Everyday fine motor play in preschool

This week’s Bam Radio show is titled, Fine Motor Skills: What Are They, Why Are They Too Important to Overlook?” and before you go any further, take a minute to listen to what the experts have to say!  You can view the show and listen here or here!

Rae Pica with Dr. Christy Isbell, Allison Sampish, Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

“The development of fine motor skills are often a casualty of the rush to get young children up to academic speed. In this segment our guests explain why fine motor skills are a critical building block for higher learning and should never be overlooked” (Bam Radio)

Promoting fine motor skills

I am always exploring new ways I can promote the use of fine motor skills into my classroom….

I may set out something like picking up and sorting pom-poms with tweezers or chopsticks into colorful bags….

Whether the children use my homemade straw tweezers or they use their hands to pick up, manipulate, and move the pompoms – they are using their fine motor skills in the process…

Promoting the use of fine motor skills is an important part of preparing young children to write, catch and throw a ball, type on a computer, open a door, and the list goes on. As young children develop the muscles in their hands, they develop the strength they need to complete fine motor processes that will play a valuable part in higher level learning…

Often times, I will see teachers or parents who will insist on a child holding a pencil using the “correct pencil holding form” but the reality is, young children are still developing the muscles they need in their hands and fingers to hold a pencil correctly. Thus, young children will start off holding a pencil or crayon in a way that looks awkward or incorrect but given time and good opportunities to build fine motor strength and skills, most children will self-correct on their pencil grip when their fine motor control and strength gets to the point that they can manage the pencil with the correct grip…

There are lots of ways to promote fine motor skills and help children build fine motor strength including cutting with scissors…

Squeezing, manipulating, pinching, and rolling playdough….

Weaving, lacing, and sewing…

Peeling and sticking stickers…

Scooping, pouring, mixing and the list goes on…

There are opportunities all throughout the preschool classroom to promote fine motor development!

Homemade Tweezers

I made 2 different versions of homemade tweezers from straws.  This isn’t a perfect solution to real tweezers but it does provide a new experience for preschoolers to try out.  The straws I used were very nice and sturdy from Meijer…

Version 1: Cut one long straw in half. Hot glue a skinnier piece of straw inside the end of each bigger straw.

Version 2: Bend the straw in half – add tape to hold


Straws, tape

If you have a fun idea that promotes fine motor skills in young children, I invite you to add your idea to the linky below!  Adding a link back from your article to this article would be greatly appreciated.

Links to Grow on…

Pencil Grasp Development by OT Mom

Kindergarten Hand Exercises by OT MOM

Handwriting: Pre-K Pages

Fine Motor Development by School Sparks

30 Kids Activities and Materials for Promoting Fine Motor Skills from Hands on: as we grow

Finding balance between outdoor safety and adventure in preschool

Behind my preschool we have a beautiful set of woods with a few trails that the children love to explore and hike. The trails have been there long before I started this preschool and along the trails are birds, squirrels, trees, tree stumps, rocks, fallen down logs, acorns, pine cones, and other items left there by mother nature.  Just as we all do in early childhood education, I have to consider and evaluate the issue of safety when my students head out to these woods for their exploration and hiking…

At one point along the wooded trail is a big hill. The hill veers off of the trail and my first thought when seeing this hill is that my students should not be going down this hill.  My assistant, on the other hand, never gave it a second thought.  “Can we go down the slide?” the students ask referring to the steep hill covered with leaves.   “Sure! Go for it, ” my young assistant enthusiastically replies…

Now had my assistant worked for someone else, besides me, and had she been given the latest “official training in outdoor playscape safety,” she might have had a different response to their question…

She would have first realized that there is risk involved in letting the children go down that steep hill. Someone might slip, fall, or in someway get hurt.  But my assistant and the children simply saw the steep hill as a fun adventure so down the hill they all went…

She would have also realized that she first needed to cover the bottom of the hill with some sort of mulch or other material – so many inches thick and so many inches wide – so there would be an appropriate and safe landing area at the bottom of the hill/slide.  But my assistant and the children only saw the adventure and so off they went down the hill…

She would also have known that the dirt on this hill and at the bottom of this hill is not sanitized.  There are animals that live in these woods and touching the dirt will make the children’s hands… well… dirty!  But down the hill and then back up the hill all the children went…

Had my assistant been better informed, she would have probably not let these children go down that hill the first time – yet alone turn around and go down it a second time!!

