Secrets for Preventing Behavior Issues in Preschool

Managing a classroom of 20+ preschoolers is not easy! If a “good day” is a day when no one gets hurt, and a day without tears seems all but impossible, you are not alone! Here are some ideas that will go a long way in preventing many behavior issues:

  • Take a look at how your room is set up– young children see large open spaces as an invitation to run. Move low shelves or other furniture to create cozy nooks, quiet work spaces and defined play areas like a block play or dramatic play space.
  • Create classroom rules and give daily reminders– A few positively stated rules can be extremely effective in guiding children’s behavior. Rules like “we are kind to our friends”, “we walk in the classroom” and “we are gentle with our materials”, give children specific behavior expectations and create a positive atmosphere. Make a visual poster reminding children of your rules and reinforce the rules daily through songs, conversations or simple reminders.
  • Get to know children as individuals– most behavior issues come from a child’s need to feel important, to feel included/accepted or to feel respected. If you make a point of spending a little one-on-one time with each child and teach and encourage children to practice social skills  and always treat children with respect, you will be creating a community where everyone feels important, included and respected.
  • Plan activities for different learning styles– we all learn in different ways, yet many traditional school activities are designed for children who learn through listening and writing. Activities that include movement, visual support, songs, teamwork, the natural world or personal reflection will give children with these strengths or learning styles a chance to shine.

With these basic guiding principles in place, you should notice big improvements in the behavior of the children in your class. Of course, some behavior issues require more specific interventions, but only about 10-15% of the children in a typical classroom will fall into this category. For these children, you may need to seek out the advice of others, including teacher mentors, consultants or other professionals.

For all kinds of activity ideas that are engaging to different learning styles or “intelligences” visit www.wowkits.com.

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More Law Enforcment Officers Stand Up for Preschool

A coalition of law enforcement officials across Illinois are urging their state’s lawmakers to invest in the state’s early childhood program. They are not alone. In Santa Fe, NM county sheriffs offered to cut their budgets if it meant putting more money into quality preschool programs. In Scranton, PA, a local police chief stated, “Making sure at-risk children have access to quality pre-kindergarten programs is one of the most important steps we can take to cut future crime by keeping kids from becoming criminals.” The sentiment is shared by members of the law enforcement community across the country. An article from Chicago’s Medill Reports explains why:

One study in the report followed two groups of at-risk 3- and 4-year-old students in Michigan starting in 1962. One group attended a high-quality preschool program and the other did not. The students who did not attend the school were five times more likely than the other students to be chronic offenders. By the age of 40, the people who had not attended the program were twice as likely to have been arrested for violent crimes.

Lawmakers and budget officers looking for a long term solution to state and local budget issues should give the idea of investing in preschool a serious look.

Raising Bilingual Children

As the world becomes more and more connected, the benefits of celebrating diversity are clear. Children who are exposed to different cultures, different experiences and different languages will be better prepared for whatever lies ahead. Whether or not a parent (or parents) come from another country, it is this line of thought that is leading more and more parents to become interested in raising bilingual children.

Today, parents who are native speakers of another language, often choose to maintain that language at home. They promote English language learning through school and other outside experiences. In addition, many native English speakers here in the US are choosing to send their children to bilingual schools or hire a bilingual caregiver that can provide an environment of immersion for their children in a second language.

Either approach can be very successful. They key is to be consistent. Young children are sponges for language and will have no problem navigating two (or more!) languages, as long as they have clear expectations of when,  where and with whom they will be speaking each language.

According to an article by Christina Bosemark, founder of the Multilingual Children’s Association, the two most popular methods for dual language learning are:

  • One person, one language- one parent might speak only English to a child, the other only Spanish (or French, Dutch, etc.). In the home both languages are spoken, but the child knows which language to expect from which parent and that remains consistent.
  • Minority Language at Home- in this situation, English is not spoken at home, the entire family speaks only French (or Japanese, Spanish, etc.). Children learn English through interactions and experiences in the community, including attending preschool or other care environments outside the home.

This article stresses that while these are the most popular methods for raising bilingual children, the are not the only methods. Every family needs to find the right fit for them.

People working to raise bilingual children see the advantages of knowing more than one language or culture, but often struggle against the concerns of others. According to Bosemark:

When your child isn’t speaking the community language on the same level as his or her monolingual peers (generally the ML@H child doesn’t reach parity with them until around 5 years of age), it’s difficult not to worry…Some parents fear that he will never learn the primary language, even though this really only occurs when children are isolated from the primary language within a minority speaking community.

Child care providers and parents can work together to ensure strong language development in both languages.

Tips for child care providers/teachers:

  • Help break the ice by encouraging social interactions between English speaking and non-English speaking children. Block play, water play group games and other similar joint experiences can build relationships in a way that doesn’t rely on spoken communication.
  • Build English language skills through songs with finger plays, repetitive text books and a lot of conversation (even if it’s very one-sided at first!)
  • Promote self-esteem by celebrating the child’s native language skills and culture.

Parents can help by:

  • Supporting a child’s efforts to build relationships. Arrange play dates with classmates or other experiences outside the home to encourage English language development.
  • Find books in the home/minority language or engage your child in conversations about the topics that are introduced at school. For example, if your child’s class is starting a unit on Dinosaurs, look for dinosaur books in Spanish (or whatever the home language might be). Talk about the materials or activities your child encounters at school so that the home language vocabulary continues to grow and flourish through the school experiences.

Most importantly, whichever path you choose, be consistent so that your child will know when, where and with whom to speak each language.

