Wednesday, December 30, 2015

8 Tips to Keeping your Kids Healthy

I recently read an article in Parent's magazine (January 2016 issue) that listed, in their view, the eight best ways to keep your kids healthy.  I found the information helpful and very user friendly and wanted to pass it along to you.

1.  Offer lots of fruits and veggies - Children need to be taught to like fruits and vegetables.  Often when kids reject a food it is because it is unfamiliar, not due to true dislike.  Children need to be offered the same food many times, up to 15, before they will like or tolerate them.

2. Teach hand-washing - People's hands are the number one source for spreading infection.  We transfer germs from our hands into our body when we touch our eyes, mouth, or nose.  Young children touch their face as often as 50 times an hour!  As a result children need to be taught to wash their hands properly and we need to frequently wipe down the "hot spots" in our houses (door handles, toys, keyboards).

3. Vaccinate on time - The vaccine schedule is designed to give immunizations to children when they are the most effective.

4.  Brush teeth with fluoride - Even mild tooth decay can affect kids' health by causing pain, poor eating, and interrupted sleep.  Simply brushing protects teeth - if you use fluoride.

5.  Enforce a regular bedtime - Delaying a child's bedtime doesn't do them any favors.  Children who don't get enough sleep can become hyperactive and their school performance suffers.  After kindergarten kids need nine to eleven hours of sleep.  So set a regular bedtime routine and stick to it.

6. Insist on a helmet - Wearing a helmet can prevent serous injuries - yet less than half of kids wear them.  Insist that your child wears a helmet when they ride anything with wheels.

7.  Apply sunscreen, all year long - Sunburn in childhood is particularly risky.  The earlier in a child's life that skin cells become damaged, the greater their chance of developing skin cancer over their lifetimes.  Kids have a thinner outer protective layer than an adult's does so they are more sensitive to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.

8.  Use safety straps - Make sure you follow the instructions on your child's car seat/booster seat/seatbelt.  Enforce the use of a safety straps for yourself and your children whenever they are riding in a car.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Safety lessons

This month, I have begun teaching safety lessons in many of the grade levels. When I teach the safety lessons I focus on three safety rules; No, Go, Tell, Check First, and the Buddy System.  No, Go, Tell is an easy and simple way for students to remember that when they are feeling uncomfortable and/or in danger of being hurt they need to say No and go and tell the closest adult that they can find.  Check First replaces the "Stranger Danger" rule by teaching children to always check first with an adult before going anywhere or changing their plans.  Lastly, the Buddy System reminds students to always take a buddy with them when they are going anywhere.

All of the rules empower the students to speak up and get an adult to make these important decisions.  After we discuss the rules together as a class the students are given the opportunity to decide what safety rule to use when given certain scenarios.  This allows them to put their knowledge into practice in situations that may come up.  Some of the scenarios include; if an adult you don't know asks for help in finding their missing cat what would you do? If the doorbell rings and your family is busy what do you do?  If you want to get a drink when you are watching a movie at the movie theater what do you do?  When the students are able to figure out what to do in a real life situation that knowledge is powerful and makes them feel safer.

We also spend some time on 911 and when that number should be used, store/community strategies to use when you are lost (always stay in the store you last saw the adult you were with, ask for help from an employee when you are lost), and we briefly go over the important information that they should know such as home or cell phone number, street address and the first names of the students parent/guardian.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Anger management lesson

In all of the classrooms I do a lesson on anger management.  I focus on having the students come to realize what their anger "buttons" or triggers are, how their body feels when they are angry and various relaxation strategies to utilize.  Often I read children's literature to help the students relate to the characters and to show them that being angry is a very natural emotion.  I stress that they can learn how to control their anger so that it doesn't boil over and lead to making poor choices.  It's important for students to realize what makes them angry so that they are aware of these triggers and then they are better able to calm themselves down.