Instead, my assistant would have most likely told they kids that the hill was not safe and that they were not big enough to go down it…

They would not have had this unique opportunity to work together helping each other climb up and down the hill…

They would not have enthusiastically embraced this challenge with their whole body as they used their arms and legs to climb back up the hill and their sense of balance to go down the hill…

They would have instead accepted the idea that they are not capable of climbing up and down this hill or that adventure like this is too risky or unsafe.  Hmmmm, I am not so sure I want that to be the message my students come away with.  So we went up and down that hill!

This is not to say that safety isn’t important or to even make light of rules for safety – we do want our children to have safe experiences.  But it is to say that safety measures should be set in place in such a way that they foster opportunities for challenge, adventure, and exploration not remove these qualities from the early childhood outdoor experience.

I worry that too often, a concern and “over-emphasis” on outdoor safety actually removes quality experiences and a chance to explore the natural environment from today’s early childhood classroom.

Bam Radio discussion on playground safety

I recently participated in a discussion on Bam Radio titled, “Playing it Safe, Too Safe?”  also found on the list of Bam radio broadcasts here….

Rae Pica with Robin Moore, Thelma Harms, and Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

Take a minute to listen to the radio broadcast so you can consider your own thoughts on playground safety as well as listen to what the experts have to say.

What NAEYC had to say…

Safety and outdoor adventure do not seem to be two ideas that go hand in hand but folks are starting to realize that natural outdoor environments can lead to wonderful learning opportunities inside the classroom.

In a recent article in the October/November 2011 edition of NAEYC’s Teach Young Children magazine (TYC), there is an article titled, “Exploring Trees” by Ellen Hall, Desarie Kennedy, Alison Mayer, and Lisa Stevens.

The article discusses how to take an outdoor experience, such as I have described above, and then invite your students to explore the experience through other mediums in the classroom.  In order for children to want to explore their natural environment inside the classroom, they must first be given opportunity to explore their natural environment in a meaningful way.

In the TYC article, the children took an excursion to a local park to find a child’s “special tree” and from this excursion, the children were able to extend their experiences in all kinds of directions in the classroom. The article says, “The children climbed  the trunk almost as if it were a rite of passage or an entrance into another world. They discovered how the tree made them feel – joyful, brave, strong, safe” (TYC, Nov/Dec, 2011, pg. 13).

Links to Grow On

The Benefits of Climbing on Trees by Dinosaurs and Octopuses

Visit these wonderful blogs to learn more on outdoor play environments and learning opportunities…

I’m A Teacher, Get Me Outside Here

Go Explore Nature

Exploring the Outdoor Classroom


Getting Outside

Linking up to…

Make fitness a fun part of your preschool program

Large motor development is a critical part of the growing young child. One aspect of large motor development is physical fitness. There are many ways to include physical fitness into your program. In today’s Bam Radio Broadcast, the experts shed light on ways you can incorporate physical fitness into your preschooler’s day. You will really want to listen to the broadcast so you can hear the different perspectives on helping children stay fit and the different ways you can easily and naturally add physical fitness to your program.

Fitting Fitness Into the Curriculum
Rae Pica with  Nikki Steven, Diane H. Craft, Ph.D., Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

Nikki Steven, Diane H. Craft, Ph.D., Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

 You can listen to this Bam Radio Show Broadcast by clicking here or here!

Structured and Unstructured

During the interview, I discovered that children actually need about 1 to 2 hours of physical activities per day! You may be thinking that this is not possible with your busy schedule. But the experts on the radio show give great and simple ideas for how this can be done through both structured and unstructured activities.

Structured physical activity can be defined as “activities that are intentionally planned and implemented by an informed adult.”  Circle games like “Sally Goes Round the Sun” are just one example of a structured physical activity…

Unstructured physical activity can be defined as free play or times when the children can run around and get out some of their energy without a specific agenda or activity involved. Running on the play ground would be an example of this. And my class LOVES to run!

