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Welcome!

Welcome!  Glad you’re here. 

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Hello, my name is Susan (a.k.a. Me).  My husband and I live in Arkansas in the house we built together 25 years ago.  Our home is surrounded by mature trees that are home to a variety of creatures – deer, raccoons, foxes, rabbits, turtles, opossums, snakes, squirrels, owls and birds.  I enjoy sitting on our deck swing watching and listening.  This is where I do most of my writing. I am not a published author, yet, but I am hopeful.

So, why am I writing a blog? 

I want to be encouragement to families with young children sharing my practical experiences.  I hope to share child-friendly ideas, activities and opportunities with all who give their time to children.  We all know early literacy experiences are vital to a child’s development, so I hope to be contagious in sharing my love of children’s books and the important role reading aloud has in the development of a child’s imagination and self while supporting their development of reading and writing skills.

Children have always fascinated and inspired me.  Observing children and interacting with them (including our three grandchildren) continues to be part of my daily life.  It doesn’t get any better for me than spending time with a child, especially sharing a book together.  I enjoy seeing their expressions while they gaze at the pictures and hearing their comments after they have listened to the words.

“It is the talk that surrounds the storybook reading that gives it power, helping children to bridge what is in the story and their own lives.” International Reading Association (IRA) and NAEYC. 1998. Joint position statement. Learning to read and write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children. Washington, DC: NAEYC. Also available online at www.naeyc.org.

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Click to see Little Free Library Steward
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Susan has been a LFL steward since 2013.

My adventure into writing a children’s picture book began over a year ago (my desire began a long time ago).  Prior to my current “life” I was an early childhood educator (a.k.a. preschool teacher).  My formal teaching career began in 1987 in the preschool our three children attended.  During my career, I had the privilege to assist in the development and design of a new building for the school and serve as its director.  At the time of my retirement in May 2016, the facility was renamed the Susan B. Erickson Children’s Center.  I was humbled and honored, to say the least.    

With other volunteers, I work to recruit donors to the scholarship program for children in need to attend preschool at the Children’s Center (First Friends Preschool).

I’m working with a talented illustrator, Josh Wise, and excited to share some of his art here.  We look forward to opportunities to visit local classrooms or groups to discuss our book journey.   Click on “Contact Me”.

Why the name Me? 

While spending time with our first grandchild, I would ask if he needed help. (Example:  Would you like me to help you?)   Apparently, I asked this often.  He began calling me, Me. So, please, click on Contact Me.  I look forward to our time together sharing ideas and discussing topics related to young children.      

“Coming Soon” is a sneak peak of our book and its characters.  I love the world and adventures of Louis and Remy.  And, I hope you and your child will love it, too.

Thank you for visiting today.

Until next time,

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Children and Play

The subject of child care or preschool tends to come up around me. Families often ask me, Do you like the school? What does it cost? Is it part-time or full time? Those types of questions don’t cause me pause, but one question always does.  And, it’s this: Are they teaching anything?

Side note: I have wondered which emoji’s would best depict my initial reaction to this question.

How do I begin to answer that question? I devoted the greater part of my life to early childhood education (ECE). Each day I had the privilege to work with amazing individuals – early childhood professionals, knowledgeable in identifying the skills children demonstrated and trained to provide developmentally appropriate activities to promote more skills. Every part of everyday was a teaching moment. Even the unplanned events were transformed into learning experiences. (i.e. Signage being erected outside, an ant hill noticed on the way in from the playground, unexpected snowflakes falling outside, watching the delivery of new air conditioning units on the roof or a spider building a web in the window of the classroom).

Whether it be public or private, center-based, home-based, faith-based, full time or part time, qualitychild care provides developmentally appropriate instruction with intentionality and the flexibility to include “on-the-spot” experiences. There is a method to the madness, so to speak. Early childhood professionals offer a multitude of play-based learning experiences during the child’s day to “teach” young children life application skills, early academic skills and those very important social and emotional skills. The early childhood teacher knows these skills overlap and blend to develop the whole child.

Example: A child playing in the block center.

The general population may see a child stacking a plethora of shapes on top of each other. The trained eyes of an early childhood professional observes some of the following: Designing and building simple to complex structures. Spatial awareness. Discovering cause and effect (Yes, tumbling structures can cause meltdowns) and hypothesizing and predicting outcomes. Problem solving. Sorting blocks by size, color or shape. Counting blocks, dividing blocks and determining more or less. Working independently or cooperatively (May I play with you? -social skill – To hearing a possible response of no – emotional skill and self-regulation). Building vocabulary, making comparisons, creating patterns. Fine motor skills. Writing and early literacy skills. And, the list goes on! (Now, you know what I meant when I said where do I begin.)

