Back to School for Parents

Back to school can be an exciting time for parents! After busy summers of mom camps, dad camps, crafts, park play dates, swimming, and adventuring it could be a relief to get back to the school year routine. 

We have some great tips and reminders to help parents ease back into the school year and help develop a great partnership with your child’s teacher. 

Respect boundaries of the classroom. It is important to learn what rules your child’s teacher sets up to help run a smooth class. Each teacher has their own rules routines and procedures, and the ones that applied last year might not be the same this year. This could include how to set up conferences, volunteering, email, pick up and drop off. Some routines and procedures are school wide, some are grade level, and others are individual teacher’s.  While we are sure that most teachers (unless it is not allowed at their school) welcome parents to volunteer to be part of the classroom community, it’s important to follow protocol. It can be disruptive to the lessons and work being done in the classroom to have parents dropping in every morning or during unplanned times throughout the day without having prior knowledge of it. 

We would like to pay special attention to the fact that it is so incredibly important for the development of your child to have their own space and place. Children as young as kindergarten can and should walk into their classrooms independently while carrying their own supplies. The sense of responsibility that they gain from this small act alone is HUGE. If you are itching to get into the classroom, find out the appropriate volunteer times and sign up or email the teacher to ask when the best time to stop by and look at the projects or bulletin boards would be.

Find out the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher and follow that. Many times teachers are juggling many things at once and if a parent has “one quick thing” to tell you right as you are greeting your students, teaching a lesson, or supervising children at dismissal, it can be very overwhelming. Teachers always want to give parents their full attention and when kids are present, they are our top priority. It is always best to find out the best way to communicate and follow that protocol. Typically it is sending an email, or setting up a meeting if you have something you want to discuss. Finally, remember that teachers are usually teaching or preparing to teach all day, they often do not have the luxury of time to respond to emails immediately, so try to give them at least 24 hours to respond to you.

Hold your child accountable for remembering homework, sweatshirts, lunches, and projects. Do your best to not jump in and save them everytime they forget something. Children will learn more from the natural consequences of forgetting something, than they will if you bring what they have forgotten to them. It will give you some relief too, to know that you aren’t responsible for midday drop offs to your child. Of course if it is an emergency, it is completely understandable, but it should be the exception, not the rule. The learning experience of forgetting something and not having it, holds a lot more value. 

Let your child experience discomfort when they make a mistake at school. If your child does something that is out of character, try your best not to make excuses for them. Hold them responsible for the mistake and move on. Making an excuse for your child will not help them learn, it will help justify their actions. Every child makes mistakes. It is a healthy part of development. We always tell parents that school is not just a place to learn math, reading, and writing. School is where children learn how to be members of society. If your child never learns about consequences and accountability, it could create bigger problems later. The most important part about making mistakes is how it is dealt with after the fact. 

We hope that the transition from summer into a new school year is a smooth one for both you and your child. However if it isn’t, remember that children need to experience discomfort in order to learn how to deal with things that will come up in their life. Talking to your child’s teacher to come up with a plan for your child will help everyone be on the same page and help your child transition into a new school year. 

Educational Games for Kids

Summer vacation is winding down and it seems that back to school is seen on the horizon. However, we know that for some there are still a few more weeks of summer break left. 

With these long days of summer still upon us, we understand that children might need some extra activities or things to play with. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Research demonstrates that developmentally appropriate play with parents and peers is a singular opportunity to promote the social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain.”

Play is a fundamental aspect of learning for children. There are a lot of options for toys and games that are available for children today. In our classrooms, we have educational toys and games that our students absolutely adore playing with during free time. And we believe it is important to schedule in free play for kids. This is a great time to allow for choices on what games they are interested in. Games are good for imaginative play, reviewing concepts taught, pre-teaching, practicing skills  . . . and for FUN. 

Below are some educational toys that we recommend for children to play with. Many of these games we have or would love to have in our classrooms.