Both structured and unstructured play can provide children with opportunities for physical activities.

A simple plan for fitness

After listening to the experts, I was motivated to go back to my classroom and make sure I am also including simple fitness activities into my program…

Count to Five and Exercise!

I call our simple fitness plan “Count to Five and Exercise!”

I do a much better job at staying consistent with something when I have a plan. My “Count to Five and Exercise” plan simply consists of including four to five different morning stretches or exercises and as we do each one, we count to five.  For example, today we jogged in place and as we jogged we counted a slow, but steady and loud 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  Then we switched to jumping jacks and counted to five again. Next we did arm swings, then tummy twists, and we ended with toe touches.  We counted to five for each of our exercises….

In the Bam Radio Show interview, the experts share other ways to integrate physical activities into your day easily and naturally.  Be sure to take a listen to all their advice and suggestions. You don’t want to miss it!

Managing teacher stress in the early childhood environment

Having worked in early childhood education for over 25 years, I understand and personally know that teaching can be both rewarding and stressful.  Teacher stress was the topic of today’s Bam Radio Show broadcast which I invite you to take a listen. I will give a short recap of some of the points I found to be most helpful but these experts really understand that stress is real and that it needs to be managed wisely so we, as teachers, can keep our joy…

Handling Teacher Stress: Increase The Positive, Decrease The Negative
Rae Pica with  Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, Jeff Johnson, Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, Jeff Johnson, and Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

You can listen to this broadcast by clicking here or here!

What contributes to teacher stress?

There are so many things that can contribute to teacher stress. The experts in the Bam Radio Show suggest a few and I have added a few of my own as well.  Stress can be caused by…

  • A lack of money or resources to do the things you want or need in your classroom. Often times, we see great ideas that we would love to try or new equipment we would love to have but don’t have the resources to make things happen.
  • Working with lots of other people.  Spending every day working with other people, both big and little, can naturally wear a person out.
  • Not having time for breaks throughout the day. There are some childcare environments where the teachers are not given time away from their classroom throughout the day. A home teaching environment would also be an example of working all day without a real break.
  • Constant changes in rules and regulations imposed by others. Whether they are imposed by licensing agencies or administrators, change can add to a teacher’s level of stress.
  • A lack of personal interest, education, or continuous professional development can also lead to added stress.  We all need to feel invested in what we do in order to find joy and we all need to feel like we are growing in the process.
  • A lack of moral support and recognition for a job well done. We all need a pat on the back every once in awhile.
  • The inability to say ‘no.”  As teachers, we want to invest in others so we tend to get ourselves over-committed and we just hate to tell someone “no.”

What can you do to help alleviate teacher stress?

Not all stress is bad. Stress can push us to do our very best and challenge us to grow and learn.  However, not all stress is good either. The experts on the Bam Radio Show offer up a few tips for helping teachers manage stress wisely…

  • Start off your day by taking a few minutes for yourself. Take that time to relax, breath, or to just sit still.  A few minutes of quiet time each morning can help you start your day a little more relaxed.
  • Learn to say “no” to occasions that will take up your free time. As a teacher, there are always opportunities to share your talents but you need to be smart about it. Protect your free time and use it to take care of yourself.
  • Look for opportunities to grow in your profession and/or education. Learning new things such as new teaching techniques, child development, or finding new ideas to do in music/art/math/science can be inspiring and exciting. Learning new ideas can make you want to get up everyday and rush to the classroom to try them out. Fill up your tank by taking advantages of opportunities to learn.  You can attend conferences, read professional journals, take classes in early childhood education, or even read blogs like this one!
  • Invest time in the classroom doing more of something you love. If you are passionate about the arts or exercise or technology then look for opportunities to share your talents and passion with your students.
  • Find others who share your love for teaching. Build yourself a network of support so you can brainstorm ideas, cheer each other on, and help each other find solutions.
I am sure there are other ideas you have for successfully managing stress in your day.  Feel free to share them here with us!…..

Teaching twins in the preschool classroom

If you have ever had a set of twins in your preschool classroom, you may have had to sort through some of the myths addressed by the experts in the most recent Bam Radio show I participated in: “Avoiding Mistakes in Teaching Twins.”

