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What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?

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The Reggio Emilia Approach is an innovative and inspiring approach to early childhood education which values the child as strong, capable, and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge.

Reggio Emilia at Blue Skies Exploration Academy

The Reggio Emilia Approach encourages your child to explore, grow and learn!

Every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential and this innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.

Children are capable of constructing their own learning. They are driven by their interests to understand and know more.

Children form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through their interactions with others.

Children are communicators. Children are encouraged to use language to investigate and explore, to reflect on their experiences.

The environment is the third teacher. The environment is recognized for its potential to inspire children. An environment filled with natural light, order and beauty.

The adult is a mentor and guide. Our role as adults is to observe (our) children, listen to their questions and their stories, find what interests them and then provide them with opportunities to explore these interests further.

An emphasis on documenting children’s thoughts.

The belief that children use many different ways to show their understanding and express their thoughts and creativity.

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Wellness Fair

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Blue Skies Exploration Academy is having a Wellness Fair–and you’re invited! Make sure you mark your calendars today!!

Wellness Fair flier

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Is your child care center making your child fat?

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The Journal of Pediatrics thinks so 

They also think that children who are primarily cared for by extended family members and child care centers are being made fat.  As a matter of fact, children in child care centers, in home day care, and who are cared for by ”extended family members are 50% more likely to be overweight or obese between the ages of 4-10 years compared to those cared for at home by their parents” according to Dr. Marie-Claude Geoffroy, lead author of the study which formed the basis of the article in the Journal of Pediatrics.

After reviewing research from the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine-Hospital Research Center, the Journal of Pediatrics determined that the type of care a child gets significantly impacts body weight but the University did not research why.

As a parent, a teacher and owner of a child care center, I believe that diet, exercise, socio-economics, climate and many more things impact obesity.  We all know that America is a fat nation and study after study shows that the children of today are expected to have a SHORTER lifespan than their parents.  I am scared for my children and their children.

If you have children who are cared for by others, it is time to sit down and ask them about diet and exercise.  At Blue Skies Exploration Academy and our sister center, Creekside Kids, we chose to use Revolution Foods for our meals.  Not only do they taste good, they are low in fat, sugars and salt and are fresh, partially organic and often locally sourced.  Fresh fruit is provided with every meal.  We take leftovers home because they are so good we hate to throw the leftovers away!

No matter where you send your child for care, the food should be fresh—not canned or from boxes and should be nutritionally balanced.   While organics are a plus, fresh foods, a wide variety of foods, low fat and low salt recipes will go a long way toward improving your child’s health.  Ask what meals are prepared for your child and inspect the kitchen.   Look for juice, cans, boxes and packets—if they are present, consider the impact of this on your child’s health.

Next, ask about exercise.  Does your center have a rigid recess schedule or do classes flow in and out depending upon the curriculum, weather, the needs of the children and the interests of the children?  The more outside time for children to be active, the better for overall health.    If each class has an assigned time and does not waiver from the schedule, you might want to consider how this affects your child’s health.

Our children are our future.  By not caring properly for their physical needs when they are young, we rob them of their future health and wealth.  Personally, I want my children to be healthy enough to dote on me when I am old and need help.  Please pass the peas……..

Citation:  Christine Kearney. (2012, November  19).  “Kids In Daycare Are More Likely To Be Obese.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252979.php

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Seat Belts, Car Seats & Safety

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I recently watched a mother riding past me in the front passenger seat of a mini-van.   She looked cheerful and had just picked her child up from child care.  Unfortunately, the child was sitting on her mother’s lap sharing a seatbelt in the front passenger seat…… If I call the police, they can’t drive around town looking for them so what could I do?

We’ve all seen them….people driving around with young children crawling around inside the car.  Every day with people waiting to get into the drop off lane at our elementary school I see kids moving around inside the car.  When I was a public school teacher, I would do crosswalk duty and watch parents pull into the school from neighborhood streets with their own seatbelt on but no seatbelt on the children.  It’s unbelievable.

Recently the news was filled with the miraculous survival of a 1-year-old thrown from a car in Russia.  The child was thrown onto the road and narrowly missed being run over by an oncoming truck.  That child was lying on a blanket on the back seat of the car.  Where was that child’s car seat?

Earlier this week a young woman made a very dangerous left hand turn right in front of me as I was driving straight and almost killed herself, her passenger and possibly me too.  I have a big car and she has a little car!  Fortunately, I was not looking at my radio, sipping my tea or even sneezing.  We each ended up with scrapes on our cars where she scraped across my bumper as I was just able to stop before the impact.  If I had delayed my reaction by a couple of seconds it likely would have cost at least one person her life and possibly more.  If my children had been in the car, they would have been buckled into their booster seats and sitting up straight.  They hate it, but I actually want my children to survive to adulthood!

