5/21/2023 0 Comments
Children Need Unstructured Play
Our job is not to entertain our children. This took me so long to realize and even still there are days when I feel guilty if my daughter is bored or I haven’t set up some amazing activity for her. But there are so many benefits of unstructured play. Similarly, when I first began teaching my preschool classes I felt like every single minute needed to be scheduled for the children to get maximum benefit of their time with me. The result was a class of tired kids that no longer wanted to listen at the end of the day and an exhausted teacher…me.
Once I made the mindset shift that it was ok for the kids to have plenty of time for unstructured play in whatever way they wanted my classes had the feeling of ease and fun that I was longing for. Are the children still learning? Absolutely, in fact according to a Ted Talk by Dr. Peter Gray, play in childhood is nature’s means of ensuring that children acquire the necessary skills to develop successfully into adulthood.
Our day at preschool is set up in a way that meets each student individually. I no longer have a set
”learning time,” for the entire class instead while the children are freely playing I call them one at a time to work with me which gives me an opportunity to meet each child where they are at academically. The children have no problem stopping mid-play to have my focused attention during this time. In fact, they are usually asking who gets to go first before I am even done setting up. Perhaps it is because they know that they have PLENTY of time to play so they are not worried about that time being taken away from them which brings me back to my point. Their play time is never dictated by me. They have toys, they have costumes, we go outside, there are often things to paint or there is play dough out but I NEVER tell them what they need to be doing during this time. I realize in a larger class setting this may not be feasible but in my small specialty program it works really well. The children are more relaxed and open to learning, the most optimal time to create new pathways in the brain.
During this unstructured time I love seeing where the imaginations of the children take them. Some days they are in dance class, some days they have made a bake shop, and others they are simply working cooperatively on building a home out of blocks for the ponies. I can see creativity, problem solving, team work, social and emotional skills being developed and I watch their self-confidence grow. Unstructured play allows children the freedom to explore, create and discover without predetermined guidelines in place telling how or when to do something.
With people’s busy schedules and long days at formal school there has been a decline in unstructured play, yet more and more we are seeing a need for it. Lack of free play for children can inhibit social and emotional learning, making it harder for children to interact with others leading to anxiety, poor resilience, and reduced self-control. Dr. Peter Gray states that over the last 50 years we have seen a decrease in play and a rise in anxiety and depression in children, and increase in narcissism and a decrease in empathy. Even more unsettling is the statistic that suicide rates in children under the age of 15 have quadrupled with the decrease in play.
So what can we do to facilitate more play? Schedule it in. Resist the urge to squeeze in one more activity especially if your children are in school all day long. This is one of the main reasons we decided to homeschool our daughter. We found that with the long school days and the few extracurricular activities she had, it left very little time for play and to just be a kid. This is another topic entirely, perhaps for another blog at a later date. Regardless of whether your child is in preschool, formal grade school or homeschooled planning unstructured play in your family routine is important for our children’s well-being. Play should not be considered a luxury but a necessity for childhood development.
4/25/2023 0 Comments
Pom Pom Lauchers
We’ve all been there. Our child is about to engage is risky play and before we can even stop ourselves the words “be careful” fall out of our mouth. We might not think it is a big deal but the more we say these words to our children the more they begin to feel like we do not trust them to make good decisions and they begin to question themselves. It can be difficult as a parent to watch your child engage in risky play but if we want to keep our children safe we need to let them take risks.
Many experts agree that risky play, particularly outdoor risky play, helps build confident, resilient children. Risky play provides the foundation needed to regulate emotional responses such as fear, nervousness and anger. It gives children an opportunity to adapt to new situations and explore new environments while fostering a love of being active.
The elements of outdoor unstructured outdoor play are crucial to childhood development but unfortunately kids are exposed to this kind of play less and less. In her Ted Talk, Judy Klein explains that "Without free and risky play, kids’ sensory, motor and balance systems may not develop properly and they may not develop the confidence, resilience and problem-solving skills they need to thrive in their later years. The epidemic of anxiety in our adolescents, as well as extreme risk-taking in these vulnerable years, may also be related to the decline of risky outdoor play in early childhood."
So where can you start if you are not used to allowing your child engage in risky play? Get outside. Go on a nature walk with no agenda or end goal in mind. Allow you child explore, climb trees, balance on rocks and branches and resist the urge to tell them to be careful and try these phrases instead:
11/17/2022 0 Comments
Kid Safe "Thieves" Blend
Hello cold and flu season! Is it me or does it seem like it is back with vengeance this year?? I am certain we can use all the help we can get to try to avoid or at least shorten the duration of sickness.
