Spring Book List!

Spring is here…and I love it! Spring is such an inspiring season. It’s a time to start anew in many different ways for many different people, which makes spring an ideal time to refresh your home library with timeless classics, holiday treasures and fun adventures. Spring is also a great time to take your favorite books outdoors and let the kids explore in the fresh air. Some of my favorite topics for the season include: weather, gardening, stories of growth and an array of books based on Easter. 

One of my goals for this year is to create a more seasonal inspired library rotation that will encourage my littles and help foster some extra creative lessons from home. Fortunately for us all, there is an endless array of books for all interests and stages of life. 

Here is what I have on the first official GrowthSpurts Spring Edition Book List: 

Note: As we all know, there is an abundance of fantastic classic tales for spring and Easter. The list that we’ve compiled is focused on more contemporary and new-to-us finds (with Easter basket gifting in mind)!

  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt – Beautiful and educational. This book gives young readers a new and refreshing perspective into the many layers of the ecosystem.
  • Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book – Exquisite illustrations and catchy rhymes help kiddos understand the journey and importance of bees.
  • I’ve Loved You Since Forever – A lovely book from one of my favorite morning anchors, Hoda Kotb, inspired by her beloved daughter. Charming illustrations and heart-felt read.
  • A Family is A Family is a Family – Whether it be the Easter traditions or spring break gatherings, spring makes me think of family. This book celebrates the unique and special traits of families of all shapes and sizes; providing wonderful insight for readers of all ages.
  • This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World – What a special way to celebrate different cultures and expose children to the diverse customs of other children in our world. Special!
  • Puffin in Bloom Collection (Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, Heidi) – Exquisite. Beautiful. Classic books that make for great heirloom gifts and add a touch of whimsy to spring décor.
  • Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering! – Our family happens to include an aerospace engineer and therefore, I could not resist this book! There is a full “Baby Loves…” series and the illustrations and basic text is perfect for introducing your tinniest to STEM. Baby Loves Coding! is on my next book order list.
  • Pete the Cat: Big Easter Adventure – I mean, Pete the Cat can do no wrong (says every toddler I’ve ever known)!
  • Little Blue Truck’s Springtime – An extension of the ever-popular Little Blue series, this humble story is stunningly illustrated and quite well-suited for the youngest readers and Little Blue obsessed fans.
  • When Spring Comes – Lovely and magical depiction of the transition into spring. Great read to spark circle time lessons.
  • Egg – Sweet story of unexpected friendships.

Happy Reading from your friends at GrowthSpurts CDF!

 

Spring Cleaning: Playroom

It's that time of the year when you want your house to be as fresh as the outside air. It all sounds nice until you walk into a room and get totally overwhelmed by all of your kid's toys. After much trial and error and lots of missing pieces, let me offer some creative ways that I've found to store common playroom items to save a little space and make cleanup a little easier.

  • Puzzles: In my experience, the best way to store board puzzles is to use these large plastic envelopes from the Dollar Store. There are three in a pack for only ONE dollar. Another option is to use a pencil case for easy storage of small puzzles. Be sure to keep a copy of the picture in the pouch as well! 
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  • Matchbox Cars: If you have cars everywhere and don't want to spend money on bringing in more plastic containers, the perfect DIY solution is to save cardboard rolls from toilet paper and paper towels and arrange them to fit nicely in an old shoe box. You can even get fancy and decorate the outside of the box to give it even more character. Another option for storing cars off of the ground is to use the over the door organizer (see Barbie idea below).
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  • Barbies: Drop the Barbies into a see-through, over-the-door shoe organizer to keep a visualization on the inventory without having to dump everything out looking for that ONE particular doll or accessory. 