I grew up with a girl who became a quadriplegic due to a car accident and have lost three friends over the years in car accidents.  My father-in-law lost his only biological child in a car accident in the days before car seats.  He buried his son on Christmas day.  I’ll bet just about everyone knows someone who has had a terrible car accident, so why do we think it won’t happen to us?

If you do not have a car seat for your child, GET ONE.  There are assistance programs for car seats.  WIC has programs for free seats and your local fire department that has car seat checks can help you find a seat.   The local fire departments often have free safety seat checks.  As a person who works with infants and small children, I see a lot of misinformation about car seats from people who are otherwise quite smart.  It’s often surprising.   Did you know that as many as 90% of car seats, boosters and belts are not used properly according to Peak Vista Community Health Centers?   This doesn’t mean just those who use government services but it includes data from every socioeconomic group.    It probably means you and me too.

Have your child’s seat checked as soon as you can!

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3 Tips to Start Your Infant Off Right When Transitioning Into Child Care

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“It takes a village to raise a child”

All over the world, infants have an inborn need to interact with others.  This need and bond is especially important with an infant’s caregivers.  The Bernard van Leer Early Childhood Focus Series on the Developing Brain discusses “The Social Brain” of infants.

#1  Before infants learn to sit up, they learn to trust and enjoy others.  Parents are their children’s first teachers.  In the early months of infancy, babies should learn that they will consistently and calmly have their needs met in order to create trust and bonding.  Human interactions are guided by goals and beliefs so parenting styles differ across the world and even in your own neighborhood, but consistency is important.  Some parents are willing to let a young infant cry for a certain amount of time or in certain situations due to their beliefs and goals while others will not let an infant cry for even a short time due to their beliefs and goals for the child.  Babies learn from the consistent actions of parents and caregivers regardless of which parenting style is used.  What are your beliefs and goals for your infant’s next few months and first year?

If you plan to have help from a child care provider, make sure you discuss your beliefs and goals with her so you can both be consistent with your child.  How long to let a baby cry and how to comfort should be discussed as well as addressing how to help the child to go to sleep or learn to self-soothe.

#2  Babies love to look at faces and listen to people talk to them.  Many young babies prefer people to toys most of the time.  If young infants are given an active social life with a lot of eye contact, talking, singing, movement and gentle touch, babies establish trust and are able to develop the social part of their brain structure rapidly and deeply.  Small babies do not need a wide social network and to know many people, but those they are in contact with should provide rich social experiences.

Parents who need to have a caretaker help with their young infant should be sure the child care provider believes in providing eye contact, lots of talking and singing and touch.  Social interaction builds strong brains.

#3  Until about 5 months of age, infants have an extremely short attention span.  At the 5 month mark, most infants begin to recognize and respond to social cues such as repeatedly calling a child’s name and/or using a sing-song voice.  Interestingly, this is universal with parents all over the world engaging their infants in the same way.  Brain studies show the prefrontal cortex “lighting up” when a 5 month old begins to recognize these social cues.

When your child begins to respond to these cues, he/she has already developed the beginnings of trust and connections to his or her social world.   Continue the development by continuing to sing and talk, dance and hug, and add in books and quiet time routines.

Ask your child care provider if she reads to the children and provides them with books to chew on and look at.  Ask if she talks and sings to the children and observe interactions.  Talk about what is important to you now at 5 or 6 months and see if that meshes with her beliefs about infant development.

It does “take a village to raise a child” and differences among caregivers are normal and healthy for children to experience as long as each caregiver is consistent and open to discussion and thought.

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Which love language does your child speak?

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Did you know that there are five basic “love languages”?

Dr. Gary Chapman has written extensively on the five basic love languages of adults, teens and children.  Years ago I researched the basic love languages of adults and I was able to identify myself (Gifts and Quality Time) and my husband (a sub-category of Gifts and Acts of Service).  It was not until later that I realized I might be able to identify my children’s love languages and improve my relationship with them.

Do you have a child who is grabby, hugs too hard, kisses or blows too vigorously with “raspberries” or delights in slurpy wet “funny” kisses? Does your child love to play rough and wrestle more than other children?   Is this child snuggly when tired and fond of back scratches or massages?  Your child might speak the love language of TOUCH.  People who speak TOUCH often grow up to be hand holders, huggers, and are generally affectionate even in public.  If your child speaks the language of PHYSICAL TOUCH and you don’t, it can be difficult as you will find yourself admonishing your child to behave or keep her hands to herself.