Then, the early childhood professional asks themselves what materials can be added to expand (scaffold) the activity to areas of social studies, mathematical thinking, emergent literacy, science and technology, language, art and cognitive skills.  All this in the block center!

Early childhood professionals recognize valuable teaching moments in everyday activities such as:

  • independently hanging up or putting on a jacket
  • counting classmates to set a table with corresponding number of plates and cups
  • opening containers
  • washing and drying hands
  • filling a cup with water and carrying to the easel
  • asking for help or offering to help a classmate with a task (rather than the teacher)
  • participating in a group activity
  • working cooperatively to pick up and clean up

These activities develop the whole child and addresses many different subject areas.

Keep in mind, none of us were born knowing how to stand in a line or how to wait our turn.

And,good news! You are offering many similar experiences all the time! So, continue PLAYINGwith your child.

The next time you talk with someone about a child care program or visit a program, I encourage you to ask all kinds of questions including this:

 “How do you incorporate play into the child’s day?”

To learn more about the value of play and how you can add to your child’s play experiences, check out these articles:

The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children

Michael YogmanAndrew GarnerJeffrey HutchinsonKathy Hirsh-PasekRoberta Michnick GolinkoffCOMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTHCOUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA

 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/08/16/peds.2018-2058

 10 Things Every Parent Should know About Playby Laurel Bongiorno

  https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/10-things-every-parent-play

Learning Through Play by Shelley Butler

http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=591

 

The First Day and Many Feelings

Back to school time!

For many young children, it’s literally the FIRST DAY!

Whether it’s kindergarten, preschool or the first day of child care, young children can have many different feelings and emotions during this time.  Feelings they have never experienced before.  Feelings they cannot express with their words.  Emotions they do not understand.  Talking with young children about feelings will help them to express them and understand them. A great way to help children begin to learn about feelings and emotions is to read to them (or with them) and talk about the character’s feelings and their own feelings.

How do you think Emily Elizabeth feels when she misses Clifford? (Clifford the Big RedDog/Norman Bridwell) How do you feel when you miss someone?

How did Chrysanthemum feel about her name? (Chrysanthemum/Kevin Henkes) What did others say about her name and how did that make her feel? What feelings did Chrysanthemum have in this story?

What feelings did Froggy have on his first day of school? (Froggy Goes to School/Jonathan London)

Examples for talking about feelings:

How do you feel when . . .?

How does . . .make you feel?

Tell me how you are feeling.

When you scream, it makes me feel . . .

Create a ritual

Rituals help in making a moment feel normal and are comforting to young children.

A wonderful book to share with children is the Kissing Handby Audrey Penn.  The little raccoon is fearing his first day of school.  With a simple gesture, his mother helps her young one feel less scared. This gesture becomes an important ritual. Create your own.

Tell them what you know will happen when you get to school

Example:  I’ll walk you to the door of your classroom.  I’ll kiss you/hug you/wave good bye to you and you will go inside. You will be with your teacher and classmates/friends.  I will leave and go to work/home.  I (if not you, tell them who) will return at the end of the school day to get you. I will look forward to hearing about your day at school.

Be careful about making promises you cannot keep. ( ex: “You can keep your toy in the classroom.  You can wear your Superman cape all day. I’m sure Suzy will play with you.”)

 Talk about their feelings(and emotions)

In the book On Monday When It Rainedby Cherryl Kachenmeister the photographs capture the many faces of one young boy. The book is helpful in giving children words to describe their feelings.  It introduces words like proud, embarrassed, lonely and scared. While reading it, pause and ask your child to talk about a time they felt that way. Tell them a time you felt that way, too.

Practice social skills

Model and practice daily. Taking turns, cooperation, appropriate conflict resolution, listening, comforting others, communicating (use words not hands), follow the rules. Provide opportunities for young children to PLAY with peers and PRACTICE their social skills (rehearse real life situations).

 It’s important in the development of social and emotional skills for children to understand they have many feelings and emotions AND others have them, too.  Play and interaction with peers is required for young children to learn these skills and to become confident in using them. Observing our children and providing guidance is how we can help them develop life-long, positive social skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a Vacation Book

Last summer, my husband and I asked our oldest grandchild (who was 3.11 years old) to join us for our vacation week.  We had several ideas for things we wanted to do together, but the teacher in me wanted to do more.  I created an invitation in the form of a book.  Inside the cover was a story which included family photos, a stick puppet, and a handwritten note and a list of everything to pack.  The last few pages were left blank so photos and souvenirs could be added at the end of our adventures. As a teacher, my hope was the book would be a book he could “read” over and over again retelling the story. My hope as a grandparent was the book would become a “keeper” for years to come to remember this special time with his Granddad and Me.