"Avoiding Mistakes in Teaching Twins" Rae Pica with Eve-Marie Arce, Susan M. Heim and Deborah J. Stewart

“Some educators have reported an increase in the number of twins in their classrooms. According to our guests,  there are a few myths and some misguided ideas about teaching twins that need to be corrected. In this segment we discuss what every educator and parent needs to know about teaching twins” (Bam Radio Show)

Here are some of the highlights shared by our experts that you should think about if you happen to have a set of twins in your preschool classroom…

1. There is no evidence or research that says separating twins in preschool makes a difference in their learning achievement.

2. Twins may come as a pair but teachers need to treat twins as individuals and not as a set when teaching the children.

3. Parents of twins should be consulted with and have a say in whether their twins should stay together or be separated.

4. Teachers should avoid labeling the twins in order to tell them apart – “That one is the athletic one.”

5. Parents are the best resource for helping teachers understand the emotional needs of their twins.

6. Don’t assume that just because the twins look alike, that they will like doing the same things. Have a variety of choices available in your classroom and let the children select from those choices based on their own unique interests and personalities.

What are your thoughts or experiences with twins in the preschool classroom? If you are a parent of twins or if you have experience teaching twins, I would love to hear your perspective on this topic…





Building parent-teacher relationships in preschool

I participated in two discussions on the Bam Radio Show about building or understanding the parent/teacher relationship. Each conversation had a completely different spin on the topic. You can listen to each show by clicking on the photos below…

Yup! Today's Parents Are Different: What Teachers Need to Know to Survive Rae Pica with Lenore Skenazy, Suzanne Tingley & Deborah J. Stewart

(Or click here and scroll down the wall to find the title of each radio show) 

Understanding the Teacher/Parent Communications Gap Rae Pica with Jennifer Prior, Laurie Linblad & Deborah Stewart

I will let you go and take a listen to the two shows so you can draw your own conclusions on the perspectives that are shared.

Deborah’s thoughts on building parent/teacher relationships

After I went back and listened to both of these radio shows I was reminded of some of my own experiences as both a parent and as a teacher that I thought I would share with you…

As a parent

About a week before school was to start, I took my daughter to visit her new school – she was entering the first grade. We wondered around the school and found her locker, her classrooms, and the cafeteria. We didn’t dress in school clothes for the visit, instead we wore shorts and t-shirts. As we were preparing to leave the school, a teacher saw us from down the hall and called out to get our attention – there was no one else in the building. My daughter and I looked down the hallway at a teacher standing there with not-so-friendly body language. The teacher proceeded to give us a lecture on how shorts were not allowed in school and walked away.

I was left standing there and I could feel my guard shoot straight up. I didn’t like being spoken to like a child. I didn’t like having another adult think that she had the right to tell me what we could or could not do. I didn’t like feeling like someone else believed she trumped me as a parent. I didn’t like having a perfect stranger bossing me and my daughter around. I didn’t like feeling disrespected. I didn’t like not having a chance to tell her that we were aware of the rules but just taking a quick tour. As of that moment, I didn’t like the teacher and I wasn’t so sure I liked the school either.

As a teacher

When I first started teaching, I had a child in my four year old class who constantly picked on others. On one particular afternoon, this little boy threw a toy and it hit another child in the head. Needless to say, it left a nice little bump. I wrote up an incident report, put some ice on the bump, gave out hugs, gave stern looks for misbehavior, and had a long serious talk about how we must play safely with our toys. It was handled the best way possible and we all went on with our day without any further incidents.

When dad came to pick up his son (the boy with the bump) he read the incident report and then his temper went off. I had never had a parent yell at me before so I was completely caught off guard. Actually, I don’t think I have had a parent yell at me since. The father was angry about his son being hurt, angry that I let it happen, angry that I didn’t call him, angry that this little boy was allowed to continue going to school there, and the list went on. I just stood and listened to the father as he berated me for being such a failure as a teacher – I didn’t know what to say. The next day, his wife came in and apologized for father’s behavior and it made me cry. The mom said, “When he told me what he had said, I knew it must have hurt your feelings. He was just having a bad day and took it out on you.”  I was thankful for her thoughtful words and thankful that she believed I was a good teacher who cared about her son.