  1. Video Game Creation Kit
  2. Cardboard Tool Kit 
  3. Build Your Own Marble Coaster
  4. Botany Experimental Green-House
  5. Osmo- Genius Kit for iPad
  6. Osmo- Pizza Co. Game
  7. IQ Builder- STEM
  8. Zingo Sight Words Early Reading Game
  9. Money Bags Coin Value Game
  10. Squishy Human Body Anatomy Kit
  11. Magna Tiles- House
  12. Playstix
  13. Plank Set
  14. Brain Blox
  15. Straw Constructor

Games and play are essential for development. It is important to make time for play at home and in the classroom. At times we may prioritize more structured learning, but as we love to bring up, it is all about balance. This type of development is just as important! 

Check out this resource we found on The Power of Play

Got game recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!

Summer Cooking with Kids

Summer days are some of the most wonderful days of the year. Parents and children alike are not stressed about school, projects, homework, or getting to after school activities on time. Summer days run on their own time, and we tend to have more time to sit and eat with our families. Whether it is watermelon, berries, or a cooling ice cream, we have time to stop and enjoy it.

As we wrote a few weeks ago, learning can be incorporated through a variety of summer activities. This week, we thought we would write about food. More specifically, healthy food activities that you can do with your children during summer.

We often write about balance because we believe we all need it. Food plays an important part in our lives, teaching and modeling balance when it comes to food will help children develop healthy habits. While we LOVE treats, we need to balance that with nutritious and healthy foods too. We can’t eat pizza and ice cream for lunch everyday. Modeling healthy eating habits for children will expose them to foods that they will learn to love. 

During the summer you can take your child to a farmers market. There they can explore and sample summer fruits and veggies. They can talk to vendors about how these crops grow, and they can practice counting money to pay for their selections. This simple activity incorporates conversation skills, science, and math, all the while you are spending quality time with your child and buying healthy foods to prepare together.

The lessons can continue at home as you prepare healthy delicious recipes with your child. After preparation, it is also important to take the time to sit down to dinner together. While we understand that during the school year, it isn’t always possible, the simple act of sitting together and talking with each other is important for development.  

Research has found that families that consistently have meals together have children that do better in school, and develop positive behavior patterns. Family meal time is a great time for children to develop narrative and explanatory talk and learn how to take turns during conversation. Along with developing language skills, if families regularly eat together at home, it helps promote healthy habits. They tend to consume more fruits and vegetables when they aren’t eating on the go. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that by 1 year of age, children can and should be eating meals with the family and following the same diet. There might be small modifications like cutting up foods from the parents plate so the child can handle it. 

Some of our favorite kid friendly summer recipes are:

Also you can check out this Farmers Market Bingo for some farmers market fun!

What are some of your favorite food related activities to do with children?

Girl Empowerment

In our last post, we shared some of our favorite books that relate to inclusivity and equity. This week we wanted to include even more that relate specifically to girl empowerment. 

Giving young girls of all backgrounds mirrors to see themselves in the books they read is incredibly powerful and empowers them as they grow up.  We feel it will give them confidence to navigate and breakdown the inequities that are a part of society.

As educators and women, we feel that it is important to educate young girls (in age appropriate ways) on some of the things they will encounter in the world. Our hope is that through literature girls will gain the knowledge and tools to overcome adversity and change the systems that exclude people. 

Here are some of our favorite books to empower young girls:

Providing young girls with both fiction and non-fiction books that they can relate to can be such a powerful tool. When a girl can see herself in a story, it can change her life in a beautiful way. Now, more than ever, we need to empower our girls and let them know that they can fight for what they want.

Diverse Books

Last week we offered suggestions for summer reading for children of different ages. This week we wanted to continue our book talk by focusing on diverse and inclusive books for your child. As we wrote last week, summer break offers a nice time to explore and read books with children. 

Diverse books are important for children of all ages. “Multicultural literature serves as a powerful tool in enabling students to gain a better understanding of both their own culture and the cultures of others.” (The importance of multicultural literature

In our classrooms, we learn about and celebrate a variety of cultures, and we often find that our students are incredibly curious and so happy to learn about cultures from all over the world. 

Representation matters. This is especially true for children. When they see themselves in the books that they read, they understand that they matter too. When we see people like ourselves in the media, including in fiction, we get a glimpse of who we might become, and we feel validated. We can gain role models and inspiration through literature (Why Children’s Books that Teach Diversity are More Important than Ever). Reading more diverse books is a great way to open the world up for our children. 