 

 

Water Play Fun!

It’s mid-June and the heat may have forced some to stay indoors. Don’t live near a body of water or have a pool in the backyard or a splash park in the neighborhood? No problem! Children can enjoy fun and safe water play right at home. Here are a few ideas for staying cool (and little ones can practice and acquire new skills).

Sunscreen, bug repellent, hats, shade and lots of drinking water are required to keep outdoor play safe and fun for children.

Most important and a must have is adult supervision and interaction!

Provide small pools or tubs or buckets of water (for splashing feet and hands).  Add plastic cups, spoons, bowls, pitchers, sponges, basters, bath toys, small balls, funnels and nets (the list is endless). A word of caution with funnels – funnels turned up with the narrow see up could cause a hazard if a child set on it – please supervise the play). Using small spray bottles (strengthens fingers and hands) to mist outdoor plants and more!  Freeze reusable ice cubes and add to the fun (and refreshing) experience. Talk about science concepts (sink or float; predicting how long until the ice is melted). Inexpensive foam letters, numbers and shape cutouts provide opportunity to sort, count, scoop and identify. Counting how many scoops of water it takes to fill the bowl incorporates math concepts. Bathing appropriate dolls then towel drying and dressing are great fun (and all the while children are acquiring fine motor skills and strengthening hands/finger muscles). Add sidewalk art opportunities with water colors, chalk, brushes and buckets of water. Painting with just a brush and water is a fond childhood memory for Me. The “canvas” is endless. Simple sprinklers add to the fun, too. Inviting friends to join in the fun offers great opportunity to work on social/emotional skills (communicating, conversing, listening, sharing, taking turns, cooperating, seat-regulation, etc.). When it’s time to end the water play, model recycling by asking the children to use the tubs/pools of water to quench the thirst of the grass, shrubs and nearby trees (maybe even a bird bath).  Everyone will want to help “pick up and clean up” while singing a favorite song. Using clothes pins to attach wet articles are great tools for strengthening little fingers.

End this water experience with a favorite book and snack (probably followed by a much needed nap or quiet time!)

I know you have more fun water ideas.  Share them with Dear Me.IMG_9896IMG_9890IMG_8925IMG_9860IMG_5844IMG_9942

 

Planting Character and Reaping the Rewards

How often do we see someone on television give a shout out to their mother (or father)? Some hold up signs at sporting events, others mouth “Hi, Mom” into cameras or form a heart shape with their fingers and hands saying “love you, Dad”. It always makes me smile when I see this because I imagine somewhere moms and dads are grinning ear to ear and feeling loved.

I am daughter number 4 of five girls. I think I can speak for each of my sisters when I say our mother and father loved us equally and it was never-ending. I have always said my mother set the bar pretty high for me as a mother not to mention as a grandmother. And, even though my father was quiet about his feelings with words, his actions were resounding!

In the children’s picture book, “You’re All My Favorites” by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram, the three little cubs are told by the Daddy and Mommy bears they are the best. The cubs begin to worry how they can all be the favorite cub. The Mommy and Daddy bears share how each cub is special and loved “just the same”.

Take a moment today. Talk with your mom. Talk with your dad. Some of us may only be able to take a trip down memory lane. Are there special people in your life who have been like a mother or a father? Maybe over the years there have been several people filling those roles.

Tell a child about this mother or this father. Share with them the qualities you feel make them so special. Talk about all kinds of traits (add to vocabulary).

Furthermore, model desirable traits. Read books and talk about the traits of the characters. Ask questions. Listen. Planting some “character” seeds in a child today, and cultivating regularly, give hope for one day reaping the rewards.

 

Taking a Color Walk

Spring has sprung

In my part of the world, this is a perfect time to take a color walk outdoors to discover the many shades of spring.  With younger children, enjoy a walk together pointing out the various colors and shades (light & dark) of the world surrounding them.  Here’s a no-prep activity to sharpen their concepts of colors while introducing new words to their vocabulary. This is a sensory adventure – seeing, feeling, touching and smelling.

Chart your path 

Preschool aged children will enjoy making a chart of the colors found on the color walk. How many red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, white, gray, black, and pink items they find.  Create a column (or box) for each color on a piece of paper and attach to a clipboard. When the walk is over, total each color.  Which color did you find most? Least? None? If you are taking the walk with more than one child, give each child a chart to record their findings.  Remind children to look up and down. High and low. Introduce new words and shades (light & dark) of colors, too. (Violet, periwinkle, cream, coral, gold, silver, olive, orchid, turquoise, ivory, lavender, etc.)