In the classrooms we practice many various deep breathing exercises, movement activities that lead to relaxation, thinking happy thoughts/places that are calming, and counting backwards.  The students also brainstorm what works for them to calm down - exercising, reading, being alone, having a snack, singing/listening to music, writing or drawing.  It helps the students to hear what helps others because then they can possibly incorporate those ideas into their own lives.

If you are looking for some good children's books that address anger I would recommend; When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Spelman, Howard B. Wigglebottom learns to back away by Howard Binkow, Danny the Angry Lion by Dorothea Lachner, and When Sophie gets Angry, Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friendshape lesson by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

In 1st grade the classrooms did problem-solving activities where they were asked to solve a given problem by coming up with as many different solutions as they could.  For every solution they were asked if it was safe, fair, and how people would feel.  This allowed them to determine if it was a good solution that might work or a solution that shouldn’t even be attempted.  At this stage, children need adult support to help them choose and use solutions.  The students will continue to work on problem solving skills in order to help them internalize how to solve their own difficulties as they grow older. 

This week the student’s in 2nd grade discussed friendship and the qualities that are important in a friendship.  They listened to the story Friendshape by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  This story utilizes basic shapes to illustrate what the great things about friendship are such as; making you feel happy, playing fair, being welcoming and understanding and filling our lives with joy.  After the students listened to the story they illustrated their own picture with three basic shapes – triangle, square and circle – showing what they like to do with their friends.  They enjoyed manipulating their shapes into various designs to depict the positive nature of friendship. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Getting to know your classmates

Last week I talked with the 3rd grade students about the importance of recognizing the unique qualities that they each possess.  These qualities shape them into who they are right now as friends and classmates.  The students took time to think about the things that they enjoy doing, family traditions, sports, vacations, favorites (food, color, place, etc) and personality characteristics that make them unique.  Once they had written these things down I read them aloud and the students needed to guess which classmate it was.  Almost all of the students were guessed correctly on the first try - it was so amazing to see how connected they were to each other and to see how gratifying it was to the student when they guessed their name correctly.  

Classroom community is important to the students for so many reasons.  In true communities of learners a support system is built in which we can share not only tragedies, but triumphs, and bits of joy or fun from daily life.  From within that context, the emotional environment, we are safe to take risks, to grow, and develop into our true selves.  A successful classroom community promotes positive social skills and academic achievement.  Children learn best when they feel they are part of a community, where everyone feels accepted and where individuality is encouraged.  I think we took a step in the right direction by celebrating the uniqueness of each student and how well they then fit together as a 3rd grade classroom of learners.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trust and Cause/Effect lessons

In first grade the weeks lesson focused on trust.  The importance of identifying individuals that they trust who they could talk to when they are having a problem or a bad day was the primary focus of this lesson.  Students first globally brainstormed all of the people at home, in the school and in the community who they may have a trusting relationship.  They then identified the three people in their own lives that they feel they have a trusting relationship with and they illustrated their own trust tree with those three individuals.  It is important for all students to understand that adults and peers are there for them when they need them and to stress how important it is to talk to someone when you are struggling with a bad day.  This is the first step for students to begin to get support with and internalize their own problem solving strategies to use when they are needed.

This week the second grade students all had a lesson that focused on cause and effect.  Kim Emerson, the art teacher, and I went over many examples both positive and negative regarding how our actions have "ripple effects".  We illustrated how every action is like a rock being dropped into water and every effect is like the ripples that we see in the water.  Oftentimes students don't think before they say or do things, thus not thinking about the effects that they have on themselves and others.  After the lesson, each student was given three circles of graduating size that they need to use to illustrate a cause and effect situation.  It was impressive to see all of the examples that the students were able to generate on their own.  The students cause and effect examples varied from someone hitting them, helping their parents, giving flowers to a friend, to helping classmates with their schoolwork.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Classroom Feelings Lessons