“Multicultural literature can help students develop global awareness by introducing them to current cultural issues” (The importance of multicultural literature). Reading books with our children about things that are happening in the world with appropriate content  is good for them. Adults often think that children cannot handle or understand what is happening in our world, but from what we have seen with our students, they can and their thoughts on these matters are usually incredibly insightful.

In recent years, as more diverse books have been published, we have seen a shift in our classrooms toward more inclusivity and equity among our students. The more we read, talk about, and expose our children to inclusive and diverse books, the more this amazing and wonderful trend will continue to grow. 

Below are some recommendations of inclusive and diverse books for children:

What are some of your favorite books that relate to inclusivity and equity?

Summer Reading for Kids

When parents ask us, what students can be working on during the summer, our answer is always the same: READ, READ, READ! As we have said in previous posts summer should be relaxing and fun for kids. Summer offers a great opportunity to teach kids that reading can be relaxing and fun! You just have to find the right books that interest your child. Kids sometimes need help finding books that they enjoy. Once they find it, you will have trouble pulling them away.

Reading is the best thing for students. Vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension, and writing skills are all developed and strengthened the more a child reads. Our most curious students and the ones that seem to thrive academically are students who are avid readers. If you want to help your child academically, encouraging reading and helping them find books of interest would be the most helpful thing.

Summer vacation is the perfect time to practice reading with children and help them develop a love and curiosity for books. Below we have a list of books that are good for children of different ages. These recommendations are based on themes and trends that we have noticed in education and in our classroom.

Kindergarten:

First Grade:

Second Grade:

Third Grade:

Fourth Grade

Fifth Grade:

Reading can also be very social for your child. Some ideas would be taking a trip to the public library on a playdate, or even doing a book exchange with friends or neighbors. One thing to always remember is that reading should be treated as a privilege not a punishment. If your child isn’t enjoying it, don’t force it. Take some more time to try to find what books your child might be interested in reading for fun.

Shame, Judgement, and the Comparison Trap

If you haven’t heard of Brené Brown, google her (after you are done reading this of course). She is a shame researcher who has a famous TED talk, has written several books, and recently released a Netflix special. One of the things that she discusses is shame that parents experience. Parent shaming is a real thing and it has to stop. We see parent shaming online, we see it in our schools, we see it at the grocery store, we see it on planes, and we see it in restaurants. There are many parenting styles and you don’t have to agree with all of them, but can we stop judging each other for every little thing?

While we love to give advice and tips on specific areas of raising balanced children in the 21st century, we never want to come off like we are shaming people. Our main advice is always balance. Balance means you do what you can when you can. We find that along with shame are judgment and comparison.  Neither of these are good for your health or your family’s health.

Let’s start off by talking about judgement. It is easy to judge other people. Especially if you don’t know what their day has been like. If a child is throwing a tantrum in a store, most people will immediately judge the parent for it. However, we do not know what the situation is. Perhaps the child missed their nap, maybe they are sick, or just maybe they are a child with special needs. Kids also have a mind of their own and can sometimes be unpredictable. We do not know, so we must not judge.

Shaming a parent is when you put your judgment into action and decide you want to give a parent a look, a piece of your mind, make passive aggressive comments, or even talking behind their back. Your intention is to make them feel like they are doing a bad job, being a bad parent, or have something to be ashamed of.

Before judging a parent (or anyone really) ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I know them or their situation?
  • Am I trying to help them or shame them?
  • Does it affect me?
  • Do I have good intentions?

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

The other side of judgement and shame is comparing yourself to other people. In the age of social media, we are all bombarded on a daily basis by perfection. People most often will post and share the perfect moments in their lives. The idyllic family hike, the children baking, or siblings playing happily. What is not seen are the fights, the mess, the arguments and struggles that are a part of real life. And yet, the perfection is what we compare our lives to. We feel less than because our house is a mess, we aren’t hiking, and the cake is store bought.

If you are feeling less than, then perhaps take time away from social media. Take your family to the park to play, order a pizza and have a family night in, or have game night with your children. Remind yourself that “This too shall pass,” that the messy, crazy, and hard parts of parenting are only temporary, that no family is perfect, and that all of it is okay.

We as a society have to take the mantel for ending parent shaming and judgement. It is up to us to model for our children to respect and accept others.