Photo journal your walk

Take pictures of the items found on your color walk to review later.  Print the pictures, if possible. Children can describe the adventure to others while recalling a fun color walk.

 

A Little Free Library

Recently, I added more used books to my “Little Free Library” at the end of our driveway. When I did, I noticed the book selection was dwindling, which made my heart happy. To know that my neighbors are borrowing books and sharing books is just a good feeling.  

As I was restocking, some of my neighbors out for a morning walk stopped to thank me for the library. They told me they use it frequently and have donated books, too.  One neighbor said she recently lost the ability to read books, but she enjoys audio books. What a great idea! I assured her going forward I will add audio books.

Do you have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? Click here to visit littlefreelibrary.org and search for a library near you. While visiting the site, you can also read about starting a Little Free Library in your neighborhood. You and your neighbors will be glad you did!

The Art of Making Friends

Do you remember your very first friendship?  Do you recall your journey to becoming a friend? When was it? How did it start? Where were you? What did you say or do?

I asked a young friend of mine how she makes friends at school. She told me she looks for classmates who have a “sad face” and then she asks them if they want to play with her at recess. She went on to say she has done this three times and now she has two best friends. The third, she told me, found other friends.  

Making friends comes early and easily for some children.  A child may feel confident in their own social/emotional skills to approach another child and begin a conversation or just join the child’s activity.  Some children take longer in reaching out for friendships beyond family. Observing others and interacting slowly is typical of many children. How and when children build friendships vary just as they do in learning to walk and talk.  

Some friendships are fleeting (playing for a few minutes on a playground with a child they just met) and others are based on interest at the moment (sitting down with a classmate who is interested in looking through a book that interests both of them).  And, then there are those “best friends” relationships built on trust, the joy of being together and the ability to be yourself without the fear of being judged.

One of life’s greatest joys is the comfortable give and take of a good friendship.  It’s a wonderful feeling not only to have a friend, but to know how to be a friend yourself.

Mister Fred Rogers

What can we do to help children develop friendships? Model positive social skills such as respect, kindness, cooperation as well as how to listen will help children form positive friendships (short or long). Observe children’s interactions and offer them guidance such as what to say, ask or do.  Remind children that just as they have feelings other have them, too. How do you think he/she feels when you take the toy away? How do you feel when he/she takes your toy away? What could you say to let him/her know you want to play?  Most importantly, remind children to be themselves!

Read books about friendships. All kinds of friendships. Talk about the problems the friends (characters) had in the story and how they solved them.  The list of children’s books describing friendships is practically endless. Here are a few of my favorites:

Forget Me Not (Friendship Blossoms)
by Michael Broad

Stellaluna
by Janell Cannon

Miss Tizzy
by Libba Moore Gray/Illustrated by Jada Rowland

Jessica
by Kevin Henkes

Having friends is important. How to be a friend is just as important. It’s a life skill we all get to learn.  So, be contagious, share your friend-making skills with a child today.

The Art of Making Memories

Recently, we made a trip to Austin, Texas to visit family which included two of our three
grandchildren. Our time together was short, but we packed as much as we could into the 40 hours (16 of those sleeping – recharging). Our activities included picking up children from school, a soccer game in the backyard, swinging, sharing pizza on the patio, a 4 year olds version of football, up the ladder and down the slide, watching the movie Ferdinand, one trip to Toys-R- Us, reading bedtime stories, cooking in the play kitchen, racing Hot Wheels cars and Tech Deck skateboards on the floor in the living room and at the same time shaping and mixing play-doh! In the midst of all that, we enjoyed a delicious brunch outdoors and made it into the city for a birthday dinner at a fine farm-to-table Austin restaurant.

After returning home to Arkansas, our son posted the following picture created by our
grandson (age 4).
A picture speaks a thousand words!
Enough said.

Until next time,
Dear Me

Got Tasks? Add a Little Helper

Our ordinary is their extraordinary! Everyday tasks are valuable and applicable life experiences for children.

Folding the bath towels, matching the socks, sorting the silverware, stacking the bowls, setting the table, pouring a glass of milk, taking out the trash, spreading peanut butter on a slice of bread are just a few everyday experiences young children can participate to learn valuable life skills and benefit their developing cognitive skills (maturing thought processes).

Children instinctively are curious about the routine tasks they observe us perform.  “Me do it” is a typical request of many toddlers. Preschool age children are anxious to “show off” the skills they are developing and well on the way to mastering.  Bonus: children are very eager to help!

Turn your ordinary task into extraordinary – just add a little helper!