If you are like me you may tend to reach for natural remedies first before resorting to medications and one of my favorite things is to use essential oils. I absolutely LOVE the smell and cinnamon so a “thieves” blend is one of my go tos for our diffusers during cold and flu season.
However, after having our daughter as I researched more I realized that certain essential oils may be unsafe for children less than six years of age. The traditional adult blend typically contains eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils that may have high amounts of cineole which can slow down breathing and create nervous system issues in young children. This led me to creating my own kid safe blend which we now prefer to use throughout our home.
Here is the recipe:
It is also important to make sure you are choosing high quality essential oils. Our favorite place to get our oils from is The Wellness Company they are tested 10x for purity and with an amazing price point!!
4/20/2022 1 Comment
Progress Over Perfection
The other day I made a reel on my Instagram about one phrase I never say to my daughter or my students and that phrase is “practice makes perfect.” What a terrible thing to say to someone. To allow a small person with such a malleable mind think that perfection is actually attainable. In my caption I said the phrase I choose instead is “practice makes better than yesterday” and I received some comments and messages afterwards saying what other people choose to say in their home is “practice makes progress” which I thought had a nicer flow to it. Regardless of what you choose to say in your home I wanted to elaborate on why I cringe when I hear the phrase “practice makes perfect.”
As someone who struggles with perfectionism I know how debilitating it can be. My own perfectionism stemmed from the need to control what was happening in my life as a child/teen and it progressed into a relentless beast in my mind resulting in shame and negative self-talk. NOTHING I did was ever good enough for me, I received a 4.0 GPA in university but I still could’ve done better. I would put unrealistic expectations on myself knowing that I could not meet them and then beat myself up because in my eyes I was a failure. To make matters worse when I was feeling poorly about myself I projected those feelings onto others, placing unrealistic expectations on those I cared about most and ultimately causing strain in those relationships. I never truly realized how much my perfectionism was effecting my life though until I had my daughter.
If you have ever had the experience of having a new baby you know that you are at the whim of this tiny human and in order to truly thrive you need to be able to accept and let go. I am sure you can tell by now I was not a “go with the flow” person. I felt like I had zero control over my life and to top it off I only took 3 weeks off of work before going back to teach thinking it would be “easy.” I would just baby wear and finish out the teaching year with no issues at all. I was wrong. Things were very difficult. I found myself crying before I had to teach. I had extreme incidents of rage, never toward Katie thankfully, but I was angry all the time. My poor husband (bless his soul) still chose to stand by me and he was the one that pulled me out of the darkness and got me onto this journey of self-love. I’ll be forever grateful for that because I know how difficult I made that for him but he never gave up on me.
Perfectionism, however, is so engrained in me that even though I am actively working on treating myself with more compassion and grace there are still times when it overwhelms me. I struggle with asking for help because I need to uphold this image of being perfect and having it all together. Recently I am noticing these traits in my daughter (who is now five), she was making a card for her cousin the other day and she got really upset because it wasn’t PERFECT. I do not expect perfection out of her. All I care about is that she tries her best and I am very careful with the words I use with her. The person I am not careful with though is myself and even when I choose to speak differently to her she is seeing how I speak to myself which makes it acceptable to speak that way to herself. I have realized that in order to assist in changing her expectations of herself I need to go first. Katie needs to see me give myself grace when I make a mistake, she needs to see me ask others for help AND accept it when it is offered. Are there going to be days when I screw up and get hard on myself because that is the habit I have created? ABSOLUTELY. But the more I am conscious of it and work to change this habit I can create new pathways in my brain. As I progress I find I can catch myself sooner and then choose a different response rather than choosing to react to the feeling that I NEED to be in control.
In a world where we are constantly comparing ourselves to others highlight reels on social media it can be easy to think that we are the only ones that do not have their shit together. This couldn’t be further from the truth. NO ONE IS PERFECT and it ok to be messy and make mistakes but it is how you treat yourself when you do make mistakes that is important. The feelings of guilt, shame and unworthiness will inevitably creep in from time to time but you can decide to respond differently by choosing love, grace, acceptance and forgiveness for yourself instead. You deserve your love and if you have children there is no greater thing you can teach them than self-love and respect. I believe the only way to do that is by doing it for yourself. The world would be a better place if we all loved OURSELVES more.
I don’t know about you but I am all about themed activities and Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to discuss kindness, love and friendship with our little people!! This month at the preschool our themes have been revolving around those topics with some Valentine’s art thrown in, of course!! Here are five activities to try with your child this month!
1. Make and hand out Valentines to the people in your neighborhood. There is no better way to teach kindness then doing acts of kindness! Your child will see how good it feels to spread joy and make someone else feel good!