I'm excited to make my first blog post of the school year!  I have been privileged to have completed two lessons in each classroom.  It has been wonderful to get back in the classrooms after the summer break and get to know all of the new students and became reacquainted with all of the familiar faces. In all of the classrooms, the students have been learning about feelings.  We have spent time naming feelings, practicing what various feelings look like on our face and talking about how the different feelings make us feel inside.  In Kindergarten I read a brand new book entitled, In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek.  This story is a great way to introduce feelings to young children and the illustrations are beautiful.  The book starts with these words:

"Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.
I smile from ear to ear and twirl around so fast,
I feel as if I could take off into the sky.
This is when my heart is happy."

Happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness . . . our hearts can feel so many feelings! Some make us feel as light as a balloon, others as heavy as an elephant. In My Heart explores a full range of emotions, describing how children feel physically, inside. With language that is lyrical but also direct, all children will be empowered by this new vocabulary and it helps them better be able to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions. After I read the story to the students they each had a chance to express the feeling that they were having in their heart at that moment in time.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Disney/Pixar's upcoming movie Inside Out

Disney/Pixar has a new masterpiece that opens on June 19th and the movie focuses on our emotions.  The story is based on a little girl named Riley, "Growing up can be a bumpy road, and that is no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when he father finds a new job in San Francisco.  Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness.  The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life.  As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters.  Although Joy, Riley's main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school."

Any movie that helps adults and children overcome their fears and handle their anger and sadness is a must see in my opinion.  Have a wonderful summer and I'll see you at the movies!
Image result for inside out


Sunday, June 7, 2015

June is National Safety Month

With summer vacation right around the corner I thought it would be timely to write about some summer safety tips for your children.

  • Beat the Heat

    ​Whether you’re working or playing outside in the summer, anybody not accustomed to the heat is at risk for a heat-related illness. Take steps to protect yourself:
    Wear appropriate clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat
    Take frequent water breaks
    Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15
    Never leave kids or pets unattended in a vehicle

    • Water Safety

      More than one in five drowning victims are children 14-years-old and younger, and most incidents happen when a child falls into a pool or is left alone in the bathtub. Keep your kids safe in the water:
      Enroll children over the age of three in swimming lessons

      • Don't rely on lifeguards to watch over your children
      • Never leave your child unattended


      Bike Safety

      Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet

      Adjust your bicycle to fit

      Check your equipment (brakes and tires especially)

      See and be seen - always wear something that reflects the light to make sure drivers can see you


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Anxiety disorders

I have a few posts regarding anxiety, mainly due to it's prevalence in our society.  Thankfully, anxiety is one of the most treatable psychological disorders in children.  With talk therapy and medication, research has found that nearly 80 percent of children can control their anxiety and live a happy life.  Below are the most prevalent anxiety disorders - most anxious children have a combination of the following conditions.

*Generalized anxiety disorder:  An excessive worry about things that are out of a child's control and a tendency to always imagine the worst case scenario or worry about adult issues.

*Social Anxiety:  A child's fear of meeting or talking to people, along with a worry that they will be teased or humiliated and that everyone is judging their every move.

*Selective mutism:  A condition where a child who talks easily with family and friends gets so anxious in front of teachers, authority figures, and even peers that they freeze up and can't speak at all.

*Separation anxiety:  A constant, debilitating fear of being separated from one's parents or that harm will come to them, at a level that is inappropriate for a child's age.

*Obsessive-compulsive disorder - A need for ritual or compulsive behavior, like washing or counting, to relieve anxiety about a fear or intrusive thoughts about upsetting topics.

*Phobia - An illogical all-consuming fear such as dogs, vomiting, insects etc.