Does your child spend a lot of time making things for others or talking about what he/she could buy or make for others?  When you take a trip does your child expect a gift?  When you return from a trip does he/she ask “what did you bring me?” as soon as you get back?  Does your child want something from each and every store you enter?  If your child is focused on buying things for him/herself and also on giving to others, your child might speak the language of GIFTS.   Warning: there is an interesting little sub category of GIFTS—which only a few children fall into—they are savers.  They prefer to save things—especially money–as they get older.  These kids grow into very budget-aware adults who are cautious about spending money but LOVE to get money as gifts.  They put cash gifts into the bank and rarely spend them.

Some children ask you to do things for them.  These children really appreciate the fort you built or the cookies you made them.  They appreciate the fact that you took time and energy to create something for them.  They do not necessarily have an interest in doing the task with you but appreciate the end result and brag about the thing Mommy or Daddy made them.  They might want a picture of it to share with others or they might take the item you made and show it to others.  These kids are speaking the love language called, ACTS OF SERVICE.  These kids grow into adults who value people doing things for them and express love by doing things for their spouse.  These children might try to show you love by unloading or loading the dishwasher without being asked.  They might “clean” your room or redecorate the living room while you are elsewhere.  If you don’t notice they have done something for you they will usually tell you in order to gain praise.

A child who values QUALITY TIME likes to spend time with you doing just about anything.  These kids often prefer to be with others rather than play alone.  They might wander around after you and try to “help” a little too much or they might chat constantly while you do something.  While they love to be taken to movies and on ski trips, they also like to make cookies with you or go hiking with you.  They have activities they like more than others but they will often do a non-favorite activity just to have one-on-one time with you.  This is a child who will grow into an adult who typically tries activities that his/her friends like and spends a lot of time with others.   Some of these children are shy and prefer quality time to be with a small circle of friends or family and others are outgoing and spend time engaging in activities with many others.

Finally, some children will seek WORDS OF AFFIRMATION from you.  She wants to know if you saw her spelling test score, her goal at the soccer game, or her wave from a distance.  He might ask if you thought his sports practice was good that day or if his new shirt looks good.  She might ask what you think of her artwork or her cooking.   These kids frequently seek advice, feedback and praise through verbal interactions.  They might treasure thank you notes and birthday cards more than your other children.  As adults, these people often write nice notes to friends or make positive comments or phone calls.

While most children (and adults) are predominately one style, many have a strong secondary love language.  Hopefully your love languages match those of your child so your child will feel understood and loved naturally.   A child who is loved in the way he or she can understand is a child who feels loved and has a deep sense of security.  One of my children is a GIFTS and WORDS OF AFFIRMATION and it is so easy for me to connect with her.  As a teacher these styles come naturally to me.

Sometimes though, we do not speak the same language as our children.  At our house, we have to be very mindful of our younger daughter’s primary love language of PHYSICAL TOUCH.  Since my husband and I are not huggy, touchy-feely people, we have to make ourselves recognize her need for rough housing and extra hugs.   She needs more wrestling and “raspberry” kisses than I would like, but I make myself do it anyway as it tells her I love her.   I have managed to steer her toward back scratches, hand and foot massages and “high fives” as she has matured and I know that with time, the “butterfly” kisses will end and I will miss them when they are gone.

Dr. Chapman’s book is available at the public library and in stores and there are also countless websites and Youtube videos about The Five Love Languages of Children.  As a parent and teacher, I highly encourage you to evaluate your love language and that of your child.  Being aware of how to show your child that he/she is loved in the most effective way creates the possibility of a deep life-long emotional bond which goes beyond the typical parent-child relationship.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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The Top Way to Foster a Well-Adjusted Child

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We are all STILL LEARNING…

Emotional Growth, Self-Respect, Respect for Others, Responsibility, Independence, Logical Thinking, Compassion, Trust, Social Competence, and Love of Self.

What is the easiest (and the hardest) way to teach the foundational skills of a happy, well-adjusted person?

Positive Discipline!

Early and consistent use of positive discipline at home and at child care or school creates well-rounded, confident children who are successful throughout life.  We all want to be treated well in the workplace or at home if we have made a mistake, so why is it hard for us to remain calm and positive with our own children?