2. Use the snow as your canvas. Last week I bought some spray bottles from the dollar store and filled them with one pump of washable paint and the rest water. The children absolutely loved painting the snow with beautiful Valentine’s colors!!
3. Make Valentine’s Cookies together. Among other reasons baking with your child is a great way to connect. It gives you the ability to have some uninterrupted time together while also creating a delicious treat for you to enjoy (and share with friends) afterwards. Here is one of our favorite sugar cookie recipes from Sally’s Baking Addiction and if you have not had a chance to read my previous blog about the benefits of baking with your child check it out HERE
4. Make a Valentine’s Day Busy Bin with Flower Petals and Water. For this activity I like to buy the flowers early and enjoy them for a week or more until they start to wilt then I take all the petals off, chop up the stems and throw it all in a big bin with some water and a few drops of red food coloring and some water beads if you have them. You can have small bowls or cups, scoops, child safety scissors and whatever else you can think of. I recommend setting up on the floor and putting a towel underneath so there isn’t a big puddle to clean up. These types of activities the children will honestly occupy themselves with for the full hour of creative time.
5. Make beautiful Valentine’s Day Art work! This activity is best explained by my newest Youtube video!! The children and I made lovely display worthy art to give to their parents for Valentine’s Day! We used a picture frame, paint, glue, glitter, jewels and beads, check out the video HERE for the tutorial.
Let me know if you try any of these activities! I’d love to hear from you!!
1/31/2022 0 Comments
4 Reasons to Cook With Your Children + Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe!!
Life can be hectic (especially as parent) and there are many instances when sometimes you need to quickly throw together a meal and your child’s help (or lack thereof) is the last thing you want. I personally need to do this quite often but I really relish the times when I do not need to rush and Katie and I can bake or cook something together.
I have been cooking with Katie since she was able to be in her kitchen helper stand. It started with her tossing ingredients I had pre-measured and set aside into the bowl and now at the age of 5 I am teaching her how to plan, measure and cut certain fruits and vegetables!
There are many benefits to cooking and baking with your children, here are my top 4.
1. Connection and Bonding – after a busy week it is really nice to spend some uninterrupted screen free time together creating a meal or baking treats for us to share. I get to witness her confidence as she becomes more capable in her cooking skills which give me an opportunity to praise her in a meaningful genuine way. One thing we like to do in our home is I’ll pull out a recipe book and ask Katie to choose something for us to make together. We plan the day we are going to make it and I will grab the ingredients we need when I get groceries that week. There is always such a huge sense if pride when she not only chooses what we are eating but she also helps me make it.
2. Teaches Planning and Sequencing – although some meals can be put together haphazardly (those can be a lot of fun) many meals and baking are best prepared in a specific order so they turn out just right. Children learn through cooking to follow directions, to plan and prepare and to do things in a specific order. This is a wonderful skill to practice in the early years in a safe and encouraging environment and it will set them up for success later in life.
3. Math Skills – Even your youngest chef can begin to learn early math skills when cooking. You can count how many eggs you need or how many pieces you had to cut something into. Measuring starts introducing fractions even before they fully understand what a fraction is!! When I used to work at the hospital I baked with the children once a week and I would often not set out measuring cups that I knew we needed in order for the children to try and figure out how use what we had to get the amount we needed. For example not supplying them with a full or half cup measuring cup but only a quarter and third. Granted I would not do this with preschool age children but you get the idea of how you can incorporate math skills for any age you are cooking with.
4. Works on Fine and Gross Motor Skills – The precision of cracking an egg or the larger motion of mashing the bananas for banana bread all works the muscles necessary for printing, throwing and catching etc. and although it is great to actually practice these skills it is nice to do something a little different that also works those muscles.
There are many more reasons to cook or bake with your children including the fact that you can enjoy what you made together once it is finished, those are just my top 4. I encourage you to plan something you can make with your child this week, if you are looking for an idea our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is below and make sure to check out our YouTube video of us making them as well!!
Katie’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
1. Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit
2. With a hand blender or stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter in a large bowl
3. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well
4. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and whisk to mix.
5. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until combined.
6. Add chocolate chips and mix well with a spoon to incorporate them into the batter
7. Spoon cookie dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. We usually use a heaping teaspoon to measure out our cookies.
8. Bake for 9-11 minutes
Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan and ENJOY!!
1/26/2022 0 Comments
How to Reduce Toxins in Your Home
If you were like me when the pandemic first started you probably stocked up on disinfectants for your home! Because my teaching studio is in my home I was extra particular about making sure it was clean and safe, not only for my family but my students. After a few weeks of constantly disinfecting I began to notice that my skin why dry and chapped and I was dealing with constant headaches from the fumes which lead to be to begin looking for safe yet effective alternatives.