The parent/teacher relationship

The parent/teacher relationship can be complex, simple, unpredictable, inspiring, stressful, rewarding, delightful and painful. Entire books are written on the subject and it is often a topic of discussion – even on radio shows. This is because parent/teacher relationships are important. Both parents and teachers have to figure out how to work together and overcome obstacles that get in the way. Not every parent will understand how to do be a partner in their child’s education and not every teacher will feel confident in the process either. So my advice is to keep trying so you will grow and learn how to build the parent/teacher relationship. Don’t let one angry father make you a bitter teacher and don’t let one bossy teacher make you a bitter parent.

Building the parent/teacher relationship

In the radio show, “Understanding the Teacher/Parent Communications,” the following tips are shared…

Teacher’s can help build the parent/teacher relationship by…

  • Offering parents opportunities to get involved in the classroom experience
  • View parents as an important part of the process in educating their child
  • Have conversations with parents rather than just give reports to parents about their child
  • Don’t think you have all the answers – parents have much to contribute about their children’s lives too that may help you understand how best to teach their child.
  • Be genuine and approachable.

Parents should…

  • Understand that children have greater student achievement when parents work as partners in their child’s education.
  • Early childhood is a critical time in a child’s education and learn to understand the ages and stages of a child’s development.
  • Know what things that you can do at home to promote academic development.
  • Get connected with others – don’t isolate yourself.
  • Be supportive and get involved in your child’s learning experiences or classroom in whatever way you can.
See these wonderful tips for “How to Involve Parents in Your Class” from Educational Creativity

Bam Radio: Tips for addressing misbehavior in preschool

I recently participated in the Bam Radio conversation Bad Behavior: When to Ignore, When to Intervene” with Rae Pica, Mary Gersten, and Kate Williams. This is truly a wonderful discussion and I hope you will stop and take a listen. If you can’t listen to it here or here

Rae Pica with Mary Gersten, Kate Williams, Deborah J. Stewart

I have highlighted some of the points from our conversation that I really found valuable and wanted to share them with you.

When addressing misbehavior consider the following tips…

-You need to know your students well so that you can know when best to intervene and when to wait.

Individualize your responses to the development and needs of each child.

Understand the situation before you intervene – observe and know what is happening first, see how it affecting others, and determine if it is something that can be worked out without your intervention.

-Sometimes misbehavior is a call for help, other times it is a demand for attention, and other times it is simply behavior (that my be annoying to you) but is typical for the age of the child – learn to recognize why the misbehavior exists so you can determine the most effective and appropriate response.

Don’t be nitpicky– the more you harp on a child, the more he or she will start to tune you out.

Be in control of your own emotions, children will pick up on your response so make sure your response is appropriate to the situation at hand. In other words, know if your response is coming from a place of being annoyed or coming out of concern for the well being of the child.

Seek first to understand and take into consideration child development as well as your own

See guidance as a continuous process of teaching and learning

Build bonds with your children

Model the behavior you want to see in your children

Know and love your kids

I would have loved to sit and chat with these ladies all day – they both had so many thoughtful ideas. Be sure to take a listen to the Radio Show: Bad Behavior: When to Ignore, When to Intervene”

Should we teach boys versus girls differently in preschool?

Let’s face it – little boys and little girls have some basic differences. They look different, they smell and sound different (sometimes), they have different body parts, and sometimes they even play differently. But the real question is, should we teach them differently?

Rae Pica with Dr Cordelia Fine, Abigail James,Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on Bam Radio

The most recent topic of discussion on Bam Radio titled “Debunking 3 Big Fat Myths About Teaching Boys Versus Teaching Girls” seeks to answer that question.  Click on the link to listen to the experts (and me) discuss this topic.

My thoughts…

If you spend any time in the early childhood classroom you will often see the boys head over towards the blocks while the girls head over to the art table. So perhaps it is fair to say that boys tend to be interested in one type of play and girls in another.

