedrooms or in a room close by you listening to music, looking at books, doing puzzles, or drawing/coloring. Check out PJ Library Radio. This is a great time to introduce audio books. 4 year-olds might even be ready for chapter books.
  • OUTSIDE TIME - Thank goodness it's spring time! Get outside for some fresh air and vitamin D. Pull weeds and plant flowers. Go for long walks. Explore your neighborhood. Check in on elderly neighbors.
  • SCREEN TIME - Yes, screen time. It's ok. Don't feel guilty. The American Academy of Pediatrics says up to one hour of high-quality screen time per day is appropriate for children ages 2-5. I'd say 90 minutes are ok in these circumstances.
  • GAME TIME - Bring out the board games! Ravensburger makes excellent board games. Or call One Two Kangaroo in Shirlington (703-845-9099). The proprietor always has spot-on recommendations, and he's staying open for as long as possible (while maintaining social distancing).
  • STORY TIME - Make sure you allow for time to just read with your children. Story time doesn't have to be saved for bedtime.

Friday, March 6, 2020

They Are All Esthers

Image result for clipart queen esther purimThe celebration of Purim seems to have been designed with young children in mind: cookies, costumes, parades, carnivals, goody bags, songs, and silliness. Yet, the story of Purim itself is decidedly child un-friendly. We read about gluttony, greed, misogyny, xenophobia, and attempted genocide. And don't forget the execution at the end. So what should we focus on when teaching this story to our children?

I used to ask my fourth and fifth graders to identify the 'big idea' in a story, and I used to think the 'big idea' in Megillat Esther is that one person really can make a difference. But this year I see a new 'big idea.'

King Achashverosh was willing to follow the suggestion of his evil adviser Haman and kill all the Jews in Persia until he learned that his beloved wife was Jewish.  In that moment, the Jews in his kingdom became less amorphous; they became real people. At least one Jew in his kingdom had a face, a mind, a personality. If Esther, a Jew, was a real person, then all the other nameless, faceless Jews must be real people, too, none of whom deserved to die because ONE Jew had refused to bow down to Haman.

In today's world, where increasingly it seems as if different groups, for different reasons, are trying to identify an 'us' and a 'them,' and to pit 'us' against 'them,' I think it's important to remember who 'them' are. They are all Esthers.
Originally published March 10, 2017

Friday, February 28, 2020

Technology: It's All About Relationships

Back in December I wrote that "it's all about relationships." It's a theme I'm hearing over and over, no matter the context. It seems that even technology is also all about relationships.

Image result for technology familiesWith a headline that read, "The Amish use tech differently than you think. We should emulate them," I knew I had to read the article.

"When a church member asks to use a new technology, the families discuss the idea and vote to accept or reject. The conversation centers on how a device will strengthen or weaken relationships within the community and within families. . . a family wanted to run propane gas pipes for lights to every room of their home instead of running them only to the kitchen and living room. (The Amish choose not to tap the electrical grid.) Church members discussed how the change would affect the family. If the family members could separate into bedrooms to read at night, instead of gathering in the living room, would their ties fray? Of course they would . . . I thought of a woman at my children’s school who said the disintegration of her family began the day her husband bought a TV for every kid’s bedroom. That was a while back. Today, millions of parents are unwittingly putting TVs in their children’s bedrooms, in the form of smartphones and laptops. And uneasiness about weakening family ties is widespread."

When do we introduce technology to our children? How do we regulate their use of technology? These aren't questions with easy answers. But maybe if we reframed the questions and thought about the impact of technology on our relationships, the answers wouldn't be so hard after all.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Yes, a Spoon Really Is a Pre-Writing Tool

Image result for spoon

Today, four teachers and I attended a workshop on teaching language and literacy in an emergent environment. We definitely do not start teaching writing skills by putting a pencil in a child's hand. Pre-writing activities start long before then. In fact, all fine and gross motor activities are pre-writing activities.

Writing involves motor control, spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, and muscle strength, and big muscles must develop before small muscles. We develop big and small muscles by playing with blocks, painting, beading, weaving, molding clay, tearing, cutting, playing with Legos, cooking, and gardening. (Click here for more ideas.)

So . . . spoons? Yes. Tools are extensions of our arms and hands, and as such, holding a spoon or a fork is an introduction to holding a pencil. When you pack your child's lunch with foods they must eat with a spoon or fork, know that you're helping them on the path to literacy.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Preschooler's Pockets

Image result for preschooler pockets
A friend sent me this story last week. A photographer has documented what's in her preschooler's pocket at the end of every day, those "tiny magical objects" that are so important to him right now.

The photos reminded me of that saying: "The days are long but the years are short." It's exhausting being the parent of a young child, and it's easy to overlook what can and should be magical moments because they can be so fleeting and we are always so busy.

Looking at the photos, I was also reminded of all the delightfully odd pieces of "trash" I used to find in my son's pockets, or failed to find. Hearing the (surprisingly large) rocks tumble around in the dryer was not amusing then but it is now. 

I think the photographer's message is to savor the small moments now, because they will form the foundation of our memories later.

Check out Melissa Kaseman's photos here.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Picky Eaters 101

Image result for seven species

For snack on Monday, in honor of Tu B'Shevat, we'll serve the children the Seven Species, or seven special foods native to Israel that are mentioned in the Bible: wheat (pretzels), barley (as long as the store has what I need!), olives, pomegranates, figs, dates, and grapes (raisins). Eaten primarily on Shavuot, they're also sometimes eaten on Tu B'Shevat and Sukkot.