 

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  • LEGOS: I got extremely lucky and found these lego block storage drawers on clearance at Staples, of all places, for $20! They have multiple colors and they stack on top of each other, in true Lego fashion. If you cannot find these or want a more frugal option, the Dollar Store has a great variety of plastic containers. Create a custom label and throw some packing tape or contact paper over the top of it to make the label more secure. 
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  • Art Supplies: No matter what art supplies are in your rotation, cookie jars, apothecary jars, mason jars, etc. are all great options for storage. The bright colors of these supplies usually make the space more vibrant and fun to be around. Keep in mind the age of the children who will be using the containers and stick to a more durable glass, the younger they are. 
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  • Nerf Arsenal: I have yet to see a more creative and impressive storage for Nerf paraphernalia than this one I spotted on Pinterest. 
 Source unknown (via Pinterest)

Source unknown (via Pinterest)

Some other ideas for storage:

  • Balls (rubber, sports): Throw balls in a cute wire basket that can be easily moved outside to be played with and makes cleanup a breeze. Laundry baskets are often the perfect size.
  • Stuffed Animals: Use the outside cover of a beanbag chair with a zipper to throw stuffed animals into and fill it up with plush friends that you aren't quite ready to get rid of, but don't get played with too often. Get cushy as you use the chair to sit and read books and just unzip when you need an old friend to cuddle. 
  • Workbooks/Activity Books: A unique dish drying rack or magazine holder is a great way to store and easily see the collection of coloring books and even colored paper. It definitely beats endless stacks collecting dust in cold, dark places. 
  • Works of Art: There is an endless list of ways to display works of art, but two of my favorites are to hang string with colorful thumb tacks and hold up creations with clothespins (which can also be customized with stickers and/or washi tape) OR use a big shadowbox frame to hang on the wall and fill with special designs. Both of these options make changing out masterpieces a cinch.

 

Age-Appropriate Chores and Responsibilities

Preschoolers are not usually the age group someone automatically thinks of when it comes to chores. The word itself has such a negative connotation that it almost seems wrong to associate with children. But I want to change the mindset of how we think about this for a minute. Chores should really be thought of as responsibilities for children to build upon, that will facilitate their independence. 

The ultimate goal of raising children is to make them independent, self-sufficient, empathetic and positive contributors to society. If we start giving children age-appropriate responsibilities, that will lay the groundwork to shape children to become these amazing humans. 

Looking ahead to the kids' elementary school career and all the way through to high school, the environments in which they will be in every day, they will need the tools to be independent in most areas outside of academics. 

I am going to run through one particular task to give an explanation of the progression that can take place. For simplicity, I am going to take a morning routine task and break it down by age. These will be estimates on the ages, but I'm more concerned with the progression. Changing from jammies to clothes is one task that every parent must conquer. A one year old has the capability of taking and putting their jammies into the hamper. When they get a little older, they can help choose their clothes when you give them a couple choices. As they get better at that, they can begin to add getting undressed and dressed on their own.

These responsibilities can give children a sense of control. It will teach routine, time management and even self-motivation. There is an opportunity for a child to have a responsibility in almost every task of the day. I suggest picking tasks that are going to be occurring daily, in order to keep the consistency. I have listed some parts of the day and some suggestions for responsibilities. Trying this new approach will take some letting go for parents. Things will not be done perfectly, and that is OKAY. Just remember why you are doing what you are doing. Know that this will create more work for you now, but in the long-run it will save you. You have to be ready to cheer on, congratulate, and cheer up children sometimes as they work through the different emotions of reaching a goal. Demonstration, explanation and sometimes redoing the chore behind the scenes will happen but the benefits of these tasks are life lessons and are most definitely worth it. These should never be used as punishment, but rather a "job" that has to be done. Explaining that everyone has a job to do and teamwork is how everything gets done is a very important.

  • Personal Care Chores:

  • Changing clothes (just putting clothes in hamper, help choosing an outfit, attempting to change themselves, full changing routine)
  • brushing teeth (just getting out/putting away the toothbrush/toothpaste, applying toothpaste, attempting to brush own teeth, full teeth brushing routine)
  • bathing (apply body wash, apply/rinse body wash, apply shampoo/conditioner, full routine)
  • brushing hair get out/put away hairbrush, attempt to brush, full routine with styling)
  • going to the bathroom (flush/shut lid, wash hands with soap, wipe themselves with TP after pee, begin to wipe after BM)
  • Morning Chores:

  • put dirty clothes in hamper
  • make bed
  • eat breakfast
  • get ready for the day
  • Meal Time:

  • get own plate and cup and utensils
  • put finished plate/cup/utensil/napkins in designated spot
  • wipe up the area they sat at
  • Outside Chores:

  • clean up outdoor toys
  • pull weeds
  • water plants 
  • help wipe down cars and windows
  • care for pets (feeding & clean up)
  • Inside Chores:

  • dry floors after being mopped (sock skating is always fun)
  • dusting (socks on their hands)
  • clean up toys
  • laundry
  • empty small room trashes

The responsibilities you give to the kids will always look different for each individual family but the principle behind them is the same. Foster an environment that provides each child to take the steps to becoming an independent, self-sufficient, empathetic, responsible, resilient and positive contributor to society. It sounds like a big feat but it really is just one small step at a time. You are doing great!