Onsite Child Care Boosts Worker Productivity

As a parent of young children, more often than not my schedule is dictated by my children’s schedules. I miss work when they have doctors appointments, when their school is closed, when they get sick. And I count myself lucky because both the school and child care provider are close by. Imagine all the time I’d loose if the work/school/childcare commute were longer!

Over the past 20 years a variety of research studies have shown a strong link between an employee’s productivity and their ability to meet the childcare needs of their family. A recent article in the Tallahassee Democrat highlights some interesting efforts that Florida is making to encourage childcare-business partnerships aiming to make on-site childcare more available.

According to the article, in 1996 the Florida Legislature enacted the Child Care Executive Partnership Program which provides funds to match employer contributions to their employees’ childcare expenses.

The Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend Region administers the program locally. Chris Duggan, the coalition’s CEO, explained that federal and state funding is matched with contributions from local governments, charitable foundations and participating businesses on a dollar-for-dollar basis to provide child-care services to participating families.

Affordability of quality child care is a big issue for working families and worker productivity is a big issue for employers. With this dollar-matching incentive program, Florida his helping to create a win-win situation for everyone. This program has enabled larger employers, as well as smaller employers clustered together in office parks, to partner with child care owners. The result is on-site child care programs that are very affordable and allow working parents to be close to their young children, alleviating stress, reducing absent time and increasing productivity. I think it’s a model worth exploring.

Tips to Encourage Parent Volunteers

When parents are involved in their child’s school, children benefit. We all know this, yet very few classrooms have parent volunteers. It’s true, today’s parents are busier than ever, but many parents are eager to get involved in their child’s classroom. They just don’t know how.

A recent article in Early Childhood News turns the table on the parent volunteer concept a little bit and emphasizes how much parent volunteers can help teachers:

Parental involvement through volunteer contributions, either physical or material, can lighten the teacher’s load significantly. And when the teacher has the support of the parents, she finds “her children” come to school better rested and with assignments completed.

The article goes on to lay out a strategy and tips for recruiting volunteers:

Step 1- Extend an invitation– let parents know how important classroom volunteers are. Assure them they are knowledgeable, their time is valued and their participation (at any level) will help the entire class. Give parents an easy way to let you know they are interested.

Step 2- Give parents ideas of some of the many ways they can help out, including:

  • Working with students (giving additional support to individuals, leading small groups, chaperoning field trips, reading to the class, leading games, helping at a party, etc.)
  • Working with the teacher (making copies, putting together packets, displaying student artwork or projects, collecting recyclables for projects, planning special events, proofing the newsletter, etc.)
  • Other- get creative! Some parents might have special expertise to share. A volunteer firefighter parent could come speak with the kids, a handy parent could help put together a bookshelf or fix a sink, an organized parent could help organize your classroom, parents with many social connections can help you find donations or community resources to fit your needs)

Step 3- Treat parents like serious volunteers– set expectations, orient them to the school if necessary and give parents the information theyneed to get the job done.

Step 4- Get feedback– touch base with your parent volunteers periodically. Thank them often and ask them how things are going. Get suggestions for improving the volunteer experience and use the feedback to improve the volunteer experience in the future.

Teachers are notoriously overworked, and to many, the idea of bringing in parent volunteers can seem like one more burden. But parent volunteers can really ease your workload, as well as improve the school experience for children. Don’t sell yourself or your classroom short. Try bringing in parent volunteers!

Child Care Centers Have Unexpected Payoff for Families

A recent study out of the University of Chicago shows that child care centers offer more than just child care to families, they offer an opportunity to meet other parents and build “social capital”. This can have a profound effect on the health and well-being of parents and children.

Media-Newswire.com had recent article on the work of Mario Small, Professor in Sociology at the University of Chicago and author of Unanticipated Gains: Origins of Network Inequality in Everyday Life, states:

Mothers particularly build up their network, or social capital, in a variety of ways. By working together on fundraising activities or taking field trips, they meet others who can provide helpful advice about a child’s health, or help care for a child when parents have an emergency.

According to the study, child care centers with strict drop-off and pick-up times do an even better job of connecting parents because they are more likely to congregate and chat at those times.

Centers also do a great job of helping parents navegate difficult issues in child-rearing, connecting parents with appropriate local agencies, current information and other resources.

What can your program do to help parents connect with one another?

  • Invite parents to participate in special events, field trips, etc.
  • Host a parent social, an evening event designed to welcome families and help parents meet one another.
  • Have a community events board where parents and other local organizations can post information and upcomming family events.
  • Introduce the parents of children who enjoy one another’s company.
  • Provide a contact sheet for parents in your program. Include children’s names, the name of their parent(s) and contact information. Make sure you get permission to give out personal information like phone numbers and mailing addresses.

Keep Your Program Financially Healthy

Scanning news sources for issues in early childhood I came across article after article talking about the recent closing of a child care facility and the impact it had on children, families and employers. This is happening across all 50 states, affecting families of all socioeconomic backgrounds and companies of all sizes.

A recent article in Child Care Information Exchange identifies six warning signs of poor financial health and gives tips for addressing each. They include:

  • Payments of families’ fees are past due.
  • Enrollment is below capacity.
  • Reporting deadlines are not met for requests for reimbursement.
  • Fundraisers cost more than they earn.
  • Bills are not paid on time.
  • Bookkeeping uses too much of the director’s time.

If any of these red flags describe your program, give this article a read.

Times are tough for everyone and financial difficulties are hard to avoid, but as the article identifies, poor financial health has a negative effect on the quality of care children receive, even if the facility manages to stay open. We owe it to our families and ourselves to roll up our sleeves, ask for help when necessary and take care of our finances.