Are all the children going to enjoy all these foods? No. Is that ok? Absolutely. If some children try these foods but don't like them, at least they'll have had the experience of trying something new. If they don't want to try the foods at all, they'll have lunch 90 minutes later and all will be well. And if some children try these new foods and do like them, all the better.

I know from personal experience how worried, frustrated, and angry we can get when our children don't eat what we think they need to eat to be healthy and strong. At some point the anger turns to resignation. And then to anxiety. And then to the worst parent feeling of all: guilt.

There are no easy answers when it comes to how to feed a picky eater. When you're sure your child is starving to death because they've only eaten granola bars for a week, hearing a well-meaning friend say, "Don't worry. She'll eat when she's hungry," doesn't really help.

Having said that, here are some good, common-sense strategies from the Mayo Clinic about teaching your child good and healthy food habits. One promise I can make: it will get better. It always does.

Friday, January 31, 2020

How to Help Keep Our World Clean and Healthy

Related image

This month we'll celebrate Tu B'Shevat, the "birthday" of the trees. In ancient times, Tu B'Shevat helped farmers know when to bring their first fruit offerings to the Temple; in modern times, it's become something of an environmental holiday. 

There are lots of ways to celebrate Tu B'Shevat today: having a special seder and eating fruits native to Israel, planting trees (this year, you can help us plant some on our playground!), and talking with children about our obligation to protect our earth.

Children aren't too young to learn that they have responsibilities to help keep our natural world clean and healthy. There's one very easy, age-appropriate, and tangible way to begin teaching them these lessons: Trash Free Fridays. Rather than send in lunch foods packaged in plastic, send sandwiches, fruits, and drinks in reusable containers. The children take great pride in showing off their lunches that contain NO trash at all. Thanks to Morah Susan in Kitah Turkiz for this splendid idea.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Asking Good Questions

Image result for galaxy pics
I'm guessing I'm not the only one who's stayed in my car after parking it to hear the end of an NPR story. Today, I sat in the cold because I had to hear more of this absolutely delightful StoryCorps episode called "You're My Favorite Person to Talk about Space To." It's worth listening to for so many reasons.

The uncle says something to the boy about how important knowledge is, but also how important sharing that knowledge is, which reminded me of a pedagogical tool called Bloom's Taxonomy. So often, especially in school, we worry about what our children know. But asking knowledge-based questions (meaning there's only one right answer) is considered the most basic and least complex kind of question to ask. Once knowledge is established, it's important to ask increasingly complex questions that foster deeper thinking and application of that knowledge.

Bloom's Taxonomy (updated) progresses from the least rigorous cognitive skill to the most rigorous: remember -- understand -- apply -- analyze -- evaluate -- create

How would Bloom's be applied to the boy in the NPR story?

What is the biggest planet?
How is Jupiter different from Earth?
How are the four inner planets different from the four outer planets?
What makes a planet different from other objects in the solar system?
So is Pluto a planet or not?
Can you develop a set of criteria for identifying planets in other solar systems?

Rather than just asking your child if they remember facts, also ask them the kinds of questions that will get them to apply what they've learned in meaningful ways. It's what a 21st century education is all about.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Give Your Children Choices to Avert Inevitable Battles about What to Wear

Image result for children wearing shorts in winter

The title made me laugh, so of course I had to read the article: The Boys Who Wear Shorts All Winter. We all know this boy, right? (And, yes, it's always a boy, according to the article.)

The author makes some good points about this phenomenon. It could be that some children are sensitive to different fabrics and textures and shorts are simply more comfortable. Maybe this is just a way for some children to exert some independence. Or maybe they do just "run hot." 

Regardless of the reason, the author's point is that we don't need to overreact when our children don't want to wear what we think of as weather-inappropriate clothes. Unless it's -15 degrees, we really don't need to worry about children getting frostbite the minute they walk outside. (Please note the negative sign in that sentence.) As parents, we need to pick our battles and for many families, this one probably isn't a battle worth waging. Furthermore, if we decide to battle our children on this front, they're unlikely to back down, especially if they're tweens or teens. The last thing a child that age wants to do is prove their parent right. So, probably, they'll put on warmer clothes when they get cold, but only if it's their choice to do so.

A good way to promote independence in preschoolers and teach them what's appropriate to wear and what's not is to provide them with two acceptable choices. For example, "You may wear the blue knit cap or the baseball hat. Which do you choose?" Or, "You may wear long pants or tights and a skirt. Which do you choose?" Always make sure both choices are acceptable to you!

And if it's just one of those days and you cannot, just cannot, get your child to cooperate and change into something appropriate and your only choice is to send them to school in their PJs or not come to school at all, please, send them in their PJs. We don't mind at all. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Why "I don't know. What do you think?" is Often the Best Answer to Your Child's Question

Image result for why clipart

"Why do Jews always answer a question with a question?"
          - curious reader

"How should they answer?"
          - Dear Abby

"No, really, why do Jews always answer a question with a question?"
          - same curious reader

"Well, how else are we supposed to learn?"
         - Morah Jen (taking over for Dear Abby)

"But there's got to be a reason, right? Like a real reason?"
          - increasingly frustrated reader

"Sure. What do you think the reason is?"
          - Morah Jen


"Ok, I'm sensing your frustration. 

Jews answers questions with questions because for us it's not about the answers. We're not really looking for the answer. How can we ever know the answer is the right answer? Or the only answer? So it's not about the answer. 

It's about the questions. It's about the journey. It's our struggle with the questions that connects us to our history, our ancestors, and to God. We find holiness in asking questions and debating what the answer is.

Also, it's just good pedagogy. Read this article to learn more."

Our Community Garden

We had such plans for our gardens and grounds this spring! We wanted to build new garden beds, clean up the flower beds, and create a beauti...