Blog Series

It’s typical for parents to have so many questions about the many, many contexts of their children. People write books about children’s eating, sleeping and potty training. Discipline and the surrounding topics are always a fine line as well. It is IMPOSSIBLE to get all aspects perfect, and as long as you are doing your best, you are doing great. 

The last thing parents have time to do is to keep afloat the scientific research that pertains to the aforementioned contexts of children. Can you imagine? That sounds exhausting. So I have taken it upon myself to help in this area. While I can’t promise I could ever keep up with everything, I will choose topics that I feel are important but are a little less popular than others. This series will really be a positive insight for all parties. With my background in the social and emotional realm of child development, I think those topics will be heavier, but not the only topics. In these series of blogs, I will tackle the results of scientific findings and give ideas on how to use the information in your everyday interactions.

I am taking suggestions on topics as I continue to take notice of the themes that are prevalent in our everyday classroom. The first in our small series of six will be intergenerational learning. I can't wait to share . . . 

Preschool Separation Anxiety

It. Is. Tough. It pulls at a parent's heart to have to leave their little one when they are obviously distraught and want nothing more than a little extra love. Overcoming these feelings of helplessness is a struggle for everyone. It is something that takes time and patience, which means it is probably going to repeat itself for awhile. Perhaps ten-fold sometimes. As a preschool teacher and former behavior therapist, I assure you that if your little one was to remain as upset as when you first leave, they would not be forced to stay at preschool.  Working through the feelings a bit at a time is necessary for the parent and child alike. As we all know, anxiety is eased with comfort. Comfort comes in all forms in this context: a warm welcome, the familiar environment, favorite toys, seeing sweet friends, etc. All of those things become comfortable to the child with time. It's the part where the kiddos have to first try to be open, while feeling overwhelmed because of all the new things all at once, that's the challenge and creates some anxiety. 

For parents new to this behavior, I like to suggest different ideas and see what they think would be best for them. It really does take a village and I whole-heartedly believe that consistency is key from everyone in a child's life. As a teacher for such young children, it is my job to keep every day as predictable as possible. This allows the children to feel like they have a handle on what to expect. For example, I can say that mommy will be picking them up after we have snack, go to the park, and then have lunch. As we do these things repeadtedly, they will begin to understand sequence of events, which can bring comfort knowing that what I say is reliable and true.

As aforementioned, parents know their child best and can usually determine what would help in the situation. Here are some suggestions for separation anxiety that I hope will provide some support:

- Short goodbyes and long hellos. The drop off routine should have the parent exuding  confidence while they quickly explain what will be happening until they see them again. Show affection and then leave with a smile on your face. Plan a return that allows for time to sit in the child's environment and give 100% attention to them. Ask about their day, have them show you things, and just give them love.

Practice runs. Pretend play is a favorite game at this age so use it to your advantage and play out the routine of the preschool day. Start with the morning prep to the pick up. 

Comfort item. Bringing a small item as a reminder of love can help a little one get through a rough patch. For some, it is a "lovie", while others would connect with a special sticker that dad gave them or a picture of the family. 

Talk about favorite parts of preschool. If a child gets excited about something, make it a big deal at home. This will soon start to have them looking forward to seeing/doing it again and being able to tell a parent about anything new that occurs. Help try to blend both school and home lives together for the children and keep communication open with the teacher so they can do the same.

Relate feelings. Use the opportunity to name some feelings they are having and reference past experiences. Talk about previous times both of you have experienced those exact feelings and how a transition occurred to become more positive. This is huge for emotional regulation and will help them start to grasp feelings and anxiety before they start to feel debilitating.