An article released by the American Lung Association states that many cleaning products contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are released when used and contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches. Studies have also shown that cleaning your home with products that contain these compounds as little as ONCE per week can be as damaging to the lungs as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years!!
Cleaning supplies and household products containing VOCs and other toxic substances can include, but are not limited to:
Many of the same products on this list also contribute to skin irritations and can cause you to break out in a rash such as eczema. Once the skin’s barrier is broken this can lead to bacteria getting into the wounds and cause infection or other problems.
So where can you start when you want to remove toxins from your home? If you are like many people you may not be able to afford throwing out all your cleaning and personal care products to be replaced with safer products, like me you may need to convert your home to safer products over time. Not to mention that many safer products can be ineffective and cost way more.
My search for safer products lead me to The Wellness Store which is where we now get all of our cleaning, laundry and personal care items from. We slowly began converting our home starting with the cleaning products followed shortly after with our personal care products. I was blown away with how safe and effective the cleaning products are while also being environmentally friendly (big bonus for me!!) and affordable! I no longer get headaches while I am cleaning and no one in our family has had an eczema flare up in over a year which is proof enough for me that I made the right decision for my family to switch to safer products.
Whatever products you choose to make the switch to know that you are helping your family in a way that is invaluable. We come in contact with so many toxins throughout our day when we leave our homes reducing the toxic load in within our homes is so important to our well-being.
There are many great options but if you want to skip the research and learn why I chose The Wellness Store Click HERE.
Let’s face it, with the recent world events the grocery bill has definitely increased and there is no sign of it going back down anytime soon. It can be really difficult to stay on budget these days during your weekly grocery shop, especially if you want to make healthy food choices for your family. Here are three ways our family stays on budget while still maintaining our healthy eating habits.
1. PLAN – I find when I fly by the seat of my pants on my grocery store trips I always end up spending at least $50 more than I would if I went with a list. Typically when I am making my grocery list I will sit down on Sunday and I will plan my meals for the week. This takes approximately 30-40 minutes but it is so worth it!!The ingredients I need for my dinners end up making the majority of my list and then I will also add a bit of extra fruit and some school snacks for my daughter. Doing your list this way can help eliminate throwing away food that has not been eaten at the end of the week. By the following Sunday in our home it is pretty slim pickins’ in our fridge and I prefer it that way. When planning your meals if there is a perishable ingredient that you can only buy a a larger amount of such as Bok Choy consider looking for another meal you could make that uses that same ingredient so it doesn’t go to waste. Two of my go to cookbooks lately are: Half Baked Harvest Super Simple And Jamie Oliver Ultimate Veg.
2. MAKE IT YOURSELF – There are a lot of cost savings when you make certain things yourself. For example a 600gram bag of granola at the grocery store can run your anywhere from $6-12 but you could make the same amount at home for about $3 and in my opinion homemade granola tastes WAY better!! Check out my favorite Granola Recipe HERE. We also started making our own nut milk as opposed to buying it. The cost to make a liter of nut milk is about $1 compared to $3-5 when you purchase it in the store. I’ll make sure to get that recipe up on the blog for you guys soon as well!! It is incredibly easy and tastes delicious.
3. GO MEAT FREE – We are not vegetarian but about half of our meals are meatless for a combination of health and environmental reasons not to mention the added bonus of cost savings on our grocery bill. If you are used to eating meat with every meal you may want to start with just one meal a week without meat and then work your way up. There are a ton of great meatless recipes online so challenge yourself to try a new one every week!!
I hope these tips help you to stay on budget on your next trip to the grocery store!!
1/15/2022 0 Comments
My Favorite Granola Recipe
Store bought granola is expensive and honesty I do not like it as much as homemade granola. You can easily use this recipe as a base and make a ton of different variations to enjoy!
-4 cups of rolled oats
-1 ½ cup raw nuts or seeds such as pecans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds
- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
- ½ cup melted coconut oil – you can use olive oil or avocado oil as well
- ½ cup maple syrup or liquid honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 cup of dried fruit such as raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
Combine the oats, nuts and coconut in a bowl. Add the salt and cinnamon and gently stir. Add the oil and the maple syrup (or honey) and stir until combined.
Bake the granola until it is golden brown, about 20-25 mins, stirring half way. The granola will crisp up as it cools.
Let the granola cool fully then break it apart and add your dried fruit (or chocolate chips if you’d like!).
Store your granola in an air tight container for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.