A Helper I Will Be

A Helper I Will Be!

It’s good to be back at the website after taking a few months to enjoy family visits and travel. And, to do some much needed organizing in my home. With the grandchildren growing in many ways, the toys and activities we have accumulated in our home needed attention. When I was teaching preschool, we always talked about having a “system” in the classroom for “pick-up time.” This is true for the children in our homes as well. The system doesn’t have to be fancy and should not be complicated (frustrating), but it needs to be a system your child can understand and can be successful when it comes to putting things away.

Young children begin to feel pleasure and satisfaction when helping or completing a task of cleaning up after themselves – they have a sense of pride.  We can foster their pride.

When creating a system, remember:

In the beginning, keep it simple and always developmentally appropriate.

Sorting toys by color, sets, theme, used most often

Keeping in mind – independent accessibility, items needing supervision or assistance

As your child grows, he/she can help create or modify the system, thus incorporating ownership into the process.

Start by sorting the toys:

“still plays with”

“pieces are missing”

“it is time to find them a new home”

“store away, save for a rainy day, we’ll try again in a few months”

I am a true believer in rotating toys. If something seems to have lost its appeal, sometimes it is the best thing ever when it makes a returns in a few weeks.

When pieces are missing, don’t be too hasty to toss them out. Designate a container to hold missing pieces until they can be reunited.

This is an example of one system I use:

Take and print photos of individual toys and sets.

Attach the photo to the designated container or shelf to return the toys at “clean-up time” – or cut out a picture of the toy from the box, container or magazine page

To help in locating larger toy sets stored out of sight, attach a picture to the storage tub, basket or box.  

Insert photo in a bargain $1 photo album (remove album page and attach tape, Velcro dots or strips, 3M hooks) and place “photo label” in your desired location. As toys change and rotate, remove the photo and add the photo of the next toy. For older children, add the name of the toy (puzzle, trucks, balls, dinosaurs) providing early literacy development.



Learning the system will take time, practice and patience.

Children want to please and they are very proud of learning new things.

Introduce your child to the system pointing out the various containers, labels and locations.

Point out the photo of the toy in the tub or on the shelf

Practice picking up toys together. Ask the child to start with the red toys first or the trucks or the books.

Sing a song during pick up time

Be willing to make modifications to the system to help children succeed.

Everyone’s tolerance for clutter varies. Yours may not be the same as your child’s, but you know your child best. Monitor your childs play. Request some toys be put away before getting more toys out. Eventually the child will begin to self-regulate and tidy up as they play.

Children enjoy being a “helper” and “pick up time” is another opportunity to learn important life application skills.

I would enjoy hearing your ideas. I hope you will share them with us here.








I know you’re feeling blue.


I wish it wasn’t true.


You have better things to do.


Wish I could just make it shoo.


I’d send it to timbuktu.


Here’s a tissue.


Poor you.


Boohoo. The flu.


Bless you.

Give and Share with Love

For my husband and I, it is very important to be actively involved in all our grandchildren’s lives. Some of our grandchildren live 15 minutes away, while others live 9 hours away. We enjoy hearing about their school and sports activities, milestones and achievements. We are concerned when they are ill and we rejoice when they are well. We hope we can offer encouragement and guidance when needed. Most of all, we hope our grandchildren feel the love we give them and that we are making lasting memories to share or a lifetime.

Last week, I sent a letter attached to a cardboard box and proposed an activity for all of us to do together. Included with the letter was a picture grocery list of non-perishable food items.

The letter read:

You might be wondering why Granddad and I sent you a brown box.

Let us explain.  We get to do something TOGETHER – and Mommy and Daddy get to help us.

Thanksgiving is coming soon.  Thanksgiving is different than most days.  School is closed.  Your Mommy and Daddy will not go to work. Families and friends get together to make and share delicious food at a special meal. And, families and friends will give thanks for each other. Granddad and Me love you and give thanks for you every day. We call it being blessed and thankful.

You are blessed in many ways:

            You have lots of people who love you.

            You have lots of people who keep you safe.

            You have a home to play and sleep.

     You have food to eat when you are hungry.

Sadly, there are people including children who do not always have food to eat when they are hungry.

There is something we can do TOGETHER to help them. Would you like to help?

Thank you. We knew you would say yes.  We want to help, too.

In the envelope is a shopping list.  Mommy and Daddy will take you to the grocery store to get the food on the list.  You can circle or X the food as you put them in the BOX.  We’re going to go to the grocery store, too.  We’re going to buy the same kind of food and put in our own box.

Then, we are going to take the food in the box and give it away.  Mommy and Daddy can help you decide where to take the food.  You might have free food box locations in your neighborhood, or a place called a food pantrywhere people who are hungry can go to get the food or you can bring your box to Arkansas and we can give away the boxes of food together.

We can sharewith people who need food. We have much to share.

We can show people we care about them and don’t want them to be hungry. That’s called compassion.

You can use the colored paper to trace your hands, cut them out and write on them:

I am thankful for YOU!

(We know God made everyone and we are thankful.)

Put your paper hands in your box to give with the food.

Granddad and I are sending our paper hands to you to remind you we are thankful for both of you.

Granddad and I are proud of you for helping. We look forward to seeing you soon.


For me, this is more than just an exercise or one additional thing to do during this busy time of year. It’s modeling the behavior of caring for others while planting the seeds of compassion to grow and show love for others.

Below are some additional tips and suggestions if you would like to create a “Give and Share” experience.

  • For my grandchildren who live near us, I personally delivered the package.


  • I would suggest for older children, having them save money to purchase food items.


  • I sent pictures to my grandchildren of me and my husband purchasing the same food items in our local grocery store.


  • I requested pictures of my grandchildren on their shopping trip. I will make them a “Give and Share” picture book for a lasting memory and REMINDER.








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



 10 Things Every Parent Should know About Playby Laurel Bongiorno


Learning Through Play by Shelley Butler



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.