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School Has Begun

With a couple weeks under the school year belt, we are off to a great start. The first part of the year focuses on routines, getting to know each other, and getting a better idea of where each kiddo is on their own developmental path. All the other stuff falls into place as the year progresses. I must say that the inclusion of sign language into our day has been a positive tool for communication. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly they learn and feel such pride when they have mastered new words activities. Learning is easier when we don't teach in isolation, but rather, on the knowledge that they already have. I encourage parents to really look and incorporate the same things that we focus on at school, in everyday life at home. The newsletter I share gives parents the tools to continue the education at home while building on their baseline from preschool 

See our newsletter here!

Summertime

 GrowthSpurts' summer camps are week-long sessions that focus all aspects of the curriculum on a single theme. The days include reading books, making crafts & projects, games, songs, and field trips that relate to the focus of the week. Children learn through play. The more ways that they are involved and engaged, the more likely they are to retain the knowledge. Small groups allow for all participants to be involved and contribute to each activity. These camps are also designed for families to pick and choose the weeks that work best for them and their vacations. For more information or any questions regarding camp, contact us at hello@GrowthSpurtsCDF.com or (209)602-8607. 

GrowthSpurts' summer camps are week-long sessions that focus all aspects of the curriculum on a single theme. The days include reading books, making crafts & projects, games, songs, and field trips that relate to the focus of the week. Children learn through play. The more ways that they are involved and engaged, the more likely they are to retain the knowledge. Small groups allow for all participants to be involved and contribute to each activity. These camps are also designed for families to pick and choose the weeks that work best for them and their vacations. For more information or any questions regarding camp, contact us at hello@GrowthSpurtsCDF.com or (209)602-8607. 

Spring Break Boredom Busters

 

Spring Break is a time where we get a small sample of what summer might be like with the kiddos. It’s a snapshot of how the kids find things they like to do for a little bit, then complain of their boredom after that. But, believe it or not, boredom for kids is a good thing. If we, as parents and teachers, are always stimulating them with our ideas, then they do not get the discovery of what genuinely interests them. True creativity and self reliance are skills that arise out of boredom. Yes, the littles will groan and gripe when something isn’t ready at the moment they are ready to move on from their prior activity, but know that it’s our job to guide them to problem solve. Let them be bored for a little while - it’s good for them. It’s hard in our society now to slow down but allowing them to get creative and have a say in how they are going to fix that problem is so important.

Even with toddlers, problem solving can be done with a little assistance. It is important to start with some descriptive words for boredom. Associate words with the emotion so they can communicate it with you in the future. Explain times you have felt that way - give your perspective of the emotion. Then construct it into a positive activity by asking questions about what they want to do. Be careful not to lead the child to answers or go through this learning experience too quickly. In due time, ask questions about where they would like to be for their next activity, would they like to create something or look at something, do something alone or with someone else. These questions will not only assist with boredom (which is totally okay) but will aid with decision making and problem solving in the future. 

Here are a couple ideas that are easy to do because there is not too much prep or clean up. I made sure to balance them out and have a variety of options. I hope there are a few that your kids will enjoy . . .

  1. Outdoor Paint with Water: All you need is water. If you have brushes or sponges, that can be used as well. Get creative and use things like twigs, leaves, and rocks to create a beautiful painting on the sidewalk with just water and then let it evaporate and start again.
  2. Puzzle Piece Hunt: Who doesn’t love a good hunt? Use your favorite puzzles to hide the pieces and add fun to putting it back together. Let the kids decide the details of the rules: inside or outside? put the puzzle together after each piece is found or after all are found? work with friends or alone? etc.
  3. Nature Collage: Go on a nature walk around the house, down the street, or the local park and collect treasures along the way. Examine and describe all the things you see on the adventure. Be sure to touch on all five of the senses. Then decide how you want to display the treasures. Should a poster be made? Should they be glued to a piece of paper and displayed that way? Can they be incorporated as pieces of a favorite game?
  4. Rainbow Crayons: Sort through old broken crayons and assign the kids the task of peeling off the paper. Take the opportunity to let them strike up conversation while this is happening. Move the task outside and enjoy the sunshine. Then the broken pieces can be matched with color schemes of your choice in cupcake liners. Throw them inside muffin tins and put them in the oven at 300 degrees, checking on them every 5-10 minutes until they look melted enough for your liking. When they all look liquified, pull them out and let them cool.