But is it fair to assume that all boys like blocks and all girls like art?  Should we teach boys differently than we teach girls? Do we teach boys differently than we teach girls? During the Bam Radio interview, Abigail James stated, “People expect children to learn in certain ways because of their gender. We need to expand the way we approach learning in a more comprehensive way.”

Perhaps you do not think that you teach the boys any differently than you do the girls in your classroom. Perhaps you believe that you give each child equal opportunities to participate and succeed regardless of gender. Perhaps you are not aware of any gender bias in your classroom management or in your teaching style. I am not here to say whether you have any gender bias or not but I do think that it is important for all of us to reflect on our own teaching practices and consider whether or not any part of our teaching practices are driven by gender bias.

Questions to ask yourself…

  • Do I expect boys to be interested in one type of learning or play and girls to be interested in another?
  • Do I encourage the girls differently than I encourage boys?
  • Do I discipline girls differently than I discipline the boys?
  • Do I hug the girls and high five the boys?
  • Do I compliment the girls on how pretty they are dressed and ignore how the boys are dressed?
  • Do I compliment the boys on how fast they can run but ignore how fast the girls run?
  • Do I simply shake my head when I see the boys hitting each other but go into a state of shock when I see the girls hit each other?
  • Do I wait for girls to verbalize their thoughts when they are answering a question but jump in and “help verbalize” or speak for the boys when they seem a little stuck?
  • Do I think boys who cry need to toughen up but girls who cry just need more time to mature?
  • Do I send the boys to Time Out when they misbehave without much discussion but when the girls misbehave, take time to discuss how they can make better choices?
  • Do I naturally tend to give praise to the children at the art table for their effort but walk by the block center and tell everyone to play nice or we will put the blocks away?

Our attitudes about boys and girls as a gender are often reflected in how we teach them and even in how we care for them. It is important to recognize any hidden attitudes we may have about gender. By being aware of any gender bias you may have, you will be better able to “expand the way you approach teaching and learning in a more comprehensive way.”

A Lasting Impact…

Cordelia mentioned in the Bam Radio interview that preschoolers “already know an awful lot about gender… I don’t think we should be assuming that what we see in their play behavior is this sort of natural unsocialized state – that would be to ignore the previous first five years of experience of their lives.”  Not meaning to be disrespectful, but I didn’t understand exactly what she meant by this statement since preschoolers are still experiencing the first five years of their lives. But what I did get from this statement was that as preschool teachers, we are extremely influential during the first five years of life and when it comes to preschool age boys and girls, our teaching approach can have a life-long impact on their learning potential.

Is it possible to give too much positive praise to preschoolers?

Last week I was the guest commentator on the Bam Radio Show along with Rae Pica, Ellen Ava Sigler, Ed.D.,  and Margaret Berry Wilson. The topic was titled,Creating Praise Junkies: Are You Giving Children Too Much “Positive” Reinforcement?” . You can click on the link to take a listen.

Rae Pica with Ellen Ava Sigler, Ed.D., Margaret Berry Wilson, and Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

My Thoughts on positive reinforcement…

I have seen first hand the value of positive reinforcement and would encourage any teacher to understand how best to use positive reinforcement effectively.  Applying positive reinforcement is more than just telling a child “good job” or “I like your painting.”  Instead effective positive reinforcement is sharing a genuine interest in a child’s efforts as he or she is engaged in a specific process.

Words to Encourage

For some, the ability to focus a genuine interest on a child’s efforts comes naturally. For others, like me, it requires a little more thought. I naturally want to say to children, “I love this” because I do – or – “you make me so proud” – because they do – or – “your dress is so pretty” – because I think it is – or “you did this so fast, you must be a genius!” – because I am genuinely amazed. Although this isn’t necessarily bad, it isn’t what is meant by focusing on a child’s efforts. It isn’t what is meant by effectively and productively providing positive reinforcement.

Deborah with Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute

What research tells us…

At the 2011 Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children (IAEYC) conference, the keynote speaker was Ellen Galinsky and while there, she shared some intriguing videos and research from her book “Mind In the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.”