Source:  Parent's Magazine

Monday, May 25, 2015

Classroom Placement

Classroom placement is a process that is child centered and takes teachers and staff many hours of careful thought and consideration.  We look at gender, learning abilities, peer combinations (both positive and non-constructive) and form equitable classroom communities that ensure both social and academic development for all children.  When making classroom placements we always consider the individual child while recognizing that each child is also part of a complex equation.  Once the classroom communities have been formed the movement of one child from the group damages the integrity of the group and causes a chain reaction within the classroom balance.  Rest assured that all of our teachers and staff have the skills to help children adjust to their new learning environment. Many parents have questions over the years regarding our placement process so I thought it would be helpful to address some of the more common questions that I have been asked over the years.

Can I ask for a particular teacher for my child?

We respectfully ask that parents not ask for a particular teacher for their child.  Doing so is very awkward for the teacher and it is very difficult to successfully build the most productive, balanced class groups on the basis of parent requests.  The teachers spend many hours thinking about the best learning environment for all students and we ask that you trust our process.  Thank you for your cooperation.

I would like my child’s best friend placed with them in their classroom – is this a request I can make? How do I communicate that?

Parents are welcome to share with the classroom teacher and school counselor, names of friends that their child would like to be with in their classroom.  Please note that this will not ensure that the students will be placed together.  We find that children placed with their best friend often work and play exclusively with each other, and this does not promote the diverse social interactions we try to foster.  However, we also try to make sure every child has some “support” from other children in class placements.  We find, that young children change best friendships often, as parents well know. 

If my child is having difficulty getting along with a student can I request that they not be placed together?

If your child is having repeated difficulty with a student in his/her class, you will need to inform the teacher, counselor and the Principal so problem solving can take place.  Part of the school experience is to learn to function socially with all kinds of people, to prepare children for that reality in life.  Our placement process works hard at separating the most non-constructive relationships, as best we can. 

If my child is upset about their placement how do I best support them as a parent?

Occasionally children are upset with their class placement.  It is not uncommon for individuals to hear that a certain teacher is the best to have or to feel that one teacher has a reputation for being too strict – often these “reputations” are what leads to the child’s feelings.  It is critically important for you to know that students’ attitudes towards their teachers and school are highly influenced by the attitudes and strategies of their parents.  You can provide your child with a successful beginning of the year experience by responding to their classroom assignment with positive enthusiasm.  Through confidence in our children’s ability to deal with change and parent’s cooperation and trust, we can all work together to enhance personal development and provide a positive school climate for all. 

I hope that you found this Q & A helpful - it's hard to believe that the end of another school year is upon us!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spring - a time of transition

Spring and the impending end of the school year bring about a range of emotions for children.  The upcoming transitions for students and their families include; saying good-bye to teachers, the structure of a school day, and for some even a change in their school building.  The big question all parents ask is; how can we help support our children in a positive way to have a successful transition from one school year to the next?  The following are some thoughts on how to make that happen.

*Be supportive, optimistic and encouraging when your child finds out who their teacher and classmates are for the following school year. 

*Let your child know it is normal to feel apprehensive about the upcoming change. 

*Expect the transition to be successful.  But remember adjustments take time and can be overwhelming.  Your attitude can help your child – show you are confident in their ability to adjust well. 

*Invite your child to express their emotions and be respectful of their feelings – something that sounds minor to you could be major to your child.  Remember to use open-ended questions and listen carefully.

*Help your child explore ways to cope with concerns by being available for further discussion, problem-solving together and role-playing.  Be careful not to give advice unless your child asks for it – often they just need to be listened to. 

*Encourage your child to try new things and participate in after school activities or sports that interest them. 

*Continue to help support your child’s organizational skills and help them be responsible for bringing the items necessary for their day (homework, snack, notes) back and forth to school.  This helps your child feel prepared for their day and it reduces stress. 

*Attend the school transition/informational nights that are offered so that you are invested in the transition process. 

*Keep the days leading up to the transition as positive and stress free as possible.  Make sure you have everything you need ready ahead of time. 

*Lastly, encourage your child to have fun and reassure them that they are very capable of success and show them how much you believe in them.