Today, my daughter was holding the cat next to the kitchen table.  She was just playing with the cat but the cat jumped on the table and knocked over a vase of flowers and water poured everywhere.  Having had more than our fair share of spilled liquid in a house with two cats and two children, I was able to remain calm and the mess was mopped up without any fuss.  It was no one’s fault and all was well.

In the past though, there have been times I have not handled accidents so well or have been unable to comprehend (in the heat of the moment) why a child might think she can carry a cat, an open cup of milk and a loaded plate of food all at the same time.  Before I knew of the incredibly destructive power of negative words and tone of voice, I reacted badly to the silly mistakes kids make.

Why do children hit balls through windows, tip their chairs over, and drop things and create chaos wherever they go?  It’s simply because a child is STILL LEARNING—not because he or she is “bad” or trying to drive us insane.

As a teacher, my mantra has become, “He/She is still learning.”  It helps me calm down when a paint pot is dropped on the carpet or a block is thrown across the room.  It also helps the other children understand why another child might have done something that was not appropriate.   I spend a lot of time saying this at home now and it has changed the way I respond to most incidents in the home.

At the end of a long day, it is harder to remain positive and respectful when correcting my own children but the more I have become consistent with it, the more trusting and close my relationship with my children has become.  I have found that they don’t avoid me because I get angry and yell or tune me out when I blather on and on about why we don’t do this or that because I STOPPED DOING IT.  Well, I stopped 90% of the time….

I am STILL LEARNING TOO.  We don’t have training as parents about what to do when our child wipes boogers on the wall or makes mud pies on the carpet, we just have to figure it out along the way….  The one thing I can tell you is that early trust is formed in the first months of life but it can be lost along the way if we are inconsistent and irrational.  If we always yell when our children make mistakes, they know what to expect and have a level of trust in us but they do not gain the social skills and self-respect necessary to become truly well-adjusted.  If we are positive and respectful in our corrections of the actions our children make (yes, even when they fight), we create extremely well adjusted children who exude quiet confidence and are not taken down by life’s problems.

The reality though is that it is incredibly hard to remain positive ALL THE TIME.  Parents snap.  Parents yell and PARENTS HAVE FEELINGS TOO.  It is HARD to be a parent and impossible to be perfect!

Just remember that if we can take a deep breath, take a moment before responding and remain positive and respectful in our reprimands, redirections and corrections 75% OF THE TIME or more, we will still create wonderful well-adjusted little people.  If you snap and yell or do not handle something well, it’s okay as long as you can follow up when things are calm again with an apology or explanation of your feelings and reaction at the time.  Even a 3 year old can understand a little bit about how Mommy/Daddy felt when….  Letting your 4 or 5 year old child know that Mommy or Daddy is “still learning” is okay too.  It allows them to understand that we are all trying to make things work as a team and that they are part of the team too.

Go Team “Positive”

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Welcome to 2013!

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Happy New Year!

The New Year brings us a chance for new beginnings in so many areas of our lives.  While we cannot directly and immediately control congress, the president, global warming, our local politicians, etc. through some kind of super-power, we can control a few things.  It’s a time for resolutions but how many resolutions do we really keep and are they really effective?  I know that any resolution involving a reduction in my consumption of chocolate or an increase in exercise is a waste of time on my part.   I have decided to focus on the simple things this year.

As a parent and teacher, I think of the families who have lost a child and the wisdom these families now have as a result of their horrific loss.  My own sister lost a 7-year-old child ten years ago.  We recently discussed the unbelievable tragedy at Sandy Hook and her own experience with losing a child violently and unpredictably.  My sister rarely talks deeply about her son and her feelings about him and his death so when she does, I listen.   Because I have not lost a child, I can’t understand her feelings but I listened closely to her when she talked about it and am trying to take her words of wisdom very seriously.

My sister has told me that there are many things she regrets but the words spoken in anger or haste, which can never be undone, are what she regrets the most.  She reports forgotten incidents suddenly coming to her with harsh clarity.  She privately agonizes over these small incidents and struggles to focus on the positive times and what she can do now with her remaining children.  Many people who lose a loved one report this too.  If, as parents and teachers, we can take any lessons from parents who have lost children, it is to bite back harsh words and actions when we are angry with our children or students.

I hope never to lose a child but I know I will lose someone, sometime—a grandparent, a parent, a friend.  Who knows?  This year, I am resolving to treasure my children and students, with more kind words, a greater effort to understand the thoughts behind their actions and more hugs.  While I’m sure I will stumble and falter here and there, I know I can do this one not-so-simple but very important thing.

What will you chose this year?