One of the research videos Ellen shared was of children being given a challenge to solve a puzzle.  To very briefly summarize the research video, some of the children were praised for their effort as they worked on the puzzle and others were praised for how smart they were. Both types of praise sounded genuine and thoughtful but when the children were asked if they would like to solve a more difficult puzzle, only those who were praised on their effort chose to work on the more difficult puzzles. Those who were praised for how smart they were chose to stick with the more simple puzzles so they would continue to be views as “smart.” That brief video was astounding to me – I hadn’t fully appreciated how important it really is to be conscious of what I say or how I apply positive reinforcement.

Focusing on effort…

So how do we focus on effort?  I am still practicing this skill as we speak and if you will listen to the speakers in the Bam Radio Show, they offer up some great suggestions.

What I gleaned from our discussion was to start by focusing on what a child is doing rather than how you feel about what the child is doing. For example, The next time a child shows you a painting he or she just painted – instead of saying  “Your painting is so pretty” try saying “Wow, I see you chose to use red, blue and yellow paint!” The second statement may not seem like a compliment but positive reinforcement isn’t necessarily complimenting children – it is instead the building of a child’s confidence, understanding, and interest in what he or she is doing. It is focusing the child’s attention back on his or her own choices and efforts as he or she participates in or completes a task.

My friend, Kathy, brought her granddaughters by the school and kindly let me photograph them while they were building pirate ships with waffle blocks. If you are like me and applying the concept of effective positive reinforcement isn’t something you do naturally – then let’s try a little practice run. I have written some positive reinforcement statements under each photo below…

You have discovered how to fit all those pieces together!

I see you have chosen to use red, yellow, green, and blue waffle blocks!

You have taught me how anything can be designed from a set of waffle blocks!


You chose to make a pirate ship that is both tall and wide!

Okay – so if you would like to give this a shot. Here is one more photo – perhaps you can teach me some additional phrases that would work.  Keep in mind that positive reinforcement should focus on the effort being made during the process…

Leave your thoughts on positive reinforcement or additional phrases in the comments below…

Should preschoolers have homework?

This is the question being asked on the latest BAM Radio Network show that I commentated on: “Should You Be Assigning Homework in Preschool?” by Rae Pica along with Etta Kralovec and Dr. Ann Barbour.

Go and take a listen to the show and see what you think!

Before you answer this question consider this…

These two boys are at play with large pattern blocks…

They are exploring patterns and shapes and how they fit together to create the train….

They are learning how to cooperate, collaborate, take turns, listen to each other’s ideas, follow directions, and adapt where needed to build their train…

While building the train, the children are reinforcing their recognition of shapes and colors…

The process of creating this train requires some trial and error, problem solving, and plenty of floor space to spread out their work…

They are building more than just a train, they are also building a friendship as they work together and play together…

Can you package all of these wonderful elements of learning into a single assignment and send it home as homework?


My random thoughts on homework for preschoolers…

In all of my years of teaching preschoolers, I have never sent home homework.  At least not the kind of homework where a child is expected to complete an activity then return it to school for some type of reward, grade, or accountability.

For children in full time preschool or childcare programs, I think that after a long day at school what they need most is time relaxing and interacting with with mom and dad. The preschool years are an important time for bonding with parents and their time time together should be respected.

If you are wanting to provide any kind of “homework” let me suggest these everyday activities that parents can do at home to help their child build the skills their child needs to be successful in while in school.

What kinds of activities can parents do at home to help their preschooler be successful in preschool? Here are a few simple ideas…

  • Promote independence by helping your preschooler develop skills such as dressing himself, washing hands, going potty, putting on coats, and feeding himself.
  • Build communication skills by talking with your preschooler often and encouraging your preschooler to ask questions or express his views on topics.
  • Promote an interest in literacy by reading with your preschooler- read simple books, signs in the grocery store, the back of a cereal box, street signs, and so on.
  • Promote social skills by inviting friends over so your preschooler will develop their ability to share, work out conflicts, and play positively with his or her peers.
  • Promote decision making skills by letting your child choose from a menu at a restaurant.
  • Promote problem solving skills by letting your child figure out how to open a container or how to do other things without your help.
  • Promote organizational skills by letting your child put away his own toys.